A reflection from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Division or Syncretism

It wasn’t just last week’s State of the Union address that made me think about division. Rather, division seems to be a consistent theme in the world. Remember the old Gershwin song about people’s differences that went something like this: “You say potato and I say potata, you say tomato and I say tomata; tomato, tomata, potato, potata, let’s call the whole thing off!”? I think that the song speaks to the omnipresent differences in the world and our frequent approach to solving/ending them. We talk about building walls, refusing to budge, or listen to another.

 On the other hand, instead of trying to separate ourselves from what is different, might we consider embracing differences and become richer for them? I consider myself a syncretistic individual, a person who attempts to reconcile different beliefs and grow from them, to look for what we share. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, emphasized love over division at the Feb.7 National Prayer Breakfast. As this column’s core is religion, let me focus there.

 Parishioner Victor Chudoba, whose wife is Buddhist, has been kind enough to loan me readings from the Buddhist faith. I have grown from their words of wisdom, like; “We all have roots of goodness.” “Without dissemination, there is no religion.” “There is power of habitual practice.” Those words from the Buddhist publication, Living the Lotus, have truths and could have been written for Episcopalians. They add another insight and view of faith.

 Also, I have responded to the invitation (that we all have) to attend some of the services of the Jewish congregation, Tikkun Olam, who shares our worship space here at St. Ann’s. They’re most gracious and gave me copies of their service books. Let me share a few quotes from Gates of Prayer for Shabbat and Weekdays. “Pray as if everything depended on God; act as if everything depended on you.” “Who rise from prayer better persons, their prayer is answered.” And, I found this prayer;

“These quiet moments of Shabbat [i.e., Sabbath] open my soul. Blessed with another week of life, I give thanks to the One who creates and sustains me. For all the good I have known during the days that have passed, I am very grateful. I know that I have not always responded with my best effort, but often I did try. I have tried to give my family and friends love and devotion, and I pray that I may grow more loving as the years pass. Even as I regret my weaknesses, I rejoice in my accomplishments. Let these achievements, O God, lead to many others. May I be blessed on each Shabbat with the sense of having grown in goodness and compassion.”

 Rather than calling anything off, may we embrace our differences, see the blessings in them, and grow from them. May we love one another.

 To God be the glory.

Amen.

A reflection from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Wonder

Look among the nations and see! Wonder and be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told. (Hab.1:5)

How about you? How is your “wonder” vision and what is your vision quotient? Most of us are more inclined to see snow that needs to be plowed than wonder/marvel at the reality of each unique snowflake. We shudder at the cold and snow storm and forget to give thanks that it reveals the footprints of deer at the bird feeder in the night. We dig in deep to the humdrum and often miss the miraculous. 

I suggest that wonder is as common to our lives as breathing in and breathing out. However, like our breathing, we’re often unaware of wonder’s presence. I’ll give you some examples. I’m presently reading a book, Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. I’m immersed in wonder as I’m discovering facts I didn’t know. I’ve learned that the leg muscles of a locust are a thousand times more powerful than the same weight of human muscle. I’ve learned that underneath the white fur of a polar bear their skin is black. I learned that a giraffe, whose spots are as individual as our fingerprints and snowflakes, has four stomachs.

On Monday, January 21st, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day and the wonder as well as the tragic quality of his life. It was a day to recall King’s life and words. King said wonderous and inspiring words like, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” And, “Love is the most durable power in the world.” King’s words cause us to catch our breath with wonder at their eloquence, insightfulness and truth, but years later, we’ve returned to simply breathing in and out, having lost some of the power and strength in them.

Nevertheless, the wonders continue. God continues God’s astounding work, hoping to stop us in our tracks, change our direction, and feed us in a new way. Just a week ago we were treated to a blood red moon. As I thought about the different words we use to describe the wonder of the God head, I thought about our Father, the Creator, who is always creating something new which to marvel and enjoy. I thought about Jesus, the Deliverer, whose mission is to deliver abundant forms of new life, and I thought about The Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, who makes things holy. Might we become more aware of each breath, each moment, each feeling, each gift of love, and be astounded at all we have been given. You won’t believe all there is which you are offered that is wonderful and present for you to behold.

To God be the glory.

Amen

A reflection from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Resolutions

This time of year, resolutions are on everyone’s minds. How can we and the world be better this next year? At our home, we subscribe to The Chicago Tribune each day. There are a few columnists who I regularly read. One is Eric Zorn. In the early days of the New Year, he wrote about his search for his motivating word for the year, and he chose the word “delete.” He was attempting to suggest that in this new year, we ought to simplify our lives and delete or eliminate those things which we no longer used or needed.  

Then, this past Wednesday, January 9th, Mary Schmich, another favorite columnist, called for a New Year’s “purge” also formerly called de-cluttering and getting organized, and offered tips for doing so. Mary suggested that tidying up is for the faint of heart. “Purging is for athletes, soldiers, and conquerors.” We all do a bit of deleting when we take down our Christmas decorations and embark on a new year, but Mary calls us to do more. 

The articles were full of reminders that your “stuff” is not you, that if you don’t remember you own it, then you may as well not. What the articles also made me think about is priorities. What is important to us? What Mike, my husband, might think is “stuff” I might consider treasure. What is it that defines what we value? Our headlines are full of stories of immigrants who leave everything in order to move on toward hope and a better life.

What does our faith have to offer us as guidelines? The best guide for me is the Ten Commandments, simply summarized by Jesus as this: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You should love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk.12: 28-31).

If we are serious about and live that summary, then everything else falls into place. Forget about the long lists of diets, exercising, and the myriad of concerns to improve. If we truly follow the summary of the Law, our world will be a better place. Our bodies become holy temples and are treated as such, God becomes the priority, and peace and love have the possibility to surround us and the world. May it be so.

To God be the glory!

Amen

A reflection from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Happy New Year!

Did you know that there are at least 45,700 spider species that are found on every continent except Antarctica? Most of us are aware of spiders as those arthropods who spin webs and sometimes dangle from the silk-like threads that they produce. However, spiders are enormously more differentiated than humans.  

I wager you did not know this. I read a fascinating article in The Economist recently. I learned that there is a spider, the Toxeus magnus, that looks like an ant and behaves like a mammal. The mother exudes a liquid which is a rich source of nutrients and contains four times as much protein as does cow’s milk. At first, the mother deposits fluid in droplets around the nest, from which the young spiders drink. After that, until they are about 40 days old, the young are suckled. Who would have guessed that a creepy crawly spider could look like an ant and behave like a mammal?!

Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” As we are launched into 2019, the tangled web of possibilities is endless. Even in our smaller world of St. Ann’s, we have new leadership in The Rev. Scott Zaucha and already can see changes that are a foretaste of things to come in our church home. Beyond our church, might a Wall be built across our southern border? Might we find life on the other side of the moon? Closer to home, might a solar farm be built in our midst? 

Scripture doesn’t seem to help illuminate us about what we might expect. On the one hand, Ecclesiastes 1:9 says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Spider-like arachnoids were present 386 million years ago! The T. magnus spider is not just now looking like an ant or acting like a mammal, but we have just discovered it to be so. On the other hand, in Revelations 21:5, God is reported to have said, “See, I am making all things new.”

My sense is that what is new is our continuous discovery of things that God has already created. Beyond the sticky web of everyday conundrums and busyness, we also have a direct line that will lead us to newness, to wholeness.  Our prayer for the New Year might be for God to give us the eyes to see, the mind to discern, and the heart to love what God has provided for us all along; the direct path to Him.  If we work on these things, we have the possibility to be awed and amazed at the wonder of the world and omnipotence of God’s love, creativity, and new life.

To God be the glory!

Amen.