Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Listening instead of preaching, mindfulness and Carnegie Hall

This Sunday was a particular treat. For the first time in a long time, I got the chance to just sit and listen as a colleague preached. A true luxury for me right now, and I treasure those moments. Ginny, my Sunday Associate, preached. She offered up a truly inspiring sermon, one that hit me right between the eyes. The lessons that day were from Genesis, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, and the Gospel text was that old classic of Jesus telling Peter to, "Get behind me, Satan." Both are elements of us as humans dealing with the impossibilities of being, truly being, in God. We just can't take the full purpose of God into account without being willing to release to God the power to act, and draw us, into the future. So, Ginny talked about God, and how God is acting in and through us in this life...and how "success" is not one of God's names. Still, we are drawn into the process of moving through time and space in service to the Living One. That means being willing to walk in ambiguity, even suffering, in order to discern God's will.

That is no easy task. Just the next evening, Jeff Harrison was talking to us at Mindfulness Training about how we deal with suffering. In Buddhism, that suffering is part of the path to enlightenment. Samsara is all about us realizing that life is about suffering. We feel pain, grief, worry, anxiety and all those unpleasant things as we exist. Dealing with, experiencing that suffering and drinking it in allows us to enter into a process of resolution. Sound esoteric? It is. but when we allow that suffering to rise up, though we fear inundation in pain, what tends to happen instead is that we wind up realizing that what is on the other side is not a bottomless pit of oblivion. Instead it is new life, in Christ, in God, in Truth. What have you.

So, in so many ways, patience is the name of the game.

On another note, L and I had a visit from my cousin Curt. He came in to PA in order to journey on to NYC to see his daughter, Whitney, sing at Carnegie Hall along with her High School Choir as a member of a national conference in youth choral competition winners. His visit was the first in what I hope will be many. He and I spent a good decade growing up together, until marriage, distance and time separated us. He and his family are good people, and I am glad to be back in touch with someone who is both family and friend. We played on Monday around Bucks County, visiting the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown to cap it all off. Then, we headed into the city on Tuesday night for the concert. It was a beautiful performance. The groups performed singly first, and then were welcomed back onstage by the Orchestra of St. Luke's and the guest conductor for a performance of Ralph Vaughan-Williams Dona Nobis Pacem. It was a truly great experience. It was my first time back in the Hall's main auditorium in almost a decade. The performance was every bit as good as a Musica Sacra concert, really. When we left the Hall and went around to the back to greet Whitney before heading home, she walked out of the artists' entrance about four feet off the ground. I am sure hearing that music only holds a candle to having the chance to offer it in that space.

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