Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Discernment at Our Interactive Service

When my pastor asked me to plan and lead the interactive services for Advent, I didn't realize I was going to take a New Year's kind of turn.   On Dec. 3, we looked at the books I have which have modern poets interacting with the Annunciation story, and I told the group that the following Sunday, we'd practice listening for God's message and messengers.

Last week, we began by reading the Bible story of the encounter between the Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth.  I read a passage from Paul Wilkes' Beyond the Walls:  Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life, a wonderful book I picked up on my first trip to Mepkin Abbey.  Wilkes goes to Mepkin Abbey once a month for over a year, and each chapter talks about a religious/monastic idea like faith and stability.

I read from the chapter on Discernment; I read a chunk that talks about silence.  I had laid out paper and art supplies:  markers, crayons, watercolors, and pens.  I encouraged people to use the supplies that spoke to them as they considered what God might be calling them to consider for 2018.  I made an offer:  if they wanted to put their response in an envelope that I'd brought, one per person, and I'd keep them for the year, and bring them in during Advent 2018.

I believe that this exercise can be powerful--a way of crystallizing what we need and what we yearn for.  And at the end, I talked about how our yearnings are often in alignment with what God yearns for.  We didn't have the conversation I'd love to have:  are those yearnings from us, from God, and how can we be sure?  I'm not sure I want to know what my fellow congregants think. 

Do I think that God plants our yearnings?  No, I don't think so.  But I think that those of us who go to certain types of religious institutions begin to shape ourselves so that our yearnings will match God's yearnings.

As I said, I believe that this exercise can be powerful, but I wasn't sure that my fellow worshippers would.  However, I got lots of feedback that others found it powerful.  In fact, one woman who was in town to visit her sister, a church member, and larger family, said that she woke up knowing that she had to go to church, and now she had found out why.  She said this experience was just what she needed.

Today we will talk about Joseph and the social fabrics that we weave or unweave by our actions.  I'll report back tomorrow!

No comments: