Lent: Tilling the Ground

 

Contributed by Board Member, The Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch

Lent is an old Anglo-Saxon word that means spring. While Lent overlaps spring in time, there is a deeper connection between the church season of Lent and the planting season of spring. Lent is about tilling the ground of our spiritual lives so that we can experience the new life of the Resurrection of Jesus. Lent is the time when we prepare our hearts to be sown with God’s love and Jesus’ new life.

Like the ground after winter, our hearts become hard over time and each year we need to break up that hardness so that like the ground they are prepared to receive the seeds of new life. Just as the plants thrive in tilled soil so to the seeds of God’s love thrive in a spirit that is broken and tilled.

As Americans we don’t like to have our world dug up. We like our patterns to be the same and predictable, but as Christians we are called to disciplines in Lent of preparation. Some of us give up bad habits, while others of us take on good ones.  Whether we give up or take on is not the question. They are both acts of preparation designed to till our hearts for the planting of God’s word and mighty deeds in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

How is God calling you to till your spirits? What do you need to give up or take on to prepare to receive God’s seeds of love? To till our hearts is the call of Lent.

Holy Listening

IMG_7240

Contributed by Executive Director, The Rev. Tara Soughers

In this very contentious election season, I am finding myself feeling overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with messages, overwhelmed with reactions, overwhelmed with expressions of hate and anger, and when I get overwhelmed, I get anxious.  My mind starts whirling around, exploring all of the horrible scenarios that have been suggested, until I feel afraid.  Of course, fear is a weapon in this political season.  It can be an effective way to propel people into an action that you want them to take.  But actions taken out of fear are rarely helpful.  Most often they are problematic, and sometimes destructive.  Fear is contagious, and it sets up a cycle that encourages others to lash out in fear as well.  There is a part of me that simply wants to shut it all out, retire to a place where no one can find me, where there are no newspapers, no television, and no internet until all of this fear-laden rhetoric is gone.  But I can’t.  I have a responsibility to act on behalf of my community, be it local or national or even global.  I need to listen, but I need to listen in a different way.  I need to engage in holy listening.

Holy listening is a way of deep listening with love and compassion.  I need to recognize when others are speaking out of their fear, and listen not with my own fear, but in love and compassion.  I need to model a way of listening that is not seeking to strike out, to score points, to win an argument, but listening to understand.  As the mystic Rumi says, “You will learn by reading but you will understand with love.”  I need to listen not to learn so much— my learning needs to come from seeking out facts in order to combat the lack of information or even misinformation in the anger-laden speech— but to understand the one who is speaking.  I need to listen in a way that models love, not hate, for only love can overcome the divisive rhetoric of our public dialogue.  I need to listen in a way that honors the value of each voice, even those voices that are expressing hatred and ideas that I find abhorrent.

I am afraid that I am not always very good at that kind of listening.  I can get caught up in the fear and anxiety, and respond accordingly.  But when I do, I am betraying what I truly believe, that all people are made in God’s image and likeness, and all are inestimable value because they are children of God.  It is times like this that challenge me to live as I claim I believe.

I find that in order to be able to listen to others, particularly in difficult times, I need to spend some time listening to myself, and listening for God.  For me, this is best accomplished in nature.  I need to spend some time simply sitting and listening to what is around me, sounds that do not carry fear, that do not ask me to do something right now, that are simply there.  Rumi says, “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”  When I sit for a while in silence, I begin to hear the small sounds, the wind rustling leaves, insects flying around, waves lapping gentle, squirrels chittering, bird singing.   I hear the things that I normally can’t hear when I am feeling overwhelmed, and I find myself relaxing and coming back to myself.  The anxiety drops, the fear lessens, and my hearing with love and gratitude is restored.

It is then that I can return to the frenzy of my everyday world, able to respond more out of love and less out of fear.  For more love and less fear is desperately needed in our world, and at least for me, holy listening is one of the ways in which I am able to live more out of love.

I invite all of you to share practices which help you, in this time of great anxiety in our country, to live and make decisions out of love, not fear.

 

Choose Life

 

candlelight-vigil

 

Submitted by board member, The Rev. Sarah Person

“Let us refuse to divide our own hearts, according some people ‘us’ status and labeling others as ‘them.’  Let us peer deep within this mess of terror and healing and choose life, and choose love, over and over.”  Rev. Meg Riley

Three weeks ago, four churches in Middleborough held a joint candlelit vigil on the Town Hall Green.  Together we stood for the dead, and held a light against the coming dark.  Together we held on to our faith, our hope, our courage and our truth.  We had refused to divide our hearts and had let go of who on that expansive twilight lawn was “us” and who was “them.”  I was struck by one of my own truths then – seeing all those faces, young and old, all shapes, all varieties of being human – how we are made infinitely diverse, infinitely unique.  Why do we ignore this aspect of being alive?  Why do we make it something to fear?

We understand now that all living things have the same chemical building blocks of life.  And we understand as well that all complicated natural life has a unique code that directs our elements to grow this way and not that, to express themselves one way and not another.  Sure, humans have more in common with each other than with apple trees.  But it is also true that all humans are unique just as all apple trees are unique.  With enough time and money we could tell which apple came from which tree just as we can tell the parent of the child. To choose life means to accept the nature of living.  It is never “us” and “them,” it is always “I” and “thou.”  What does it mean to you to choose life?