“Eating with the Separated“
Rev. Richard Feyen
recorded on 22 Sep 2013
First Reading: An Excerpt from The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner
“Gently and compassionately recognizing our flaws can bind us closer to others and to God. We must have patience with the unfolding of our lives and the world, and understand that God’s kingdom unfolds in God’s time. When we do so, we discover that we are not solely responsible for saving the world. Acknowledging these limits can liberate us from our compulsions and frantic busyness, and lead us toward recognizing our interdependence. In this way, each of our gifts contributes to the whole.”
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7 (from The Message by Eugene Peterson)
“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well, so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. He wants not only us, but everyone saved you know. Everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us – Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.”
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Each week, as we come together in prayer after the sharing of our joys and concerns, I introduce the prayer with a few words about what prayer is. Sometimes they are the thoughts of others that I’ve come across; but mostly they are my own. In the last couple of months, these have included such thoughts as, “Prayer feeds our spirits as we seek to find peace for the sake of others. As we pray, we meditate on the needs of others, and offer ourselves in powerful ways.” Or, “Prayer is as much a time for listening as it is a time for action. We listen for the spirit to take hold of our hearts, as we form the thoughts that move us to action.” Or, “Prayer is a place where pride is abandoned, and hope is lifted. Prayer is the place to admit our need, adopt humility, and enter the presence of God. It is an exercise of faith and hope.”
Prayer is not an opportunity to drag out a wish list or seek self-serving goals. What Paul urges in this letter to Timothy, is that prayer become the avenue through which individuals focus their energy on the needs of others, so that all can live peacefully in humble meditation. It is, I believe, our answer to finding the power of meditation and making it work for us.
Let’s think for a minute about who Paul was, in his day; because I believe that seeing that, we will come to a better understanding of what he is suggesting in this letter. Paul had two young associates, Timothy and Titus, and he is nurturing them for leadership – realizing, as we all do, that our days will come to an end.
Paul (a Jew) was also a Roman citizen, educated in the ways of Rome and also very knowledgeable in Greek philosophy. He was, as an adult, a chief enforcer of the Jewish law, “a zealot” in his own words, for the cause of the temple; sanctioned by the priests to go after and persecute those who were following the teachings of Jesus. When, in the course of that work, he became aware of the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus’ followers, he began to go through a period of self-examination. When the “truth” came to him like a bolt of lightning, he became one of the new movement’s most ardent supporters and spokespersons. Paul was a charismatic man, who crisscrossed the countryside starting new gatherings of followers wherever he went.
Now, in this letter to Timothy, Paul is entering that time of life where he is more aware of life’s end, and is writing to Timothy to nurture Timothy on a journey towards continuing Paul’s leadership. Paul sums up his work by saying, “This, and this only, has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.”
For Paul, as he explains this to his young associates, the avenue by which this can happen is in the simplicity of prayer; in the meditative time of seeking a connection with the Sacred.
Prayer helps us, as Christine Valters Painter says, by “Gently and compassionately recognizing our flaws, it can bind us closer to others and to God.”
Through the simplicity of a faith that calls us, in an understanding way, to accept the existence of the sacred, we can come to know the plain truth. It is a truth that helps us to understand that we are all part of a sacred existence, a sacred creation, a sacred teaching that reveals “that which we (humankind in the Judeo-Christian heritage) have named ‘God’”, and has come to be known, through the revealing nature of Jesus, first to the Hebrew people and then to all of those to whom Paul preached. Paul preached to people who would have grasped the understanding of philosophy the way he did, and so it became a natural step for he and his followers to share the message they knew in, the world in which they lived.
Of course, they said that Jesus was the only one through whom the Sacred One could be known. They had no real grasp of further parts of the world and he was, for them, the revelation of the meaning behind all that is sacred. They also believed the earth was flat and that the sun orbited the earth!
Today we have come to appreciate the world in a far more 21st century sort of way. We have also come to understand the sacred in a far broader way. We have come to understand science and the stories it tells of the microscopic world and the organisms that live within our bodies. We understand that we are part of an ever expanding universe, a universe which is also part of a grand understanding of the sacred that encompasses all that is and was and will be with that power to be revealed in ways that we have not yet begun to imagine – and we hold in reverence all that is.. Today, through science, we have an understanding of human intimacy and relationships, and medicine that provides us with an appreciation for the differences among people and the way we are that would have been as foreign to Paul and Timothy and Titus as moon travel.
For Paul, it was miracle enough to try to understand the revelation of the Sacred through a man who lived and breathed and existed; but he did accept that this man, Jesus, could reveal to them the essence of the sacred. Paul’s philosophical understandings guided him, and his personal experiences kept him, through faith, moving forward within his world view. But as he neared life’s end, he wanted to pass on to others a sense of how it was that the message could be offered. Then, it came to be a matter of simple faith and plain truth.
Today, we can be that example of simple faith and plain truth.
Simple faith that there exists that which is sacred, no matter the name one has given it; and the plain truth that it is revealed to people in a way which they can understand and accept. For some it will be one way . . . for others it will be another. Our task is simply to pray for an avenue to understanding and acceptance of all people, and through that task we can be about the business of living simply, with grace and respect for everyone. Using prayer, we focus the power of sacred love; and can then move communities to change.
With Great Hope, friends, AMEN.