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Other Articles By Rev. Brad Wishon:
Ah! The Power of Prayer:
"Will it Go Round in Circles?"
Prayer is not something that happens when we are only on our knees. There
have been moments of prayer where I have been sitting with someone in
a restaurant talking and it was a greater moment of prayer, than anytime
I have ever been in a church. Prayer is occurring each time we make deep
connection with who we are, with God, with other people. Every time that
we look beyond the facades and pretences and see who people really are,
there is prayer. Every time we know ourselves more honestly, there is
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The Power of Prayer:
"The Fish in the Water is Thirsty!?!"
Shepherd Metropolitan Community Church
no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and unhampered,
but a maze of passages, through which we must seek our way, lost and
confused, now and again checked in a blind alley. But always, if we
have faith, a door will open for us. Not perhaps one that we ourselves
would ever have thought of, but one that will ultimately prove good
the Forward of "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in
the Jordan. And having come up out of the water, immediately Jesus saw
the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and
a voice came from heaven, 'You are my greatly loved child; you make
is a real worrisome statistic. The rate of consumption of dairy products
has been on the decline in the United States for the last decade. Worried
Wisconsin farmers, dairy farmers, sometimes known as "cheese heads." That
is because the Green Bay Packers are in Green Bay, Wisconsin and they
bring all of these "cheese heads" to this stadium for their celebration
of this and cheese is a very big thing in Wisconsin. They searched high
and low for the appropriate advertising strategy to meet the challenge
for a declining of cheese sales. They came up with this: "For centuries,
poets and philosophers believed that the moon was made out of cheese.
In 1969, we sent a man to the moon. He discovered that it wasnít. When
he found that the moon was not made of cheese, we havenít been back since."
The ad hit on a deep truth. Silly as that may seem, "that which draws
us, that which captures our imagination has the power to influence all
that we do and all that we become."
I tell you that there is a greater statistic that we all need to be aware
of and at the risk of sounding like becoming an old fundamentalist preacher.
Heaven forbid that is something that you would never hear me do. It is
a decline in prayer. Iím not talking about prayer as in: "Oh you need
to make sure you pray at night before you go to bedÖ You know ‚ "Now I
lay me down to sleep" (talk about terrorizing children through the night!).
Iím not talking about prayer as an obligation or a duty. Iím talking about
prayer as connection. Prayer as sharing. Prayer as being with and being
in. You see, people have or take less and less time for reflection, for
quiet, for silence. Heaven forbid that there be a moment of silence.
Today, we begin an 8 Part Series reflection that I call: "Ah! The Power
The season of Epiphany is all about light and awareness and coming to
an understanding. Itís a Greek word meaning, revealing - opening up. I
like that. Epiphany, the day, which is always January 6, is celebrated
as the arriving of the Magi, the wise men, who arrive in Bethlehem only
to realize that they were witnessing an amazing miracle. The season is
about dawning awareness. Traditionally, we see it that Jesus becomes more
and more aware of his own divine nature. But we also understand that the
reason that Jesus becomes aware is so we can become aware of our own divine
nature. It means nothing if it is only in Jesus.
Why spend so much time on a topic that most people think they understand?
I believe a true life of prayer, of meditation, of devotion, of open-ness
is the elemental basis for forward growth and positive change. Itís what
allows us to embrace it. Only in connection with the source of "all-that-is,"
the cosmos, God, the "out there," can we grown beyond our present state.
How many of you would like to grow beyond your present state? How many
of us want to grow beyond where weíre at emotionally, spiritually or physically.
The only way to connect to the "out-there" is to connect to the "in-here."
It is in the depths of our Spirit, in the sanctuary of our heart, in the
deep recesses of our lives, what the Hebrew word, nephash, calls our soul.
It doesnít mean anything except the "breath of the divine." What is a
living being about you is the "breath of the divine." It is only in connecting
with that that we only connect with the "out-there." You see we have all
received divine breath. Itís why weíre all here. Epiphany is the discovering
of how alive that can be.
We and creation are the depository of all that the divine is. Everything
God is, we are. We just donít know it yet and we donít put it to good
use most of the time. To tap that creative energy, we must tap "who we
are." We must become aware. So we must seek growth through action. How
many of us seek growth by changing everything around us? Weíll change
our home, job, lover, friend - weíll change anything to change us. And
after we go through all that, what do we have? We have us. Some of us
will do it by giving ourselves and giving our all to a good cause. Good
causes need your all. They also need it for the right reasons.
of us will do it with groups. There are group junkies! They will find
every group on the planet and become a part of it until they are inundated
with group stuff and nothing of their own. Some say groups are bad. None
of this is bad. The problem is weíre not starting where we need to start.
The growth toward the "out-there," toward all that we can be. Is that
not what God is? All that we can be? Toward "out-there" does not happen
toward action alone. Sometimes the greatest action is stillness. Meister
Eckhart was a 14th century Christian mystic and preacher, and he said,
"The closest thing to God, in the entire world, is stillness." For the
next 8 issues we will explore what prayer is and what it is not and how
we utilize prayer for forward growth and positive change in our lives
and in the life of the church.
There are two key elements for this study. One element that we will be
using is mystics, poets, philosophers from every religious tradition known
to humanity. I believe that many people can give us wisdom about God and
we should pay attention. The other thing that we will be using is "Who
Moved My Cheese" the book by Spencer Johnson, M.D. Get it and read it!
Itís only 80 pages. You can do it. Itís simple.
Around 1400 CE, 600 years ago, an Indian religious poet was born named
Kebir. He was born a Muslim, embraced Hinduism, as well and decided to
be both. He became a weaver by profession and he is one of the most often
quoted poets in the entire world. Youíve probably heard his stories and
do not remember that they are from him. Why is he one of the most often
quoted poets in the world? Because he certainly could not embrace that
there were any sects that could say that they had the market on the truth.
He took some of what he learned from his Hindu basis, Muslim faith, the
Christians around him, he took a little of everything and decided to be
what he was and let the rest do whatever they wished. He made the simplest
of statements. One of the ways that Kabir speaks to the human spirit is
through what he calls his dohas. They are two line poems that embrace
a truth that sinks deep within us. Theyíre incisive and insightful. The
title of this sermon comes from one of Kebirís dohas. He said:
"I laugh when I hear the fish in the water is thirsty."
It sounds odd, and yet I believe it tells all of our stories. There are
all kinds of ways, methods, paths, to get what we need. Yet that which
we need most, our deepest need, is reconnection with the source of "all-that-is"
and how many of us so often feel disconnected from that? Maybe itís because
of experiences of what were going through in our lives, challenges on
the job, our home life, whatever. We feel like somehow we are disconnected
from God - from that "out-there." Kabir says, "I laugh when I hear the
fish in the water are thirsty."
There are so many powerful tools we can use to reconnect - ways and methods.
Yet do not pass up what is already there, what you already know, and that
is the story that Kabir tells us. You see, a lot of times, especially
I find for people from GLBT communities, we really have an anti-approach
to our tradition of faith. Not without reason, because sometimes itís
been pretty cruel or pretty wrong or pretty bad and some parts of Christianity
are just really sucky. So I understand why there are people who say "Well,
it just doesnít do a thing for me." So we look for all kinds of different
ways, Iíve done it myself. I love Buddhist meditation. I love Native American
Rituals. They are wonderful things! Tools. But I learned something along
the way in doing all of that. I learned that you should not pass up what
already touches you and ignore it just because you find something new.
You see, there is great power in that which already touches us.
Iím going to share a story with you. Jim Mitulsky was the Pastor of San
Francisco MCC for many years. He is a fascinating, wonderful man. He is
a theologian and deeply, deeply spiritual, although most people would
describe him as a Unitarian. Many people would even say that he probably
doesnít embrace much of Christianity. I disagree with them. Jim used to
conclude every worship service like this, with a benediction. "And the
blessings of God, Goddess, Eternal Spirit, be with you. AMEN." Now there
are a lot of Christians who would freak over that one. Goddess is just
the female term of God. Whatís the difference of saying Father and Mother?
But there are a lot of Christians who would freak and who would think
that Jim would not embrace Christianity, when in fact, Jim has a broad
spirituality. He is very broad and very deep. Jim also lives with HIV
and in 1995 he faced one of the greatest challenges of his life. He wound
up in the hospital with massive infections and there was nothing they
could do. He was placed in Intensive Care and they said "Jim, we cannot
save you." Do you know what he wanted right then? This Milwaukee born
Catholic wanted his Rosary.
You see, sometimes we turn to those things that are where we start because
going to where we started has great power. It can touch us and it can
move us. So I think that the message that we get from Kabir is that it
is okay to explore every path we want but do not ignore the water already
around you. "I laugh when I hear the fish in the water is thirsty."
Jesus grew up in an area of the world that was a crossroads of many religions.
He learned a lot of interesting things in Galilee of the Gentiles. When
it came time for him to understand more of who he was, what did he do?
He reached for a tradition from his history. You see, Jesus, as he became
more and more aware that there was something different happening to him,
needed reassurance. Jesus went to John, his own cousin, and he said "Baptize
me." Itís something our people have done for centuries. "Baptize me, John,"
and John is like: "You already understand whatís going on in your life.
Why do you need me to baptize you?" Jesus says: "Donít ask me, John. Just
do it!" And John baptized Jesus.
like the Gospel of Markís version of this, better than any of the other.
Do you know why? In Markís version the heavens open and Jesus, alone,
sees God. And in Markís verse, the voice doesnít open and speak to everyone.
The voice talks to Jesus and says: "You are my greatly loved son. You
make me smile."
went back to his source, his roots, to begin the change to reconnect.
Baptism is the place for each of us, for those of us raised in the Christian
tradition, whether it was infant baptism or baptism as a child or adult,
I donít care. It is sort of the basis. The place we go back to. The reason
Jesus said for everyone to go get baptized is because Jesus wanted everyone
to see heaven open, to have a dove land on them and to hear the voice
of God speak to them and say: "You are my greatly loved daughter. You
are my greatly loved son. YOU make me smile!" Thatís what happens through
baptism. Thatís what Christian tradition teaches us.
I practice a wide variety of spiritual devotions. Over and over again,
when I feel that disconnectiveness, I return to the water that Iím in,
thatís all around me, and I drink deeply again. Donít, for one minute,
think that I believe the same things that I believed when I was first
baptized. When I was first baptized I believed that it was like this magical
thing! Well, now I believe it is a magical thing. I donít believe anything
that I used to believe about baptism when I was first baptized. I also
donít believe anything about prayer that I was taught when I first was
taught to pray but I still pray. Understandings changed but it isnít all
about understanding. Most of the time itís about simple assurance, which
is the knowledge that God is with you, so when youíre thirsty, why ignore
the water youíre already in?
We start this journey of awareness that was, for most of us, the start
of spiritual awareness. We do so with reaffirming baptism, the water we
are already in; baptism as a re-connection to the source of creation;
baptism as the voice that says: "You are my greatly loved child;" baptism
as the voice that says: "You make me smile."
Where do you want to grow to? My hope for you is over these weeks
that this will be a growing awareness of all that you are and all that
you may become. "That you will get it." Stop now and take this moment.
Where do you want to grow to? If you could grow to anywhere, where would
it be? I encourage you to write that down today and do one thing. Underneath
whatever you list of where you want to grow, draw one blank line and let
that be for what you do not know. You may be amazed at where you grow
I want to close by reading your first lesson. You know, I too, laugh when
I hear the fish in the water is thirsty. Start drinking.
Amen, Shalom and Blessed Be.
Rev. Brad Wishon is the Pastor of Gentle Shepherd MCC in Phoenix, AZ.
Copyright © 2003 by the author
All Rights Reserved
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