I haven’t stopped thinking but I have not been able to share it lately. Beginning with COVID and Black Lives Matter and the U.S. election I have been oppressed by negative thinking. However, today I realize that I have been having a senior moment – not a moment of forgetting, but a time of remembering and reminiscing. Spurred on by some friends this summer, my wife and I began looking at the decades of our lives – 77 years in 7 weeks. That, coupled with the additional help of two book studies this fall, The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr and Living the Examined Life by James Hollis, helped me to do a review of who I am and what I believe. Finally, I have something I want to share in my blog.
Poems and Prayers and Promises is a song by John Denver that came back to me just a day ago. It is a summary of my time of reflection.
I’ve been lately thinking
About my life’s time
All the things I’ve done
And how it’s been
And I can’t help believing
In my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end
I’ve seen a lot of sunshine
Slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures
Had myself some friends
And spent a time or two in my own home
And I have to say it now
It’s been a good life all in all
It’s really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share
The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do
So many things my mind has never known
I’d like to raise a family
I’d like to sail away
And dance across the mountains on the moo
This sums up weeks of thinking … It’s been a good life – actually its been a great life – all in all. And there is still so much to do.
Our church had a service on poetry and politics last Sunday that ended with the fisherman’s prayer. “Be merciful to me, O God, because my boat is small, and the ocean is wide.” It is a poignant poem prayer that expresses how I feel so often. Poetry can do that. But my mind flew off to, “but where is the politics here?” And this Leonard Cohen poem came to mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szYrXzEi0cg
It’s Almost Like the Blues
I saw some people starving
There was murder, there was rape
Their villages were burning
They were trying to escape
I couldn’t meet their glances
I was staring at my shoes
It was acid, it was tragic
It was almost like the blues
I have to die a little
Between each murderous thought
And when I’m finished thinking
I have to die a lot
There’s torture and there’s killing
There’s all my bad reviews
The war, the children missing
Lord, it’s almost like the blues
I let my heart get frozen
To keep away the rot
My father said I’m chosen
My mother said I’m not
I listened to their story
Of the Gypsies and the Jews
It was good, it wasn’t boring
It was almost like the blues
There is no G-d in heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues
I have shared this poem everyday this past week with someone and I cry every time. It makes me aware of my response to all the world’s issues, looking at my shoes. It is a call to my heart to break, to believe in oneness of life and how I am connected to all of it. I can respond, but I can’t save the world. That’s a bigger job for the Universal Christ. But I am a part of that salvation process.
In The Universal Christ Rohr talks about the Resurrection Journey, as opposed to Jesus’s resurrection event. The gospel story is about resurrection being a spiritual experience for everyone. I have had the invitation that a sinner can’t refuse, that allowed me to leave my past behind and move on into the unknown — at one time leaving my country, and leaving my denomination, and leaving the break-up of my marriage, and leaving the institutional church as a minister and allowing my heart to heal and find a new path where God became a companion, not as the Creator, but as the creative energy that is Love, and The Way, The Truth and The Life.
Which brings me to a Joyce Rupp poem shared with me by my spiritual director this past Friday:
Old Maps No Longer Work
I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well travelled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.
I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.
“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats “toss it away.
It’s of no use where you’re going.”
“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction,”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”
so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul
no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will l know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims travelled by the stars.”
It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.
And finally, in my personal reflections I realize that while I have left people and beliefs and denominations behind, they are all stones in the foundation of my life. I recently re-connected with four of my seminary classmates. In our ZOOM conversation last week I recalled a prayer I wrote for the 50th anniversary of Christ Moravian Church. This prayer celebrates my faith in the Universal Christ, a faith formed during my ministry in the Moravian Church. Being a Moravian shaped my faith in many significant ways.
When you’re having a down time, living in the darkness, and not seeing a way forward, it is important to surround yourself with people of faith who can hold a candle for you. It really is a miracle, how God moves in love to support our journey.
Christ Moravian Church Opening Prayer – 50th Anniversary
We enter an atmosphere of prayer
When we close our eyes, take a breath,
This is when the distance between God and ourselves
slips away and we are one.
The distance disappears between us and those who began the Moravian church in the 1400’s and the 1500’s.
They didn’t believe in a denomination
They believed in community building
They believed in music that brought people together
They believed in scripture that came alive in the language and action of the people.
They believed education of the head and the heart brought new life
and hope to people’s lives.
They believed in love and freedom and the presence of God for growth and healing.
And now we believe those things too because of this church, Christ Moravian Church, in our life that says: In essentials Unity, in non-essentials Liberty and in all things Love.
FOR THESE PEOPLE WE GIVE THANKS.
We are grateful for 50 years of leadership who had the patience and the will to hear the voice of God.
Al Taylor in finding this wonderful, just right location
Lew Thomas, whose roots in the Moravian tradition began and shaped the foundation of this faith community
John Griffith, Glen Stoudt and Steve Ghodas, whose faith provided depth, vision, guidance and blessing that brings us here today.
FOR THESE PEOPLE WE GIVE THANKS.
And for the leadership in this congregation, the hundreds of people who gave their time and energy, their faith and their doubt, their voices, hands-on help, sharing their hopes and dreams, their pain, their grief, their joys and celebrations. It was a flow of history, the way God shaped us, healed us, stretched us, loved us.
WE REMEMBER AND WE ARE GRATEFUL.
And we remember that one person who invited us to drop in, to see what church was like, who without knowing it was teaching us about what it means to be a Moravian – to be an evangelist, reaching out to a neighbour, a friend, a stranger with an invitation to experience the community where the grace and love of God has a place for everybody.
FOR THAT PERSON AND THAT INVITATION, WE GIVE THANKS.
We close our eyes to shut out the world for a moment and somehow it brings us all together. We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord. We are not alone.
That 50 years of life – sometimes struggle and challenge, shifting priorities, questions of faith that moved us deeper, struggling to find the language to express the holy life of Christ as we realize that his body is our body too – we have become the body of Christ.
We have all had at least one moment of Light, one experience of resurrection, we are not the same person who stepped through that doorway in the past year – 2 years, 10 years or 40 years ago.
AND FOR THIS WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL.
We pray because it takes away the distance between God and us, between us and our neighbour, between the past and the future.
It is all present in us now, in this congregation, in our history, in our life together. On this anniversary we are not just celebrating our past – we are beginning to see our future. This anniversary is about the life to come, the gifts of the Spirit that God promises us will shape us and our community in the years to come. Amen. Let It Be So.
If you have stayed with me in this two thousand word blog, I hope you take some time to feel the call to be who you are, and follow your heart to do what you must do. You are the candle for someone.