Saturday, June 22, 2013

"How is the Spirit Calling?"

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; God is  the one who will keep you on track.

 I have been a spiritual director for a number of years now.  Spiritual direction is about companioning people as they seek to live in God’s presence—it’s really not about any actual ‘direction’ in the sense of telling someone what to do.  I’ve found the whole process wonderfully helpful in my own spiritual life.  Often, when I feel led to ask someone a question, I’ll realize that the question is also my question. 

That happened to me recently.  The person who sat before me was going through some difficulty at her church (in another denomination), and I found myself putting the question like this:  “The Spirit hasn’t abandoned you; the Spirit is still doing its job, so to speak, calling you toward transformation.  How do you imagine that’s happening for you?  What does that calling look like for you in the midst of all this difficulty?”

This time of transition here at CoH is such an incredible opportunity for us to grow spiritually.  Alan Jones once wrote:   The Spirit is most present at three open spaces in our livesin the unpredictable,  in the place of risk, and in those areas over which we have no control.  And times of transition are great examples of “open spaces.”  During a transition we abide in what’s called “liminal” space, like the space we inhabit when we stand in a threshold between the past and the future.  Liminality means that the space we formerly inhabited, which was secure in its familiarity, is no longer, and the space we’ll inhabit in the future is undefined and full of questions.  Times of transition ask us to let go and place our trust in God, in the healing and loving power always at work in our world.
So, when I ask myself that question—How is the Holy Spirit calling me during this time of living in liminal space—what does that calling look like for me?—my sense is that I need to be more intentional about practicing trust.  I know that trust is not a warm fuzzy feeling; it’s a decision, a choice I have to make each moment.  I’ve made myself a little poster for my office, to remind me. 
The other thing is that the Spirit may be calling me, once again, to learn to let go of outcomes.  This has nothing to do with passivity.  In fact, to let go is a powerful action, but it’s an internal action, a change in attitude or outlook.   In this particular time of transition at our church, I think this means, for me, to let go of clinging to seeing things only one way, remembering always that the Spirit is at work both in the lives of every person in this amazing congregation and at work in creating a variety of possible futures (all of them full of God’s presence) that we simply cannot now see.  Importantly, this also entails uniting this letting go with the essence of spiritual trust found in the difficult but stunningly wise words of St. Julian of Norwich, the English mystic:  “All shall be well.  All shall be well.  And all manner of thing shall be well.”  
Gracious God, you are with us all, guiding and sustaining and healing, creating joy and bringing love to our lives.  May we respond with trust, with gratitude, and with the eyes to see how indeed all shall be well.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Codes for Reality"

Here's one of my devotions for this month (my church sends devotions via email to those who sign up for them)

Psalm 8

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals* that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,* and crowned them with glory and honor.


One of my favorite podcasts is Krista Tippett’s interview show called “On Being.”  A recent guest was physicist S. James Gates who specializes in super string theory, which, I found out, is based on something called super symmetry theory.  The title for the podcast was “Uncovering the Codes for Reality.”  Dr. Gates and his colleagues have discovered codes inside the equations for super string/symmetry theory.  He likens these codes to how DNA is a code that makes us who we are biologically.  The difference is that these codes are sitting inside equations about the nature of all reality. 


What’s fascinating is that these codes are made up of zeroes and ones, just like a computer program.  They’re used in precisely the same way that computers use ones and zeroes to send digital information, bearing a striking similarity to a web browser’s  “error correcting codes” which allow our computer browsers to work accurately.  The scientists were so stunned that it took them months to really admit to each other how bizarre this discovery really was. 


Gates cautions that just because they’ve found these codes sitting inside the equations about the nature of reality doesn’t mean that at our most fundamental level we and our reality are computer programs.  (Remember the movie “The Matrix”?)  To leap to that conclusion would be a logical fallacy—mathematics can’t be used that way.  Still, he said, and I certainly agree with him, it is a deeply intriguing discovery. 


As I listened to this interview—and I was listening intently—I remembered that one name for God is “Ultimate Reality” and that “in God we live and move and have our being.”   That reminded me that although Dr. Gates’ words were bringing the MYSTERY of reality to me in a powerfully visceral way, I also experience God in a way that is easily recognized and identified as the movement of God in my life and my relationships.  Yes, ultimate reality is a huge mystery, something that we with our human limitations will always have to approach provisionally, with humility.  But God is also known to us through Jesus, the man from Nazareth.  In Jesus we can be confident that we see and know something of the divine mystery. 


Thank you, gracious God, for the Mystery that you are.  May we approach Mystery with respect and humility, but also with deep trust, remembering always that it’s the gift of your love, so knowable, that sustains us, grows us, and carries us into the future with confidence.  Amen.


Katherine Godby

Associate Pastor for Spiritual Life


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Taize in the Interfaith Peace Chapel

Here's a photo from our Taize service...first Fridays  in our Interfaith Peace Chapel.

We do Taize differently than I've ever seen it elsewhere.  We have about a dozen musicians--flute, guitar, cello, clarinet, plus several singers who form a group we call EvenSong.  Toward the end of the service the musicians play three instrumental pieces during which time folks can get up and move to stations for prayer and anointing with oil.  We end the service by singing four songs straight through, and during this time people move to the kneelers, or they light a candle on one of the side tables, or pray with icons (another side table), or whatever...we have one woman who usually does a prayer-walk holding her Bible up (a little distracting but I guess people are  used to it now).

The Interfaith Peace Chapel was designed by Philip Johnson.  Here's how it's described:

Regardless of what one believes about God, can any of us doubt that the world will be better when religion is a source of peace rather than conflict?
The warping walls of the Interfaith Peace Chapel do what walls are not supposed to do. Without right angles or parallel lines, the space slightly disorients visitors and prepares them for the reorientation of their souls. 
Regardless of faith, our goal is to orient the hearts and minds of people away from conflict and division and toward cooperation and community. People of faith have been a part of many great movements for human progress. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have built schools, hospitals and orphanages. They have fed the poor and advocated for those at the margins of society. They led the Civil Rights Movement just a few decades ago and stand ready to lead a new movement toward human peace. 
The tragedy of our age is that religion is the greatest threat to peace and, perhaps, to humankind’s survival. We believe there ought to be a better way. 
The Interfaith Peace Chapel includes over 8,000 square feet, is 46 feet tall at its highest point (the height of a four story building) and measures over 106 feet long. It seats 175 people and is designed for conferences, seminars, small interfaith services, weddings, memorial services and other intimate chapel experiences. 
The Interfaith Peace Chapel provides a sacred place for people of all faiths, and for people who profess no faith, to come together in unity and love. No matter the headlines or conflicts outside, within the walls of the Interfaith Peace Chapel all faiths, nationalities and ethnicities are welcome. The Chapel is an example of inclusive spiritual cooperation for the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Expansion," an extraordinary sculpture

Aren't these extraordinary?  Wow.

The story behind this sculpture is here.  Along with these views:

Existence in the Gentle Vastness of God's Mercy

I've been feeling off-centered most of this week.  My husband made an effort to comfort me, and as  he held me, my mind went off to a point of existential awareness regarding the profound aloneness that is being human.  We are born alone, and we die alone, as they say. In those moments I experienced that singularity in a profound way; the solitariness (if there is such a word) invaded my whole being and sorrow welled up within me.  I wept.  When I was able to speak some of this, David countered, saying "No, we're not alone.  We form communities and those communities are meaningful.  Even as we die we're surrounded by our loved ones." 

Yes, we connect with others in various ways throughout our lives -- some folks are able to connect more deeply than others, and I count myself fortunate that I've had mystical moments of connection, soul-to-soul, with several people.  There is paradox here...we do connect in ways that alleviate our aloneness, but what I'd meant was that our individuality cannot be shared with another person...our uniqueness, when we die, dies also.  Isn't that right? 

But as David spoke my mind moved into new territory, and I said, "So, DEATH is the great connector."  Yes, I felt the truth of how, at the moment of death we are moving into a vast web of relationships...the loved ones who've gone before, the people we've admired but never met, the children we never bore. . . . in that sense death does transport us --- hmmm, maybe not transport, -- death opens us into a greater awareness of this vast web of connections and relationships of which we've always been a part, but were closed to much attentiveness to it. 

And then yesterday I read a couple of things...     

John O'Donohue's words:
May the Angel of Wildness disturb the places where your life is domesticated and safe, and take you to the territories of true otherness, where all that is awkward in you can fall into its own rhythm.
Yikes.  That is scary.  Confronting the "true otherness" within, it takes a huge amount of trust to come face-to-face with what I've sensed was 'alien' and allowing it to fall into its own rhythm within me.  I'm not sure what that is, but I feel close to it.

Cynthia Bourgeault, writing about that stunning scene in Babette's Feast when General Lowenhielm touches the great truth of Mercy: 
This brings us to one of the most wondrous aspects of the Mercy that the General, with the eyes of his heart wide open, instinctively recognizes.  Theologians speaks of this as the apocatastasis, the final restoration of all things "at the end of time."  I first wrapped my mind around this concept by way of a strong visual image that came to me one Sunday many years ago when I was still living in Maine.  I'd put my daughter Lucy, by then a teenager, on a ferry from our island to the mainland four miles away to meet her boyfriend Scott.  Standing on a high bluff on an exceptionally clear afternoon, I could watch the whole little drama play out. I saw each of the sequences unfolding in turn:  the ferry approaching the dock, Scott's car winding down the landing road, Lucy moving to the front of the boat in eager expectation.  I could feel their excitement.  But from my vantage point, it was all present already, all contained in a huge, stately "now."  The dimension that for them was still being lived in time, for me had been converted to space, and the picture was complete.   
I grasped that day what apocatastasis really means.  I saw how time--all our times--are contained in something bigger:  a space that is none other than the Mercy itself.  The fullness of time becomes this space:  a vast, gentle wideness in which all possible outcomes--all our little histories, past, present, and future; all our hopes and dreams--are already contained and, mysteriously, already fulfilled.  The great mystics have named this as the heart of the Mercy of God: the intuition that the entire rainbow of times and colors, of past and future, of individual paths through history, is all contained--flows out of and back into--that great white light of the simply loving present of God.  Alpha and Omega, beginning and end.  And in that Mercy all our history--our possible pasts and possible futures, our lost loved ones and children never born--is contained and fulfilled in a wholeness of love from which nothing can every possibly be lost.   
The poet Dylan Thomas writes of this in "This Side of the Truth."  Dedicated to his son, the poem beautifully elucidates how all those apparently irreconcilable opposites of our lives--innocence and guilt, success and failure, triumph and loss--are somehow encompassed in a deeper, unifying forgiveness.  In the end. neither good nor bad has the final word, but "all your deeds and words, / Each truth, each lie, / Die in unjudging love."   
If only we could understand this more deeply!  If only we could see and trust that all our ways of getting there---our good deeds, our evil deeds, our regrets, our compulsive choosings and the fallout from those choosings, our things left undone and paths never actualized---are quietly held in an exquisite fullness that simply poises in itself, then pours itself out in a single glance of the heart.  If we could only glimpse that, even for an instant, then perhaps we would be able to sense the immensity of the love that seeks to meet us at the crossroads of the Now, when we yield ourselves entirely to it

Yes . . . . Yes . . . . and YES YES YES!!!

And then last night, during worship, the topic was "the courage to surrender," and, as the band played, I experienced an overwhelming sense of how FREE  I can be, am, when I let go of all to which I'm clinging, just let it go, give it up, and allow God to then fill me with every good gift.  I don't have to allow my off-centeredness to stop me from being anything I choose and am meant to be. 

OK.  And now I have a sermon to write. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reflections on chairing the conference

Chairing the Annual Meeting of my denominational conference was a fabulous experience.  I was surprised how much FUN I had, telling a couple of people that the extrovert in me really took over.  (And thank goodness; otherwise, I'd be even more exhausted than I am, and that's hard to imagine!)  It was non-stop from Thursday afternoon through Sunday after church, but we didn't have any huge problems.  A couple of glitches -- I'd forgotten to arrange for someone to introduce our keynote speaker (ha! minor detail!), but I realized it with enough time to just do it myself, so it was OK.  And we had more people show up for our Sunday morning plenary and closing worship than I anticipated, so we ran out of bulletins and had to bring up more chairs.  Oh well.

One of the best things about this was that we had 70 volunteers to help us. Amazing.  Way more than we needed, but it was such fun to see them greeting folks and hanging out.  I loved it!

And Cathedral of Hope has such a beautiful music ministry.  Friday night we had Angie Landers sing, cabaret style, at the Interfaith Peace  She's really as good as any professional I've ever heard.  And then Saturday night at the banquet our men's octet sang--they are wondrous, plus Marlene (alto who graces our Taize services every month) and a lovely soprano whose name escapes me at the moment.  Really, we had 150 at this banquet and they were ALL bowled over by the quality.

David came over for the banquet and stayed with me in the hotel -- really nice to have him there.  Douglas arranged for me to have the hotel room as "comp," which I appreciated.  I would've paid for it myself -- it was so necessary for me, really.  If I'd had to drive 45 minutes every morning and night to get home that would've been bad.  I was staying to lock up the church, so that would've put me home very late.

There's something about doing this kind of's a bit like preaching, I mean, in terms of this strange place within me between desiring both to be hidden and the center of attention.  The old wounds within me creep up and make it a bit difficult to let this just "be."  Appreciate the compliments, but don't let them go to your head.  Admit your mistakes and learn from them, but no need to dwell.  Let it go.  Let it go.  Let it go.  A satisfying memory now. That's all.