Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I was away for a short retreat at Richmond Hill (Richmond, Virginia) – The Amazing Colors of Grace was the title given to the retreat. A Monarch butterfly was on the announcement flyer. I love butterflies – creatures of transformation who have great endurance and beauty.
In preparation for an afternoon session on a mode of prayer called ‘soaking prayer’ we spent the morning in silence with the above verse from Matthew while carrying a rock with us and some paper and colored pencils. The rock, I believe was meant to remind us of heavy burdens such as “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?” I often feel burned out on religion in general. So many doctrines that divide us and put us on shelves that are separated from one another. We often do not talk with our brothers and sisters of different faith traditions. Or when we do the conversation may often turn to heated words of anger and proclaiming that ours is the only faith tradition that matters. One consequence of this un-communication and sharing is fear. Fear, I believe has become embedded in our modern societies here and abroad. Fear leads to un-peace and unrest and is truly a heavy burden to bear.
But, back to rocks. Unless I am carrying a very heavy rock for a great distance, I find rocks to be friendly and comforting. I chose one that had ‘called’ to me. About ¾ inch thick, 3 or so inches long and shaped like an arrow head. I liked that the rock had a point, was strong and thick with a base that was like a foundation. The rock pointed me toward the heavens, and/or toward a direction I would wish to go on my journey.
I had picked up 9 colored pencils and traced the rock with those colors on a large piece of paper. I love colors. Monarch butterfly colors.
After this period of silence and artistry! (after a lovely lunch of spaghetti and salad – really it was very nice!) we met in the chapel. The previous evening, we had been asked to write down on a 3 X 5 card one or more hopes we have on our journey – to be more open to the stirrings of the Holy One, of the Divine Presence, of God –I had written. We were to place these cards by us as we sat in chapel and one of the 4 facilitators would come around – lay on hands, read the card, anoint us with oil and a prayer in silence.
While I sat in preparation for this, I watched those who were to minister to us in prayer. The care-full, thought-full and mind-full way they gently and silently communicated with one another, the deliberate blessings they bestowed on each other, the way they applied the anointing oil on each other touched me deeply. I became further curious and quiet. The scene was a reverent portrayal of worship, prayer, and community. The Divine Presence was surely amongst us in this place. “Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16)
As I watched and pondered, I wondered how I had prepared to minister each day as I might make a hospital visit, a home visit, worship and more. Did I take time to be in silence, to pray, to ask for God’s blessing on my work? Did I welcome the Divine Presence? I am often reminded of Bishop Cho’s prayer – I want to do well before the Lord. (at Bishop Cho’s first message at Annual Conference – 2012, thank you Bishop Cho)
One of the things I miss in my retirement is weekly sermon preparation. My prayer, the silence, the pondering, reading of scripture and other spiritual writings as began to ponder, write and speak. It was not that way every week, but it was an approach I strove toward. I hoped to find that “unforced rhythm of grace” bestowed by God, the Divine Presence upon me as I prepared. That wave of grace given freely to all.
Preparation – how do we prepare for each day? For each day is a day the Lord has given to us. And do we “rejoice and be glad in it”? (Psalm 118:24)
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life begins his first chapter with a similar suggestion for daybreak: “Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.”
Good morning! Keep company with me and you will learn to live freely and lightly.
May you invite the Holy One into your life this day and all days. May you find the unforced (unforced because they are always present for each of us to invite) rhythms of Grace and share them with others. Amen.