My Treasure by Diane Beuerman August 7, 2016, 12th Sunday after Pentecost
This large suitcase is for my trip. I have put into it all my needs. But wait, Luke in today’s gospel tells us that God will provide for our journey. All I need is my treasure and that can fit into this small purse. I carry it because I need something tangible, a reminder that I have a treasure. I know that even when this container falls apart, my treasure will remain. I also know that my treasure is far too expansive to fit into a small space. even so, it is my comfort blanket.
Last month I went on retreat with my daughter Kim. She is training to be an oblate at Holy Wisdom Monastery, an ecumenical Benedictine monastery in Madison, Wisconsin. They were kind enough to welcome me on the oblate retreat. Kim and I stayed in a hermitage up a road from the retreat house and church. It is there that I first heard the term Peregrinatio in reference to traveling, taking a trip. It is our personal journey with God.
We are all on a journey. Celtic Christianity calls our journey, Peregrinatio. This journey , this Peregrinatio, is our own private spiritual unfolding. “This journey,” says Christine V. Paintner in her book, Soul of a Pilgrim, “calls us out into the wild places where God is not tamed and domesticated. We are asked to release our agendas and discover the direction for our lives…we are called to yield in each moment to a greater presence at work in our lives. We must surrender our egos and our willfulness for a larger wisdom to move through us. Peregrinatio is a call to wander for the love of God.”
We have all started our journey.
I quote from Luke in today’s gospel. ” For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You have heard this many times. For weeks now I have asked myself about the treasure in my small purse, the treasure I need for my own peregrinatio. As you may have guessed, the treasure is, I believe, God’s unfailing, unconditional love for us. This love is so powerful that it explodes into all creation. It is indestructible and all the darkness in the world cannot destroy this light. It survives our worst behavior and holds us close as we allow God to guide us on our life’s road.
I see a triangle, with God’s love at the top point. At the other two points we have our own love for God and our love for each other. The lines between the points are in constant motion with the love moving back and forth and around and including our love for ourselves. God’s love for us allows us to seek ways to love both God and others and all of creation.
Possessing this treasure requires that we pay attention to it and communicate with it in order to maintain a lively relationship. Only recently have I asked myself about loving God directly. It seems easier to communicate with God by loving others. We know that feeding the hungry, seeking an economic system that offers employment, health care, good education, shelter, nonviolence, for all, is an important way to show love for God. Loving God directly though, without a third party, helps us to stay grounded and gives us courage to live our daily lives.
Recently I have learned to pause, pause and stay with the moment. Honestly, I am still learning. Here is a short and simple story.
I often walk home with my grandchildren from their school and walk alone to the school. Last spring, I always passed an older man waiting for the bus on Harris St. He was from China and spoke no English.
We greeted each other with a “hello” and a nod. This was our simple ritual. Often I would comment on the weather and the beauty around us and his response was always a smile. He had a great smile. This exchange became important so I always walked down Harris and he was always looking around and ready with a greeting. One day there was a slight hesitation in him and only after turning the corner did I realize that he wanted to say more. His bus had come and he was on it. I never saw him again and was told that he had returned to China. I promised myself that I would try to pause more often in my daily life and not rush to the next event. This is a simple story. What are your simple stories?
Pausing has become my mantra. Pausing for a quiet moment. Pausing to become a part of God’s Love triangle. Pausing not only to see the people around me but to connect directly with God, to say hello.These are the moments when we forget ourselves and connect with something bigger. Our meditation can occur while playing a musical instrument, working in the garden, doing the dishes by hand, walking along the ocean shore or hiking in the woods. It can happen while sitting in church, listening to a chant. My husband Dave often said that becoming lost in a math problem or discovering a new math equation was a spiritual activity which somehow included God. I am sure that you have other activities that bring you closer to God. After church today I would love to hear your simple stories.
Thomas Merton has written that ” Our union with others is essential to our union with God and our union with God is essential to our union with others. Neither one supersedes the other; rather each presupposes the other.” The Christian mystics, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Merton, our own Evelyn Underhill, St. Francis, St. Paul and Jesus himself remind us that God guides us when we let go of our own agendas and egos and listen.
Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth century English mystic, came originally from the ancient Celtic territory north of Norwich. She tells us that “The soul is highest, noblest, worthiest when it is lowest, humblest and gentlest.” Christ connects us to the “great root” of our being. She goes on to say that “We come from the womb of the eternal. We are not simply made by God: we are made of God.”
Therefore it follows that we desire to know God since we are closely related. “Christ’s soul and our soul are like an everlasting knot.” This is the Celtic knot. The more we truly know ourselves the more we will know Christ. Those desires we try to satisfy with worldly goods are our desire for the treasure of God’s love.
The good news is that we are connected to God no matter how unworthy we feel. Thomas Merton also tells us that “God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers and sisters. God is asking us to venture in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all. We are renewed all of us in God’s likeness. We must laugh at the preposterous idea of worthiness.
Contemplative prayer is a humbling experience since there is a realization that God is in control and is not going to say “Good Job.” It is humbling also since our minds find it difficult to become still. We keep trying though and something unexplainable happens. The mystics agree that contemplative prayer helps us not only feel God’s love for the world but some of the pain in the world is also realized.
This purse, of course, can not keep love confined or the Christ within us captive.
You have all heard the now famous quote from Julian of Norwich which is not naive optimism since she was aware of the destructive energies that move within us and within the universe and she knew that our longing for God will never be erased from the human soul. Therefore she could say with complete confidence that
All will be well and all shall be well and all manner of things will be well I end with a Taize chant I learned at Ressurection a few years ago. The Lord is my light, my light and salvation in God I trust, In God I trust.