Sunday, June 23, 2013

No sorrow is as strong as love remembered

If you don't know about our wonderful Jazz Vespers service at All Saints Church you should. Click here for more info ... and read below for the meditation I got to offer at the service this evening.

Jazz Vespers | Sunday, June 23, 2013 | All Saints Church, Pasadena

It is an awesome privilege to be called to offer what is essentially the spoken “set” in this evening of amazing musicianship and holy inspiration.

I knew I wanted to talk about the intersection between story and song and struggle. I knew I wanted to weave in some threads of healing and hope. And I knew I didn’t want to talk very long so we could all get back to the music.

Not sure where to start, I turned where I turn again and again for inspiration – to the writings of the always inspirational author, poet and bishop Steven Charleston … and there I found the piece Hilda just read.

And I knew I’d found what I needed to hear when I read:

No sorrow is as strong
as love remembered,
no fear as powerful
as hope reclaimed.

These are words that resonate deep down in the marrow of my lived experience of simultaneously holding the pain of deep sorrow and the joy of new hope.

They call out in my ears the music of Rosanne Cash singing that “God is in the roses and in the thorns.” And they tap not only into the personal loss of love remembered but the institutional challenge of hearing hope’s whisper over the culture’s shout of “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Listen. Can you hope’s whisper in the words of Bishop Charleston?

You are not weak before what confronts you,
but surrounded by a deep reserve of strength,
drawn up from every small moment
when goodness shaped your life,
when the presence of God
was as real as the touch of a comforting hand,
when life made sense
because it sang you to sleep
in the peace of an unassailable innocence.

This what Ed Bacon talks about when he calls us to “reverse our amnesia” – to see beyond the challenges of the moment to the hope of the future – to call upon the deep reserve of strength to challenge anything that tells us we are less than who we were created to be – beloved of God beyond our wildest imaginings and called to love all God’s beloved equally in return.

Steven Charleston’s words remind me of other words – words of Marianne Williamson – words so powerful they were quoted by Nelson Mandela in his Inauguration speech in 1994:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
And therein, as they say, lies the rub. In order to liberate others we must be liberated from our own fear. And Steven Charleston, it turns out, “has an app for that” in these words:

The happiness you have known
is the host of angels on whom you now can call.
Ignore the night
and see instead the countless stars
that have guided you safe this far.

Ignore the night. See the stars. Follow the light. Be the change you want to see.

Tonight I knew I wanted to talk about the intersection between story and song and struggle. I knew I wanted to weave in some threads of healing and hope. And I knew I didn’t want to talk very long so we could all get back to the music.

And so I want to close with a reading from the Gospel – The Gospel According to Christina Honchell:
Jazz is God’s chosen music, because God is the greatest of all improvisers. Consider the Genesis creation story: God had an idea, a theme, a place to start and maybe a place to end, but the “getting there” is improvised.

God is tinkering with creation throughout the scriptures and through the Holy Spirit to this day and beyond.

Our God is a God who frustrates the designs of the nations, defeats the plans of the peoples – creation is still being improvised.

Like creation, the best jazz is often unfinished, open to co-creation, shot with contest and dialogue.

We need to learn to improvise. I am not interested in a religious practice or experience that is the same every time – I want to be surprised, to not know where a spiritual path may lead, to have spiritual discipline and also to be open to what happens when two or more “players” go off on an improvisational journey to God knows where.

That’s where the “aha” moments in religion come from – not from a faith that is predictable, rigid, static and steeped in fear.

Like jazz, healthy religion is not for control freaks – it unleashes sensibilities that cut against the grain of hierarchies and elites. It is about joy and energy and liberation.
[Here endeth the reading from the Gospel]

It IS about joy and energy and liberation And liberated from our fears our presence automatically liberates others.

May this evening of God’s chosen music liberate us to go out into a world in desperate need of liberation to be beacons of God’s love and justice and compassion.

And may we be given the grace to claim the promise that

No sorrow is as strong as love remembered,
and no fear as powerful as hope reclaimed.


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