My mother said, as she has said before,
That is one of my dominant spiritual practices -- tho I don't generally think of it as a "practice" exactly. I think of it as standing on holy ground doing sacred work.This past Sunday, Laura Ruth preached "Walking With You Is My Prayer." She had been back just a few days, having spent over a week in Ontario vigiling with her partner Meck as Meck's father neared death, and Meck remained in Ontario as her father remained. The Scripture text was the Road to Emmaus.
I think it is the most precious work you can ever do.
I read the text of the sermon on Wednesday. Girl can preach. One thing I was really impressed by in her sermon was her raw, honest, listing of so many different kinds of Good Friday places we can experience. Anyway, excerpt:
What in God’s name do we do after catastrophe? What do we do after we have held our breath, after we wail with grief and misery, after we condemn ourselves for what we could have done or left undone, should have done or not done, but didn’t. After we blame, and point fingers, after we plot about how to get even, or after we drug ourselves with our usual substances and distractions? In that void that comes after that last breath, what do we do?***
What do we do?
As they were walking and speaking of these things, a stranger joined them, and asked what they were discussing. Cleopas and Simon, said, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” And they told the stranger what had happened. As they walked along, they did what pious Jews do, they studied Torah, the sacred scripture to make meaning of their lives, of these events. Beginning with Moses, the stranger spun, made, gave meaning to the death of this pastor, their rabbi.
As the days went on, and my father in law did not die, yet, we began to breathe again. We began to make order out of our days. We ate and bathed, received guests. We turned Jaap every two hours, and fed him and gave him water and juice as he requested. Family arrived, said their good byes - tearful, wrenching acts of forgiveness and blessing, and left. More eating, more guests, more good byes, more turning. Things we thought we’d be unable to do, we did, and did them together, spelling each other, feeding each other – caring for Jaap, caring for each other, caring imperfectly, but trying, trying to stay together.
And the community showed up. Food came, the nurses and doctors came. Someone came to tend the lawn. The next door neighbor nurse came over when we panicked. From abroad, from Boston, Somerville, and Northampton, from Georgia, Tennessee and Toronto prayers came via email, via spirit. We were not alone. The community was our foundation.
How do we live through these difficult days?
We walk together.
As they got close to Emmaus, the stranger walked on ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Those of us who have lived through catastrophe, those of us who help others live through the worst thing they could imagine, the words, I’m through with you, you’re fired, the cancer is advanced, it’s Parkinson’s, I had an affair, I stole all your money, I hate you, all of us who have witnessed this and experienced it ourselves know that after the news, after the death, after the heartbreak, we decide to inhale again, and exhale, and we do it again, inhale and exhale because our bodies need it, and because we discover that though we are scarred, though we are broken, and though we might not, from time to time wish it were true, we are alive.
What do we do for the living of these days?
We walk together with God, and if we would only but notice . . .
Here is the spiritual teaching from Jesus today: while we are alive, we must notice that our hearts are burning within us, as we walk the road together. What I mean to say is this: even in the midst of the murder of our pastor, the death of our beloved, the betrayal, the accident, even in the aftermath, God is with us, and promises never to forsake us. Our job is to notice. Stay awake, Jesus asks us.
We bathed, cleaned Jaap. We fed him. At first, I thought, “I am the daughter-in-law. It is not my job, nor my place to bathe my father-in-law. I will not be able to do this. I cannot, and I will not. I will read the Psalms to him.” And so I did, starting with Psalm 1, then Psalm 2, then 3. He said, coming up out of his sleep or unconsciousness, “Don’t stop singing.” So I read Psalm 15, 16, 17. Once when he needed to be cleaned and help was needed, I did help, and I did it again. We did it together. What was at first horrifying, became an honor.
Because we were so alive to the needs of this man, regardless, and because of his imperfections before he took to the bed, what was once terrible, caused our hearts began to burn within us, with love, with gratitude for these tasks of comfort. The horrible, incredibly, became the holy. God became flesh with physical necessity, and we tended him in the person of my father in law.
We walk, and we remember.
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “Christ has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” They told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
We break the bread every week at this church. Every Wednesday night at Rest and Bread, we say these words, “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Bless this bread and bless this fruit of the vine. Bless us all, so that in eating and drinking together at this table, our eyes may be opened, and we may recognize the risen Christ in our midst and in each other.”
Every first Sunday of the month, in this time and in this space, we gather to teach our hearts, to remind ourselves to notice that our hearts are burning, that the Christ, bidden and sometimes un-bidden helps us, comforts us, helps us make the kind of meaning of our lives that lead us into joy.
It doesn’t matter if we believe a little or if we believe a lot. What matters is the practice of walking in community, noticing the arrival, perceiving the constant availability of the divine.
Beginning at tonight's Rest and Bread Service, we're back to our pre-Lenten service, of scripture, reflection, communion, and singing "Abide With Me." We hope you will come and fall into that familiar place that allows deep prayer and meditation.When I got that email that morning, I thought, "I have missed Rest and Bread!" even though I only missed last week; I suspect what I really mean is, "I have missed Laura Ruth!"
Also beginning tonight, Keith and I will center our reflections on the biographies and witness of people in the Bible. Tonight, we will breathe into Jonah and his story.
I hugged her a LOT.
After service she said I seemed really good. Part of me was amused because the one time that I responded to "How are you?" with, "I've been better," she looked like horrified, so my sense is that she thinks of me as always being good (which I usually am, plus the contexts in which I see her make me happy), but I was really feeling bubbling over joyful. I dunno if it's 'cause I'm at the end of my period or if I just needed to recoup from [redacted v. Holy Saturday] or just what, but I'll definitely take this.
Chapters 1-2 of the Book of Jonah
Listening to the story being read, one of the things that struck me was that Jonah went downstairs in boat and fell asleep -- because recently in SCBC we had a session on Jesus calming the storm. I was also struck by the fact that Jonah asks them to throw him overboard -- which is this big deal (they pray to Jonah's God to forgive them for shedding innocent blood) and I wonder why he didn't just jump overboard himself (possibly it's metaphorical about how we can know what the right thing to do is but can't bring ourselves to actually do it).
In her Reflection, Laura Ruth mentioned Baghdad when talking about Nineveh, which wiki suggests is not exactly true, but it just something she mentioned in passing and it is true that it's in modern-day Iraq.
She said that midrash says that the people in the boat dipped Jonah in to the water slowly and as they did the storm got progressively calmer so they knew they were doing the right thing. Midrash is awesome :)
She commented that Jonah is from same place as Jesus (Gath-hepher is near Nazareth) and both spent 3 days in an enclosed space... I rolled my eyes.
She commented that this is the story that's read on Yom Kippur -- which I had either not realized or had forgotten.
She invited us to reflect on times when we run away from where God is calling us to go. I appreciated her map, where she's like, "Here's Jonah, here's Nineveh [a couple inches northeast], here's Tarshish [a couple inches west]."
I was struck by Jenny's prayers during Prayers of the People:
"All those affected by the new flu virus and those who live in fear because of it."
"All the people I've seen on the streets recently asking for money who aren't the regulars -- and for the regulars, too."
Earlier that day, musesfool had posted:
Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale***
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
Jason and I went to Highland Kitchen [yelp] for dinner.
I considered getting a Mai Tai Dragon (Sailor Jerry Rum, orange Curaçcao, almond syrup and lime juice) but opted instead to get a Dorchester (vodka, triple sec, pink lemonade). It mostly tasted like vodka, which I suppose I should not be surprised by.
I ordered the vegetarian lasagna (which, contrary to the online menu -- which is on a myspace page, wtf? -- is not a butternut squash lasagna) which was good (though I'm not certain it was $16 good) though I would barely know because I was talking nonstop for a large portion of dinner. I am not used to the getting-to-know-you game and am bad at coming up with questions to ask people, but I enjoy talking about myself at great length :)
We got the banana bread pudding for dessert, which was also good.
I was surprised at how full the restaurant was for a Wednesday night (though at Jason's request we got a booth, which was much nicer than a two-person table would have been) and learned how much a cab is from there to my house ('cause it would have been like a 40-minute walk or 2 busses).
And I went to bed later than is optimal for me given when I get up in the morning, but I am okay with that.