Thursday, 20 April 2017

Rising into new life

It has been a while since I lasted posted, the gap coincidentally aligning with Lent. Okay, not coincidentally. Lent is a busy time in churches and Richmond Hill United Church is no exception. Add to this that it has been my first Lent flying solo in many years and you can see why I haven't posted. 

It has also been a rich Lent. Earlier in the year I joined a centering prayer group. Along with our group sits we have been reviewing over Lent a DVD from the Center for Action and Contemplation comparing the wisdom offered by Jesus and the Buddha. Learning about the false self and the importance of letting it go to discover what is true has aligned beautifully with this season. I've been reading Richard Rohr's recent book about the Trinity, discovering the dynamic flow of love that is beyond and yet within all things. Add to this that as part of a learning cohort with colleagues the facilitator led us in a conversation about being our authentic selves. Like I said, rich.

But Lent is over and it is time to rest in the gift that is Easter, special this year because being in Central Ontario for Easter means all of the snow is gone and the world is bursting into new life. A prime example is the forsythia in bloom at the parking lot door of the church. Spectacular. This sense of new life has been mirrored for me over this past week. It is recovery week for me and I have opted to take time off to review a CAC webcast on the Trinity. Along with the sessions has been lots of time for centering prayer and other contemplative practices like meditation walks. It was in such a walk that everything over the past six weeks came together.

So as you know if you're a regular reader is that I have found a thin place to go for walks close to our home. This morning I took Finley for a walk in this forest but decided to be very meditative about it, to be attentive to my body, to the wind, to the energy of the space. So I started walking, throwing the ball occasionally and just being attentive. It was magical. Everywhere the forest is bursting into life. I even discovered a patch of trilliums that will soon be in bloom. 

I decided to follow a path that cuts back and forth across the main access path. I was in the moment, feeling the wind, hearing the birds, and as I crossed the main path I was struck by how much this following is my true self and not the false person I've been taught to project. I was meandering along where the land begged to be walked and not through the straight shortcut. As part of the webcast Wm. Paul Young (author of The Shack) had spoken about the art of making a violin. The artisan doesn't force the wood based on an ideal violin but works with the grain and allows the best violin to emerge. The wood shapes the violin maker more than the other way around. He used this image to speak about Trinity, about how this relational G-d doesn't force us along a path but draws out of us what is there and empowers us to walk along the path that is most life-giving for us. Trinity draws out from us what is true and authentic.

This was mirrored at the learning cohort. As a visual focus the facilitator lit a floating candle. Over the course of the days I noticed how a new candle always floated with most of its mass below the water. But as it burned more and more of the candle would be exposed. It felt like that was happening in our session as we each felt more free to be ourselves.

This is something many of us struggle to do. We are shaped by the world around us, by the values of our culture, including those that are in opposition to the gospel. But over time we can lay them down. I saw this strikingly as part of our Good Friday service. Each year RHUC youth help lead the service, presenting symbols to help us focus during the readings. I was using the template of my predecessor, adding some of my own symbols, including a Roman Imperial staff. I didn’t realize how powerful it would be until I watched as our youth place the instruments of empire at the foot of the cross. It captured so beautifully what I've been experiencing these past weeks, laying down what is false in favour of what is true and authentic. It is only through the letting go, the surrendering we see in the cross that what is true, authentic, life-giving can be revealed.

So rich, so true, so life-giving.

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