Friday, December 26, 2008

On the Third Day of Christmas

Some gifts from the archives of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship:

1. December Prayers by Carl Scovel: Christ my morning, Christ my evening, Christ my noon, and Christ my rest...Transcendent truth, transform me...O God, teach me my insufficiency, then my power...Holy God, Holy River, Holy Reservoir to which my waters flow, Holy Spring from which they come, Holy Moving, Holy Mystery, Holy More than my mere words, Holy Void into which I pour my pitcher, Holy Flowing in which I love and move and am--and all this does not say yet. (after reading Psalm 46:3-4).

2. Christmas is about the coming of the Messiah. It is about the breaking through into time--our time, not just a time two thousand years ago--Christmas is about the breaking through into time of God's grace...The Christmas faith is not a faith in something which happened two thousand years ago, and it was done and over with then. We do not wend our way to the manger at Christmas to worship past history but to worship him who was called Emmanuel--God with Hoehler.

3. And as we sing our lessons and carols, this from James Luther Adams: The Christian, in singing, does more than express emotion. Like the singers of other traditions, there are songs of praise, confession, recollection, dedication, and fellowship. Hymns become forms of communion between people and God, providing a bridge that leads to the victory of the creative and recreative powers of the divine, thereby enabling us to find a new flute and a new melody such as the song the stars sang together on the morning of creation. Why do we sing? Carlyle has told us: "All Deep things are song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us is Song; as if all the rest were but wrappings and hulls. The primal element of us and of all things, the heart of creation, is music."

We are surrounded by a mighty cloud of witnesses, those who have left us the legacy of their lives and those who are with us today, supporting us and reminding us to look up where the Star of Bethlehem shines for all to see. For all, no matter what.

Creating Community One Meal at a Time

Is the title of a wonderful recent piece in Friends Journal; a call for religious communities to create relationships, move toward more sustainability, and reclaim communal eating as one of the marks of the Christian life. Raising awareness about that 1200 to 1500 mile trip on average the normal bite that goes into a U.S. resident's mouth takes and what it costs us personally and socially now and on into the future.

Envision a small group of people, some members of a church who know each other and some residents of the wider community who know each other, and some joining the group for the first time or off and on when they can, gathering on a Sunday morning in the missional center that is their expression of faith all the rest of the time, but at this time coming together around the cross and table to light candles and share the joys and concerns of their lives and the life of their wider community, praying the Lord's Prayer, singing together, celebrating the bread and the cup of Jesus, then bringing not a potluck meal to share, but bringing the ingredients of meals to share, and wherever and however possible and growing over time the ingredients will be a part of the community's "foodshed", and then all preparing together not only a meal to eat together on that Sunday, but promote preparing together a diversity of meals that could be taken home to be eaten throughout the week, creating more intentional meals of health rather than impulse eating, and/or meals that could be stored at the missional center to be shared as necessary during the week with others; coming together this one Sunday morning to help, in real, meal-centered ways, people to have less stressful and healthier days when all are physically apart from one another.

That sounds like worship to me. Children could be a part of all of it; and/or have their own version or time together during the meal preparation community. They learn that church is a community of values, resting on relationships, restoring souls for service and networking them as mustard seeds and leaven into the world. It sounds like something you don't have to have any particular set-aside experience or knowledge to do and coordinate. It can be multiplied and taken to new places and new times as needed.

This is nothing new, but stay tuned for the continuing Reformation of the meal at a time.

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Beginning Jan. 1: The Rule of Benedict

Subtitled "Insights for the Ages" by Sister Joan Chittister, these selections and commentary arranged daily in a cycle that allows you to come back to them twice more during the year, will be my daily reflection book. A good way to continue some movement prompted by the other recent works, The New Friars and Flirting with Monasticsm. Occasional reports to follow in the new year as I seek to explore ways to ground our missional being in a more monastic understanding and practice.

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Christmas Eve

Tomorrow at 11 pm we will hold our Christmas Eve "midnight" service of lessons and carols and communion in A Third Place Community Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave. A time of peace and hope, a celebration of what is being born of the divine within us, among us, and beyond us. A time to remember the night 2000 years ago when a small group gathered together under a star that shined where no stars had shined before; in a cave with stray animals coming in and out to eat, a bit of shelter where there were no inns, where a few shepherds were drawn by the gossip and by the message that here was something wonderful happening, something hard to describe, something that hadn't happened before, a hint, a glimpse that the world was about to shift just a little, a ripple of kindness spreading, a thought beginning to grow, that the Almighty could be seen and felt in an out of the way place, off anyone's map, in the lives of an outcast couple that didn't resemble respectable couples, in the wondering eyes and the grasp of a baby's hand that could hold the universe, a small fragile palm that touch was to touch Ultimate Love.

Tomorrow at 11 pm we will begin moving toward the turning at midnight of Christmas, with open doors for whomever may need a place to come and sit and light a candle on this Silent Night. Almost everything around us will be closed, except a convenience store and gas station, signs of the Empire, and perhaps a few miles away a bar on Lewis Ave. Both the station and the bar will undoubtedly have more people at midnight than we will have inside our community center in Turley. Our spirit will be with those gathered in the bar, who come to the station on their late hour drives to their other places to be, and with all those who are gathering with families, tucking in children one more time again, getting ready for the late nights wherever they are, and with those finding a place in the abandoned cars, the shelters, the jailed, the hospitals, and with those who care for them on this night as with other nights, our thoughts will be with them and with you. And for those few who are able to come to be with us in Turley at 11 pm counting down the minutes to Christmas with silence, and song, and the old old story, and the passing of bread and juice, Presence Enough, we will seek to make visible in our world now that night so long ago, when something happened that no one else but a few saw....a light in the darkness, a few souls together, an open hole in the cave to strangers, a new life.

Wherever you are tomorrow and on the day after that, know that you have a candle lit for you here, that you may take the story into your heart this season, that you are a blessing to one another and to the world, so be full of life in all its abundance and diversity of spirit that has already been given to you, for unto you this day was born a child to remind us that all are children of God, and go in peace into the places of your life and think of A Third Place, go into the places of your life and be in peace, in prayer, in passion.

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