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The last ‘official’ week of summer is bearing down upon us.  Next Monday it will be Autumn in New England.  Life’s rhythms change until there is some comfort in them and lo and behold, they change again.  Some days I don’t know whether that’s a source of comfort, frustration or both.

This Autumn, unlike many in my years, promises to be uncomfortable.

The winds of change are blowing over nearly every bit of emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical and material bit of landscape that has become familiar to me.  Typically I look forward to the storms of winter.  There’s a comfort in knowing that I’m going to be safe in the storm that allows me to look toward it as adventure.  Maybe it’s because the implications are more stark for more folks this winter that I’m a bit more cautious in looking forward to colder weather and the first flakes of snow to fall.

Hmmm, maybe there’s something to the saying that journalism is in the business of, “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” (Finley Peter Dunne) that applies to Jesus and the Gospel.  That, by the way, is a good thing.

I’m basically an optimist but I have to admit finding silver linings in the apparently endless procession of change that seems to be pouring down on the Church as the people of God has been tough.

I have found a couple though and I hope they’ll buoy your spirits as much as they have mine.

First of all, in the conversations about attending to God’s call on the life of our community, there has been a deep listening and respect for differing views that I find hopeful.  Let me say a bit more about that.  While we’ve been trying to come to a faithful decision about what to do about heating the church and whether to renovate the classrooms in the education wing, there have been no lack of different perspectives.

At times we’ve seemed to move at a snail’s pace and at others it seems like we’ve been rushing headlong into uncertainty.  On both poles and in the spaces between there has been a patient listening that has been comforting.  This air of Holy Conversation and respectful listening has been part of the deliberations and busyness of many of the groups in our parish as we continue to try and find the will of God in all that we do.  For that we have reason to give plenteous thanks.  Does that mean that everything has been without disagreement or contention?  No. What it means is that the Spirit of God has softened some of our edges and rounded some corners that have allowed consensus to emerge in ways that keeps the value of community as primary in our life together.

Secondly, I have noticed a peace about us in the face of profound uncertainty that is in short supply lately.  God seems to be at work in the lives of us all in ways that is important to recognize and give thanks for.  Our life changes, both individually and collectively, can be unsettling to the point of panic.  I don’t sense much of that in our common life.  When it does crop up, and it does, the community has been good about holding out the prospect of peace and calm in the face of sorrow, transition and uncertainty.  Thanks be to God.

As our nights grow longer I pray that our commitment to God as the center which holds all together (to quote Kierkegaard) will hold.  Should its hold seem to be slipping, be assured that it’s not God’s grip but our trust in it.  Hold on tightly to one another and the God who has called us together and expect Spring to come as certainly as this Autumn has.

Peace on your week!

In today’s lection of Lesser Feasts and Fasts we remember Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).  Hildegard was an highly regarded mystic speaking the truth of the feminine characteristics and images of God in a decidely masculine age.

Hildgard portrayed writing of her Divine Visions

Hildgard portrayed writing of her Divine Visions

As she was given to ecstatic and profound visions of the Divine from an early age, she devoted herself to a life of prayer later becoming Abbess of three different Convent Houses in the Rhine Valley of present day Germany.

After some 35 years, at the age of 43, she began to write of the visions that had filled her consciousness and prayerful vision.  Bernard of Clairvaux recommended the book of these visions, the Liber Scivias to Pope Eusebius III.  Upon reading the wondrously luminous descriptions of God’s presence in the whole of creation, Eusebius authorized Hildegard to embark upon a number of preaching missions across Northern Europe.

For me what Hildegard holds up in her life for everyday modern believers is a model of what can happen should we make the choice to pay attention and to expect to see extraordinary, Divine, things in what we would normally view as ordinary.

Hildegard saw powerful images of God in the world that nearly everyone took to be mundane in the most literal sense of that word.  In the natural, to borrow a phrase from Sam Portaro in Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Hildegard saw ‘not the fantastic, but the supernatural.’ This, in Sam’s analysis, is not that she imagined things that were not there, but rather saw things not as they simply are, but rather as reflective images of the Creator that spoke them all into being.  Each flower, each rock, each animal, each person–in Hildegards cosmology–bore the indelible imprint of the Divine and that all that is required to be blessed with the visions of the Divine in the ordinary is a willingness to pay attention.

In many ways we are an Attention-Deficit culture.  May Hildegard’s life, vision and witness inspire us to slow down and EXPECT to see God in the ordinary, each and everyday.

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September 2008

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