Known and Loved

Known and Loved

SLIDE 3: DIVINE REALITY OF INTIMACY

X DIVINE REALITY OF INTIMACYPsalm 139 contains some of the most beautiful poetry in the Hebrew Scriptures. “You have searched me and known me.” This is a divine reality of intimacy. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,           even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” The divine presence is everywhere, because the divine presence is all things including us. Psalm 139 is the poetry of the mystics – those who experience themselves as part of God.

SLIDE 4: OCEAN AND THE WAVES

sunset on the beach with screw ocean wavePerhaps the best attempt to explain the relationship between God and the mystic is the relationship between the ocean and the waves on the ocean. The waves are part of the ocean, and they can be distinguished from other waves, but the wave does not exist without the ocean. In this way the ocean is like God, and we are like the waves that while individual are part of the whole.

SLIDE 5: CLOUD OF UNKNOWING

X THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWINGMeister Eckhart, a great mystic of the Middle Ages, who wrote the Cloud of Unknowing tried to express the relationship between God and the mystic this way: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”

SLIDE 6: AWAKE AND PRESENT HERE AND NOW

X AWAKE & PRESENT HERE & NOWLawrence Kushner in his book Eyes Remade for Wonder tries to express the truth of God’s presence this way. “God, the Holy One of Being, is more than everywhere; God is the Ground of the Universe’s being, the very place of Being itself. And to be awake and present ‘in this place’ is to encounter God. You already are where you need to be. You need go nowhere else. Find a point an inch or so behind your sternum, where your heart beats. That is where ‘the place’ is. Right here all along and we did not know it because we were fast asleep, here in this very place.”

SLIDE 7: NO GIFTS — JUST PRESENCE

X NO GIFTS JUST PRESENCE There is a kind of mystic’s joke that goes like this: “I asked the Dalai Lama what he wanted for his birthday. He said, he didn’t want any gifts, he just wanted presence.” Presence to be here and now — fully awake.

SLIDE 8: ANOTHER WORLD RIGHT HERE WHENEVER WE PAY ATTENTION

X ANOTHER WORLD RIGHT HERE WHENEVER WE PAY ATTENTION    Fully present here and now is harder than it sounds. The beginning of knowing about God is simply paying attention, being fully present where you are or waking up. Most of the time we do not even see that is happening all around us. For most of us, most of the time the lights are on but nobody’s home.   We find what we seek and we seek who we are. The trick is to pay attention to what is going on around us long enough to behold the miracle without falling asleep. There is another world right here within this one, whenever we pay attention.

SLIDE 9: ISLAMIC MYSTICAL TRADITION — SUFISM

X ISLAMIC MYSTICAL TRADITION SUFISM  The great mystical tradition in Islam is called Sufism. Here is a story from the Sufi tradition. There was once a small boy who was given a drum and he loved to bang on the drum all day and loved every moment of it. He would not be quiet, no matter what anyone else said or did. Various people who called themselves child experts, and other well-wishers, were called in by the neighbors and asked to do something about the child.

The first so-called expert told the boy that if he continued to make so much noise, he would perforate his eardrums. This reasoning was too advanced for the child, who was neither a scientist nor a scholar. The second expert told him that drum beating was a sacred activity and should be carried out only on special occasions. But the child claimed that his love of the drum was sacred, and he went right on beating his drum. A third expert offered the neighbors plugs for their ears. A fourth expert gave the boy a book to try to distract him to no avail. A fifth expert gave the neighbors books that described a method of controlling anger through biofeedback. A sixth expert tried to give the boy meditation exercises to make him placid and explained that all reality is imagination. Like all placebos, each of these remedies worked for a short while, but none worked for very long.             Eventually, a Sufi came along. He looked at the situation, handed the boy a hammer and chisel, and asked, “I wonder what is INSIDE the drum?”

SLIDE 10: WHEN I AWAKE I AM STILL WITH YOU

X THE BOUNDARIES OF SELF X WHEN I AWAKE I AM STILL WITH YOUThe beginning of knowing about God is simply paying attention, being fully present where you are or waking up.         In the words of the Psalmist:         “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you.”

SLIDE 11: THE BOUNDARIES OF SELF

Being at One with the Holy One of Being is not about becoming the same as God but about forgetting the boundaries of ourselves. There are many ways we can reach for Holy One(ness.) We can attain self-transcendence through our minds in study, through our hearts in prayer, or with our hands in sacred deeds. By voluntarily setting God’s will above our own, we literally lose our selves and become One with the One who we serve. It rarely lasts for more than a moment.

The primary obstacle to becoming one is self-awareness, self-consciousness, talking to oneself. That persistent internal dialogue we sometimes experience as drunken monkeys in our heads. And for this reason, high awareness involves stopping, ignoring, forgetting the conversation we routinely carry on in our heads between different parts of our personalities. Such amnesia is another word for self-unification.

SLIDE 12: YOU REALIZE YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE DANCING

X YOU REALIZE YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE DANCING  Lawrence Kushner tells a story to illustrate about dancing. “My daughter once told me that the way to know I was dancing was to dance with so much of me that I stopped worrying about what I looked like on the dance floor. I told her that if she looked the way I did when I danced, she’d worry too. (As a self-conscious introvert I can identify with Kushner’s fears, and I suspect in this congregation I am not alone.) But she only said that in order to really dance, you must give yourself to the music. ‘Let it tell you what to do; quit being so self-conscious. The only way you will ever know you have danced, is if, once the music stops you realize you didn’t know you were dancing.'”

By the way I was interested to find out that the daughter who taught her father about dancing also became a Rabbi.

SLIDE 13: YOU REALIZE YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE PRAYING

X YOU REALIZE YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE PRAYING  I think the same rule of thumb applies to prayer as well as dancing. The only way you will ever know you have been in God’s presence, is if, once the prayer, or the hymn, or the worship is over, your realize you didn’t know you were praying. I think that is why Psalm 139 is such beautiful poetry. The Psalmist is on such intimate terms with the Holy One of Being that when she finished the Psalm she did not know she had been praying.

SLIDE 14: LEARNING TO WALK IN THE DARK

X LEARNING TO WALK IN THE DARK      Reaching for the mystic’s intimacy with God also involves learning to walk in the dark. Look at verses 11 and 12 of our Psalm. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

SLIDE 15: PARADOX

X PARADOX When we enter into the mystic consciousness we encounter paradox — dark and light become one. We experience the Universe as a whole not parceled out in pieces or divided into opposites. An analogy for Paradox is the phenomena of light. Light behaves like both a particle and a wave – mutually exclusive and yet it does. The particles of light that appear to be white can be broken or bent into the wave lengths of all the colors of the spectrum. Barbara Brown Taylor in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark writes about the early church mystic Gregory of Nyssa:

SLIDE 16: DAZZLING DARKNESS

X DAZZLING DARKNESS “In the same way Gregory said, those of us who wish to draw near to God should not be surprised when our vision becomes cloudy, for this is the sign that we are approaching the opaque splendor of God. If we decide to keep going beyond the point where our minds are of any help to us, we may arrive at the pinnacle of the spiritual journey toward God, which exists in complete and dazzling darkness.”

Since the mystical reality of God’s presence can only be expressed in story, and song, on this note of dazzling darkness I would like to close with a new hymn by the Roman Catholic composer, Dan Schutte, who wrote the song “Here I am Lord.” The title of the song is “Holy Darkness.”

SLIDE 17: HOLY DARKNESS

Refrain:

Holy darkness, blessed night, heaven’s answer hidden from our sight. As we await you, O God of silence, we embrace your holy night.

  1. I have tried you in fires of affliction; I have taught your soul to grieve. In the barren soil of your loneliness, there I will plant my seed. 2. I have taught you the price of compassion; you have stood before the grave. Though my love can seem like a raging storm, this is the love that saves. 3. Were you there when I raised up the mountains? Can you guide the morning star? Does the hawk take flight when you give command? Why do you doubt my pow’r? 4. In your deepest hour of darkness I will give you wealth untold. When the silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul. 5. As the watchman waits for morning, and the bride awaits her groom, so we wait to hear your footsteps as we rest beneath your moon.

X HOLY DARKNESSRefrain:

Holy darkness, blessed night, heaven’s answer hidden from our sight. As we await you, O God of silence, we embrace your holy night.

  1. I have taught you the price of compassion; you have stood before the grave. Though my love can seem like a raging storm, this is the love that saves. 3. Were you there when I raised up the mountains? Can you guide the morning star? Does the hawk take flight when you give command? Why do you doubt my pow’r? 4. In your deepest hour of darkness I will give you wealth untold. When the silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul. 5. As the watchman waits for morning, and the bride awaits her groom, so we wait to hear your footsteps as we rest beneath your moon.

Refrain:

Holy darkness, blessed night, heaven’s answer hidden from our sight. As we await you, O God of silence, we embrace your holy night.

3. Were you there when I raised up the mountains? Can you guide the morning star? Does the hawk take flight when you give command? Why do you doubt my pow’r?

4. In your deepest hour of darkness I will give you wealth untold. When the silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul.

  1. As the watchman waits for morning, and the bride awaits her groom, so we wait to hear your footsteps as we rest beneath your moon.

Refrain:

Holy darkness, blessed night, heaven’s answer hidden from our sight. As we await you, O God of silence, we embrace your holy night.

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