Archives for the month of: February, 2013

As you read the following parable, put yourself in the story – be the vineyard owner, be the gardener, and be the fig tree; in doing so take note of the different feelings that arise as you change positions.

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

Now ask, ‘where is justice in this story?’ I suggest that we may find justice in the sustainable practices of the gardener – nourishing that which appears a loss. Investing in the lost goes against some of our strongest inclinations of what it means to make a wise investment. This week, as we consider our missions, let us consider where we may invest in nourishing and sustaining that which might initially appear to be an unwise investment, the most needy in our community.

During the second week of Lent we will practice being mindful of silence. To begin, settle into a comfortable position as in week one, close your eyes, and focus on your breath – deepening each breath as you inhale. Remain attentive to your breath as we draw deeper into silence. Silence as spiritual practice is taught by many faiths; this week we will focus on silence in prayer.

Frequently we feel we must have an eloquent prayer prepared in order to pray, that we are poising ourselves to petition or engage God in conversation. Yet this is not the case as we are simply joining a conversation begun at the dawn of time. We read of this conversation begun between God and humanity in the stories of creation, when God and humanity walked together in the first garden. It is here that the seed of desire to share our heart first took root. However, in order to share our heart we need not craft words, frequently our words become exactly what distracts us from prayer and draws us back into the self – our own mind and ego.

This week as we sit silently we practice putting our intentions into the world through the utterance of our hearts – the expression of our deepest desires. All we need do is silently name our mission in prayer, and we are responding to the concern for the mission and people God has given us. In silence we are better able to hear the still small voice within us of the Divine. Then in our prayer we are echoing what we’ve already heard from God.

The first week of Lent we will focus on the mindfulness practice of breath. Please take a second and assure you are in a comfortable position – preferably with both feet on the floor and your hands on your thighs, as this is a grounded position. However, it is most important that you are simply comfortable. Now close your eyes for a moment, this assures that we are inwardly focused, undistracted. All you need to do is be attentive to your breath.

We typically pay little attention to our breath throughout our daily lives. There is great celebration when a new born baby breathes his/her first breath, and we find ourselves again deeply moved when a loved one breathes their last. We have just celebrated the Advent & Epiphany seasons, the time when we celebrate the Christ Child taking his first breath. Now, in the season of Lent we prepare for the moment when Jesus breathes his last. However, it is the time in between these two moments – where the body is in the soul, that breath is most sacred, most holy. It is at this time that breath is spiritual practice. It is during this time that the breath, the spirit, dances within us.
Closing your eyes again, I encourage you to breathe deeply and consciously. Take a deep breath in through your nose, as you do this feel your chest and abdomen expand with your breath and then exhale through your mouth, taking note of the emptying within your body. Now do this a second time, but more slowly, more consciously than before; and now a third time, this time feeling the relaxation in your body. We cannot return to our previous breath, to perfect it or change it. We can only continue breathing into the future.

Plants breathe, the whole earth breathes, and in doing so the plant life provides clean air for us to breathe. Be mindful during the coming week of your breath. Each time you catch yourself breathing reflect on the breath of the earth, and each time you look at the package of seeds on your refrigerator door think of all those connected to your mission by breath. Think of the plants and our reliance upon them for clean air to breathe. Our breath is our fundamental interconnectedness with all of creation. Throughout this week, as we practice the mindfulness of our breath, we are breathing with all of creation and we are breathing together as a community. As we do this we are practicing resurrection, we are planting seeds in our souls and creating new life.

Hospitality Grounds is the community garden at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Park City, Utah. We broke ground and built several raised beds, in autumn 2012, with generous donations from our local Stock Building Supply and Home Depot. The garden has lain dormant for the past several months, covered in a quiet blanket of snow, but our thoughts continually turn toward spring.

During the season of Lent, the 40 weekdays before Easter, the spiritual community holds our annual missions fundraiser. This year we chose the theme, ‘Planting Seeds of Change’, which invites us to reflect on the connection between the social justice work of our missions and the contemplative aspects of gardening. The following is the introduction to our Lenten mindfulness practice:

As you all know at St Luke’s, Lent is the season in which we turn our focus toward our annual missions fundraiser. As is our tradition, we hold only one fundraiser during the year to raise money for our missions programs; the entirety of our annual missions budget is determined by the success of this campaign. This year our campaign theme is ‘Planting Seeds of Change’. I hope you will spend a few moments and read the reports in the catalogue that detail the many ways in which we, as a spiritual community, impact the community around us – locally, regionally, and globally.

Today, as we kick off our Lenten season I would like to invite you to participate in a new and exciting aspect of our missions’ campaign. This year beyond raising funds we are also raising our mindfulness – our awareness. Today we are starting something new that reaches further than our checkbooks and touches our hearts on an even deeper level. I am inviting you to join me, and the rest of the parish, in a practice of mindfulness focused on our missions. You may wonder just what I mean by mindfulness, and unbeknownst to you, you may already be practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice of awareness, a focus of intentionality – a contemplative practice that connects our physical actions with our deeper spiritual self. Many of us cross ourselves at prayer or with water from the baptismal font – these actions remind us of our identity as Christians and our baptismal covenant & calling. Some of us choose to genuflect and or reverence the cross with a nod or bowing gesture – in doing so we inwardly give reverence to the work of the Christ, and through physical action we connect to our awareness of the transformative work that the life of Jesus performs in us.

So, you may be wondering just how in the world this mindfulness stuff will connect with our missions campaign. Let me explain, in a box at the back of the sanctuary is a selection of flower seeds; these seeds each have a sleeve with the name of one of our missions on it. The missions’ council is offering each us the gift of a package of seeds. We hope you will take a moment, following the service today, to select a package of seeds representing a mission that you will focus on, in mindfulness, during the coming weeks. I suggest that to begin with you put the package of seeds in a visible place, maybe your refrigerator door. Each time you view the seeds be reminded of the mission you chose, be aware of your hopes and dreams for that mission, and of your thoughts and feelings. You are simply taking a moment to connect.

Additionally, to assist us all with our practice I will offer a reflection each week in the bulletin; should you be absent one week the bulletin is conveniently available on the St. Luke’s website: http://www.stlukespc.org . I am also attempting to create an audio file of the reflection that you may access throughout the week at your convenience via the web. Pray that I am successful and I’ll include the web-link to that file in future bulletins as well! These weekly reflections are designed to lead us just a little deeper, beyond the seeds on the refrigerator door.

As we cultivate a contemplative practice of mindfulness we cultivate the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, as the seeds of the Holy Spirit are already within us. When we are in a state of distraction we are not alive, we are not present, and the ritual of mindfulness helps us birth our spiritual life – our deeper awareness and connection. In the following weeks I will introduce additional topics such as: soil – the quality of environment and resources; roots – our groundedness and source of nourishment, as well as the interconnectedness of all beings; wind – a source of unpredictability that can blow unexpected and undesired seeds into our garden; and the unfurling of the flower’s petals – the stance of opening to pollination and pollinators.

This spring, around Mother’s Day, we will hold a seed starting party – gathering all those who wish to plant and nurture the seeds of their mission. Then after danger of frost, around Father’s Day, we will hold a planting party where all the starts will be transplanted into the new (to be build) planters at the entry of the main church building. These planters will be our St. Luke’s Missions Flower Beds. Each time we see the flowers in these planters we will be mindful of the work of our missions. Additionally, the church school kids will have the opportunity to paint the raised flower beds with pictures of our missions.

So, as you can see no only will this seed campaign raise money for our missions’ budget, but with a little care it will also grow our hearts, and become a vision of our mission of hospitality, as we beautify our entry and welcome those we’ve yet to meet. I encourage you to take a package of seeds today and start simply by placing them in an obvious location. From there, join the rest of us in taking small steps toward a deeper journey together. Whether or not you have a green thumb, or choose to plant the seeds in the St. Luke’s mission’s planters, we hope you will at least take a package of seeds and join us in mindfulness. Everyday seeds are planted in our hearts; today choose which seeds you will plant.