Posts Tagged sacred

The Shiny Side Up! Rev. Susan Sparks – “Life”

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you had a lovely holiday.

Recently, I saw an image on Pinterest that said “Life*” at the top, then underneath, in small print by the asterisk, it said: “Available for a limited time only, limit one per customer, subject to change without notice, provided ‘as is’ without any warranties, your mileage may vary.”

While this was meant as something to make people laugh, it actually packed a powerful message. Amazingly, we tend to believe that life comes with some type of warranty that promises things will always be easy, fun and painless. And when it’s not, we complain—incessantly.

We complain about the weather. “OMG, it’s so cold, when will it ever stop?” Then, two months later we carp: “OMG, it’s so hot and humid, when will it ever stop?”

We whine that the trains and buses are late. We moan that people are rude, the stock market hasn’t done well, or that the grocery store is out of our favorite item. Recently, I was at Whole Foods and I heard a woman complaining to the manager that they were out of her “soy milk substitute.” First of all, what is soy milk substitute? And second, why would anyone want it?

We waste so much time complaining about the superficial things that we miss precious seconds, hours, days, even years of our life. It’s like the Jewish prayer: “Days pass and years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.” We must be grateful in the good times and the bad, for, in the end, it’s still life.

Warnings like “life is short,” get greeted by eye rolls and shrugs. Yes, we’ve all heard this saying many times—which I think is part of the problem. I’m afraid we have heard it so much that we have become immune to it.

But there is urgency in those three short words. Things can change in the blink of an eye. We don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next. We don’t know if we will be given tomorrow—or even the rest of today. Just look at the headlines: random shootings, tornados that tear apart entire towns, soaring cancer statistics. Life – is – short.

It is also sacred. The Psalmists offered this wisdom: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14). Life is the greatest, most sacred gift we have. Sure you may think other things are important, but if you didn’t wake up this morning, then what difference would it make?

Life is short. Life is sacred. And, because of that, it should be celebrated in the good times and the bad. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself: a long line at the DMV, the dentist chair or the chemo room, it’s still life and there is joy to be found in the simple taking of a breath.

The author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Find that light. Strive to be grateful in all circumstances. Use that gratitude to inspire and lift up others who are mired in difficulty.

We were never guaranteed that life would be easy, or fun, or painless. Yet, even in the pain, we can be grateful for the simple gift of being alive. And, if you find yourself struggling, use these few words as your mantra: “it’s still sacred, it’s still a gift, it’s still life.”

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Rituals with Meaning Are Grounded in Our Sacred Story Chautauqua Daily – Mary Lee Talbot

August 20, 2015

“Here is something for you to think about over lunch: What would Jesus do if you invited him to lunch?” said the Rev. Anna Carter Florence at the 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. “He would not wash, he would not behave, and he would insult your mother and everyone else at the table.” Her sermon title was “Unmarked Graves,” and the Scripture was Luke 11:37-44. Jesus had been invited to dinner by a Pharisee, and when he showed up, he did not act as a guest was expected to: He did not wash his hands before eating, and he insulted his host. “Woe to you, for you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it,” Jesus said in the Scripture. The Pharisees were upset, and they represent everyday people, Florence said. “Jesus is calling us out on something we didn’t expect,” she said. She began her sermon describing her childhood neighborhood in Connecticut. There were fields and woods she and her brother explored, including an old graveyard. It was not attached to a church, but was tended by someone; there were flags on the graves on Memorial Day, and the grass was cut every year. Florence and her brother loved to look at the old stones and try to figure out something about the people whose graves they marked. “It was a friendly place — if you can say that about a graveyard,” she said. “Not spooky or haunted, but a secret garden with stories.” As the land was developed, the graveyard was no longer tended, the stones began to fall and the ground became a thicket and then a forest. “It is more haunted than sacred now,” she said. Florence also described the discovery of an AfricanAmerican burial site in lower Manhattan. “It is one of the saddest things to imagine people walking over the unmarked graves of the first slaves and free black people,” she said. “People were walking on the site without realizing what was there. How do we mark and honor sacred ground? What do unmarked graves require of us, and what do they mean?” Sometimes, graves are unmarked because people cannot afford a marker, she said. Sometimes, the grave markers are removed to make way for progress. This happens to Native American and small, country burial grounds all the time, she said. “Often, it is just the passage of time,” Florence said. “Years go by. The stones fall. No one remembers what was there. The ground becomes forest. Like Stonehenge, we don’t know exactly why they are there or what they are for. We can make up something, but if it is not grounded in our own sacred story, we will look silly.” The Pharisees had many rituals, and many of them made sense. Rituals help to keep things running smoothly. “They make sense when they reflect who we are, but they can outlive their usefulness when they are not grounded in our sacred story; then they become unmarked graves,” she said. Because the Pharisee thought washing hands before dinner was important, Jesus’ actions shocked his host. But Jesus, Florence said, was pointing to cleanliness of the heart, the state of the soul. “To have a clean heart we have to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God,” she said. “That is when rituals make sense and have depth.” If people can’t tell how they do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, things are out of balance and need to change. “We need to keep ourselves honest,” Florence said. “We need to rethink things. How did we forget who we are? Then it’s time for the Pharisee to go back to Chautauqua and time to invite Jesus to dinner again and be a guest who won’t behave.” The Rev. Bruce Archibald presided. Carol Hoglund, a retired teacher and active participant in Knitting4Peace, read the Scripture. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the Motet Choir. The choir sang “Jesus Lead the Way” with words by Nicolaus von Zinzendorf and setting by Richard Proulx. The Dr. William N. Jackson Religious Initiative Fund and the John William Tyrell Endowment for Religion provide support for this week’s services. R

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Thankful Thursday – The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the gifts that the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell brings to my life. Dr. Campbell is currently the Director of Religion at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. She is formerly executive director of the US office of the World Council of Churches and former general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. She holds ordination in both the American Baptist Churches and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) She encouraged me greatly in the writing and editing of, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. She has shown remarkable leadership in her role as chaplain at the Chautauqua Institution. She has demonstrated such an understanding and acceptance of people of different faith traditions. Because of her influence my religious and spiritual boundaries have been broadened and deepened. She has brought religious leaders into my life that I would have never heard any place else. She encourages young ministers and reinforces experienced ones. When our visits to Chautauqua have coincided with the annual ecumenical communion service, I have hardly been able to contain my joy at such a moving, meaningful service. She has gathered a devoted staff around her. She is a player on the world stage, but when she is in her role at Chautauqua, her humanity and her humility shine through.  She is the author of, Living into Hope: A call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This. In 2010 she received the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award. Her daughter, Jane, is the first woman elected mayor of Cleveland. On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the gifts that Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell brings to my life.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the importance of someone to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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Random Acts of Kindness – 85

There is someone who can benefit from your understanding of the sacred. Share with her or him your reverence for the sacred. You will be glad that you did.

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