Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 7 - Chill...Be still and Know That I am God

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42;
Genesis 2:1-3

Theme: Stillness and Rest.

Thanks be to Thee, O God, that I have risen today,
To the rising of this life itself;
May it be to Thine own glory, O God of every gift,
And to the glory of my soul likewise.

O great God, aid Thou my soul
With the aiding of Thine own mercy;
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
Cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.

Help me to avoid every sin,
And the source of every sin to forsake;
And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills,
May each ill haze clear from my soul, O God.

On Day 7 God Rested.
On Day 7 God Rested.

Sounds like a pretty good idea.  
Could any of you use some rest?

What do you envision when you think of God resting?

A day on the golf course?
Did it include a morning in church?
Maybe God went to one of any of the recently created beach shores?
Back then there would have been no developments, no vendors, just pure sand, silent breezes, and crashing waves.
What picture do you have of God resting?

I mean I don’t think I want God resting...
with all the problems there are on earth...
there’s no time for rest, God?

Maybe God rested just on that one day, it was God’s last chance, because the recently created humanly creatures were starting to wreak havoc on the earth and bombard God with never ending petitions.  

On Day 7 God rested.   

This is our final sunday of the series using Philip Newell’s,
“The Book of Creation” And today is day 7 - the stillness of God.  

The story of the seventh day points to the restfulness of God, which different from the image of the wildness of God from day 2,
points to another dimension of God’s creativity.  

God resting reflects a notion that stillness is part of ongoing creativity.  

True to the celtic tradition which finds such meaning and understanding by listening to and following the rhythms and patterns of nature, Newell points to the way rest and creativity, stillness and vitality, are demonstrated in God’s creation.

Night is followed by day
sleeping by waking
Winter’s stillness, followed by spring’s energy and blossom.

Creativity is linked to stillness.  

Looking again at the creation story in Genesis,
there is a pattern of rest within each day:
“there was evening and there was morning”
“The day is seen as coming out of the night.  
The energy and creativity of the daytime emerge from the dark stillness and restfulness of the night”. (102)

How well do humans (who are part of nature) fit with nature’s patterns of rest and stillness?  
How well do we take advantage of the night for sleeping?

Any of you tired right now?   (Because of the sermon?)

When’s the last time you had a good night’s sleep?

Is feeling tired a normative experience these days?
What is our attitude toward rest as a society?  (ask)

How many of us feel like we calm our minds and bodies well and just be still?
What happens when you sit for just a few moments in silence? (ask)

Last night Ruby would not settle down.
She rolled round in bed from 9 until past 11.. She just wouldn’t allow herself to calm down and be still and go to sleep....
Is this indicative of her parents who probably have problems resting and being still and quiet?

Do we think this is a problem? If so, in what way?

Newell worries:
If we fail to establish regular practices of stillness and rest our creativity will be either exhausted or shallow.  
Our countenance, instead of reflecting a vitality of fresh creative energy that is sustained by the restorative depths of stillness, will be listless or frenetic.

“A lack of rest is destructive of nature’s goodness.
Like evil, it destroys rather than creates.”
It is when we are drained tired and unable to be still,
that we can become impatient.
When it comes to the many problems around us, when we’re tired, we see them as glaringly there but we have little in the way of creativity and energy to resolve them, so instead we just become angry at them.

Or the problems are all around us, but we are blind to them because the fog of tiredness blurs our vision.  

When we’re tired:
We become clumsy, forgetful, and aint no fun.

Newell suggests that when we can rest and be still,
that then we can experience a sense of wholeness, and become more fully who we truly are:
Co-Creators with God
who, through imagination and dreaming, can bring forth life-giving creations.  
With stillness and rest, we are able to be alert and more present people, less caught up in worry and more caught up in the beauty of life.  

And, fortunately for those of us who aren’t ready to dedicate an entire day to rest...on day 7 God rested...
Newell says that within the Celtic tradition, different from “supressive Calvinism”:  
“The emphasis is not on set apart times of rest, or so called "holy" days and "holy" places that are distinct from every other day and place.  
Rather, it encourages a type of restful awareness in everything that we do.
It is about holding a stillness of perspective in the midst of busyness.” (109)

Why can it be so difficult for us to rest and be still?

On day 7 God rested.  
Science tells of the importance of proper sleep...

Nature’s rhythm is one of rest and then activity  

Time is so precious.  And rest takes time.  
Do we not rest because we worry about being less productive?

“There is a lovely story in the Celtic tradition of Mary and the Christ-child journeying through the Isles off the shore of Scotland.
On one of the island roads they meet a milk-maid, whom Mary asks to hold the child so that she may rest a while. The milk-maid declines, claiming that she has ten cows to attend to.
Further along the road they meet a second milk-maid,
who agrees to hold the child for a time.
She sings a lullaby to him and succles him to her breast. Although she has twice as many cows as the first milk-maid, she finishes her day's work in half the time and with four times as much milk!” (Newell: 104).

Not only does this story point out that proper rest can bring about productivity, but it also points to the importance of taking time to just be in the presence of God.

As important as outer rest is, there is an even greater significance of inner stillness.
stillness in the midst of activity.  
An awareness of God while living is unfolding.  
It’s what they’re calling these days mindfulness or being mindful.  Practicing being present.  

The story of Mary and Martha, where Martha is busy at work while Mary sits with Jesus, also suggests our need to be still in the presence of God.
Jesus says Mary has chosen the better way of being in the moment...

Would we like to be more present people?  

I officiated a funeral here yesterday for a well-known artist, Rain Parrish. In addition to pointing out the brilliance of her art work, one of the characteristics that continued to be affirmed and appreciated by those who shared about her was her ability to be present.
It was seen as a gift.  

It is said that when we are focused on something and something else calls for our attention we are distracted.
Or what about when we are doing something and we feel like we should be doing something else.  
We are distracted.  
How do we reframe distractions so that they may be signs from God that those distractions are, in fact, what we should be engaging rather than something else?

Last night after a busy week of reentry and a day of both a funeral and a wedding, I was needing to settle in and put a sermon together.  
Ruby wanted me to play with her; I hadn’t spent any time with her the entire day.  
Which was the distraction?  
Where was I to focus my time and energy?

On the other hand, when there is work to be done,
how do we limit distractions in order to complete our tasks?  
The tv program, the office, points out brilliantly the absurdity of potential distractions as we try to “work.”
How many things would compete for our attention as we seek to focus on a task:
a text message, an email, a phone call, a co-worker wanting to chat,
or that unresolved problem in our personal life comes to mind...
We become skattered and frustrated, and our focus can easily drift to or facebook.

And then we don’t get done what we’d hoped,
and there is little time to focus on the family or volunteer at the shelter, or write a congress woman about the degradation of the environment

Newell gives one suggestion to help us out if we want to be still and quiet in order to be more present people: Prayer.

Prayer in the context of work. And meditative prayer

Prayer in the context of work and daily routine can create a stillness within.
An example, a common Celtic prayer was said or chanted at the preparation of the morning fire:

I will kindle my fire this morning
In the presence of the holy angels of heaven....

And as the flame caught fire the prayer would continue:

God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all...
O Son of the loveliest mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the Name that is highest of all.

Maybe we can together find some useful prayers that would help us to more prayerfully engage our daily routines.
- As your brushing your teeth and getting ready in the morning.
- As your driving or riding to your destination
- Even simply praying before or after meals...or while your eating...engaging in prayer the gift that is food and drink, and all that has gone into making it possible for us to be having that meal!

And then Newell points to the more difficult form or prayer: meditation, as a means of being able to be more still and present people.

In the celtic tradition, we are encouraged to go away to a quite place and be still, as outlined in the scriptures: a teaching of Jesus.
When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to God, who is unseen. (Matthew 6:6)

15 minutes a day...of quiet stillness...engaging scripture, chant, silence, sitting.
“Meditation in part is about being reconnected to the stillness of God.  It is being reconnected to the stillness that is at the heart of life.

On day 7 God rested.

I hope that in some ways these words, and the overall introduction to Celtic spirituality has been refreshing, challenging, and life-giving.
And that in this final day, the concept of rest and stillness, which I believe most of us would like to practice,
would be something we could pursue together.

Christiann had suggested during a worship planning meeting that we get rid of a lot of the normal stuff that we pack into a service of worship to allow an extended space to just sit and be.
A great idea.  
I would encourage any of you who would like to engage a more meditative style of worship, to attend Taize services on Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6.
A life-giving and sacred time.  

But, for this morning, in the very least, I want us to engage a chant which you may want to incorporate as part of your own practice...

silence, which I will end by ringing a bell
- a time of spoken prayer.   

The words of the chant are “Be Still And Know that I am God”

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