Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 2 Sermon (Proper 8)

O Lord, our God, source of all life, you reveal yourself in the depths of our being drawing us to share in your life and love. Bless each of us as we respond to your Spirit’s invitation to open wide the doors to Christ. Make the doors of our hearts & our homes, our church & our communities wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, prejudice and pride. Let us hasten to welcome the stranger, and so welcome your Son. We make this prayer in his name, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

How might we welcome Jesus into our lives and hearts…

There is a prayer called the Welcoming Prayer. “It’s not an ancient practice, though it’s an ancient idea.” Mary Mrozowski of Brooklyn, New York — one of the first leaders of a method called centering prayer — developed this prayer, inspired by an early 18th century spiritual work. Father Thomas Keating brought it to fruition.

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. It is a "letting go" in the present moment, in the midst of the activity of our ordinary life, and giving it to God.

Practicing the Welcoming Prayer offers us the opportunity to make choices that respond instead of reacting to the present moment. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, the practice empowers us to take appropriate action as freely and lovingly as possible in any situation that presents itself.

"To welcome and to let go is one of the most radically loving, faith-filled gestures we can make in each moment of each day. It is an open-hearted embrace of all that is in ourselves and in the world." — Mary Mrozowski

“The method has three steps:

1. Focus, feel and sink in — Feel the feeling. Don’t run away from it or fight it.

Stay with this until you really experience a connection to the feeling or emotion on not just an emotional but also a physical level.

2. Welcome — Affirm the rightness of where you are and acknowledge God’s presence in the moment by saying: “Welcome, [fear/anger/etc.].”

Don’t just say this and move on. Repeat it and sit with the feeling until you experience a genuine sense that you welcome it, that you are not fighting against it and that God is present with you right now.

3. Let go — Say “God, I give you my [fear/anger/etc.],” or another phrasing if you find it more helpful.

At this point, you can turn the feeling or emotion over to God and let it go. If you haven’t truly felt it and welcomed it in, you may still experience resistance here. Stay in the letting go, or turn back to the focus or welcome stages as appropriate.” (information taken from here)

So get comfy. Relax. Slow your breath. Think about what’s most on your mind at the moment. Hold on to it. Let us say the welcome prayer (you can find it in the next blog post). Welcome & let go.

Leanna Tankersley in a book that includes a chapter on the welcoming prayer says this, “I love these lines, this concept, this practice. The Welcoming Prayer takes us out of our heads and into a space where we stop, even for a very few minutes, our analyzing and figuring. We relinquish our strategies and allow God to work within us, in the place where we are far more malleable than our mind. We are opening ourselves up to a divine encounter which is never a bad idea.” (Leanna Tankersley, Brazen, 2016. pg 200).

This prayer opens us up to welcome Jesus into our very hearts and lives. Why do this? Because by stopping for a moment and welcoming God in, we can deal with our thoughts/feelings/emotions/situations. There is an episode of NCIS…

Palmer: How do you do it — block out fear?
the older agent Gibbs: You don’t. It’s what you do with it.

The welcoming prayer is a way to deal with fear or anything else of our lives, to turn it over to God and welcome God into our very moment, to welcome God who is already in our midst into that fear, emotion or whatever we are dealing with. Mary Mrozowski, “I am where I need to be. Everything around me includes and hides the sacred.”

But welcoming Jesus into our midst, finding the sacred is more than this…

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

The reward of such welcoming is a life well lived…

For more than fifty of his more than eighty years, Nurney Mason was a barber in the United States House of Representatives. Mason cut hair out of a tiny booth in the basement of the Rayburn Office Building - his little stall saw nearly as much history as the floor of the Capitol itself. And every day, he brought to his job not only his barbering skills, but kindness, optimism and encouragement. He would greet everyone - whether powerful member of Congress or lowest-level staffer - with a solid handshake and a knowing smile. Mason stayed upbeat, day after day, the vibrations of his clippers surely jarring his wrists over the half century he worked.

He was asked by one of his Congressional customers how he stayed so upbeat and happy all the time.

Nurney Mason replied simply, "I just make it right here. I create joy where I stand" [From The President's Devotional by Joshua DuBois.]

Nurney Mason possesses the heart and soul of hospitality that Jesus exalts in today's Gospel. Mason responds to God's call to create joy where he stood, to reveal God's compassion and peace in his tiny booth to anyone who came by for a haircut. Such is our call, wherever you live and work and play, to welcome everyone into your midst, and to share such joy, even if it’s just a cup of cool water.

Such hospitality & welcome seeks out every opportunity to use every gift God has given us, to devote every resource at our disposal to make the love of God a living reality in every life we can touch.

We began with a welcoming prayer, letting go and giving it to God, we turned to see how such welcome towards others is how we are called to live, and now let me end with an old Spiritual - Welcome Table – for the song will remind us that God invites us all, and I mean all, to share at this table - I’m gonna sit at the welcome table with all God’s children… (you can find the words in the next blog post) Amen.

No comments: