Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are you unbalanced?

Today at lunch, I saw a church member I hadn't seen at the Sunday Holy Eucharist in a long time. "I've missed you," I said. I say that to a lot of people these days.

She responded: "My life has gotten so out of balance."

She was the second person today who'd said that to me.

Life gets out of balance quickly because of family, work, travel, sports.

With so many commitments and so much stress, we jettison God, prayer, Bible reading, and especially weekly worship.

We say we don't have time. We declare, sometimes sharply: "I need that extra time on Sunday for my family. For myself."

The problem is that without that focus on God in daily prayer, silence, Scripture reading; without the Holy Eucharist or other worship at least once a week, every week, we lose our balance.

We wobble, then fall, and hurt ourselves, like a bicyclist who crashes on the roadside.

God becomes a stranger to us. Our fellow Christians who are in the pews from Sunday to Sunday become strangers to us as well.

Before long, we either forget about God altogether; or if we think about him and the possibility of worshiping him on a Sunday, we hesitate because we feel guilty or otherwise awkward returning to church after a long absence.

Perhaps we think God or the pastor will be angry with us.

But the Good News is that God's is always seeking us, wanting us back, welcoming us into his loving embrace when we re-turn to him.

I'm glad my friend recognized that her life had become unbalanced, that she was spending too much time working, too little time simply being with God.

If you're unbalanced, why not restore the balance right now? Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. And pray: "Come Lord Jesus."

And come, worship Christ this Sunday. He'll be glad you did. You'll be glad you did.

And that feeling you discover in worship will be what you've been missing for a long time now:


Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflecting on September 11, 2001 in Christian community

Yesterday, September 11, was Remembrance Sunday at Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, MO. We remembered and prayed for the victims of the terrorist attacks ten years ago in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA.

And we recommitted ourselves to the work of love, justice, and peace as the followers of Jesus Christ, who met and destroyed evil, sin, and death forever.

Our worship at 11 am included a special piece of music composed by senior choir member Dr. Carlyle Sharpe, who teaches music composition at Drury University.

His offertory piece at the Holy Eucharist was based on Psalm 61 and was beautifully sung by our St. Gregory's Choir and by the Drury Singers, directed by our Director of Music Dr. Allin Sorenson.

Thank you Dr Sharpe, Dr. Sorenson, St. Gregory's Choir, Drury Singers, and Mrs. Barbara Hays, our organist.

Sunday after Sunday, many people comment on the beauty of worship at Christ Church, especially the music. I like to hear those comments. And yesterday, it seemed to me as if everyone who had worshiped at one of our three services felt moved, inspired, upheld in the midst of remembering a national horror. And everyone told me so.

As I reflect on Remembrance Sunday, I realize how important it is for people regularly to come together in prayer, music and hymns, silence, reflection on the Holy Scriptures, and for that Holy Communion with Christ and one another.

This gathering in worship of the living God is especially important on occasions like the anniversary of September 11.

Marriages, births, deaths, and other human experiences are occasions in which people want and need to enter into sacred space. It is our refuge in which to mourn our losses, to celebrate our blessings, to mark passages of all kinds. And it is there that we find deeper meaning, strength, courage, and wisdom for our earthly journeys.

Yesterday, as this country contemplated the terrible events of ten years ago, many of us turned to our communities of faith. There, we remembered the departed. We expressed our solidarity with their families. We listened to God's word and sought God's guidance for how we should live. We tried to find some meaning, however small, to help us carry on in this often frightening and unpredictable world.

In a television interview, one young man who had lost his father in the terrorist attacks said he was thankful he had his father for the first ten years of his life, which he regarded as the most formative one for him as a human being.

As I think about the services yesterday, I realize how much we human beings need one another and need to be together, especially in times of loss and sadness and confusion.

I also realize that these times when we are together with one another are also times when we are together with God. And in God, we people of faith find our fullest meaning and the hope and faith to live amid tragedy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Daily God consciousness

It's easy enough to do: save one's time with God for Sundays, if even then.

And that's too bad, for in doing so, we're missing out on God's second-by-second presence in our lives.

God, of course, is everywhere--not just in a church building's sacred space wherein God makes God's presence known to us in Word, Sacrament, and blessed community. Remember, Jesus says in the gospel--just this past Sunday, in fact--that, "When two or three are gathered together in my name, I am among them."

And the way to discover the everywhere-ness of God, as it were, is to practice mindfulness of God.

Try this for a day: in every task, however ordinary, offer it to God: when you're cutting the lawn, washing the dishes, writing a friend or a blog entry, walking or running or cycling, ask God to be part of that experience.

The monks at my favorite retreat site, the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky, pray as they work, "All for Thee."

In doing so, you'll further your consciousness of God, that second-by-second encounter with God. You'll discover God's presence with you everywhere and always, and not just on Sunday at church.

Indeed, with a consciousness overflowing with God's daily presence, you'll want to be in church and with God all the more.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ahh: life is good, very good

Today, Labor Day, is a gorgeous day, at least here in Springfield, MO. The sun beams from a cloudless blue sky, while cool breezes bring a welcome respite from the blistering triple digit temperatures of much of the summer.

And now, if only we could get some showers. This gorgeous day would then become a perfect one.

As I rode my bike early this morning, I felt joyful, thrilled to be alive. With all the problems in our country--including those caused or aggravated by weather and politicians and economics--I can easily lose sight of my blessings and the goodness of creation.

And so I need times like this morning to make me stop and consider the gifts of being alive.
Among them are: Penny and our 35 years of marriage; our daughter Clare, who is an excellent mother; and of course our grand daughters June Elizabeth and Christa Marie.

Yesterday, the two of them delighted in their own creation at our church picnic at Camp Shawio. (Christ Episcopal Church is another of my great blessings.) While Christa stayed close to her Grammy and played, June and her Poppy played football with the big kids on the lawn. June, who will soon be four years old, ran from one end of the field to the other, kicking and throwing the ball, and, at times, wrestling other youngsters for it.

On days like today, I remember that life is not a problem to be endured until we take our final breaths, but life is a gift to thank God for daily, to be celebrated and enjoyed, and to be lived as fully as possible every minute of every day. Our lives are precious and unrepeatable.

Yes, at times, we struggle, facing many problems and even tragedies. Today may be such a day for you (I'm sorry; please let me know how I can pray for you); but in my experience, the good things in life--like a bike ride on a bright cool morning--far exceed the bad things. In Genesis, God says of all God has made, it is good, very good.

May you know today--and every day--that God speaks the truth. Always.