Monday, August 24, 2009

Sermon: August 23

My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. - Thomas Merton
This prayer by Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a prayer for guidance, a prayer of humility, reminds me of the words of Solomon as he pleads to God for God to hear his servants as he stands in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Both prayers seek God in our midst, like the Psalmist who utters: "How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God."

This is the longing that we each have inside of us to find God, and so we journey to those places where we believe God dwells, we go to church, we visit sacred places. Some of those places are sacred places for many people like the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built, other places have become sacred to us. Perhaps it is the garden we kneel down in and tend to, perhaps it is a place from our childhood wanderings. Maybe it is your front porch, your kitchen, your car, your barn. Or an activity that you do, music or biking or boating (or soccer!). Wherever your sacred place or places are, it is where you take your longing for God and transfer that longing into prayer. Where you take that thirsty soul and let it loose, and send it out to connect with God.

Mahatma Gandhi said that Prayer is not asking, it is a longing of the soul. The dwelling place of God is wherever we lift the veil that separates us from God, and invite God in. Where does God dwell for you? Where do you let the longing of your soul loose, and connect to God?

It is, according to the psalmist, a place where all are welcome, even the tiniest of creatures: “The sparrow has found her a house by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,” and a place where we find joy, “Happy are they who dwell in your house. They will always be praising you.” The dwelling place of God is a place where our souls cry out, and also where we praise God for all that we are, and all that we have.

Where do you find God? Think about your childhood, and the places you found God. As an adult, has the dwelling place of God changed? As children, we hopefully were different in our longings for God, our search for the dwelling place. Hopefully we went looking with innocence, but many children, perhaps even yourself, went to the dwelling place of God for sanctuary. Now that we are adults, there are many times when we seek sanctuary in the dwelling place of God. Our longings are not just to be with God, but to have things fixed. We long for God to forgive us, to help us forgive others, we long for God to help us in our distress. As adults we do go through the desert in order to get to the springs of life. We do climb the mountains to get to the temple.

But when we get there. When we make it through the desert. When we have climbed the mountains, we find that the psalmist is right, “For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

We find that the desert despair and the trials of life are wiped away, and the dwelling place of God is more than comfort, more than praise. It is a transformation. And we want that to last. For so much around us is passing and doesn’t give us what our heart really desires. So many temptations claim to give us what we really want & need, but our souls cry out for something else. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”

On our journey we must find those places where God dwells for us to find that refreshment for as St. Augustine put it:
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.”
And as the psalmist tells us, “No good thing will the LORD withhold from those who walk with integrity. Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.”

Let us pray for our journey (BCP p. 832 - #58 for guidance)

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and
light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all
our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you
would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save
us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light,
and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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