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Holy Week: "I Am Listening" Lenten Discussion

 

Thanks to those who have shared their reflections here! We now come to Holy Week, the end - and the beginning - of our Lenten journey. During this week we will continue WonderCafe's Lenten devotional book study with daily reflections on I Am Listening: Daily Devotions for Lent (UCPH, 2011).  All are welcome.
 
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Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday | Seeking Wisdom
 
John 20:1-23
 
Confucius said:
“There are three methods to gaining wisdom.
The first is reflection, which is the highest.
The second is limitation, which is the easiest.
The third is experience, which is the bitterest.”
 
I thought of the disciples. I thought of how I have learned. I thought of how all of us have learned wisdom.
 
I gained wisdom by limitation the other day as I listened to a young man who had gained wisdom from his bitter experiences. I listened as he told me his story of being separated from his father and how recently he sought to walk the long road back into a father-son relationship. I listened, but could do nothing because I was limited by the geographic distance between us: where I was and where he was allowed me to be a listener, but not a rescuer. Phone calls can sometimes make it easier to be objective and more open to listening, but the problem is that we cannot see the face, the eyes, the tears, the stance the body is taking.
 
I gained some wisdom by reflection the other day, from a young woman who had learned wisdom from her bitter experience. I was attending a funeral where the young woman spoke of the love she had for her father. Because of life’s circumstances and family dynamics, she had been out of touch with her father for a very long time. Her talk made me think of Jesus’ tears and of Mary’s tears and of the tears of the disciple who loved Jesus, but stood at a distance. Sometimes that is the way I feel…Tears are the words we use when we cannot express our thoughts in any other way.
 
I gained wisdom through experience. Sometimes we lose connection in our relationships. Think, at those times, of the disciples after they left Jesus on his own and went off—a short distance away and watched, and then a farther distance and hid, and then a longer distance and sequestered themselves behind bigger walls, each time making the barrier a little bigger. I think how the walls and the barriers become hard to break down when we leave them for another day. Three days was hard enough to leave the pain and the anger unexpressed before having to come face to face with the one we left, the one we felt left us or hurt us.
 
Who speaks first? Was it not Jesus? He said to Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”4 He said to the disciples the first time he came to them, “Peace be with you.”5 Maybe it goes back to Jesus’ question to Mary in the garden where she waited, where she wept, where she felt angry and alone, deserted and confused: “Who are you looking for?” Who was she looking for? She was looking for the body of Jesus. She saw a gardener. Then she saw in the gardener, Jesus.
 
What were the disciples looking for? They were looking for hope and direction in the midst of despair. Jesus gave them words of hope in the greeting “Peace be with you.” He gave them hope and then pointed them in a direction, charging them with a great responsibility.
 
Who are we looking for? Is it the Jesus from the pictures that great artists have painted? Is it God painted by those same artists? Is it the wind—God’s breath? Is it that which is without image as the Hebrew people believed?
 
Who are we looking for?
 
Discussion: How have I grown in wisdom through reflection, limitation, and/or experience?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MikePaterson

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Limitation is, to me, the bitterest. Experience has been the easiest — Jesus is with us in all sorts of ways, places, people and moments… and reflection feasts at every meeting.

I've been preoccupied lately with my involvement with Katarokwi Ansihnaabe Enji Maawnjiding, an in-formation indigenous centre whose work and intentions are exposing me to an experience of extraordinary forgiveness. We have so much to learn.

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Day 35: Monday | Celebrate the Person and the Healing

 
"Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.' Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, 'Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.' And instantly the woman was made well." Matthew 9:20–22
 
My mom is a wonderful person. She is active, patient, kind, funny, wise, and an all-around good person. She also makes a mean shepherd’s pie. She has been a great parent to my brother and me.
 
In late 2008, my mom went to the doctor to see about a strange lump on her neck. She had a biopsy, and it was cancerous. When I found out, I was shattered as my thoughts immediately leapt to my grandmother and her story. My grandmother had been my best friend as a young child. I remember driving over to her house to play dominoes; I remember she used to make the creamiest mashed potatoes; and I remember we lost her to cancer when I was four. The whole family had been miserable, especially my dad. I couldn’t imagine how it must feel to lose a parent.
 
After the tumor was removed, Mom was pale and weak, and she seemed dazed. I was filled with sorrow just looking at her pale form. I felt like those surrounding Jesus on the cross. All she had was hope, and all we could do was hope and pray for the best. I hoped for her “rebirth,” the rekindling of her old, joyful self.
 
My mom did get better. Her recovery was miraculous, like that of the woman touching Jesus’ robe. It was wonderful, once she was no longer so fragile, to be able to hug her again.
 
But I sometimes wish that people would stop labelling my mom as a cancer survivor. People should avoid stereotypes and get to know my mom for the wonderful person she is. People should not be labelled for what they look like or for one thing that happened to them.
 
Discussion: Call to mind someone with whom you don’t get along or someone you do not like. How might your ways of thinking be limiting your understanding and appreciation of that person? How might you help yourself see the Christ in him or her?
 
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I wondered about this and started getting into thoughts about people in whose shoes I would not want to walk… they range, on the one hand, from the two British Standard life directors who each took two million pinds (Stg) in income last year, to the people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in Northern Ontario, on the oher: people who are coping with devasting living conditions and poverty, wrought by duplicitous treaties and their invisibility to Canadians who could change their lives overnight. From both I am distanced — one by disbelief, the other by grief… grief and disbelief… understanding? Appreciation? I guess in both cases, I am drawn to compassion by the love "god" feeds me in regular exposures to beauty. "God" loves… so should I. Grief and disbelief are both swallowed up by love… swallowed up and erased. And we are left with courage.

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Day 36: Tuesday | Compassion is Not Complacent
 
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, 'If you choose, you can make me clean.' Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I do choose. Be made clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once." Mark 1:40–43
 
Many of us, myself included, have a tendency to picture Jesus as a completely peaceful, compassionate, and caring individual. These are great characteristics, but this view makes Jesus look one-dimensional, and even more difficult to follow. 
 
We forget or gloss over the passages that give a different view. We forget about the tirade in the Temple (Matthew 21:12), the test of healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5), and this passage where Jesus, while still acting out of concern, is angry and upset.
 
Anger is okay. Anger can even be productive, as this story shows. Through our anger, we can make the world a better place—as long as we are acting from a place of compassion. We may rage against the injustices of the world (which is good, because that means we realize that there are injustices), but we need to act on those issues as well.
 
We are called to serve with compassion; that much is clear from the story of Jesus. But we are also called to be compassionate and just, and sometimes, that means getting angry.
 
Discussion: What situation makes you angry because it is unjust? Strengthened by your anger, what could you do to ease that situation ?
 
 

 

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The insults, hostility and impoverishment imposed on aboriginal people in Canada irritate me deeply. I hear time and again how "open", "tolerant", "unprejudiced" and fair-minded Canaians are. And, mostly, among their own, they try to be "nice". But inclusion is a terribly distant idea in the experience of many, many aboriginal peoples whose cultures have been all but stamped out, whose natural resources have been hugely appropriated… there are more native children in state care now than there were during the Residential Schools nightmare. Aboriginal cultures have been stripped bare then beaten into corners. 

We are ALL "Treaty People" — there's no "opt out" clause — and it is blatantly obvious that the treaties are not working. Non-aboriginals have benefited so amply from the land; the relatively few aboriginals are so widely deprived. Justice doesn't just "happen" as an outcome of tolerance… justice has to be intentional; it has to reach out to those who are denied it. Being "unprejudiced" has to be intentional: the powerful have to reach out to the disempowered. It's not about "nice": it's about necessity.

 

What I am doing to ease my anger is to serve in every way I can the establishment of Katarokwi Anishnaabe Enjin Maawjiding: an indigenous cultural centre that's opening its resorces to "all who express a sincere interest"… something I find an enormous gesture of forgiveness. My motivation is that, as an "incomer", I would like to be able to feel truly Canadian. And, in the company of the elders directing this centre, my anger is alleviated and turns to love.

Whether we ca make it happen, we will see.

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Day 37: Wednesday | God Hears Both Sorrow and Joy
 
"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From [God’s] temple [God] heard my voice, and my cry came to [God’s] ears."  2 Samuel 22:7
 
In our distress we, too, turn to God. When things go wrong we may curse God’s hand in them, we may ask “Why?” in our lament, and we may weep to God with all of our soul. God hears our cries, our tears, and our questioning. In this passage, David reminds us of the closeness he feels to God in his distress.
 
Elsewhere, David also speaks of the praise he has for his God: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation” (Psalm 18:2).
 
Why do we not turn to God as much when we are happy—in our moments of appreciation?
 
When things are hard and difficult it is easy to blame God, to scorn and to question. But when things are going exactly how we want them to, we often fail to show gratitude to the Lord. In our human complacency we link our good fortune to our actions and to what we feel we deserve. We should instead be seeing each of our blessings as a wonderful gift from God.
 
As a mother who tends to her children’s cuts, scrapes, and bad dreams, God hears our cries. So, too, as a mother who weeps with joy when her child succeeds, God rejoices. We are called to share our triumphs with God. Our cries of joy make it to God’s ears as surely as our weeping does.
 
We thoughtlessly mistake hard times with an absence of God. As David assures us, God does hear our cries. It is not immediate action that should assure us of this, but rather the lightheartedness we feel after a good cry. The pain and suffering leave our body as tears, and God’s presence comes in to fill the void. It is in those moments that we really know we are heard; it is in those moments we can be assured that our God is worthy of praise.
 
Like a good parent, God’s love is unconditional. It is a perfect love, the kind of love we strive for.
 
In this time of suffering and preparing Jesus walked bravely toward his death. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey knowing what was awaiting him. As God’s own son, Jesus knew that the way of the Lord was the only way. His tears were taken into God’s heart and heard throughout God’s temple. Jesus hung to die, but there is no doubt that God was with him.
 
When the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:54).
 
Our tears and our deepest needs come to God’s attention. Things may or may not go as we hope, but the earth will be long gone before we are forgotten and forsaken by our God.
 
 
Discussion: In your praying, do you share your joy with God? Try it now!
 
 
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Mostly I'm aware of gratitude. Joy and gratitude, though, along I think with experiences of beauty, love and awe, though different, are strangely indivisible… notes of a singular harmony. 

 

I sense a kind of "holy network" that forms from the traceries of experience.

 

It is tensioned by out emotions, and it can be played, almost like a musical instrument, by way of our actions, thoughts and ideas. It HAS to be "played".  It plays in the experiences to which we open, the experiences we seek out by way of the choices we make and it has to be tuned (by prayer and reflection. It's the secret of being "comfortable in our skin" : the secret of finding inner peace and delight. We can tune to discord and cacophony, or to excitement and joy; to lovingkindness and peace, or to greed and rapacity — pretty much regardless of our physical state. 

 

It is the "holy inner network" that determines whether we are happy or sad, angry or forgiving, fearful or trusting, cruel or kind — and it turns the external world into a kind of mirror-world instead of a storm of controlling forces. It frees us, in other words, to be what we most deeply hope to become. This is the place where "god" raises a "kingdom" and Jesus' teachings heal and  "save" us by making us "whole".

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Day 38: Maundy Thursday | True Love
 
"Then he…began to wash the disciples’ feet…."  John 13:5
 
How deep is your love
How high
How wide
Deeper than the blazing hatred of humanity
Deeper than the critic’s burning tongue
Deeper than the crowd’s accusations
Deeper than a best friend’s betrayal
Deeper than the misunderstandings of family
Deeper than the abandonment of dear friends
How deep is your love
How high
How wide
It surpasses all knowing
And so you lie on that cross
Dying and weak
Broken and bruised
But stronger now than you’ve ever been
Passion and love flow through your dying body
It is finished
Love’s sacrifice for all
How you have loved us
Truly loved us
Deeper than all our sins
Deeper than all our doubts, fears, and confusion
Deeper than death itself
Turning my heart upside down
Turning the world upside down
Such love
The love of my Saviour
 
Discussion: In how many ways do you allow God to turn your life upside down? How are you a different person because of your faith?
 
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Jim Kenney

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Often:  my life has been turned upside down painfully often.  But, in the end, good comes of those dramatic changes: not the good I might have wanted, but good anyway.  My faith has been part of my for so long, it is difficult to say how it has made me different.

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I've been having computer problems and haven't been able to spend as much time with these as I want to, but I have the book and have been reading it daily. A lot of the reflections are kind of hit or miss for me. There have been some great ones. Others didn't do much for me. I meant to commet on them all, but I guess I can't catch up now!

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About today's question. When I was a lot younger, God came into my life and completely turned it upside down. I went from no religion to an entirely new life in what seemed like a matter of weeks. It is hard for me to describe what happened to me then. It happened more than 30 years ago, but the feelings are still fresh and real.

 

Now I find myself wondering what happened to me. God came into my life with a sudden rushing wind and everything was new. Why doesn't that happen again in my life? Is being "born again" a once in a lifetime expereience?

 

I guess the main factor is that then I was open to God and whatever he wanted for my life. I was open.

 

Today, it feels like my life is so upside down already. I don't want anybody to make it worse -- bad enough already! I've got a lot of bad habits that I kind  of like, and I don't want them taken away. But I don't think I have shut the door to God. More like we are in this misery together. In spite of the fact that I'm not that happy, I don't think God has left me, nor are we at battle. We're co-existing, living together, each waiting for the other to make a move.

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A long time ago, when my wife, Sue, felt her call to ministry, I was an atheist. I had a career I deeply enjoyed, and plenty of self-confidence. But I realised that I needed to come to some kind of accomodation of this startling, out-of-the-blue development. I was (and remain) deeply in love with Sue.

So I sat down and very thoughtfully, over a week or two, wrote down everything I felt I "believed" in, all my core values, my deepest most intimate attachments… I thought it would be a self-affirming breeze. But I came up with a list that, when I read it, appalled me: it was trite, vain, vacuous bullshit… it was embarrasing. I was a fool. I'd done a B.A. and read widely, I'd wrestled with the classical and fashionable philosophers of the day, from Plato to Marcuse and Fanon… I considered myself "good", "educated", reasonably "intelligent" and "conscience-driven" but what I saw before me incontrovertible evidence of arrogance, superficiality, moral pretence, cliche-ridden conceit… it was facile drivel. I felt shame and stupidity. So I read the Gospels… just the Gospels, full of contradictions, superstitions, inconsistencies and the rest. I didn't get a word of it… but…

I told Sue the only thing I could: that her "bullshit" seemed more promising than my "bullshit" so, as we had an infant daughter, I'd be the homebody while she went through seminary/theological college to become a minister in the New Zealand Methodist Church: Te Haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa, a denomination that was the first to enter seriously into biculturalism in New Zealand. Her call would lead us, we'd follow.

The Methodists trained with the Anglicans and there were some very able scholars around the college. After four years, I had assimilated a lot from conversations, arguments, debates and life alongside around 15 staff and 100 or so seminarians, Anglican and Merthodist. And I had some of the most rewarding years of my life as a parent-at-home. I'd ditched a career as a journalist/editor and have since found work as best I could wherever Sue's call has taken us. I've done my best to support her in her ministry which, in the Methodist system involved obligatory moves every so often (a requirement of "Itinerancy"). So we are well travelled, widely experienced, without savings, nearing retirement and facing certain poverty. 

We have become playthings of "god": and "god" has somehow — often in unforeseen ways — been very gracious, sustaining and considerate in a "god"-sort of way. Now I'm 65, work on the side is nigh impossble to find despite my feeling that at last I have the skills and (rather wide) experience that might actually come in handy to an employer. So I'm grateful to be an unsuccessful, unsung writer… it's at least a reasonably honest if innocuous calling… and I feel proud and privileged to be a useful-on-a-good-day supporter of a minstry I see as being very valuable.

Turning my life upside down? "God" is the only one who knows which way's "up" in my life; how am I a "different" person? Different from whom? From "me"? Somehow, I feel I am "me", I have made my way to "me", well, sort of… I can say I feel "right" in my life, in my skin. And that's an enormous gift. 

 

 

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Aside to Mike........

Seems to me God not only called your wife - but you, also.enlightened

 

Your contentment, and joy in living continually spill over our Wondercafe screens.

 

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Day 39: Good Friday | God's Tears
 
"…They crucified him." Mark 15:25
 
Tom, Mary, and their two sons had moved to a different country and were making the adjustments that made their life as close to normal for them as was possible, but finding a Christian church that echoed what they believed and tried to practise was a great challenge. After many attempts, they decided to teach the children at home. Surely for the time they were away, four short years, they, as parents, could handle the task of giving their two sons a Christian basis for living.
 
The boys were four and six, and Mary chose names and titles for Jesus as the theme for the first year. Each Sunday they read a story from a children’s Bible, talked about it, and tried to relate it to the life and experience of the children. They learned about Jesus as light, as a shepherd, a vine, and a lamb. The boys did a craft or a project, sang songs, and offered simple prayers.
 
During Lent the boys learned about the traditional symbols of Lent and how they related to the stories of Jesus they had been hearing. On Good Friday, their worship table was covered with the purple cloth they had been using, and the Christ candle was lit in the usual way. Tom read the story from the Bible as he always did, and the boys listened with wide eyes. Suddenly Mark, the younger son, started to cry, jumped up, and ran away. He was anticipating the end. “I know what is going to happen. I don’t want to hear it,” he cried as he went into his room and shut the door.
 
Mark was hearing the story for the first time and was reacting with heartfelt emotion. The pending death of the one he was beginning to know as a friend overwhelmed him. We know the end of the story in a way that Mark did not. Perhaps if we, like Mark, could allow ourselves to hear the story deeply, as if for the first time, it might touch our lives in new and profound ways.
 
Mary did not leave Mark in his sadness. She went to him, brought him back to the table, and went on to tell the Easter story. We, too, want to jump over Good Friday and move quickly to the happy ending. But our Good Fridays must be lived through, experienced. For only then does healing come.
 
Discussion: How your response might change this Good Friday if you could hear today’s story anew and afresh. In what ways do you flee from the Crucified One?
 
 
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waterfall

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Simply said:

"wonderful Jesus, .....how may I bless YOUR heart?"

 

See video

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Day 40: Holy Saturday | The Joy of Good News
 
“…The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10
 
The Christian word “gospel” means “good news.” What is good news? It’s not just finding out that your phone bill is a little lower this month, or that the important piece of paper you lost was sitting beside your bed the whole time. Real good news is “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10), incredible news worth shouting and dancing about. It is an announcement worth laughing and crying over, one that makes your long-silent inner voice break out into song.
 
Good news is finding out the miners have reached safety after weeks of being trapped in an underground cavern. Good news is finding out the person you are in love with loves you in return; it’s finding out you’re able to adopt a baby after years of difficult waiting. Good news is finding out the cancer is in remission and chances for a full recovery are good. Wonderful, truly good news is the polar opposite of the devastating bad news that so often threatens to destroy us. It is consolation for our soul, reminding us there is hope in the world and that God is good even in the worst of times. It might not come as often as we would like, but we have all experienced good news of one kind or another.
 
Religious people, especially Christians, are often caricatured as a negative bunch, far more concerned with what not to do and who should not be doing it than with the abundant, abiding joy at the heart of faith. Of course the season of Lent is a time for solemnity; it calls us to reflect, pray, and fast as we consider the profound significance of what is before us today: Jesus in the tomb. On Good Friday the bad news is dire. Power and corruption triumph. But in Christ’s death, destruction and evil are disarmed and, within the closed tomb, lasting joy lingers for the sake of the broken and bleeding world.
 
Let us linger by Jesus’ tomb that we may in time lift our voice and experience the joy of our Lord.
 
Discussion: What is the difference between human joys and God’s Joy? How might you better reveal God’s joy to others?
 

 

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Day 40: Holy Saturday | The Joy of Good News
 
“…The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10
 
The Christian word “gospel” means “good news.” What is good news? It’s not just finding out that your phone bill is a little lower this month, or that the important piece of paper you lost was sitting beside your bed the whole time. Real good news is “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10), incredible news worth shouting and dancing about. It is an announcement worth laughing and crying over, one that makes your long-silent inner voice break out into song.
 
Good news is finding out the miners have reached safety after weeks of being trapped in an underground cavern. Good news is finding out the person you are in love with loves you in return; it’s finding out you’re able to adopt a baby after years of difficult waiting. Good news is finding out the cancer is in remission and chances for a full recovery are good. Wonderful, truly good news is the polar opposite of the devastating bad news that so often threatens to destroy us. It is consolation for our soul, reminding us there is hope in the world and that God is good even in the worst of times. It might not come as often as we would like, but we have all experienced good news of one kind or another.
 
Religious people, especially Christians, are often caricatured as a negative bunch, far more concerned with what not to do and who should not be doing it than with the abundant, abiding joy at the heart of faith. Of course the season of Lent is a time for solemnity; it calls us to reflect, pray, and fast as we consider the profound significance of what is before us today: Jesus in the tomb. On Good Friday the bad news is dire. Power and corruption triumph. But in Christ’s death, destruction and evil are disarmed and, within the closed tomb, lasting joy lingers for the sake of the broken and bleeding world.
 
Let us linger by Jesus’ tomb that we may in time lift our voice and experience the joy of our Lord.
 
Discussion: What is the difference between human joys and God’s joy? How might you better reveal God’s joy to others?
 

 

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Human joy is as fleeting and ephemeral as human life.

 

Godde's joy is the deep and abiding faith that all will be well, that all manner of things will be well. And Godde's joy is in service. So in service I might better reveal Godde's joy to others, and gain it for myself.

 

(And I must add my apology for not posting daily; I have been reading daily, but found this Lent an unusually busy time, with a couple of new roles, so I enjoyed reading - MikeP, love your observations - more than writing.)

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I don't know the difference between divine and human joy… though I do think we often miss out through inattention. The universe is, to some, desolate, vast, cold, unendurably inhospitable and desperately lonely, I know that. And I guess that's reasonable enough if you really want to treat your consciousness that way. It's an approach I find unnecessarily ascetical and morbidly uninteresting.

When we consider how rare sentience and perceptal capacities seem to be — and therefore how precious and to be prized our faculties might be to the universe —  it seems to me we might let ourselves enjoy them. From this end of the telscope everything stretches deep into mystery, every moment is an exploration of awe. We are very strange stuff… we really ought to en-joy it  (Why? Because we can, and because experiencing joy is a creative act… ).

 

All of our senses can be knitted together into fabrics of divine joy… we allow it to happen when we fill ourselves with experiences of holy, joyous beauty by simply opening to it. It's everywhere, all the time.  We don't need to explain the taste of a sun-warm, perfectly ripened peach, of the sound of robins sorting out their territorial rights, of the sensation of a loving touch or the buoyant effervesence of plunging into ocean surf, or sight of a havest moon, a still lake or a veined leaf; nor do we need to have it all sorted out, to see the beauty of an inspired idea, or an admirable value, an act of goodness or an inspiring achievement… all of the wealth of "impractical" but deeply enjoyable experience, opened to, embraced and danced with, can become a network that evelopes us in the ever-present ambient joy of "god" or the "universe" or whatever we want to name the inspiration of our awe… the mystery too vast for human minds: it's a source of great empowerment and liberation but it is also a force that can, if we allow it to, will shape our attitudes, our values, our "morals", our intellect, our emotions… it can enrich our sense of personal responsibility and amplify our capacities to love and be loved.

 

Or we can shut off our awareness of it down, be as miserable, mean-spirited and uncomfortable as we wish. There's just no point in doing that, not that I can see, or ever have seen. 

 

So… I try to spread it around by encouraging others to open to it and delight in it. Mystery is a place for all that's good in us to party. 

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Easter Sunday | While It Was Still Dark
 
"…While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…."  John 20:1
 
The noise and the vibration were so intense it was almost overwhelming. Even with my military-issue ear defenders in place, my MP3 player could barely keep up, the music reduced to a series of staccato high frequency squeaks that were just irritating. Finally I took them off, replaced the noise-suppressing headphones, and looked out the porthole behind me. It required that I unbuckle my safety harness and squirm around in the harness to see, but most people were already lying on the cargo or sprawled out on the floor of the aircraft. It was one way of getting some rest on the seven-hour flight.
 
Far below, one could see the Arctic wasteland, which is a misnomer; it is anything but a wasteland. It is one of the most beautiful and exotic sights I have ever seen. Long, swirling glaciers frozen in time; rocky, snow-covered mountaintops unclimbed and unexplored; thousands of miles of pure white snow that nary a foot has ever disturbed. “The true north strong and free” resonated in my head, as the four powerful motors of the Hercules provided the orchestral score.
 
I giggled to myself, like a school boy on his first adventure. How did I get here? I had been ordained in 1980, 30 years ago. In the past year I had decided to join the Canadian Forces as a chaplain, groaned and grunted my way through basic training, and now here I was tasked with providing Easter services for the troops at the top of the world. The plane was headed to CFS Alert, in Nunavut, which has the claim of being the most northerly inhabited community on planet Earth. It was where I would be celebrating my 30th Easter sunrise service.
 
My personal tradition, for my entire ministry, was to have an outdoor Easter communion at sunrise with willing, and sometimes unwilling, congregations. We would gather early, while it was still dark, light a fire, and await the sunrise. The communion would be celebrated, hymns would be sung, the peace would be passed, and Easter Day would commence. My assumption in the Arctic was that I would find just a few brave souls at the station to accompany me this Easter, 2010, just in case the wolves got frisky and dragged off the old padre. I announced my intentions at the weekly town hall meeting and I had two volunteers to assist.
 
A wooden cross was made, palettes for the fire were gathered, and the service was announced over the PA. The one thing I had missed in the planning was the time of the service. It was then that I learned that sunrise would be at 1:13 a.m.!
 
So it was at 1:13 on Easter Sunday, with a wooden cross facing the Lincoln Sea, the wolves curiously wandering outside the perimeter of the circle, and a roaring bonfire breaking the silence of the Arctic air, that I awaited my congregation. The sky was rose-coloured, creating the most perfect silhouette of Greenland’s mountains visible to the east.
 
And then they came, more than 20, with smiles and laughter, and like me, a little befuddled by the situation. We read the words of John’s gospel as the sun broke the horizon, we dipped our bread into the slushy wine, which was almost frozen in the chalice at minus 31 degrees Celsius, and we celebrated Easter.
 
I may not understand the mysteries of spirituality, but I do understand the gift that was given to me that day and has remained with me ever since. Creation is a gift; it is ours to enjoy. And if Easter is the celebration of the spark of the Divine that does not die, I was reborn within that spark on that bright Easter morn.
 
Easter has always been the celebration of hope against despair, revelation overcoming the shadows. I had always believed that it was why we celebrated Easter at the sunrise. But this Easter was living proof of the light overcoming the dark. 
 
After the sunrise that morning, the sun would not set again in Alert for three months.
 
Happy, Happy Easter!
 
 

 

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MikePaterson

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HAPPY EASTER INDEED!

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I Am Listening

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Many thanks to all those who participated in the I Am Listening daily devotions for Lent, especially to the always insightful and illuminating MikePaterson, who carried the lion's share of the reflections on this one! Thanks as well to all those who shared their thoughts on the Lenten reflections: 
 
Beloved
BetteTheRed
Waterfall
Mahakala
Musicsooths
Pilgrims Progress
Seeler
Jim Kenney
Somegalfromcan
Humanode
qwety
RichardBott
Spiritbear
Mendalla
Calm
Rhubarb
 
A big thanks to the writers and artists of I Am Listening too! We've posted the credits page here. Please take a look and find out whose words and pictures have inspired us through the past 40 days of Lent!
 
And even if you didn't comment, we want to say thanks to all our WonderCafe readers who stopped by and visited these Lenten threads too. There were lots of visits to the I Am Listening threads. We really hope they added depth and new persepctives to your Lenten journey!
 
Happy Easter!
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