November 18, 2014
The Feast of St. Hilda of Whitby
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment…
(Book of Common Prayer 324)
As you may have noticed, I am inviting the parish community into an intentional conversation around what it might mean to be a “mindful church.” This language or image may be a bit unfamiliar to you-or maybe not. Either way, I invite you to reflect on what it means to be aware-intentionally aware-of why we “do what we do” as the church…who we are as disciples of Christ in the world today.
This call to mindfulness lies at the core of the wonderful prayer from the Rite One service of the Holy Eucharist. What does it mean to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind? The Bible tells us that this is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:34-40) When Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees, they wanted to trap Jesus in the bog of a legal understanding of compassion: with so many laws and rules to follow in their religious practice, surely Jesus would give a misguided answer! But Jesus invites them into a practice of mindfulness.
Bishop Wright has invited the entire diocese into a conversation around purpose. What is the purpose of the church? Of our parishes? Of the diocese? Of our own individual discipleship? In my conversations with him, I have reflected that our conversations around purpose have their root in a reflection on mindfulness. How are we aware of our identity as members of Christ’s Body in the world today? How do we cultivate this awareness? How do we reflect and evaluate if the many things we “do” as a parish community are in line, in sync, in resonance, with this awareness? It is an important conversation to have in a world that can be so obsessed with success and accomplishment…and that is riddled with anxiety and fear.
Last Sunday evening, I was invited to give the homily at the annual Community Thanksgiving Service. It was a wonderful space with our brothers and sisters from other denominations. In that space, I invited them to reflect on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5-) Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus. Share Jesus’ mind, Jesus’ wisdom…his perspective of the world…his awareness. It is a radical vocation that has become a prayer for me, a challenge for my own vocation. We are not called to settle with a “What would Jesus do” mentality; rather, we are called to a radical embodiment of Christ’s love in the world.
Jesus’ mindfulness-and our awareness of it and participation with it-is rooted in his self-emptying: who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:6-7). Jesus emptied himself, and it was his emptiness-his ability to get beyond himself, to release his own loaded agendas if you will-that enabled him to embrace all of creation.
I believe we are called to such a practice of mindfulness as a church community. It is a radical call to be sure…one that far surpasses any “cultural Christianity” that we encounter in the world around us. It is a call to awareness that challenges us sink even deeper into God’s love.
So, I invite you to look and listen for reflections on being a “mindful church.” See what resonates with you…what interests you…what surprises you! And, let’s keep the conversation going.