Copy of email I sent to my spiritual director this morning, archived here as: (1) a record of issues we’ve been taking up along the way; and (2) a reminder of my overall direction so I can consult it when I need to get off of tangents and back on the path.
Hi, Sister —
Just a brief note confirming our next meeting at 2:30 p.m. Monday and giving you the usual heads-up on what I’ve been doing along my spiritual journey since we last met. This one should be short, since I’ve been distracted by other matters. Including the deportation of a Lutheran pastor who was beginning doctoral work at LSTC (the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago). I’ll link you in case it’s of interest. …
My headline is “T-shirt designer to bishop: ‘I’ve never heard of a church like this, I thought they were all like those crazy people on TV’,” and it’s about what ELCA Lutherans perceive as harassment over social justice issues, but other posts to my blog are more germane to the things you and I have been talking about.
1. My most recent, which I headlined “Taking stock of a year’s spiritual direction as Easter gives way to Pentecost,” started out being about an anthem we’re practicing in the traditional choir at Peace Lutheran. But it turned into something quite different once I started writing …
A couple of things stood out as I reflected over the past year. One was my experience with lectio divina and the Examen — might be more accurate to say Fr. [James] Martin’s take on them, since that’s what I’ve studied most carefully and adapted to my own purposes. I wrote:
Me? I don’t pretend to be focused and disciplined. And I tend to conflate lectio with the Examen. What happened today? Where was God in it? Or was God there at all? Were there any moments of grace? What did I do right? Where did I mess up? What am I going to do tomorrow? Finally, we act [quoting Fr. Martin]. And I tend to do it on the fly.
In fact, I can look back over the past year. In one sense, there were too many little moments of grace to record here. A smile, a kind word, a (verbal) pat on the back when I got a letter to the editor in print. A time I bit my tongue and didn’t make a catty remark. A reprieve from bad news in the emergency room. On the other hand, there were a few moments that stand out.
Other points that stood out: (1) That ELCA T-shirt that says, “God’s work. Our hands”; and (2) the “great commandment” I learned as a boy in the Episcopal Church. There’s more. My post wanders all over the map, in fact! But those two things — the T-shirt and the reading from Morning Prayer on Sunday mornings back home — are as good a summary of my faith, as it stands now, as any. I quoted the reading, which I knew as the Great Commandment, and added something about the T-shirt:
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. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
I guess it’s a little too long to fit on a T-shirt, but there it is. And it certainly fits with my yellow-and-black T-shirt from ELCA. “God’s work. Our hands.” On this great commandment and my T-shirt slogan hang the law and the gospel as I understand them.
2. The other post I’m linking to is my attempt to do the kind of imaginative prayer we talked about last month. As usual, I journaled it. The resulting post, I headlined, “‘Feed my sheep …’ by the Sea of Galilee: A spiritual exercise for the 4th Sunday after Easter.”
I thought the exercise was quite successful! At least, I enjoyed it and thought I got some real insights out of it.
One was that I’ve actually been there — as I was journaling, I realized I’ve visited the Franciscan shrine at the traditional location of the miracle on the Sea of Galilee. (I even found some pictures Debi took there and included them.) I can’t really go through the post and pick out summary quotes like I usually do, but this one comes close to expressing what I learned from Fr. Martin’s exercise:
I also understand my meditation on John 21 barely scratched the surface of the text. When I started it, I didn’t realize the traditional setting of this post-Easter miracle was virtually in the same place as the miracle of loaves and fishes. (Well, down the hill a few meters.) I had a hazy notion that the stories of Jesus feeding people with bread and fish were related to to the Eucharist, but that was only one of any number of signs and miracles I’ve read about. I’ve never much cared for signs, portents, dreams and miracles, anyway. The miracles that speak to me come with ordinary daily living.
I definitely want to try imaginative prayer again, and this passage suggests why. The exercise conveys the presence of God in ways that fully engage me. Something about being there, about seeing the black pebbles on the beach and the stone where tradition says the risen Christ laid out the morning’s fresh-caught fish for St. Peter and the disciples, brings it down to me … becomes the word made flesh. Flesh and fish and basalt pebbles on a lakeshore, the stuff of daily life. Next time, I think I may just move up the same hill to the Church of the Multiplication and the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Unless, of course, the Spirit moves me in other directions.
Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll see you Monday at 2:30.
* * *
Peter Ellertsen, 2125 S Lincoln Ave, Springfield IL 62704. For random notes on dulcimers, history, hymnody, cultural studies and all kinds of music, visit my research blog “Hogfiddle” at hogfiddle.wordpress.com.