Monday, February 20, 2006

12/20/06, Sermon

I’m amazed, and somewhat depressed, by how relentless we have to be in the service of good, in the service of life, in the service of just getting out of bed again, and putting our shoes on, and stepping into the day to do what needs to be done. It is difficult to work as hard as we work with as little as we have to show for it on any level. Look around you. No one has it easy. No one has enough cooperation or encouragement. No one has enough help. What keeps us going?

That is the question which forms the foundation of religion at its best. What keeps us going is completely irrational, illogical, beyond articulation or understanding. That we keep going is the one thing we cannot defend, justify, excuse or explain. We don’t know why we do it.

No one in her, in his, “right mind” would keep going—through all we have been through, through all we have yet to go through, both individually and as a species, for no more than we are getting out of it! We have come from nowhere to glass and plastic in 6 billion years. We kept plugging away all those years for pink Hummers and Wal Mart? For cell phones and flat screen TV’s? We were out of our, as they say, ever lovin,’ cotton pickin’ minds to do all of that for this! We kept going for Las Vegas and Disneyworld? For iPods and email?

It makes no sense. We can’t make it make sense. We keep going, but no one knows why. We think maybe it has to do with stuff. We think maybe it’s the steady accumulation of stuff that makes the going worthwhile. Well, we could take a field trip to my office and assess the stuff I have piled up there, and we would have to conclude it isn’t about stuff. We don’t know what it’s about. We don’t know what keeps us going, but, we cannot deny that we do.

There it is. The foundation of religion at its best. Mystery. Unfathomable, Inexplicable, Inexpressible, Ineffable, Undeniable. We keep going, but we don’t know why. And, we cannot get to the bottom of it. Anything we tell ourselves is just something we make up to put the question aside. Nothing we say will hold up under scrutiny over time. It is stupid to keep going through all we have been through, through all we have yet to go through, for no more than we have to show for it, for no more than we get out of it. And, yet, we don’t quit.

What more do you need in the way of evidence of transcendent reality? We go as an expression of, and as a search for, that which is beyond words, and concepts, and ideas—for that which is more than we can ask, or think, or imagine, or, certainly, say! We go as evidence of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts—a whole that we glimpse from time to time in the experience of Beauty in art, music and nature, and in the sense of Presence, and Depth, mediated by one another.

We are bearers of Holy Presence. We bring Compassionate, Caring Presence to life in the world. We mediate the Presence of Justice and Peace in the chaotic clash of national pride and personal interest. We stand in the midst of the way it is being done, and do it differently, and do it the way it ought to be done. We redeem the moment. We heal wounded spirits. We restore lost souls. We bring hope to life. We transform perspectives. And we encourage one another by standing as reminders of that which is beyond, yet within, us all.

And then, like that, it passes. And, we snap back into this world of normal, apparent, reality, where they are out of half-and-half at the coffee shop, and we can’t find our W-2 form, and we have to get the dog to the vet again, and we don’t know what keeps us going.

Yin and Yang. Two realities. Flowing into and out of one another. One being lost in and concealed by the other, but springing forth in amazing ways, at unpredictable times, to stun and surprise, and disappear, leaving us to wonder at the truth of its passing and to long for its hoped-for return. Why can’t all moments be like the moment we met the eyes of person at the check out counter and saw a flash of the beauty, and goodness, and depth of life revealed, unveiled, exposed? Why can’t all moments be like the moment we rocked the baby in a communion of souls beyond all expression? Why do we touch the depths of truth only to be yanked to the surface without a decompression chamber, or an air lock, or time for transition and preparation, by the jarring intrusion of “life in the real world”?

A better question, perhaps: Why do we allow the world of normal, apparent reality to claim to be “the real world”? Why do we permit unchallenged its claim to being the only world? Why do we treat this world of normal, apparent reality, as the one that counts, the one that matters? There is nothing in this world to keep us going. This world is a fascinating life support system, but it is not life, and is not to be confused with the source of life, and living, and being alive. This world is like manna in the desert. But we don’t serve the manna. The manna enables us to live in the service of, as mediators of, the world beyond this world, the world beyond the manna. We live in this world as servants of Presence, as expressions of Presence, as the incarnation of Presence, as the emergence of Presence within the structures and systems of the same old same old. We live as evidence of that world to the surprise and consternation, and salvation, of this world. But it isn’t easy.

What’s easy is to forget what we are here for. And so, we gather regularly in this place to remember. We come here to be reminded of Yin and Yang. To hear again about the two worlds. To know once more that we don’t live in the service of glass and plastic, but as agents of grace, mercy, and peace; as emissaries of justice and compassion; as channels of hope and love, as evidence, and sources, of life.

We live to bring Presence to life through the quality of our living in the world of normal, apparent, reality; through the character of our participation in this world of glass and plastic, pink Hummers and Las Vegas. We live in this world—as extensions of, as evidence of, as incarnations of, the other world. But it is hard to remember that in the press of life in this world. Life in this world is shaped to take our minds off that world. Life in this world leads us to think it is the only world. And, yet, there is nothing in this world with the power to keep us going. We don’t keep going in the service of the things of this world. The things of this world can sustain life, but they are not life. To touch life, and be fully alive, we have to maintain our link with the other world.

And, so, we come here to remember, and to stand as reminders of, the things that keep us going; the things that are life; the things that bring us alive. Connection, community, communion; authenticity, realness, genuineness; gentleness, peace, compassion; justice, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, mercy, love, joy, hope, hospitality; courage and encouragement; endurance; dedication; devotion… The list goes on. And, on the list are the qualities and characteristics, the elements, of life, living, and being alive. These are the things that keep us going.

We keep going to experience and express the elements of life and living, to be alive. This place nurtures life and living, and enables us to be alive. It does that by enabling us to remember who we are and what we are about. We are bearers of Holy Presence, the incarnation of God. We bring God to life through the quality of our living, through the depth of our seeing and hearing, through the unique variety of our awareness, through our ability to be with very nearly everything in healing, helpful, ways.

Of course, I’m blowing smoke here. This place isn’t anything like that. We aren’t anywhere close to being able to pull this kind of thing off. We may as well be a used car lot for all our expertise at mediating Holy Presence. Who are we kidding? But, that’s the idea. The idea is that we will intentionally become the kind of place we aspire to be over time.

We are what we think about. We are what we focus on. We are who we hang out with. If there is ever going to be more to us than pink Hummers and Wal Mart, we have to cultivate the more by spending time with people who, in places that, call us beyond the world of ordinary, apparent, plastic reality to the world of heart, and soul, and spirit, and self. If we are going to live in this world as evidence of, as expressions of, that other world, we are going to have to spend time with people who, in places that, connect us with, ground us in, the wonder of life, and living, and being alive.

What keeps us going is the experience of the wonder of life, and living, and being alive. Where do we find that in the world of glass and plastic? We get only props and promises in that world. That world can dazzle and entertain with its flashing lights and its sleight of hand, but only offers the appearance of life. It cannot sustain life over time. It takes the other world to do that. We come here to remember that, to remember what the deal is that keeps us going.

The deal is that we are the bearers of Holy Presence. We are the incarnation of God. We come here to remember that, so that we might live in the awareness of it, out there, in the world of normal, apparent plastic reality, a little longer each week; a little more frequently each week; blessing the world with glimpses of how things are in the other world, and reminding everyone of what keeps us all going.

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