May 28, 2017 Psalm 132 (Nan Merrill)
Susan and Robert:
R: Where shall I look for Enlightenment?
R: When will it happen?
S: It is happening right now.
R: Then why don’t I experience it?
S: Because you do not look.
R: But what should I look for?
S: Nothing. Just look.
R: But at what?
S: At anything your eyes alight upon.
R: But must I look in a special kind of way?
S: No. The ordinary way will do.
R: But don’t I always look the ordinary way?
S: No, you don’t.
R: But why not?
S: Because to look you must be here. You’re mostly somewhere else.
paraphrased by Nan Merrill
Enter into the Silence, into the Heart of Truth;
For herein lies the Great Mystery.
Where life is ever unfolding;
Herein the Divine Plan is made known,
the Plan all are invited to serve.
Listen for the music of the Holy Word in the resounding Silence of the universe.
May balance and harmony be your aim
as you are drawn into the Heart of Love.
Those who follow the way of Love with calm and faith-filled intent,
Know that all is working toward healing and wholeness.
And may the healing power of love lift you from the limitations of fear
and ignorance into the arms of freedom.
May the peace of the Spirit bless you, and lead you on life's journey.
Be not afraid of the Silence, for Wisdom's Voice is heard there!
As you follow the Light, you become gentle and kind, you come to live in the Light.
Children enter the world radiating the Spirit --
learn from them of innocence and simplicity;
Learn to co-operate with the unseen realms, to see beyond the veil.
Wise are those who learn through silence; learn then to listen well.
For beyond the silence and stillness within, you will come to know a profound and dazzling Silence --Herein lies the music of the spheres,
the harmony of creation.
Enter into the Holy Temple of your soul, converse with the Beloved in sweet communion.
Blessings of the Great Silence be with you as you help to rebuild the heart of the world with love.
(ring singing bowl and rain stick, followed by a minute of silence)
Amidst all the chaos and noise, fear, the natural disasters and violence in our world today, we are experiencing a spiritual renaissance. Yes, believe it our not. People are searching for that Light the psalmist talks about - that place of healing and wholeness where peace and gentleness and kindness are found. They are looking in so many places for that elusive enlightenment that Robert asked about. They are looking for that source of wisdom and love. They are searching for God.
Where are we looking?
Spiritual retreats where silence and solitude help us get in touch with the sacred;
Recovery groups and self-help groups. By meeting regularly with others, talking about their situations and sharing their stories, many participants learn to appreciate the spiritual dynamics of community, tolerance, forgiveness and gratitude;
People pray and grow spiritually through the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from others;
For some of us, its the volunteer work and political activism. Dorothy Day of the Catholic Workers movement found her spirituality through the work she did to help the poor;
Ecology and love of the earth, taking quiet walks in nature, bring people to their spiritual centers and lead them to work to protect the environment.
Those of us sitting here find it in a church community.
Others are even dialoguing online - going to church online! Yes, that too is happening.
The Sufis, and mystics like Theresa of Avila, believe that every aspect of daily life has potential as a devotional practice. Every bodily movement has its source in the divine. Everything we do, everything seen or heard, tasted or touched, can be undertaken as a devotional practice. That was also a Celtic practice. They wrote and recited short prayers and songs to accompany their simple daily activities.
St. Ignatius once said that “everything one turns in the direction of God is prayer”. Through all of these practices we are learning to rebuild the heart of the world with love.
Seekers today are drawing from different faith traditions. Ancient practices are being renewed and adapted for our use. There is such a wealth and diversity of practices to draw from.
Evert Cousins writes: “It may be that the meeting of spiritual paths, the assimilation, not only of one’s own personal heritage, but of the human community as a whole, is the distinctive spiritual journey of our time.”
Have you ever visited a place where you immediately felt the presence of the holy? It felt like a sacred space? For me it’s usually a place where over the years others have prayed or meditated. While I was on vacation I had the pleasure of officiating my nephew’s wedding in Sedona Arizona.
Sedona is considered to be a vortex, a special spot on the earth where energy is either entering into the earth, or projecting out of the earth’s plane. These are sacred sites. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, that you see pictured on the screen, is considered a vortex.
Native Americans believe that spiritual transformation can occur more easily in Sedona because the veils to other dimensions are thinner there. Whether you believe in vortexes or not, there is something about Sedona that has drawn people there over the years, something more than its incredible beauty.
On Sunday we visited the Amitabha Stupa. Stupas are one of the oldest forms of sacred architecture on the planet. For a millennia Buddhist practitioners have built them to promote spiritual deepening, healing, prosperity, and peace. This one is filled with prayers for peace, sacred relics and ritual objects.
As I walked around it three times sending my own prayers out into the universe, listening to the wind chimes and prayer flags blowing in the wind, I knew that this was the year to complete a project I began my first year at Eliot: creating 150 prayer flags to hang outside of the church.
I first saw this done at the UCC Church that my sister attends in Montclair N.J., where they strung 500 flags in front of their church for Easter that year. I then brought the practice to my church in Atascadero, and now here. I was first given prayer flags by a friend who was a practitioner of Buddhism, and by a former congregant who had traveled to Tibet. She also brought me this Tibetan prayer shawl that I am wearing today.
Traveling in the Bay Area on vacation one year, everywhere I went there were prayer flags, hanging on the front of people’s homes, apartments, even in the inner courtyard of the dorm I lived in during seminary. Is it a visual metaphor of the spiritual renaissance that is going on? I don’t know.
Regardless, it is a beautiful way to respond to the chaos and fear, natural disasters and violence in our sometimes broken world - to write our wishes, our prayers for our lives, our community and the world and let the wind carry them out to the universe.
The Tibetan word for prayer flag is Dar Cho. Dar means to increase life, fortune, health and wealth. Cho means all sentient beings. They are to be hung with the attitude “May all beings everywhere receive benefit and find happiness.”
They are often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes. Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: The five colors represent the elements: blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. According to Traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life's changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
On various occasions over the past four years I have invited you to write your prayers on these flags. We will bless them today, and after the service I invite you to help us hang them under the portico in front, to send your prayers out int our world as we pray to rebuild the heart of the world with love. The world needs our prayers more than ever right now. It is our way of releasing positive energy out into the world. And if it doesn’t change the world, it’s bound to change you.
DEDICATION OF PRAYER FLAGS
Ask everyone to move to the center aisle and distribute the prayer flags so everyone holds them.
Holy One, As we hang these prayer flags today may we do so with the attitude, “May all beings everywhere benefit and find happiness.” May they produce a spiritual vibration that is activated and carried by the wind across our community and the world. May all beings touched by the wind be uplifted and a little happier. May our flags serve as a visual sign of the love and compassion each one who signed them has for their family and friends, for total strangers and the world God lovingly created. Gracious God, hear these prayers of our community. Help all of us to recognize your presence in the silence of our lives. Amen