Last week we talked about Pilgrimage that is an inner pilgrimage towards God who shapes and forms us into who God would have us be. A pilgrimage that changes and transforms us…opens our hearts wide and nudges us to be kinder, more compassionate, and more loving. A path of self reflection and prayer. We talked about a literal pilgrimage in which you walk to Holy places but focused on pilgrimage being a metaphor for our faith journey.
After the service someone came through to greet me and said, “Do you listen to On Being with Krista Tippett on NPR…her topic this morning was exactly what you are talking about” Now, it is moments like this when I feel God is truly with me! So, This week I listened to the interview with Paulo Coelho who walked the Camino de Santiago (that we talked about last week) and wrote a book The Pilgrimage. He says, “Life itself is a pilgrimage and we can live life as a pilgrimage by meeting people, talking to strangers, paying attention to nature, being open to life and discovering something new everyday.”
And this was indeed some of what we talked about last week and will continue through August. So, now I’m going to read Paulo Coelho’s book and my obsession with pilgrimage continues!!
This week I want to begin with a blessing…every journey we set out on needs a blessing…don’t you think? So, this blessing comes from the book The Soul of a Pilgrim the book I mentioned last week. You will just need to follow the instructions
As best you can or if you can’t do it just in your imagination….touching your feet… We bless our feet…may my feet carry me forward in this season to new possibilities.
Blessing your hands…may my hands help me give form to creative expressions.
Blessing your heart…place your hand on your heart….May my heart be open to wonder and numinous moments.
Blessing your throat place your hand on your throat…May I gain the courage to speak my truth.
Blessing your lips…place a hand on your lips…May I take in that which is most nourishing.
Now, we are ready….may all of us be blessed for the journey ahead!
So, according to Christine Valter Paintner every pilgrimage starts with a call. Remember last week I told you how I struggled so much with my “call” to ministry? Not sure if I somehow made the whole thing up? Well, my husband also listened to my struggle over and over. At the time our cell phone was a Nextel which had a walkie talkie feature…one day I was in my car on route to Yale Divinity School when a voice came from the phone out loud.. saying….”Linda… this is God….this is your call!”
That’s the call we’re all hoping for isn’t it? One that is audibly heard…clear as can be leaving no doubt in our mind.
But it’s just not like that at all!
Call….I remember the first time I heart the word…Mark was talking about someone who got “called “ to such and such a church and I said “called? What do you mean…they got a job?”
My husband often reminds me that we preachers use language assuming people know what we are talking about but that’s not always true! Call I think is one of those words…it’s a churchy word…a theological word…a biblical concept…a word hardly any one uses except maybe preachers…so what does it mean?
Well, here in scripture we have Moses’ call. It appears rather dramatic doesn’t it? Moses is going about his ordinary day when an angel of the Lord appears in the form of a burning bush…Moses turns to see the bush and hears the voice of God and then God’s instructions that he will deliver his people from the Egyptians. Now, I know we all wish we heard God’s voice clearly…or that perhaps there would be a sign as clear as a burning bush.
BUT what is Moses’ response?
Who am I that I should go????
Even though scripture certainly makes it sound like Moses heart the voice audibly and clearly…he is filled with self- doubt! Now, that we can relate to!
One thing I want to point out about this burning bush is that Moses had to turn and look….he could have walked right by….but chose to turn and look! This is what it means to pay attention. I think probably we are walking by lots of burning bushes…lots of ways God might be calling us! The thing that really suffers when we live this crazy busy life the world seems to tell us is what matters…we lose our ability to really pay attention to our lives.
SO how do we hear this voice of God? What is call?
Remember I said what a coincidence it was that I preached on pilgrimage and it happened to be the topic of conversation “on being”? This is how I believe God speaks to me. I get signs through conversations with people, books I’ve read, nature and just simply paying close attention to my life. I find it important to spend time in silence and listen for my deepest longings and then I will feel a nudge from God to grow.
How do you think you hear the voice of God?
Christine Valter Paintner talks about call also as connecting with what Thomas Merton calls our “true self” that is our deepest self that is stripped of self-deception, self inflation, masks, expectations and judgments…(notice Moses’ self criticism..who am I that I should go!) and Christine goes on to say, “We must journey a lifetime to discover our deepest and most mysterious talents.”
Each of us is unique and given unique gifts…being called is unwrapping those gifts and offering them to the world. Being called is listening to our deepest longings, our passions….those things that excite and make us lose track of time. What is it that we uniquely are called to offer the world?
Sometimes a call is something we discover like the nudge I felt to enter ministry and sometimes it is thrust upon us like when we lose a job, end a relationship, suffer loss, our health fails, ….whatever it is our life as we have known it is over and we must find a new way. Eventually we seek to discover what new thing God is doing in the circumstances in our lives. Christine V-P says it this way, “We know we can’t return to life as usual. That way is now closed. This is the call to which we must respond. IF we say no, it means numbing ourselves and living in denial of this great shift we’ve experienced. When we say yes, it means to acknowledge that even in moments profound sorrow can lead us to renewed vision and life.”
So, call can be something we are called to “do” as in a vocation, it can be something we are called to “be” as in living more fully into who God calls us to be…more loving, open, compassionate, just, and it can be living into a new way of life whatever that looks like for you.
However we receive our “call” it shakes up our life and knocks us off center and like Moses we want to argue with God and say NO NOT THIS! We are scared and it’s hard to believe that we actually have the skills or the strength and courage to say yes. We fantasize that if we really heard the voice of God this would be so much easier but scripture seems to reveal that the struggle and doubt are part of the deal.
But, we don’t have to view it as negative…we can enter our call with curiosity and open-ness…everyday has something new to offer as Paulo Coelho says. We might say…hmmm that’s curious I wonder am I being called to do or be this….let me listen closer….rather than panick (like I did) saying what? No not me! Curiosity soothes our fear and gives us courage and strength to pause and listen and wait as things unfold.
So, as we continue on this pilgrimage I encourage you to begin to pay closer attention to your life. What is calling you? When the noise of your life quiets what pulls at your soul?
We began with a blessing…so let us end with a blessing by Jan Richardson artist and pastor:
Blessing at the Burning Bush
You will have to decide
if you want this--
want the blessing
that comes to you
on an ordinary day
when you are minding
your own path,
bent on the task before you
that you have done
a hundred times,
You will have to choose
whether you will attend
to the signs,
whether you will open your eyes
to the searing light, the heat,
whether you will open
your ears, your heart
to the voice
that knows your name,
that tells you this place
where you stand--
this ground so familiar
and therefore un-regarded--
is, in fact,
You will have to discern
whether you have
to rebuff the call,
to withstand the pull
of what blazes before you;
whether you will
hide your face,
will turn away
No path from here
could ever be
could ever become
un-strange to you
has been scorched
beyond all salving.
You will know your path
not by how it shines
but by how it burns
leaving you whole
as you go from here
(“© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.”)