Do you find yourself using words like never or always to describe experiences or situations in your life? For example, do you say things like: “Oh, I NEVER win anything” or “He ALWAYS forgets my birthday?”
The tribe I currently run with say that our thoughts, the way we perceive our reality, and the way we speak of it all contribute to whatever it is we are currently experiencing in life. In other words, when I say “it always rains when I wash my car,” sets me up to experience an inevitable thunderstorm on the day I wash my car; not because the Universe or G-D has colluded against me, but because my subconscious mind is living a self-limiting belief that directs my conscious mind to deliver. Subconsciously, I hold this belief to be true—and so it is. We human beings are way more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.
Trust me, we ALL hold self-limiting beliefs that we have developed early on and we have to intentionally engage them in order to be liberated from who we may believe we are into who we really are. Y’all, we really are divine reflections of GOD. Let’s look at a case in point from the Scriptures.
In the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is teaching the crowd on the lake of Gennesaret from a fishing boat. After speaking he tells Simon Peter, one of the fisherman, to put out his net into deeper water for a catch. The first thing Peter says is, “well we’ve been doing this all night and have caught nothing.” You can just hear the self-limiting belief that is driving his lived reality. Sometimes you catch fish, sometimes you don’t. But what if life is not as arbitrary as that? What if you can “catch” all of the time?
A new belief…that fish can be caught if he does something differently…works. This new belief was acted upon based on Jesus’ suggestion that Peter should go into deep waters and then verse nine says that the disciples were amazed at the number of fish they caught. It was actually an overabundance.
We can never do what we have always done and get a different result; we all know what that way of thinking is called. So what would happen, I wonder, if we began to think about the issues we are faced with in our lives like the great political divide in our nation or the murders in our city differently? What if we began to ask a different kind of question in order to receive a different kind of answer? Is it possible that we, like Peter, are fishing for answers in our “usual” way when new questions need to be asked instead?
Back to never and always. What if we let go of the extreme ways we speak and show up in the world in order to take on more life-giving and liberating realities? I know it is hard; I am working on it too. But, if there is ONE thing I believe about the resurrection and life in the Risen Christ, it is that the old ways of being must be retired in order for a new way to take hold and grow.
“Going deep” may mean different things to different people, yet at its core it means reconsidering who we are and how our humanity has been supra-naturally changed to make room for more peace and joy in life. I meditate, some of you garden, run, or wash the car. Whatever gets us to an inner stillness to connect with our souls, and to hear the small voice within will do the trick . Ask the Spirit for help. She is always good for that!
On Wednesday, the Office of Government Relations of the Episcopal Church reaffirmed our denomination’s commitment to “equitable access to women’s health care, including women’s reproductive health,” calling this access “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.” Since 1967, the Episcopal Church has maintained its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions (about the termination of pregnancy) and to act upon them.” **
Lay and ordained leaders throughout The Episcopal Church counsel women, men, and families who must make decisions relating to pregnancy and childbirth, adoption, family planning, and infertility, walking alongside individuals in the midst of this intimate and challenging dimension of human life. Informed by this ministry, the Church addresses the topic of abortion from a position of lived experience of both laity and clergy, recognizing the moral, legal, personal, and societal complexity of the issue. The diversity of views within the Church reflects this complexity, as well as our commitment to be a meeting ground of mutual respect and dignity. While the Church opposes abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, or sex selection, it fully supports a woman’s right to make informed decisions on her own health and to act accordingly.
The Church further believes that “legislating abortions will not address the root of the problem,” and expresses the “conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church.” The Office of Government Relations will continue to advocate at the federal level to protect reproductive rights.
If you would like the opportunity to talk and listen in community about the events of this week, Rebecca+ and the clergy team will be offering a time to reflect on the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion and the Episcopal Church’s stance on abortion and reproductive justice and health care after the 10 am service on Sunday. We will gather in the south transept.
** All quotations are taken from episcopalchurch.org
This Sunday, the seventeen pilgrims preparing to travel to Ireland this summer, myself included, will have a conversation about what gifts we bring to our little community of voyagers. (Apologies for the spoiler if I’ll see you at Sunday’s meeting – you have extra time to think about our prompt!) We will share about the gifts we see in ourselves and have the opportunity to share the gifts we see in one another.
No matter our age, sometimes the question of, “What are your gifts?” can be difficult to answer. I have frequently had the conversation with friends that it would be so much easier to write cover letters and do job interviews (or build a dating profile) for one another instead of slogging through our own because we’re great at talking each other up – but not necessarily so good at it for ourselves. In a culture saturated with expectations of self-optimization and perfection, it can be difficult to recognize the gifts we possess when we are taught instead to see only what we lack.
You can be better, we’re told, if only you look this way, or buy that product. You can do better, at school or at work, if you try harder and do more. And not only can you, you should – and you should do it in this way.
I am not knocking the disciplines of perseverance and determination that are the hallmarks of hard work. Sometimes we have to grit our teeth and practice the things that do not come naturally to us. And that’s an important, healthy, experience that, hopefully, teaches us and helps us grow. Serving our communities, as Christ calls us to, can be difficult taxing work, at the same time that it is life giving not only to ourselves but to those around us. To offer our gifts, in their great diversity, is living fully. But living up to expectations set by society, or what the world deems “success,” is often a losing game, an exhausting game.
It’s also a game that excludes people who, for a variety of reasons (think of ability, age, race, gender, class, sexuality) aren’t able to achieve the “success” society demands. What about when our gifts are not seen as gifts at all, but deficits? A quick example: Disability activists and scholars are doing important reframing of the idea of disability as an important and rich piece of identity that contributes to the fullness of life of an individual or community, rather than as a hindrance to a full or good life. (A wonderful conversation on this topic can be found here; it’s a recording of a conversation between Rabbi Julia Watts Belser, Professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University and Associate Dean Bill Goettler of Yale Divinity School from 2019. I commend it to you!)
On Sunday, our group of pilgrims will reflect together on the gifts we bring to our community, and on how God is calling us to use those gifts. What kind of community do we want to build together for our pilgrimage? What are our priorities? How can we commit ourselves to one another and to God in this particular experience?
And these aren’t questions just for pilgrims: they’re questions for all of us. At the beginning of Romans 12, Paul invites his readers not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by renewing their minds to discern God’s will, presenting their whole selves to God (Romans 12:1, NRSV)). He goes on to remind them that just as a body has many different parts, each with their own function, so too does their community – do all members of the body of Christ (12:4). The gifts differ “according to the grace given to us,” but all are important to the body as a whole (12:6).
So I wonder:
What gifts do you bring to your community? What gifts does your community see in you? And where and how is God calling you to use them?
“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We are Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We are speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” (Cf 2 Corinthians, 5: 16-20, The Message)
The word, reconciliation, gets bandied about a lot these days. I wonder if we even realize its true meaning when we use it in the Church. What the Church means by reconciliation should be a different animal from the way society or our culture might think about it. St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians above, makes plain the basis and ground of any reconciliation in the faith community. The very first sentence says it all. When we look, what do we see?
Outer appearances are not important in the realm of G-D’s governance. The adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” may not be in the bible, but its spirit lives on the pages. It is what is inside that counts and what’s inside is an entirely new person because of the nature and actions of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. This newness necessarily means the death of the old. Our life journey is about learning to let go of old ways of being, attitudes, and thinking to make room for the new —the Christ-consciousness that has now taken root within us. This transformation is the entire story that we re-enacted this past weekend. From death to life. It is the WAY.
Each day we arise, we are given a new opportunity to choose to participate (“enter into,” Paul says) in G-D’s plan for the cosmos. That plan is reconciliation with G-D. Now that we are new people living a new life, our perception is new as well and we begin to see other people, situations, and conditions differently. Our choice has to be made daily…even hourly or minute-by-minute sometimes. At times it may be hard, but it is always worth it!
There can be no real reconciliation if the former self is still in charge in our lives. The Christ-self must be surrendered to for a more fruitful, meaningful lived experience with ourselves and with others. This is true reconciliation, the reconciliation effected by Jesus and the reconciliation we all get to participate in for the life of the world. And God only knows how much the world needs it.
Lastly, the Apostle says that we are friends of God. Imagine that—G-D calls us Friend. It is definitely a new life…this reconciliation; what Joy! Happy Easter God’s Friends! Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Your Easter Friend,