In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, without even worrying what the future may hold, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  It’s hard for those of us that want to make the future right.  It’s hard for us in a place where it’s always been so easy, so protected, to live with both the memories of yesterday and the uncertain future of a world that seems to teeter even now on the brink of furthering its own demise.  This is a day filled with talk of bombs and crosses.  It is a world that only faith can redeem.  What do we do?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.  This is the moment of your re-creation.  God is walking in the darkness with you. It may not be what you imagined but it will be right.  The light is just over the darkened horizon.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Just An Ordinary Day

Today we begin Ordinary Time.  We made it through Lent and Eastertide and the spirit-filled days of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  And now we begin that long stretch of time until Advent.  It holds few “high holy” days, with the exception of All Saints Day and, for our church, the Blessing of the Animals. (Maynard is laying right below me on the floor, so I had to say that!)  It’s just ordinary, everyday time.  And this beginning Sunday is just an ordinary day.  Thanks be to God!

I love Ordinary Time.  It’s a chance to breathe in all that Spirit that has been swirling around us the last few weeks.  It’s a chance to soak in what has happened, a chance to sort of “catch up” with ourselves.  There is a story of a nineteenth century explorer who journeyed to Africa and hired some of the villagers to help him navigate the continent.  For the first three days, they walked at an incredible pace and took few breaks.  He was pleased with how quickly they were moving.  On the fourth day, though, they wouldn’t move at all.  He was angry, to say the least.  After all, he was paying them to do this!  When he asked them what in the world they thought they were doing, they told him that it was time to stop, to rest.  It was time to let their souls catch up with their bodies.

I love that story.  I think I need to hear it about every fourth day (or at least every seventh!).  That’s why we need Ordinary Time.  All this ascending and Spirit pouring into us can wear a person out.  So, rather than filling us until our head explodes, God gives us the gift of time to breathe it all in and change our lives to fit our new way of being.

Today we read what is possibly one of the most difficult passages in the Bible.  The story of the Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14), taken at face value, is disconcerting, disenchanting, and downright shocking.  Read in this way, neither Abraham nor God really comes out looking that good.  After all, what kind of parent would kill his own son?  (Hmmm…I’ll leave that one for later!)  And what kind of God would expect someone to pass some sort of test as proof of faith.  I used to hate this story.

But…breathe…let it sit…let it become a part of you.  First of all, we need to realize that our English translation is limited by the English language.  There are two meanings for the word “test”.  One denotes testing to discern whether or not standards are being met, to separate right from wrong.  (You went there, didn’t you?)  The other is a sort of experiment.  Think of a chemical test in which an entity is pushed beyond itself, a test in which something actually becomes something else.  If God was “testing” Abraham, perhaps it was so that Abraham would emerge changed, a new being.  The point was not whether or not Abraham passed but whether or not Abraham transformed.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow claims that the best contemporary midrash to the Aqedah comes from Esther Ticktin.  She says that the “strongest imperatives of Torah are to rear children and to break idols.  What happens when we turn our children into idols?  We must break our idolization of them—kill the image of of them we have erected…This is what God asked of Abraham:  Lift him up to me:  But Abraham had so totally made Isaac into his idol that he couldn’t fathom how to do it without killing him.  The lifted knife was the breaking of the idol.”  That was all God wanted—for Abraham to break the cast of any idols that he might have set between himself and God.  God wanted Abraham to realize once and for all his own faith to trust in what God was doing in his life.

Maybe the point of the story is not whether Abraham got it right or wrong.  I mean, when it was all said and done, who really cares anyway?  God shows us over and over again that there is always another chance to see things in a different way. Ordinary Time is the time that we are given to break idols, to shift our perspective, to finally get it.  This story does not include such drama as burning bushes or parting seas or even stones rolled away.  There is no dramatic wind or fire pouring down from the heavens.  What finally comes to Abraham is “wait”…”listen”…”think about what you’re doing”.  Maybe Abraham finally questions all that he knew about God and saw God in a way that he’d never seen God before.

God never spoke to Abraham again.  Abraham lived the rest of his days in Ordinary Time, just breathing in all that God had provided.

Have a wonderfully ordinary day!

Grace and Peace, 

Shelli   

First Rest

Quarter Rest

If you read music, you know that it is seldom composed of a never-ending stream of notes.  There are rests, spaces between.  The spaces are not places to stop.  They are places to rest, to breathe, to soak in and soak up what has happened, and to prepare oneself for the rest of the song.  The point is that they are part of the music.  Journeys are no different.  We need rest.  We need breathing room. We need to cease journeying and look back at where we’ve been.  That is part of the journey.

This journey that we call the Season of Lent has become more and more important to me over the past few years.  I have learned that I need to intentionally do something during or give up something.  I need to change what is usual and routine about my life.  I need to insert a rest and just take a breath.  Some of us give something up and some of us add something on.  I don’t think it matters which and I don’t think it matters what.  We just need to do something different.  I think that each of us has to do what is best for our life and our own way of living.  Maybe a good rule to use when figuring that out is to lose something that ensnares or contains you, that keeps you safe and comfortable and dependent, or gain something that gives you freedom, that pushes your boundaries and gives you life.  What is it that contains you?  What is it that gives you freedom?

This year I’ve chosen to write each day on this blog as my Lenten discipline.  About one-third of this season is behind us, so it is time for our “first rest”.  It is time to look back at our journey.  I love to write.  It truly does give me freedom; it truly does give me life.  This time of intentional, sometimes “ritualistic” writing (as in when I don’t have time–I’m sure you can recognize those!) has given me a new perspective.  It has made me look at things differently.  Ordinary things like missing exits and seeing funny little handmade signs on the backs of pianos have become new journeys through life.  Extraordinary occurrences like Supermoons have become glimpses of the unknown, glimpses of what God has in store.  And those difficult things that are going on in our world–tsunamis and bombings and wars–have somehow been made anew into life-giving phenomena.  This journey is somewhat planned and, yet, part of the plan is to be open to the way the Spirit moves.  That’s what it’s all about!  (But I do wish that the Spirit would not inspire Maynard quite so much.  I’m running out of Bibles!)

So, on this Lenten journey, take your first rest.  Look around.  What is it that contains you?  What is it that gives you freedom?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli