Monday, May 30, 2016

Deep Remembering  

Today is Memorial Day and we remember all those who served our country to insure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  Traditionally we do this with parades, placing of flowers on graves, and various patriotic rituals.  And this is an honorable practice.
I would like to suggest several ways to deepen this remembering.  The Greek philosopher Plato developed a concept called “anamnesis” which believed that the human soul through reflection and contemplation “recalls” what it already knows on a deeper level.  Put simply, it’s that moment when we don’t rush to judgement and think carefully and we can say “Oh, I knew that….”  It’s that “Ah-ha” intuition when we realize what is true and can echo Jesus “the truth will set you free”.  This truth is more than just intellectual knowledge, however, and once again Jesus adds his wisdom in his Last Supper when he instructs his followers to share his body and blood “for the remembrance of me”.  Not simply a memorial meal, this deep remembering takes on physical form each time it is celebrated and the Risen Christ becomes present to nourish his disciples for the sake of the world.  His scattered people come together and like the physical “members” of the body, are re-membered.  ELCA Lutherans proclaim it this way, “God’s work, our hands”.   We confess that this remembering includes the mystical “communion of saints” which gathers a vast “cloud of witnesses” throughout history whose lives bear witness to God’s vision of peace and justice for the world.  

So today as I remember the sacrifices of American service men and women, I also remember and am inspired by Pope Francis, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, Mother Theresa, and Daniel Berrigan.  

Who do you remember?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paddle Pilgrim's photo.
I am not in control...
As a boy I read the poem “Invictus” by William Henley. The only line I remember was “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” These stirring words spoke to my adolescent longing to do something heroic in my life. I suppose we all aspire to greatness in some manner. The American dream feeds that hope with the promise of freedom accompanied by success in many forms. One mundane form this quest takes in my life is a rather incessant creation of “to do” lists and the accompanying joy as tasks are checked off upon completion. In some small way I feel like I have control over a part of my life…I am the master of my list.
In the summer of 2012 I had an amazing adventure kayaking the entire 2300 miles of the Mississippi River. The most frequent question I am asked about this epic journey is “what is the most important lesson you learned?” My answer is short and simple, “I am not in control….and that is a good thing!” Over the months I spent on the Mighty Mississippi I could plan a few elements like when I would rise in the morning or what I would eat, but for the most part I was at the mercy of the elements. And while I the conditions could be extreme, I also experienced “traveling mercies” extended by countless people I called “river angels” as well as the truth of Mark Twain’s dictum, “One cannot see too many sunrises on the Mississippi”. I rediscovered grace means “going with the flow”, letting go, and being completely present in the moment. As I captained my craft I learned that grace is not being in control and it touched my soul.