Welcoming a Legend: Dr. C.T. Vivian to Speak at Installation Service this Sunday, 3 p.m.

CT VIVIAN with Gary

I first met C.T. Vivian in 2004 at a conference in Indianapolis. He was there to give his “Nonviolence Training” for churches interested in learning how to become a Peace Church. We met at lunch, hit it off immediately, and haven’t stopped talking since. Being with C.T. Vivian is remarkable for many reasons, but for me, it comes down to this: one knows that one is in the presence of goodness. In these challenging days, when terror and fear grip the land, it is easy to lose sight of the good, or even to remember that goodness and mercy are possible. C.T. Vivian’s life is a testimony to the power of transformative love.

I never considered anyone else to preach at my Installation Service. It could only be C.T. Vivian.

When I heard that he has been selected by president Obama to receive the prestigious Medal of Freedom–the highest civilian award a grateful nation can award–I wrote this essay and published it in New World Writing. I am re-publishing it here. I’d be honored if you would read it, more so if you would come out to meet him this Sunday at 3 p.m.

*

On March 7, 1965, the Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama threw one of the most famous punches in American history, on the steps of the courthouse in Selma. The man that Sheriff Jim Clark punched in the face, C.T.Vivian, was named yesterday as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I called C.T. Vivian this morning at his home in Atlanta to congratulate him. He deflected my praise and said, “Doc, I have been thinking about you! What have you been up to? I want to hear all about what you’re doing now. And right now I want to know your phone number.”

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James Gardner Clark, Jr. was a cattle rancher when his lifelong friend, Gov. Jim Folsom, appointed him Sheriff of Dallas County in 1955. Clark was a big man, almost six and a half feet tall, fond of wearing military styled clothing. In addition to his pistol and club, he carried a cattle prod. He wore a button that said “Never,” his response to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s efforts to hold a voter registration drive in Dallas County. Recruiting Ku Klux Klan supporters and joining forces with the Highway Patrol, he formed a mobile anti-civil rights force to confront the registration drive. He arrested three hundred students who had been holding a silent protest outside the courthouse, and used cattle prods to force march them three miles to a detention center.

March 7, 1965 became known as “Bloody Sunday,” when Clark’s officers and posse joined Alabama state troopers to attack peaceful protesters attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge. The state-inflicted violence resulted in the hospitalization of some sixty protesters, including a young man named John Lewis, whose skull was cracked open.

James Baldwin would later write, of Sheriff Clark and Bloody Sunday:

“I suggest that what has happened to the white Southerner is in some ways much worse than what has happened to the Negroes there … One has to assume that he is a man like me, but he does not know what drives him to use the club, to menace with a gun, and to use a cattle prod against a woman’s breasts … Their moral lives have been destroyed by a plague called color.”

*

That night, Reverend C.T. Vivian felt that Sheriff Clark needed to learn more about democracy. As he explained the principles of American democracy to the chief law enforcement officer of Dallas County, the Sheriff grew impatient, and said he had heard enough. C.T. felt that he hadn’t.

C.T. Vivian is slightly built, about five foot nine, with a wiry frame. He weighed about 138 pounds on March 7, 1965, pretty much what he weighs today. In the years that I worked closely with him, doing peace organizing and training in nonviolent resistance to oppression, I would be careful when hugging him goodbye. Last month he celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday.

C.T. Vivian was forty years old when he stood on the steps of the courthouse in Selma, Alabama, and offered a prayer for Sheriff Jim Clark and for the democracy which is yet to come. Sheriff Clark thought the prayer went on too long. He punched C.T. squarely in the face. Television cameras captured the moment. That evening, forty-eight million television viewers who had tuned in to the premiere of Judgment at Nuremburg were shown instead shocking footage of fascism closer to home.

*

The civil rights movement after Selma struggled to adhere to its nonviolent philosophy, a philosophy that Gandhi had called ahimsa, an expression of deep love for all living beings, including one’s opponents; rejecting the false dichotomy of “us versus our enemies,” ahimsaaimed to convince opponents of the injustice of their actions and ultimately win their friendship, as co-inquirers in search of a common truth which stands in judgment of us all. Gandhi’s main tactic in his fight against the British was what he called Satyagraha, which means “soul-force” or “the power of truth.” Gandhi claimed to have learned his philosophy from Jesus of Nazareth. Martin Luther King, Jr. credited Gandhi and Jesus as his teachers, and insisted upon nonviolence as a philosophy of life to be embraced, not merely as a tactic. C.T. Vivian, in his various leadership roles with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was in a position to know King personally. The two men lived around the corner from each other in Atlanta, and Vivian’s wife Octavia was Coretta Scott King’s close friend and biographer. The depth of King’s commitment to nonviolence as a philosophy can be seen in his April 4, 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC1Ru2p8OfU . King was roundly criticized for this speech, which called for an end to the war to “the tragedy of Vietnam,” named America as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and cited the triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism as a threat to America’s existence as a democracy.

King’s historic speech, delivered one year to the day before his assassination, was written with the help of Bayard Rustin, a gay black American, who will receive the Medal of Freedom posthumously this year, along with his friend C.T. Vivian, who never criticized his friend’s sexual orientation or gender expression, and cited Rustin as the key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

One day in 2006, I was in worship with C.T. Vivian, at his home church in Atlanta, when the pastor began to speak of those who hate, who harbor anger and violence in their hearts against their enemies, and who seek revenge. I looked over at C.T., and saw his brow furrow, as if in puzzlement. A minute passed. The pastor had moved on in his sermon, but I could see that C.T. was still troubled by what he had heard. He leaned over to me and whispered, “You know doc, I have never felt that way. I just can’t find a minute to hate. I just do not understand it.”

On the evening of March 7, 1965, the same man who spoke these words to me lay stricken on the steps of the courthouse in Selma, Alabama. Sheriff Clark had punched him in the jaw, and Cordy Tindell Vivian was silenced.

But not for long.

He was arrested and taken to jail. He told me that this is when he was most afraid. He knew he would be taken inside, away from the cameras, where no one could see what would be done to him, in the name of law and order.

*

In 2006 I interviewed C.T. Vivian in his Atlanta home, and returned there a few weeks later with members of my family. Octavia was still alive at that time. She would spend her last years in a nursing home, with C.T. beside her most hours of the day. Their love was a fire. I brought her flowers, and listened to her stories of the young Coretta Scott at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. My daughter Jae was with me, with her husband and their young son, Gavin. My mother happened to be in town, and she was with us for this visit, as well as my wife (I was married at the time). The house was like a museum, filled with African art and sculpture, and first edition books written by African Americans. C.T. placed in my hands a book of poetry by Phyllis Wheatley, the first book published by an African American. Phyllis Wheatley was born in 1753 in Senegal/Gambia, West Africa.  At the age of seven she was seized by slave traders and sold in Boston. C.T gathered us around him in his living room, regaling us with stories. On the walls and on almost every available surface were artifacts from the civil rights movement in America, including photographs of his friend, Martin Luther King, Jr., that I had never before seen. C.T. Vivian never referred to King by his Christian name, or even as Dr. King. For C.T. he was always referred to as “the Prophet.” Listening to C.T. Vivian tell stories in his living room, my daughter listening with rapt attention, Gavin resting happily in the great man’s lap, my mother looking on, I was aware that three generations of my family were present in that sacred space. I got up to wander the house. Behind the living room, in a kind of cubby hole, I found a framed copy of a 1965 arrest record, typed with a faded ribbon, from a small town in Mississippi. Some judge’s name was scrawled at the bottom. C.T. Vivian had been charged with “disturbing the peace.”

*

Some versions of “peace” need to be disturbed. Sheriff Clark was administering “justice” on the steps of the courthouse in March 1965. “Justice” was measured on the skull of John Lewis, who went on to become a United States Congressman from Alabama. Lewis wrote a book titled, Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. It contains a chilling account of what happened to him and other peaceful demonstrators in Selma, Alabama on that bloody Sunday. We should never forget that what happened on that day was perfectly legal. We should remember this when we think about what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida. We should remember this when we think about the fact that almost three fourths of the people who are imprisoned in America are black or brown. We should remember this when we learn that almost everyone in the prison yard at Sing Sing prison comes from the same three neighborhoods in New York. I was talking to a former inmate at Sing Sing one day, a Latino named Julio, who explained to me that there is a pipeline from his neighborhood to prison. Referring to the train track that runs beside Sing Sing prison on the Hudson River, Julio said that it as if a train comes to his neighborhood each year and everyone gets on, and the train goes and it goes and it goes until it stops at Sing Sing and everyone gets off.

Here in Buffalo, today’s page one headline in The Buffalo News reads: “Buffalo’s school situation called ‘dire.’” The state education commissioner in New York calls Buffalo’s educational leadership so weak that it stands less of a chance of turning things around than Rochester. In Rochester, only five percent of students meet or exceed proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. What does it mean for a city to have less of a chance of turning things around than a neighboring city where ninety-five percent of students are failing to become proficient in basic skills?

What does it mean that citizens allow their schools to fail these kids, day after day, and there is no massive protest in the streets, no Satyagraha, no wholesale mobilization of churches and social service agencies and ordinary citizens, no movement of heaven and earth in the name of justice, to stop this train, to shut off this pipeline from cradle to prison?

In Chicago, and in cities like Buffalo, there is a cop in every school. Kids get introduced early to the criminal justice system. A black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy a one in six chance of the same fate. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world: 7.1 million adult residents — one in 33 — are under some form of correctional supervision including prison, jail, probation, or parole. “The toxic cocktail of poverty, racial disparities in child serving systems, poor education, zero tolerance school discipline policies, racial profiling, unbridled prosecutorial discretion, and racial disparities in arrests and sentencing are funneling millions of young and older poor people of color, especially males, into dead end, powerless and hopeless lives,” writes Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/ending-the-cradle-to-pris_b_1655138.html . Across America, the story is the same: massive failure to educate and mentor our children and help steer them to a better future. It is all perfectly legal, and it is morally perverse.

No wonder President Jimmy Carter said last month, “America has no functioning democracy.”http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17698-president-carter-says-america-has-no-functioning-democracy

*

When President Barack Obama named C.T. Vivian as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday, the citation in the press release reads as follows:

C.T. Vivian is a distinguished minister, author, and organizer. A leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country. Dr. Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal. In 2012, he returned to serve as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

When the president referred to Vision, he was referring to the program started by Vivian in the 1960s that sent 702 Alabama students to college with scholarships. This program was later called Upward Bound. You may have heard of it. It’s been helping black and brown and white kids get to college for over forty-five years.

*

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he was told that C.T. Vivian was in the audience at one of his campaign stops. His staff quickly arranged a meeting backstage. A few years ago, I asked C.T. what the president—a former community organizer on the south side of Chicago– had to say that day.

“He wanted to know how we did it, in the movement. He wanted to know how we organized.”

*

I have a fantasy. I dream that on the day when this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients gather at the White House—an impressive group that includes, among others, President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee—the president will turn to C.T. Vivian and ask, “How do we do it? How do we stop failing our young people, and turn around public education in this country?”

In my dream, C.T. tells them about Restorative Justice in public schools, and tells them how it is helping in Oakland. They all watch this video. http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us/restorativejustice  and then read this story in the New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/education/restorative-justice-programs-take-root-in-schools.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 . Oprah and the others get out their checkbooks to help start it in cities like Buffalo and Rochester, Detroit and Chicago, Los Angeles and your home town. Churches and social service agencies, and ordinary citizens get engaged. A politically polarized America sets aside its national pastime of blaming and screaming on cable TV, and decides that everyone can do something, and that no one gets to sit on the sidelines. Hope is born from a thousand points of light, Republican and Democrat and Independent. A nation discovers that its most treasured asset is its young people, and that we have a moral imperative not to fail them, for the children belong to all of us.

*

What Sheriff Jim Clarke did on that Sunday in Selma was perfectly legal. What George Zimmerman did to an unarmed teenager with Skittles in his pocket was perfectly legal. The educational policies that prevail in cities across America that are failing our children and creating a pipeline from cradle to prison are perfectly legal.

Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “The law is an ass.” His namesake Martin, in the Letter From a Birmingham Jail, called on all Americans to actively but peacefully oppose laws that were morally wrong. Making a distinction between just and unjust laws and drawing upon the wisdom of Jesus and Gandhi, King counseled that unjust laws must be broken openly and lovingly. “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”

*

Sheriff Jim Clark’s actions in Selma, viewed by millions of horrified Americans, including President Lyndon Johnson, watching in the West Wing of the White House, led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In the 1966 election, following the passage of the Voter Registration Act, a man named Wilson Baker defeated Sheriff Clark, in part because so many blacks had registered to vote. Clark attempted to have 1,600 ballots cast for his opponent suppressed due to “irregularities”, but court orders placed the votes back on record and Jim Clark lost his job. He went on to sell mobile homes. In 1978, a federal grand jury in Montgomery indicted Clark on charges of conspiring to smuggle three tons of marijuana from Colombia. Sheriff Clark was sentenced to two years in prison. He ended up serving nine months.

The law is an ass, but C.T. Vivian is now rightly regarded as a national treasure.

Remembering Everett C. Parker

Dear friends,

On October 3rd The Church in the Highlands held a memorial service for a great man. Dr. Everett C. Parker was an iconic figure in our denomination and in the civil rights movement, but he was also a husband and a father and a treasured member of this church. He deeply loved this place, and that love was returned in equal measure. His memorial service was a celebration of that love. He was eulogized by five former associates and family members, who spoke eloquently and passionately about the many ways he blessed their lives.

If you were unable to attend the Memorial Service, you can view one of the eulogies on our website, www.churchinthehighlands.org  The eulogy was given by Rev. Arthur Cribbs, one of Dr. Parker’s successors in the UCC Office of Communications, and it is deeply moving. We also have copies of the worship bulletin available. If you would like to have one, please call the church, and Teresa will see that you get one.

On a personal note, as I visited with Dr. Parker during his last days, and interacted with his lovely and amazing family, I was continually reminded of the wisdom of thse words, by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (another vaunted UCC public figure):

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

 At his memorial, I said that Everett Parker burned brightly with a fierce urgency, he was one who carried the fire. With the death of Everett Parker, a great light has gone out, in our church, in our nation, in our world. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.’ ~ Psalm 116:15

The world is often a dark and dangerous place, as Dr. Parker knew full well. We are now called to help carry that light into the world, to merge our lights, not in hatred of the darkness, not in fear, but with courage and love for the darkness, as darkness never dissipates with the coming of the light; as Thich Naht Hahn has observed, darkness merges with the light, and soon, with enough light, comes the dawn at last. And so, we must never give up, we must never lose hope. One cannot be Christian without hope, which is not the same as foolish optimism, and not the same as a fine human hope. Rather, Christian hope is hope beyond hopelessness that breaks into the world from outside of it, through the nonviolent God who will not give up. God has hope for our world, and believes in us, and is in the process of making all things new. In the mystery of faith, we see best in the dark, and Everrett Parker was one whose vision was sharp in the darkest of nights.

Peace to you,

Pastor Gary

Lessons from Dorothy & The Wizard of Oz

This Sunday in worship we consider Dorothy in the land of Oz, and what her style of leadership might offer the church!

Could it be that “The Wizard of Oz” probes a rising discontent with”larger than life” leadership that is blustery and inauthentic? Who is “behind the curtain” of modern church leadership?

At first glance, Dorothy is all wrong as a leader. She is the “wrong” gender (female) and the wrong age (a teenager). Rather than a “large and in charge” dominant personality with all of the answers, she is herself lost, vulnerable, often bewildered, but devastatingly honest. She inspires trust. She extends hospitality to other lost ones along the way, and they journey together on a common quest, singing as they go to ward off their fears and anxieties.

Could Dorothy’s style of leadership be well suited to the emergent culture?

Join us for worship this Sunday at 10 am at Church in the Highlands, as we explore these questions and enjoy each other’s company and fellowship!

At the Restaurant of Jesus

 

st gregory saints pic (2)

Worship at St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco

 

The Friday Food Pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco

 

This Sunday in worship we continue our reflection on Jesus and food in the gospel of John.

My sermon is titled, “At the Restaurant of Jesus.” I will be continuing with the remarkable story of Sara Miles and her church, St. Gregory of Nyssa, which has the most beautiful communion table in America. It’s beauty is not just in the quality of wood, its form and craftsmanship, or even the cryptic inscription it bears from Luke 15:2: “This guy eats with harlots and tax collectors!”

It’s beauty lies in the fact that every Friday, it is used to feed hungry people, who assemble in this beautiful room–the same room where the congregation meets to worship.

What are you hungry for?

It’s one thing to feed people at the table, it’s another thing to get along with them.

The comedian George Carlin once joked, “The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant.  Every table had an argument going.”

We laugh, and yet…

How should we treat one another in a community of faith like ours? Are there some rules to live by, some guiding principles? People have competing interests, different personalities and perspectives. How do we keep the whole this thing called church from devolving into a food fight?

I’m hoping to see you in church this Sunday, August 9, at 10 am.

Chaplain at the Chautauqua Institution July 11-18

Chautauqua

It is my great honor to serve as UCC Chaplain this week at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York.

For 143 seasons, the Chautauqua Institution has hosted an exciting series of speakers and events. Every summer, Chautauqua is host to nine weeks of lecturers and entertainment. A central theme anchors the dialogue of the week. Most lecture platforms and much of our entertainment is based directly on, or is tied into, the week’s theme.

The theme for my week at Chautauqua is IMMIGRATION: ORIGINS AND DESTINATIONS

In this week, we track current trends in movements of peoples throughout the world, including but also stepping outside the ongoing American debate over legal and illegal immigration. Patrick Griffin, chair of the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame, leads the week with a discussion Monday about the history of sending and receiving societies and the movement of peoples across the Atlantic Ocean, with specific focus on Irish immigration to America. Journalist Sonia Nazario will take the stage Tuesday to discuss her work covering immigration issues and the personal stories of those immigrants, particularly with regard to her book, Enrique’s Journey. Wednesday, celebrated academic and cultural critic Henry Louis Gates Jr.will discuss his work with genealogy on his PBS show “Finding Your Roots.” Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will speak to the American debate surrounding immigration and immigration reform efforts in the federal government on Thursday. On Friday, economist Ian Goldin will conclude the week with an exploration of how the movement of peoples — or “international mobility” — impacts our global economy.

I will fly to Buffalo tomorrow morning, pick up a rental car and drive southwest to Chautauqua. I will return to White Plains late Friday night, and be back in the pulpit on July 19, when my sermon will be drawn from 2 Samuel 7:1-14qa, and titled, “God Wants a Heart, Not a House!”

I’m grateful that our church provides its pastor two weeks of professional development! This week at Chautauqua will be invaluable as I contemplate large cultural and theological issues, and try to speak a meaningful word in my sermon there this Sunday, and in daily interactions with the other guests. Our denomination has for many years kept a house at Chautauqua, where it will be my privilege to reside. I will surely miss Resea this week (!) but look forward to being reunited with her and with all of you on July 19. In the meantime, I’m so grateful for Rev. Erv Graves, who once again will be sharing his pastoral and spiritual gifts with you this Sunday, July 12th.

Peace & Blessings,

gary

 

 

 

 

We Say Goodbye to Maurice….

Maurice last sermon

 

On Sunday, June 21, 2015, The Reverend Maurice A. Stinnett preached his final sermon in his role as Dr. Everett C. Parker Pastoral Intern at Church in the Highlands, White Plains, New York.

Maurice’s friend, Doyal Sidell, was present in worship that day. Here is what Doyal posted on his Facebook page after the sermon:

Powerful sermon delivered by my friend and brother, Maurice A. Stinnett in White Plains, NY today. He juxtaposed the story of David and Goliath with the tragic terrorist event that happened in SC at the Mother Emanuel AME Church this past week.

“We must be honest, courageous, and willing to deviate from the norm.

“Refuse to wear the garments of complacency, excuse, and denial that so many of our leaders are asking us to wear and RUN to the front lines of injustice armed with what we know works to battle against the Goliath that still exists within our country: racism.”

While we will miss Maurice greatly, we support him, love him, and stand with him in solidarity as he takes the next step in his life, returning to his alma mater–Central State University, in Wilberforce, Ohio– as the new dean of Students at this historically black university.

The search for Maurice’s successor will begin in the Fall.

Thank you, Maurice, for sharing your considerable gifts with us, and godspeed on your journey! You have been a blessing to us, and we promise to hold you in our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts!

After Easter…

 

It’s astonishing how quickly our hearts turn again to fear.

This Sunday in worship we will hear again the story of Easter night–how even after Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples were sore afraid. His sudden appearance in their midst did little to comfort them–in fact, it may have ramped up their fear! Would he upbraid them for their faithlessness, desertion, betrayal?

No. None of the above.

He shows them his scars. He bids them peace. he invites them, again, to be not afraid. And to share the good news.

Again and again, it appears, we need to hear this story. Unconditional love. Unconditional acceptance. Power to transform life, by the presence of the Risen Christ beside us.

We are never alone.

Good Friday

Cross black Good FridayMy God, my God, why have we forsaken you?

“Go to God in the hour of God’s suffering.”  ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

On Silence

brother rogerBrother Roger of Taize

When I was a kid I listened to Si & Gar sing, “The Sound of Silence.” Paul Simon wrote that song in response to President Kennedy’s assassination. No one seemed to know what was happening. There was a stunned silence, then a confused babble of many voices at once. It seemed impossible to distinguish true wisdom through all the white noise. “The people bowed and prayed/to the neon god they made.” It seemed genuinely possible that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls/and tenement halls/whisper the sound of silence.”

In Psalm 131, we find the psalmist in a quiet mood; there is nothing but quietness and confidence: “I have calmed and quieted my soul … hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.” Brother Roger of Taize reminds us that at times prayer becomes silent. Peaceful communion with God can do without words. “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” Like the satisfied child who has stopped crying and is in its mother’s arms, so can “my soul be with me” in the presence of God. In these moments, prayer needs no words, maybe not even thoughts.

When I travelled to the tiny village of Taize, in the Burgundy region of France for the first and only time, it was in late December. That time of year always reminds me of that holy place. It was windy and snowing faintly, then raining. I could hear the rain lash the windows of my small room, then cease. I listened to God in the silence.

How is it possible to reach inner silence? “Sometimes we are apparently silent, and yet we have great discussions within, struggling with imaginary partners or with ourselves,” Brother Roger observed. “Calming our souls requires a kind of simplicity.” The Psalmist located this simplicity: “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.”

And then there are these words from Brother Roger, which I treasure: “Silence means recognizing that my worries can’t do much. Silence means leaving to God what is beyond my reach and capacity. A moment of silence, even very short, is like a holy stop, a sabbatical rest, a truce of worries.”

My worries cannot do much. There is a strange comfort to me in these words. I’m called to leave to God what is beyond my reach and capacity. Like a newly weaned child, I can settle down into a quiet trust. God will provide for our needs, and for the needs of our church, and our community. As we continue in this season of Lent, I pray that you will be blessed with a beautiful, illuminating silence that clarifies and de-mystifies the future. Hope in God, our true home. Settle down. Our worries cannot do much. We’ve come this far by faith! Let us look with hope to the God who has never failed us. Our future is in God’s hands. What could be a nobler thought than that?

Let It Snow

Well, the weather outside is frightful, but things are fine in my office at the church. I’m the only one here. Listening to the sounds of silence.

Yesterday we had our first Lenten Meditation session. Teresa and Barb made delicious soup. Sandwiches and dessert. And fruit! Oh, the food was good.

And the silence. Also good.

We practiced being mindful. We sat in silence. We talked about how restorative the silence can be.

Next Wednesday, March 11, we continue in this series with an “Eating Meditation.” How to be mindful when eating. If you can, please join us. 12 Noon in the Wheelock Room. And yes, we will eat together. Mindfully.

I hope everyone is staying in, staying warm.

This week’s sermon is “Not Everything is Lost.”

We will be learning a new prayer of the heart, courtesy of Anne Lamott:

God’s got this!

See you in church!