A Summer Menu

Psalm 107

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Breakfast and Wonder

 

This morning, Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, along with our hearing of Matthew and of Paul in Corinthians, we shall meditate fully upon our Psalm, one one-hundred and fiftieth part of our holy Psalter.  As we prepare to enjoy a summer to nourish the body, may we in prayer also nourish the soul, with a soulful summer menu of meditation!

 

Behold, a daily spiritual soulful summer menu!

 

As day breaks you may find yourself rubbing eyes against the gleam of sunlight.  Before you is a bowl for breakfast.  Cereal covered with luscious raspberries.  This summer, will you begin the day with soul, too?  The soul responds to God’s “wonderful works to humankind”.  Summer is our time to nourish again our relationships.  With neighbor.  With family.  With nature.  With soul.  Pause again, spoon suspended over berry and bran, pause.   What has been the most wonderful day in your life so far?  Think about that day, that hour, for a moment at breakfast.  Experience.  Your experience.

 

As the great Boston Personalist Borden Parker Bowne wrote long ago, “Let us be determined to protect the independence and the variety of experience”.

 

All of life is a gift.  “O Lord who grants me life, grant me also a soul filled with wonder”.

 

Coffee and Acceptance

 

                  With a few hours behind you, the day may open up for a break.  Coffee and a fresh baked muffin, raspberry sweet.  A little butter.  As we enjoy a summer to nourish the body, may we in prayer also, with the Psalmists, nourish the soul, with a soulful menu of meditation.  To vacation is to vacate.  To open, empty, cleanse, change.  A few hours of morning labor, and a few years of mixed experience, bring a need for pause.

We are nourished by this extended and expansive community of faith, Marsh Chapel.  One of our regular listeners is the founder of the Anacapa School in Southern California.  Gordon brought his students here on Tuesday, as part of their tour of Boston.  They are part of our extended family, 3000 miles away.

 

Our community is shaped, 90%, by its lay members and leaders.  This summer let us ask ourselves:  ‘what kind of community would this be if every one were just like me?’  The summer asks us to ask ourselves:  how shall I most faithfully be disciplined in worship, on the Lord’s Day, and in prayer, on every day?

 

We are people of faith, gathered in a community of faith.  That does not mean that we are spared the bruises and hurts and tragedies that inexplicably lie embedded in life.  I take cup and roll to the lips and I pause to remember those unforeseen and unexplained midnights.  The night of a life taken.  The night of an illness discovered.  The night of betrayal.  I know the lament, the anger of these people in the Psalms, “they cried to the Lord in their trouble.”  In thirty years of ministry, the most common response to the question, ‘where did your faith come from’, begins with the single word, ‘trouble’.  We can usually find something earthly or someone human to judge and blame, when things go wrong.  Except when the unfairness swells into injustice, when the harm happens to the innocent, when the lightning strikes close to home, or at home.  Then we cry…to the Lord.

 

In trouble we reach for faith. We remember that faith is the power to withstand what we cannot understand.  We remember that weeping may tarry for the night, even as joy comes with the morning.  We remember that the extent of possibilities always outruns our grasp and count.  We remember that we hope for what we do not see.  We remember what the Psalmists taught, as do the Gospels:  that your experience of dislocation can be a doorway to grace, that your experience of disappointment is the very portal to freedom, that your experience of departure is the threshold of love.

 

As Bonhoeffer affirmed, ‘man has come of age’, through the Renaissance, through the Reformation, through the Enlightenment and through the progress of human autonomy, human freedom into our own time.  “God lets us know that we must live as men who can manage our lives without God.  The God who is with us is the God who leaves us alone.  Before God and with God we live without God.”

 

But we still lament.  Finish that muffin.  Which was the day of your biggest unanswered question?  Assuming there is no ready answer, for real and big questions seldom afford easy spoken answers, can you accept that silence?

 

Lunch and Thanksgiving

 

                  A simple lunch.  Soup, peanut butter and jam (raspberry).  There are times when the summer songs suffice.  We sang in church camp:  Count your many blessings, count them one by one.

 

We remember the Polish poet who was sent to Siberia for half a lifetime.  He returned.  How did he survive?  He remembered the kindnesses.  Over lunch, now.  The day is half-gone.  Think with thanks.  Ten lepers were healed.  One spoke in appreciation.  Think with thanksgiving.  We all receive more than we deserve.  Seeing a fallen bird, Asher Lev asks his Father why God lets the living die:  “to remind us that life is precious; something you have without limit is never precious”.

 

Bonhoeffer, again:  “The Christian hope of resurrection sends man back to his life on earth in a completely new way.  The Christian must like Christ give himself to the earthly life”.  Take heart. “The future bears the face of Christ”

 

Make a list.  For what are you truly thankful?  In this Psalm, as in so much of the Bible, thanks is given for deliverance, for freedom, for redemption.  On what day did you experience some measure of liberty?  When we are thankful, grateful, appreciative, then we have good humor, and then we have generous habits, and then we have soul.  Here is the heart of the hymn:  “O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

 

Dinner and Compassion

 

                  Before you now is the main meal of the day.  Salad.  Meat. Bread.  Fruit, a mixture—berries to be sure.

 

As this summer nourishes our relationships, let us pause before the heart of life (as of Scripture and church and faith).  “Steadfast love”.  Pardon, begin with pardon.  Forgiveness, begin with forgiveness.  Compassion, begin with compassion.  Can you name a day on which you felt, or knew, or received, or relied on compassion?  Think at dinner.  Sharing the fruit, sharing the memory of forgiveness.  Life is a gift.  Eternal life is a gift.  Faith is a gift.  Forgiveness, offered or received, is a gift.  Think in simple terms here.  And pray so, too.

 

A man arrives at the pearly gates.  His interlocutor says, “Entry, 100 points”.  How am I to find 100pts, our man asks?  “Tell me about yourself”.  Well, once I helped a woman across the street.  “Excellent, one point.  Anything else?”  Well, once I went to church and gave what I thought was a generous gift.  “Excellent, that’s two.” Now our man is worried. He says to the gate keeper:  “At his rate, I will never get in.  I won’t make it. I won’t have enough points. I’d only get in by the grace of God.  “Grace of God!  98 points.  Grace of God. Excellent. Just so.  Quite right. You’re in.”

 

Be kind to one another.  Tenderhearted.  Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.  Or, as Myles Davis said, and he should know, ‘there is no such thing as a wrong note’.

 

Dessert and Satisfaction

 

                  Who can go to sleep on an empty stomach?  In the evening, in the summer, a little ice cream with berries (raspberries) goes a long way.

 

What little measure of satisfaction, a hunger filled, a thirst slaked, a longing fulfilled, what day of satisfaction have you known?  There is some satisfaction in every life.  Just as every heart has secret sorrow, every heart has some satisfaction.  “He satisfies the thirsty and the hungry he fills with good things.”  Can we be satisfied with what is good?

 

You did what you could do in a time of struggle.  Good for you!  You brought real kindness to a hurting parent, or child.  Good for you!  You sought to name the good things in a time of real tragedy.  Good for you!  You found a way in the wilderness.  Good for you!

 

From Marsh Chapel often you hear a vocation voice.  One graduate of 2014, who was in this nave for baccalaureate just four weeks ago, is now in the desert.  She wrote this week:

 

For the past three weeks, I have been doing field research in three refugee camps in northern Jordan. I am looking at the lives of children in the camps, how they respond to and are shaped by their circumstances. It has been a life-changing experience so far, and I have learned so much from their opportunism and optimism. I’m sure you’ve heard references to the refugee youth as members of a “lost generation.” I’m really starting to dislike this defeatist term. While they are certainly facing great obstacles that we couldn’t possibly imagine, “lost” implies that they have given up and that the global community has given up on them. However, these children have so much passion, energy, and hope for the future. 

 

Each day I hear heart-breaking stories, but at the end of the day, I always finish by reading a few of Thurman’s “Meditations of the Heart”. Yesterday, I read “Magic all Around Us” and thought it perfectly expressed the attitude of many of the Syrian children that I’ve been spending my days with: 

 

“When have you noticed the color in the sky? When have you looked at the shape and place of a tree? What about the light in the eyes of your friend when he smiles…The spontaneous response which overcomes you when you are face to face with some poignant human need?…’There’s magic all around us./ In the rocks and trees, and in the minds of men,/ Deep hidden springs of magic./ He who strikes the rock aright, may find them where he will./ I seek new levels of awareness/ of the meaning of the commonplace.” 

 

Please send my regards to Jan and please keep these children and their families in your thoughts and prayers. I look forward to seeing you both at the end of the summer. 

 

Evening is no time for meditating on the mistakes.  It is a time, with our dear student in the desert, for meditation of the good.  By perfection, Matthew and Wesley meant health not precision, wholeness not fastidiousness.  Here is the thought for ice cream and raspberries.  What has satisfied you?

Here is a summer menu, a mode of thought, based on ancient Psalm.

 

Breakfast is for wonder, coffee break for acceptance, lunch for thanksgiving, dinner for compassion, and the evening snack for satisfaction!

A summer menu.

 

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring.  I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away.  And wait to watch the water clear, I may.  I shan’t be gone long.  You come too.

 

“Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

 

Breakfast is for wonder, coffee break for acceptance, lunch for thanksgiving, dinner for compassion, and the evening snack for satisfaction!

 

~The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel

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