Slideshow and Sermon from Lorienne Schwenk
Sunday Sermon - 26 June 2016
Sunday Sermon - 26 June 2016
- Lorienne Schwenk, June 26, 2016
God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, in your presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
Show us the path of life.
I want to thank Father Brian+. He invited me to give the sermon this Sunday because I just went to the Island of Iona. For those of you who have not been there, Iona—in the sea northwest of Glasgow—has been a destination for Christian and other spiritual seekers for over 1500 years. An Irish monk, called Columba, performed what is called a “white martyrdom.” Instead of dying for Christ, the “white” martyr leaves home, leaves the familiar, to follow Christ. Columba took a dozen companions in the year 563 and left home and country and kin and set out for the northern British territory of the Picts. He was given possession of the Island of Iona, in the Inner Hebrides, where he founded a monastery. After a few centuries, it became a Benedictine Abbey, the foundation of which survives and has been restored to a functioning place of worship. The Iona Community has services there every day and there is an ecumenical group that is centered there devoted to a life of contemplation and action in the world. Iona is also a place of pilgrimage. People come from all over the world to see this wild and beautiful place and to worship where Saint Columba worshiped. You go to Iona and you will be changed.
Pilgrimage, through the lens of Celtic Spirituality, is a form of sacred mobility. Physical journeys are a part of pilgrimage where a life is viewed as a spiritual journey. The pilgrim goes to a place like Iona to nourish the ongoing pilgrimage that is her life.
It is beautiful, on Iona, and you will see some photos in the parish hall after the service. It is wild and green, there is a beautiful coastline, there were baby lambs frolicking on the hillsides, and fascinating geology. The rocks are so old there are no fossils because they have existed since before there was life on this planet. It’s all pre-Cambrian! So, this morning, I want to address you all as pilgrims.
How can we think of ourselves as pilgrims? Have you ever thought that we live in a thin place? A thin place is called that because it feels like this world and the spiritual world are so intermingled or only separated by a gossamer veil. We who live here, with our beautiful coast and rolling hills are in a kind of thin place. I know it often seems to me like the divine is very near here. We all have a story of how we found this place and hopefully we can all remember the new joy of discovering this special spot. Some people I meet at the nursery or at Leffingwell Landing say they don’t live here yet. They return and return waiting for the circumstances that will allow them to stay. In the day to day, it can be easy to forget, so I’m asking you to put on your Celtic spiritual mantle and see Cambria as such a place again. Living here could be called “green martyrdom,” in the Celtic way of thinking, which means staying in place, anchored in Christ.
How do we do that? Let me turn to this morning’s readings for some hints about a pilgrim life. Saint Paul loves lists, doesn’t he? Why give one example when you can give 8 or 9 or 10? His first list is specific to the concerns he has about the Galatians and talks more about *things we do.* I’m not talking about the first list. His first list is about the things that get in the way of a lively relationship with God. Stick with the second list.
We can use Paul’s second list in this morning’s reading, as a life giving algorithm to anchor our selves in Christ. And the list is not a list of things to do. They describe being in harmony with the Spirit:
“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”
In the same reading, Paul gives us a paradox: “we are called to freedom, so become slaves to one another.” Another paradox, in this morning’s Gospel, contains another hint about the pilgrim life.
In his encounters with those who would follow him, Jesus seems to be trying to tell them a riddle: “You are not safe, do not be afraid.”
We are not safe. Those wanna be disciples have specific concerns holding them back from anchoring their lives in Christ. Rather than worry about somebody coming to take your bed, what is holding you back? A friend wrote this brief poem on today’s Gospel:
Companions on the way.
The journey does not allow
the building of nests,
the digging of holes,
lest we become caught up in
gathering sticks and bits
or obtaining just the right shovel.
There is no going back. We are not safe, do not be afraid. The hardships we encounter are not times when God is not present or when we are not following the way, or even interruptions to our pilgrim walk. Those are the pilgrimage. A thin place means that God is very near. For all the times we might experience a thin place in a Beethoven Symphony, a great work of art, meaningful liturgy, or a beautiful day on the Central Coast, a thin place can also be the bad news, the diagnosis, an ending. The thin place is when you are holding your idea of Normal while watching it slip away and at the exact same point in time and space you are facing a wild landscape of the unknown.
The thin place can also be in the routine, the every day, the boring. On Iona, every conversation, every chance meeting with other pilgrims, every sunset and sunrise, every meal felt charged with holy mystery. Can you have a divine encounter at the Cookie Crock? on Moonstone Beach? If we are all pilgrims, white and green martyrs here in this tourist town, of course we can. We know that we are and everyone around us is also a pilgrim. We also know that any one of us is occasionally looking back instead of forward, digging holes instead of looking up, and building nests instead of flying.
British-Jamaican author Courttia Newline quotes the philosopher Meno: “How will you go about finding the thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” In response to this riddle, Newline riffs on what it means to him: “Even more important than the journey itself, is the venture into the unknowable. The ability to find comfort moving forwards without quite knowing where you are going.” He knows about being a pilgrim.
Lastly, when Jesus rebukes James and John for wanting to command fire to come down from Heaven and consume the Samaritans, it is not the end of the story. I imagine that rebuke was something on the lines of “God is not to be ordered about, tamed, domesticated. God does rain down fire—it’s called Pentecost and it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is wild and untamed. The Celts picture the Holy Spirit as a wild goose and this gift is available to all, Jew and Samaritan, Slave and Free, Male and Female, Gay and Straight, dark-skinned and light-skinned. I pray that God may so redeem all our petty worries, jealousies, boredoms, revenge thoughts, and judgments and turn them into instruments of the wild flying goose called the Holy Spirit!