February 28, 2010 - the Humility of Meditation

 The Humility of Meditation

I remember my parents talking about a person who was a bit proud.  They said he was 'full of himself.'  I thought, 'Well of course he is.'

We are full our ourselves.

  • scripts from our culture
  • memories
  • guilts and shames
  • desires
  • plans
  • anxieties
It's no wonder we have trouble finding God.  We are full of ourselves.  But God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts."

Before we begin any spiritual enterprise we admit a basic humilty of how we are full of finite thoughts and feelings.  We are not eternal, we are bound by time and place, our self interest and programming cloud our view of anything we do not expect or understand.

So we humbly empty ourselves.

Like a glass. - pouring out
From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones "Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.  The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”  Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Like a hard drive. - replacing
meditate on my law night and day.

Debate in Christianity about meditation
danger of emptiness
loneliness, estrangement
danger of replaceing
I love Lucy

But Scripture finds quietness "Be still and know that I am God."  The still small voice.

    count breathing
    focus on objects

Making touchstones for quietness.


Spiritual contemplation is all right
   for those who have the time,
   but most of us have to make a living.

Most of us have to live in the real world
   where profanity splashes and blots out
          anything holy.

Where, O Holy One, can we find you in this unholy mess?

How, O God, can we find the holy in the ordinary?

Martin Luther once said (recorded in his TISHREDE): "I have twice as much to do today and therefore I need to pray twice as long."

(c) William H. Levering 2010

February 21 - Opeining the Spirtual Toolbox

Opening the Spiritual Toolbox - an Introduction to Lenten Disciplines

Watching the Olympics from our couches is a real challenge.  We root for them and marvel at their discipline.  Jealous of their commitment?
We study the seven habits of highly effective people.  We read Malcolm Gladwell who wrote Outliers about who gets to be successful and why.  According to Gladwell, anyone who wants to become an expert in their field needs to invest 10,000 hours of time at it.
Yet we have trouble applying all this to our inner life.
We want things for our lives
     deeper meaning,      lower blood pressure,      joy,       peace
So we change our patterns
     paleolithic diet    (just because it’s a new pattern doesn’t make it a good one)

Spiritual Discipleship is taking the patterns of our life seriously
Discipline a part of early Christianity – disciple 269 times, Christian 3 times
            path of Jesus,  “people of the Way”

Beginning means a survey, counting the cost, developing a business plan, scoping out the terrain

Analogy of toolbox
       many tools for spiritual discipline
       sometimes house needs repair
       sometimes needs addition

Coming series a celebration of the tools at our disposal -   Prayer,  mediation, fasting

More developed by Richard Foster 30 years ago - printed in bulletin
        We’re doing inward disciplines

All these disciplines have triggers that initiate their action.
   every time you . . . .

Norton Levering's Spiritual Triggers    Catalysts,

Time -     at meals, before bed, islam- call to prayer
Location -     sanctuary, prayer closet,
Posture -     fold hands - close eyes, yoga, kneeling
Sensation -     hunger, pebble in shoe
Person -     Daniel, Dali lama
Decision -     diet, getting up
Object -     cross, coin, Seder, communion

See?  It’s easy – not a set of obligations, but a joyful challenge, an offering of a buffet, an invitation to deeper water

You already know this:  Worship ultimate spiritual tool that embodies all the triggers.

Good job!

Feb 7, 2010 - Responding to God in Complexity

Our lives are rarely easy – most people are often overwhelmed
Responsibilities, plans, bills, maintaining relationships, keeping out of trouble, work tensions, bad habits, fears of medical problems, hauntings from the past, specters on the horizon.  Like in "Just as I Am" many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings and fears within, without

This is the way of the world.
               the history of ordinary people – not leaders, not cataclysms
In a People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn (recently died) talks about ordinary history
      Like our history  – not fires, or heroic pastors, but ordinary people coming to church for 330 years. 

      Like fishermen up all night facing failure
      even success can destroy us
               miraculous catch can overwhlem
               glory days of GE

God doesn't make it easier
      ‘take up your cross and follow me”  doesn't please us (simon)
        Annoyance at putting out again
        ‘go away’ when confronted with new paradigm
      catch people – probably harder than catching fish

God makes it mean something bigger
      all the fish you can use.  now what
       in the catch they hear the call

Emmylou Harris and Johnny Willis

I hear a call Now will answer
Forsake my all To serve another
Though darkness falls Stay a believer
I hear a call Now will I answer

I see a light Now will I follow
Fill up this life That grows more hollow
Make joy reside  Where there lives sorrow
I see a light  Now will I follow

fiddler on the roof  (perchik)
now i have everything,
not only everything,
i have a little bit more
besides having everything,
i know what everything's for. 

when we hear God's call, when we get a bigger, more noble vision, there is
•    no complexity that overwhelms us.
•    no health care morass discourages us
•    no visa bill can dishearten us
•    no tiredness can dispirit us

In our own lives...threat of being overwhelmed by God's holiness is very real and serious.  There is a temptation to stay in the shallows, where it is safe, where we can see the bottom but we're called like Peter out to the depths where the big fish of many varieties swim out of sight, where danger lurks but blessings abound.

Our Dutch founders didn’t stay in the shallows.  They set out on a great and challenging adventure that made where we are today.  We are also called to set out into the complex deep.

 We are called to the depths of ourselves, the depths of the world, the depths of others, real lives, real relationships.  Jesus new disciples leave their old lives to catch people--a life much more complicated, unpredictable, confusing, overwhelming than the old life of catching fish.  Not luring them in, hook line and sinker, but casting our nets of the great news, sharing love and forming real relationships, receiving who God sends us, and I promise you, the blessings in your life will threaten to swamp your boat, you will be overwhelmed with meaning. 

Fish or cut bait.

(c) William H. Levering 2009

January 31, 2010 The Rules of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NRSV)

13If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

What's your favorite romantic movie?
How do you feel when you're around another couple that are obviously in love?
Who is the first person you remember loving in your life?
Are there different kinds of love?
Who are the people you love most in the world?  Why?
What are your personal rules for love?

Intro:  The sermon assumes that we are interested in love.  People who are interested in more selfishness are free to leave now.

Love we are talking about is agape, a hybrid of feeling and idea that is a pure caring distinct from affection.  "Charity" in KJV

The nature of love, the laws of love can be seen in two ways:

      Love is defined by these things . . .
               like there are laws of nature, or physics that describe what it is without prescribing action

      Once we love, we oughta . . .  Traffic laws

Still comes down to what we do, surprisingly not the internal condition often addressed in New Testament.

Case Study: learning new hymn
            Religious principles aren't nearly as interesting as their application.
            Love is realized in its application.  (first section)

we're always talking about love in the church, blah blah, blah...
           all ya need is love
temptation with a bunch of prescriptions is to turn off,
instead:  One step at a time.  One small item at a time.  One person, one experience...

  learning new hymn - appropriate since love setting seems to address some issues in the Corinthian Church (tongues)

just for today, just for this moment in worship, I will try to love this song.

It's all case study.  just for today, just for this moment is often all we can manage when it comes to love.

Good natured

We are hymns.  Not so melodic, strange transitions, words that don't always fit.  Who will love us?

Gil Bowen, preacher and therapist, "So when all is said and done, love is not rapture and fire. It’s a hand steadier than one's own, squeezing harder than a heartbeat. Wine changes back to water. Endearment is exhibited by what once might have been considered insignificant kindnesses, but which, in the end, become the tenderest of ministrations."

Certainly one way to remember, but you'd always need to keep a mirror handy.

Unless it's for someone else.


(c) William H. Levering 2009