Interfaith Mission of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi, Tulalip, WA
The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings - Roman Catholic Church
First Reading Jeremiah 23:1-6
Second Reading Ephesians 2:13-18
Gospel Mark 6:30-34
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval
As in all readings in the Catholic Churches throughout the world, today's readings are linked together by some com on threads. These groupings were made centuries ago and today it can be difficult to enter the mind of those who originally grouped them to understand what connections they were making and what connections they would like us to uncover.
Today seems to be a chronoloqical grouping of an extended timeline. In our first reading, the people of God are scattered and become "lost" apparently by being mislead and God promises to gather them back completely as a united people.
The responsorial psalm reminds us that The Lord is our Shepard, with an image that would have had much more resonance with the people of that time frame. In those days most people were at least familiar with shepherds and saw them on a daily basis either up close or from afar. Most knew that a shepherd's main job was to keep the sheep safe and this was done by keeping them close to each other and not allowing any of them to wander too far.
The second reading is telling us that Jesus came to repair the splintering in the first reading. He came to abolish the laws that had replaced the people as sacred beings so that all of creation can once again be reunited. This is a reminder that we are all beings from the same source and Jesus' goal was to remind us of that.
The Gospel, our third reading, takes a scene that comes on the heels of the beheading of John the Baptist. Last week we heard the story of Herod having John beheaded at the request of his step daughter and his wife because John was outspoken in that Herod and his wife were living outside of the law.
Soon after John's beheading, the apostles who were sent out by Jesus to preach and heal the sick, return, most likely frightened. John had been preaching against the ways of Rome and lost his head in return. Similarly, the apostles were carrying the message of Jesus, which was also seen as adversarial to the occupiers of the area. Romans and Jews did not live by the same laws and were culturally largely in opposition. Jesus and the apostles were also not only challenging the Romans but Jewish law as well. Jesus and the apostles were calling into question all of the formal rules of both predominant cultures of their time. They were questioning the morality of the laws and those who lived either completely outside any law or were so rigid with the laws that they were missing the point of them. We can imagine that the apostles, upon hearing about John's execution, put their own missions on hold and headed back to Jesus and perceived safety rather quickly.
Jesus, being empathetic to their fears when they arrived was wiling to take them away to rest and most likely lay low until the uproar over John had died down.
So, they set out by boat on this attempt to stay out of the public eye for a bit, but when they got to where they were going, Jesus sees people waiting to hear what he has to say. People who were desperate to find a way out of their poverty both body and soul.
The popularity of Jesus had made it quite difficult for them to sneak away until things cooled down a bit. When Jesus got out of the boat and saw numerous people waiting for him with hope, for a better life he made a decision to put his own safety second to the crowds desire to hear from him.
Those people were willingly risking their own safety by gathering in numbers, which would have surely gotten the attention of the Romans.
The Romans were careful not to let crowds gather in occupied territories. Crowds are difficult to control without proper reinforcements, so Jesus was very aware that he was putting himself at risk, especially so soon after John's execution, AND, he did it anyway.
Our times, are very much like the times in each one of our readings, which by themselves span a thousand years or more. This drama continues to play out of differences separating people; differences of all kinds, class, race, religion, cultures, gender, sexuality, and I could continue on about the things that have separated us over time, and they continue to play out.
It seems that the further we get from each other we lose sight of our commonalities and fear takes hold. As we heard in the first reading, "You have scattered my sheep and driven them away from me". How far do we have to go into fear to be driven from the unity of all creation; the complete essence of the Divine? And at what risk do we attempt to heal those divides? How far do we go with extending ourselves or putting ourselves in harm's way for another person, animal, plant, or any aspect of our universe that is under attack by fear or greed? At what personal risk are we willing to put ourselves out there to stand up for the other? At what risk to ourselves do we question the laws that hurt and further separate people from each other and the land that nurtures us? Are we willing to risk imprisonment? Assault? Or possibly even the loss of our lives by standing up for those who are under attack?
We each have our own causes and our own way of challenging the separateness we experience. We each have a place within ourselves that brings with discomfort and fear of going too far and possibly experiencing rejection, ridicule, physical or emotional harm. What is whispering in your heart as your role in the Divine's attempt to bring the flock of creation back into Atonement (At One Ment). How do we behave as Shepards to ourselves and that part of creation we are drawn to unite to the rest?
We are the Shepards that God is talking about in the first reading. We are the shepherds who will be raised up to answer that voice that is planted in our hearts and souls to reach out to others. We are being asked to find our own Divinity in our humanity just as Jesus did so we may see that Divinity in others. We are being sent as the apostles were to go out into the world for its healing. We are also being given permission to seek refuge from our own fear and after re-grouping, go again into the world as long as there is healing to be done.
May we experience the stillness in ourselves to hear our own calls, the support to nurture them, the confidence to enact them and a safe port in the storm when we are afraid of the magnitude of our tasks. May we always remember we are shepherded and called to be shepherds to all there is. Amen.
St. Philips Episcopal Church, Marysville, WA
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Readings - Episcopal Church
First reading 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Second reading 2 Cor 5:6-17
Gospel Mark 4:26-34
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval, OSF
When Rev. Rebecca asked me to preach this weekend, my quick response was “of course”. Then I started my research and found that I would be preaching on Father’s day about mustard seeds.” Hmmm, anyone want to talk about barbecues?
As the week has gone on and the news has entered my reality, I have heard people saying, “I can’t listen, read, see anymore of this.” And the world goes on.
Jesus lived in a time and place that was filled with hate and violence. His ministry was about bringing justice as the result of love to all people of society. Jesus used parable and metaphor to teach this seemingly impossible lesson. The greatest metaphor, or the one that took the most, is that God is our Father. As with all of the bible, that word was used in the context of what being a father meant in the time and place it was written. In that time, lineage was important and children took the names of their parents as last names. Yeshua bar Joseph is how Jesus would have been known. (Our Jewish friends with tell us there is no J or soft G sound in Hebrew so Jesus never heard himself called Jesus. Also in Hebrew Bar means son of and bot means daughter of)
As you carried the name of your family and possibly your tribe your actions reflected those whom you were related to and the group with which you belonged. Your behavior was a reflection not only on yourself but upon your family and wider circle.
With Jesus saying that God was Abba, he was saying that we reflected the Divine and carried the Divine with us as we carry our parentage; AND we are responsible for how we live that parentage in the world, the parentage of the Divine. We are responsible to our family, our group, our tribe, our world, in how we live out that Diviness . We are responsible to our brothers, sisters and other siblings of the world as we all come from the Divine and Universal parent. Our actions reflect on our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors. Our actions reflect on our common groups such as our church, our school, and even our BINGO group.
Then Yeshua tells us that the Kingdom of God, the Divine, Our Abba that we reflect and represent, is like a mustard seed. This kingdom he says starts out just as small as the tiniest of seeds and ends up taking over the whole hillside. In that part of the world, a seed has to be small enough to penetrate the packed earth and then strong enough to withstand drought and high heat in order to grow. This tiny seed not only grows in those conditions, and most others, but thrives and provides shade and protection from those harsh elements.
How do we take in those smallest of seeds that we are given and allow them to grow within the hardest parts of ourselves and multiply into our communities? Yeshua does not say we need to cultivate the kingdom of God, we only need to allow it to do its own thing within us and it will flourish. The Kingdom seed is within us and it will grow and our task is to live in such a way that we do not bring dishonor to those around us. By living for another, that Kingdom grows without needing to be nursed and nurtured. It is the easiest thing in the world.
But, somehow, we get in our own way. We believe it has to be more complicated than it really. is. We try to force the seed to be something else. We do not trust that seed within ourselves or others. We forget to live for each other and become frightened that we may not have enough. We fail to recognize that there is plenty for everyone and try to hoard extra for ourselves.
Part of the Franciscan charism or way of life is recognizing that we all come from that same Divine source and our hospitality is open for all, no questions asked. If I can get out of the way of that mustard seed and allow it to do its thing, I will be a presence and reminder of that same seed in everyone. Francis of Assisi is attributed with saying often, “preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary”. Francis understood that our actions meant more than words and it is by our actions that others are welcomed and healed.
Clare of Assisi, Francis’ lesser known companion spent her entire adult life, most likely starting around the age of 15 in a cloistered convent. Clare did not go out as Francis did and live among the poor or wash the sores of lepers. Clare remained within the walls of the San Damiano compound with abut 50 other nuns. San Damiano was a small church and the walled off area around it was perhaps about a half acre. Suffice it to say, Clare did not get out much and was not worldly. However, Clare became the quiet force behind the continuation of the Franciscans after Francis died. Clare believed with all of her being that treating those around you well mattered, not only to those in the small enclosure with her, but that the ripples of such living would be felt in the broader world.
Clare would spend a good part of her days praying in front of the San Domino Cross, which is depicted on the cross I wear with my habit. Clare gazed upon the suffering of Yeshua and found the suffering of the world. As she contemplated that deep pain and suffering, she did not turn her head as so many of us are wanting to do these past few days. Clare bravely looked into the pain she saw and allowed that mustard seed in her to grow into huge bushes of compassion. I am not sure where I read recently that the one possible reason for suffering may be that those who are not suffering at the moment can develop compassion. The more suffering we allow ourselves to encounter the deeper our compassion may develop and the greater love we then experience.
So, how do we listen to, read and watch the stories of families being torn apart, babies being taken from their mothers while breast feeding, a father dying by suicide after his three year old son is taken from him, and not turn away? How do we not feel helpless? How do we let our hearts break with theirs and know that by living as a representative of and one in the lineage of the Divine and being compassionate and loving toward the person sitting next to us here today, that our love will grow and spread as the mustard seed and our lineage “Bar Abba” will spread to those in pain and suffering to offer perhaps the slightest comfort.
So, today, on this day to remember and embrace our heritage and those from whom we originate, let us be mindful to live in such a way that our own Abbas would be proud to say, their goes my child.
On June 9, 2018 Fr. Dan Duval completed a two-year Spiritual Director training program at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Statement of Purpose
I am called to compassionate action. I am called to accept all of creation as equal expressions of the Divine. I am called to express peace and justice in how I live my life.
Being a spiritual director is not something I do, it is an embodiment of who I am. It is the challenge of bringing hospitality and welcome into the world not just into an office. It is the challenge of opening a door for others; a door of an office and a door of our Christlike humanity. Opening the door is extending an opportunity to explore places that might have been previously unknown. Opening a door through patience as a means of hospitality. Taking the time to allow another to become comfortable with the idea of exploring their own landscape.
The structure of my practice rests on the lessons of Sts. Francis and Clare. Clare gives the reminder that to gaze upon the wounds of another, is to make room for those wounds in my own heart. To hold the mirror of woundedness as a fellow traveler allows those who are searching to know they are not alone on this journey of life and sacredness. To allow the wounds of another to touch me heals me as the lepers healed Francis. We journey this road together clearing the way for each other and peering side by side into the uncertainty and waiting until a trepidatious step is taken.
St. Philips Episcopal Church, Marysville, WA
Readings - Episcopal Church
First reading Isiah 6:1-8
Second reading Rom 8:12-17
Gospel John 3:1-17
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Sermon - Rev. Karuna Duval
Whenever Rev. Rebecca asks me to preach I am always so honored and feel very privileged. Of course, Yes, I say. I love to be invited to preach because of this wonderful community and it challenges me to study, pray, contemplate and experience my faith in new ways.
What I did not realize was that this is Trinity Sunday. The Trinity!?!
To be fair, Rev. Rebecca said that I didn’t have to preach about the Trinity. Well, I had already been thinking and meditating on it anyway. So here goes.
First of all, when we think about the Trinity, we imagine a triangle, right? The triangle is one of the most stable forms. It is a universal symbol. It can symbolize strength or genders depending on its orientation. Many countries use it is a traffic symbol for hazard awareness. In Judaism, which uses two triangles, it represents the joining of heaven and earth. In Hinduism, the triangle is used in 5 of the 7 symbols for the chakras, with the heart chakra also being a double triangle, joining our physical-ness and our emotional/spiritual-ness. In math it is symbol for dynamism and change. For Christians it represents the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For me the concept of the Trinity is something that, from a very young age I’ve struggled to understand, and still struggle with. Growing up Roman Catholic, in a parish with little freedom for curiosity, encouragement to question anything was non-existent. So for a long time I just went with it, the three are one and the one is three – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Basically they were the physical anchors of my faith – (make the sign of the cross), even though I didn’t understand it.
Curiously, over this week, what started to be revealed, ok re-revealed, was Oneness. Not Oneness as a static concept, a noun. But Oneness as true dynamic relationship, a verb. The Trinity as a way to recognize Oneness manifest as the flow of relationship. And I am, we are, included in the Oneness flow.
Richard Rohr talks about it this way: “God is much more a dynamic verb than a static noun. God is constant flow….the Trinity is saying, “In the beginning is the relationship.” When we start with God as relationship, we begin the spiritual journey on a very different foundation. This foundation is not static but continually evolving and creating new forms of communion and interdependence.”
Jesus says in John 17, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in usso that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be oneas we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus is describing the relationship among himself, God and all of us and the Oneness, highlighting his desire for all to be included in the experience of the love of that relationship.
Even science is continuing to discover it is entirely a relational universe. We are not a universe of things, but a universe of relationships. Scientists looking through microscopes or through telescopes are seeing a pattern: everything is in relationship with everything else. Nothing stands autonomously. Nothing is solid. Nothing is static. Everything is in relationship. Relationship is the thing, the core.
Scientists and contemplatives alike are confirming that the foundational nature of reality is relational, and everything is indeed a part that replicates and mimics the whole. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm.
What a wonderful foundation for our understanding of holiness, our understand of God and the Trinity. We are inherently in the flow of the relationship with God, with Oneness. The Trinity being another concept and manifestation of that Oneness and relationship, inclusive of all.
As I have contemplated the Trinity, the flow and Oneness this week, I have come to understand and experience it as follows. Keeping in mind this is my experience, today.
The flow of the Trinity can be seen, experienced in, and as everything, all inclusive, nothing excluded.
With God (of the Trinity) as the Universal creativity energy. That from which everything comes, will be, and always is. God is the relationship with and through all. God creates and is creation, creating and is the embodied within me, everyone, everything, and the mysteries. Vedics say, there is nothing that is not God.
The Holy Spirit (of the Trinity) is the ever changing, moving mystery of creation. The relationship among our senses, feelings, intuitions, dreams, thoughts; the birthing and dying; when spring turns to summer and to fall and to winter; when I see the light in a another’s eyes; when we connect heart to heart, smile to smile, tear to tear; when I contemplate the mystery of the galaxies and their movement; when I pray.
Jesus (of the Trinity) is the embodiment of creativity. The physicality of creation, in people, in us, every one of us, as beings who have consciousness and awareness by which to contemplate and engage the relationship with creation (God) and the mysteries (the Holy Spirit). Jesus is the embodied relationship of engagement with all, inclusively. We are the embodied relationship of Oneness.
I know these concepts and illustrations are far from perfect in trying to express something that ultimately cannot really be explained in words. Because once we put words to this (even for our own attempt to understand it, even a little bit), we limit it. And Oneness is not limited. Oneness contains all the concepts we try to use to explain or understand, and it’s not limited by those concepts.
Lucky for us, we don’t even need to understand intellectually or theologically to participate in the flow of the Trinity, the Oneness. We are already here. We are the Oneness. The flow of the One is already rooted within, flowing with life, goodness, love, connection and communion.
Now when I make the sign of the cross, it is a physical reminder of my emerging experience of the Trinity, the Oneness, the dynamic ever-flowing relationship, and my inclusion in it.
How will you remember your inclusive relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?
Unity in Lynnwood, WA
Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, in the Roman Catholic Church
Readings - Roman Catholic Church
First reading Deut 4:32-34,39-40
Second reading Rom 8:14-17
Gospel Matthew 28:16-20
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval
Last week, we celebrated Pentecost. For those unfamiliar with the Catholic Church or the Christian celebration, Pentecost is the remembrance of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit, depicted as tongues of fire, onto the apostles before he was to leave their presence. This use of breath to impart energy to another being is a practice as old as time. Shamans both present day and of old used this technique to share specific vibrations, to return health or broken parts of someone to themselves. Humans have been using this way of mingling with each other on a deep level as long as humans have been in existence.
This Sunday, today, is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, in which the Gospel has Jesus speaking these words “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,”
Both last week at Pentecost and this week in the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, Jesus is asking the apostles to go forth. He is asking both times for them to go to people of ALL nations. He is not saying, stay home and believe, he is saying, go tell EVERYONE. He is not saying, stay here in Jerusalem or only go to Bethany. He is saying go “make disciples of ALL nations”.
Last week at Pentecost we heard that the apostles were given the gift of tongues. This has been interpreted as the ability to speak to a language other than their own. It is said that those present, even from different nations were able to hear the message in their own language. Instead of relegating this “gift of the Spirit” to some miraculous ability to speak in different languages perhaps what is more important is that Jesus’s message is meant for everyone, not just those who are in the inner circle or speak the same language. Last week’s Gospel tells us that everyone was able to hear the message in their own language. Everyone was able to hear and understand.
The Trinity, as explained by Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault and other modern mystics, is about relationship. We are told that this fluid, creative and powerful relationship between God, Incarnate man and the Spirit that exists in all things is the substance of every aspect of our lives. We are relational beings. We are herd animals, not meant to live in isolation, which is why solitary confinement is seen as such a terrible punishment. Even the early hermits, the desert fathers and mothers had other hermits to be in relationship with.
We are also in relationship with people, animals, the dirt of the earth, the stars in the sky and everything we see. We do not exist in isolation. That Divine spark which created all of us, is in all of creation. As we move through life, we interact with God or that Divine Spark in all that we do. Every breath we take, every bite of food we eat, every step we take, every chair we sit on etc, and I could go on infinately because there is no place to be without God being there with us. But how do we remember this?
How do we become aware of this in our lives? Thich Nhat Hahn, the well known Vietnamese Buddhist Monk gives us the concept of Mindfulness bells. He tells us that in Buddhist tradition the bell is a reminder to stop, breathe and become deeply aware of the present moment. What can we use as reminders in our daily lives to stop and consider what the present moment is mirroring for us? Even if we can not decipher it with our thinking, our body will know and file it for us to utilize when necessary. The flow continues whether we are aware of it or not and it is part of us.
Both at Pentecost and in todays celebration of the Trinity; Father/Mother God, Son and Holy Spirit; the message is the same. And that message may be that Jesus was talking to and teaching global truths to all. The message was not only for those select few, but for all people, everywhere and in all times. Love your neighbor and love persons from further away who may not be like you. Do not discriminate or hold onto the knowledge that was given because ALL people are worthy of it and all people possess that Divine Spark within themselves. We are born with it. We can not escape it. It doesn’t disappear if we make a mistake or do something that is considered “wrong”. It doesn’t disappear if our marriage fails or we end a pregnancy, don’t make it to church, or break the rules of society.
How then, do we utilize this relationship? How do we understand this inclusivity ordained by God, demonstrated by Jesus and living within us as a flowing energy of Spirit? We then are also mirrors for others of this gift. We remind others and are reminded by all of creation that we are all important parts of this in-exhaustive whole. We are mirrors of self forgiveness and grace. God does not forgive since God never had an issue with us in the first place. Forgiveness comes when one feels wronged. God does not feel wronged by us and loves us even when we need to forgive ourselves. God gave us each other to teach us to love ourselves and for us to offer that gift to others. God gave us creation to nurture us. How many times when we feel we have no human connection can we find solace in a sunset or wet puppy kisses? How often do we wonder at a flower or the power of the ocean. All is there for US! Each one of us!
This relationship continues to flow. The fire of Pentecost runs through our bodies. We become recipient and giver of the gifts of God. We are God, the Creator, God the Sanctifier, and God the Redeemer for all of creation!
by Rev. Karuna Duval
Unity in Lynnwood
Get comfortable, close your eyes if you wish. Please take three breaths. With each breath you relax a little more.
I invite you to see yourself in a place of peace, serenity and warmth. This could be a forest, a garden or the beach. This place you are safe. This place you are free. As you walk in this place you are aware it is bright and warm. Let all your senses take in this place.
As you walk you come upon an old statue of a female deity, a Goddess. Her face is old and dark with time, the lines on her body worn from the touch of hands. She is simply the Mother, god as woman, the one to whom the world turns. She is Sofia, Kwan Yin, Mary, Sarah, Hagar, Fatima, White Buffalo Woman, Isis, Sita, Innanna, and Demeter. She is all the feminine faces of God, but she is more than that. She is the Divine Mother of life itself.
You find yourself sitting before her. She then comes to life. She approaches and you see the face of the ancient Divine mother become animated with feeling. Seated before her you gaze into each other's eyes. She penetrates your soul with a glance that loves you to the core of your very being. Emotions of sweetness, mercy, and loving forgiveness emanate from her, sweeping over you in waves of bliss, healing all the parts of you that are hurt, broken, and wounded. She reaches to hold you in her arms, and you are tenderly embraced. Taken onto her lap, you become like a child with its mother. You touch her hair, her face in loving affection, and feel her loving affection for you in return. You feel enveloped by unconditional love, deep peace, and you completely soften and surrender to her.
You begin to feel as if the body of the Divine mother is the gateway to the body of creation itself.... Going beyond her form, you enter into a communion with the body of the earth -- all her creatures, trees, oceans, rivers, mountains, cities, and people.... Going beyond the earth, you feel the body of the Divine mother expand into space, becoming the stars and the planets and the whirling galaxies that are spread over the universe like a mantle of bright jewels....
Held in this mystery you feel a powerful force....a Holy energy, .... the breath of all life.... the soul of the cosmos. You feel your heart beat in rhythm with the rhythm of all life itself.
As you return to yourself, still in her embrace, the Divine Mother looks at you tenderly and smiles.... without words, you both know the communion of this time is coming to an end.... She kisses you and gently releases you. She steps back and becomes the statue again. Sitting before her now in this place of warmth and peace, you continue to feel deeply the connections, awareness and gifts she has given you....
You know these gifts are always with....
You know she is always with you....
You know she IS you.
Take a breath and bring your awareness to your body.....
Take another breath and bring awareness to this sanctuary.....
Take another breath and slowly open your eyes.
Interfaith Mission of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi, Tulalip, WA
4th Sunday in Easter
Readings - Roman Catholic Church
First Reading Acts 4:8-12
Second Reading 1 John 3:1-2
Gospel John 10:11-18
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.'
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval
I find that if we only look at the Gospel reading for today, it looses some of it’s importance. When we read John, chapter 10 in its entirety I believe it gives us a larger perspective on what was happening and what Jesus may have been trying to say. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. He was trying to help them understand the difference between an inner and outer religion, or perhaps the difference between religion and spirituality.
Prior to the verses we hear in today’s gospel, Jesus is saying that if anyone tries to climb the fence and get into the sheep pen without actually going through the gate, they are cheating and not able to get the full benefit or depth of the spiritual life, or a life that unites them with the Divine. I believe Jesus is saying that you can not steal true understanding. Being a spiritual person is not the same as a religious person. We often hear today that going to church does not make one a good person, there is more to it than that.
The Pharisees were those empowered by the Romans to keep the Jewish people of the area in line. As in all times, power was equated with prestige and somehow knowledge and wisdom. The Pharisees were looked up to as interpreters of God’s law. They arbitrated disputes and were able to forgive or condemn in accordance with Jewish and Roman sanction. This is what Peter is most likely referring to in the first reading of Acts when he says that the people, (if we read this from the beginning of chapter 4 he means the people in power) want to know by whose authority they healed. The Romans gave power only to handful of Jews to keep the peace among their people. The question of whose authority do you heal by is one of, who gave you permission to decide of this person should be healed or not. It is not a question of how did you do it or who made the healing happen, it was one of who gave you permission to heal this person. Who said this person was worthy of being healed. They were the keepers of the law and only they could say who was allowed to be healed according to that law. The church leaders of that day worked in concert with Rome. Many of them made a show out of praying loudly in the temple and bringing attention to themselves as men of power, because in that time, no woman would be permitted to hold such a position. Going to temple and keeping the law to the letter was seen as the way to be close to God and be God’s favorite. Look, see I followed the rules God but Jesus didn’t when he healed on the Sabbath, ate with beggars or hung out with women. The Pharisees were trying to take a short cut to God and sound almost like the pesky sibling that was always telling on you for not following the rules.
What Jesus was trying to do, possibly in a way that would not raise to much suspicion or ire, was to let them know they were missing the point. Much like in the book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry, Jesus was saying that a real relationship with God takes time. One had to work at it, as in taming sheep or as in the case of the Little Prince, a fox. As the Fox explains to the Prince, it is not a quick process and one that must be worked at. It has to be one of caring, patience and dedication. Jesus echos this when saying that if one is not invested in this relationship, such as a hired hand, as he possibly saw the Pharisees, that person would bolt at the first sign of trouble and allow the sheep or other object of taming to fend for itself. Only one who is invested in the love of another, whether it be the sheep, the fox, or God can truly know the dedication necessary to stick to the dedicated path.
In the same way, God, The Divine, Creator or whatever name you chose to give, offers us that same sort of taming. God is patient with us. God waits lovingly for us. God shows up and is there so we may get used to God’s presence. God protects us, God teaches us. God is taming us and will assist us in the taming of ourselves. As Jesus says, I am in the Father and the Father is in me. God is taming Jesus and Jesus is taming himself and others. Jesus makes no distinction of whom he gives his information to. He does not judge whether someone is worthy of God’s love, he just pours it out. He does not reserve this love for those that the law says can have it. This Love is not a gift for being good, it is sacred food for our journey and no one can deny it to anyone. This gift of taming and being tamed is the birthright of all creation.
There is a Unity prayer of Protection that I believe exemplifies this and I would like to close it.
The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us;
Wherever we are, God is!
And All is Well!
St. Philips Episcopal Church, Marysville, WA
2nd Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday, in the Roman Catholic Church
Readings - Episcopal Church
First reading Acts 4:32-35
Second reading 1 John 1:1-2:2
Gospel John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Sermon – Fr. Dan Duval
In the Roman Church today is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Gospel reading is the same but the rest of the readings are not, although their messages are very similar. In the Roman Church Divine Mercy Sunday is a day devoted to spiritual practices based on the Polish Saint, Faustina Kowalska who in the 1930’s had a vision of Jesus. What her vision was and what those spiritual practices are, are not of great importance for us here today, but what I find interesting about the convergence of Divine Mercy Sunday and a vision of Jesus on the 2nd Sunday of Easter is the Gospel in common to both churches. We listen to the familiar story of Thomas, who has been known through the centuries as “The Doubter.” In this Easter season we have heard about those who also had visions of the Risen Christ and who came to believe.
But in todays gospel we have Thomas, a person who was told about the resurrection of Jesus and had not yet had his own vision. Those who had had their vision were excited and wanting to share and wanting Thomas to hear and share in their vision. “Hey Thomas, let me tell you what happened to me. You won’t believe it.” And he didn’t. Thomas was clear that he was not about to believe in anyone else’s vision or story of Jesus. Did that make him a bad person? Did that mean he did not have faith? Faith in what? What did this vision of a man raised from the dead mean?
Thomas had been with the rag tag caravan that followed Jesus around the countryside for many months and although we don’t have an exact timeline we can infer that he had been with Jesus most of his three years ministry. What was he holding out for? What did he still need?
What was the harm in wanting to know things for himself? What was the harm in wanting to know what he was being asked to believe in or commit himself to? What was wrong with Thomas wanting or needing to see the Christ himself?
Through the years we have all come to know Thomas as the one we want to be less like. Blessed are those who have not seen and believed. We all want to be blessed, don’t we? Are those with blind faith actually more blessed than those who struggle for theirs? Those who need to probe their own depths to understand what is pertinent to them?
What was it that the women at the tomb and the apostles in the upper room were finding in their own visions of Jesus, The Christ? Was it Jesus that had risen or Christ that had risen? What is the difference and what difference does it make?
Theologians have debated those two questions through the ages and the first debate seems to have happened in that locked upper room we have just heard about. The question of who and what are we being asked to believe in.
What is this debate really about? Is it about a dead body coming back to life after physical death or is it about the deadness inside of people coming to life when they meet the Christ that is inside of them? In our time, we will most likely not witness a dead body getting up and walking around, unless we are talking about some rather bad Zombie movie or possibly the 1980s movie (Weekend at Bernie’s). And sif we did see one what would believing in that actually prove? Would believing in a walking corpse change the way we live? Would it change the way we think or feel or treat other people?
Thomas, like many of us I suspect, waited to find a personal vision or meaning of what Christ resurrected meant to him. Don’t we all do that? Don’t we all search for something that is meaningful to us? Don’t we all look for a way to understand Christ in our own lives? Who is this Christ within me? Within you? Who is asking something of me and what is that something that we are moved to respond to?
Thomas sought his vision in searching the wounds of Jesus. Something in him needed to ponder those wounds, to examine them in relation to himself. What did those wounds mean to Thomas personally? How many times are we asked to examine the wounds of the crucified one, to look upon the one who hangs on the cross. All last week leading up to Easter, starting with the passion on Palm Sunday we contemplated Jesus’s pain. Were we uncomfortable? Did it make us sad? Did we become angry at the treatment of Jesus? Did we feel the pain of the crucifixion? Did we turn our heads away so as not to see him suffer? Block our ears so as not to hear him scream? Did our hearts go out to his mother as she stood watching as her son was maligned and mistreated? What were your reactions?
How many times are we asked to look upon the suffering of another in some form? How does another’s suffering affect us? Do we turn away when we approach the street cornier with the homeless person, averting our eyes so as not to feel uncomfortable or struggle with ourselves about whether this person on this corner t this time should receive our money? Or do we, as Thomas did, examine the wounds in order to find our own vision of life? Just as the polish Saint mentioned above had her own vision of Jesus over a thousand years after he died, do we look for our own vision?
So I ask you was Thomas a doubter or did he need time to ponder the personal meaning of Jesus’s resurrection? Did he want just someone else story of Christ’s resurrection or was he wanting something deeper, something more personal and meaningful? Something more than another person’s story?
What about you?
St. Philips Episcopal Church, Marysville, WA
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Readings - Episcopal Church
First reading Duet 18:15-20
Second reading I Cor 8:1-13
Gospel Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Sermon - Rev. Karuna Duval
In the first book of the gospel of Mark, Jesus arrives at the Jordan river and is baptized by John. Then he calls his first disciples. Next in the story they go to Capernaum where Jesus enters the synagogue on the Sabbath and teaches. During his teaching a man with an “unclean spirit” enters asking if Jesus is here to “destroy us” and acknowledges Jesus as the “Holy one of God.” Jesus bids him to “Be silent.” The unclean spirit leaves the man’s body in dramatic fashion. Everyone is amazed by this healing. Thus begins Jesus’ fame in the region of Galilee. The rest of this first book tells the stories of other healings, and between the crowds Jesus retreats for silence for himself.
Much focus is often on the miracles and healings that Jesus did. I’d like to focus on the person he healed in this story – the man with the unclean spirit.
Who is this man, and what is the unclean spirit? Often this is read as a demon of some sort. Something that possesses the man, compelling him to fear, and interestingly through his fear, he still knows, deeply the holiness of Jesus.
This man is us.
Fear and knowing deeply….these don’t often live together very well, and if they do it’s often not for very long.
The “unclean spirit” I see as something that is limiting this man – limiting us, from the fullness of the deep knowing. It has been described as a demon, or a dragon needing to be slayed.
In more contemporary terms it is the false self. Richard Rohr describes the false self not in bad terms but as something that is a: “social and mental construct that starts us on our life journey. It is a set of agreements between us and our parents, our family, our [friends], our partner or spouse, our culture, and our religion. It is our “container.” It is largely defined in distinction from others, precisely as our separate and unique self. It is probably necessary to get started, but it becomes problematic when we stop there and spend the rest of our life promoting and protecting it.”
The false self is the part of us that likes to compare, contrast, compete and justify and defend. It is the part of us that likes to look good and feel good. That’s not bad. It is merely a beginning: our appearance, education, job, money, success, and so on. These are the trappings of ego that help us get through every day.
The reason it is called the false self is because it can pose as the truth. It pretends to be more than it is, and we often believe it. It is fearful it will be destroyed. When we identify and hold on to that false self too tightly, and experience (as we ultimately will) a shaking of our world: for instance when we grow old and we don’t look like we used to in our 20s; we retire or can’t work; or we get ill we become fearful (which is a normal human response). It is the false self that is compelling us with fear. It has done it’s job so well, that it can’t or won’t step back for fear our whole being will be destroyed.
The good news is the false self is not the end of the story. We are so much more than what we look or feel like, how we compete, what we defend and who we compare ourselves to. The false self is not the bad self, it’s just not our true self.
Our true self is that part of us that was already there when we came into being, before we knew who we were. Before we start forming the self that we present to the world. A time when we know intuitively how to give and receive love.
Our true self is always there, or rather here. It is our connection to God in whatever name or form we experience. It is the place where our loving our family resides and emanates. It is experienced in the times when we stand at the ocean shore, or hold a baby, or cry with another in grief; or when we are in silence in meditation and prayer: and for a moment, maybe just a moment – we forget our belief in our separateness from: the waves and the winds and the sand; and the baby and the tears; and all that is.
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”
– Thich Naht Hanh.
Franciscan philosopher John Duns Scotus said that “the human person is not different or separate from Being itself—not the little being that we get attached to and take too seriously, but Universal Being or as Paul said to the Athenians (Acts 17:28). ‘the One in whom we live, and move, and have our being’”
Our true self is our soul—our deepest identity; it is who we are in God and who God is in us. Only our True Self lives forever and is truly free in this world.
In our second reading today, Paul recognizes this when he says; “we all know that all of us possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge, but anyone who loves God is known by him.”
Our True Self is Life and Being and Love. Love is what we were made from and for. Love is who we are. When we can live from our true self the whole world opens up to us and we are opened up to the whole world.
The goal is not to get rid of the false self and live entirely in the true self. The goal is to not have a goal. To be, accept, acknowledge and live with whatever self we are in each moment. To awe, wonder and be still when we Know the experience of the true self. And to recognize when the false self is, at best, unhelpful, and to find compassion and forgiveness, to let go into the Knowing and into God in our true selves.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10
Meister Eckhart said that spirituality has more to do with subtraction than addition. The false self is fed by addition: more money, more power, earning more brownie points with our boss or even with God, attaining enlightenment, even achieving moral behavior. The true self is often realized in subtraction, by letting go.
One powerful way to enter into the practice of letting go is silence – meditation, prayer, or simply being. When we are most able to be in our true self, we are silent. When we are most near to God is in our silence. When Jesus wants to be with God, he goes into silence. In today’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t scold the man, but tells him to “be silent” and he subtracts what is in the way of the deepest knowing – his true self.
Let us take a few moments of silence now. If it feels comfortable, close your eyes and just breathe. If your mind wanders – and it will – just breathe, and if your mind wanders again, just breathe. [silence for about 30-60 seconds or so]
I leave you with a poem by Jan Richardson.
Blessing in the Chaos
To all that is chaotic
let there come silence.
Let there be
of the clamoring,
of the voices that
have laid their claim
that have made their
home in you,
that go with you
even to the
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.
Let what distracts you
Let what divides you
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.
Let there be
into the quiet
that lies beneath
where you find
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm