Via Transformativa: From Glory to Glory / From Minded to Mindful

Preached on Sunday, June 10, 2012 at Jubilee! Circle, Columbia, SC

Readings: 1 Samuel 8:4-20: “Give us a king to govern us.” Mark 3:20-35: “He has gone out of his mind.”

Hear this sermon at the Jubilee! Circle Web site.

Our first song this morning comes from the English rock band, The Police. Formed in 1977, the Police hit the big time in the 1980s after releasing such songs as “Roxanne” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” This song comes from their 1983 album Synchronicity. “King of Pain” hit number 1 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart for five weeks in August 1983. Let’s try it:

There’s a little black spot on the sun today It’s the same old thing as yesterday

There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top There’s a flag-pole rag and the wind won’t stop [Chorus] I have stood here before, inside the pouring rain

With the world turning circles, running ’round my brain I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

Last week, a million people or so gathered in London to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth. It was an impressive party to mark the Queen’s 60th year as England’s monarch. There was a huge flotilla down the Thames and a concert featuring former Beatle Paul McCartney and Elton John among other famous headliners. There was even a contest for chefs to win a chance to cook a Diamond Jubilee dinner for the queen. Of course, the Brits have been in love with their monarchy for a long time – but, for all her jewels and mansions – all Queen Elizabeth really has is a lot of pomp and circumstance. Around the end of the 17th century, the monarchy’s power increasingly gave way to parliamentary rule in the U.K. So, while Elizabeth has the title of queen, she has no real authority over the British people. She doesn’t make laws, or send down decrees, and her Jubilee speech was the first time in a very long time that she had even publicly addressed her subjects. The British royalty have become merely figureheads – nothing more than an expensive distraction for British citizens – and others who love royalty – around the world. Even though the power of the monarchy has been diminished in this modern world, the people, just like in the days of Samuel, demand to be led – to be minded – by someone, like a president or a prime minister or even a group of someones like a Parliament or a Congress. Since time immemorial, we human beings have sought the perfect way to organize ourselves into a society. There have been communal societies, where each person takes responsibility for the good of the whole. There have been dictatorial societies, where power is vested in one person – who, more than likely, will rule ruthlessly over their society. In today’s Hebrew Scriptures, we witness how this ancient society began their tradition of kings. They had kings because the people demanded them. Samuel had presided over a succession of judges that had previously ruled over the people – settling disputes and using their power to keep society as fair and just as possible. Now, the people were tired of this participatory kind of government. Instead of being in the glory of mindfulness, where people took care of one another through an arbiter or judge, they wanted to give up their power and move backwards to the glory of being minded – of being taken care of and dictated to. The Holy assures Samuel that he didn’t do anything wrong – that the people were not rejecting him and his successful line of judges. Instead, the demand to be minded is a rejection of the Holy – and the Holy’s communal and justice-based spirit. In short, the people wanted a king – and God granted their request. God would bring them a succession of kings – and every single one of them would be a king – of pain.

There’s a little black spot on the sun today (That’s my soul up there) It’s the same old thing as yesterday (That’s my soul up there)

There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top (That’s my soul up there)

There’s a flag-pole rag and the wind won’t stop (That’s my soul up there) [Chorus] I have stood here before, inside the pouring rain

With the world turning circles, running ’round my brain I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.” “He will take … he will take … he will take.” There is not one passage from 1 Samuel on what the king will give. Instead, kings are there to take … to take your land, your money, your harvests, your sons and your daughters. When we live in this glory of being minded – we are in a state of constantly giving to the entity that minds us. We give our money, our time, our talent and even our precious children, to whatever we have set up to mind over us. As you listen to these words, you may become a bit appalled, and it would be easy here to start a rant against our own form of being minded here in the United States. But, just as the Hebrew people learned, all forms of human governance can be the source of corruption. We start out with good intentions – let’s pool our resources into something bigger than ourselves so we can help ourselves on a bigger level. In many ways, it works well – roads are built, railroads are built, forms of commerce become easier and easier. We fund a militia to protect us from outside threats. We use our money to fund education and provide assistance to those who have less. We come up with programs that help people get ahead and operate a justice system to enforce the laws of our particular society. Government, however, is only as good as the people who are involved, and power can inevitably corrupt even the best human being in the world. So, being minded is a risk, a gamble, that we as societies have decided to take, for better or for worse. When government works, when people are helped and equality and equity are achieved, then being minded can certainly be a glory. But, human imperfection will always play a role. When we turn over our freedom to the whims of a corrupt government, then we find out the consequences of being minded do not always glorify the best human qualities, let alone the Holy. Samuel tried to warn his people – and still warns us – that whenever we put a king in charge of our lives, whether it’s a government, a relationship, a job, a bank account or even a sporty new car – that king may bring us joy for a time, but kings will inevitably bring nothing but pain. In those moments, we’ll find that being minded often means we’ve cut ourselves off from relationship with the Holy. Breathe deeply.

There’s a fossil that’s trapped in a high cliff wall (That’s my soul up there)

There’s a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall (That’s my soul up there) There’s a blue whale beached by a spring tide’s ebb (That’s my soul up there) There’s a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web (That’s my soul up there) [Chorus] I have stood here before, inside the pouring rain

With the world turning circles, running ’round my brain I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain [Bridge] There’s a king on a throne with his eyes torn out

There’s a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt There’s a rich man sleeping on a golden bed

There’s a skeleton choking on a crust of bread

When we live in this glory of being minded – we tell ourselves all sorts of stories. We feel safer with someone else in charge. Even when bad things happen, like wars or terrorist attacks, we feel safer knowing someone higher up than us has authority – authority we have given them – to take care of the situation. It is these negative stories of fear, and the insistence that we have a king or some other leader over us, that keeps us stuck and unable to move into the glory of mindfulness. Author and life coach Martha Beck tells the story of seeing a young giraffe being killed and eaten by a lion during a trip to Africa. The experience was so traumatic for her that she had an anxiety attack in the airport on the way home – literally feeling like she was that giraffe being attacked by the lion. She realized it is this deep fear of death, of being totally consumed by life, that makes humans so ready to give up their freedoms – and their direct connection to the Holy – to be minded over by authority figures. She imagines that attack, that took place as several horrified adult giraffes looked on, could have become that community’s 9/11. It would have become a touchstone for the giraffe community to feel unsafe. They’d sleep in shifts, declare war on the lions, kill as many cubs as they could in retaliation, and live in such total fear that some would even kill themselves to avoid all the painful memories of that terrible event. But, here’s the difference. The giraffes don’t obsess over past instances of insecurity. That doesn’t mean they don’t endure the terror. They do – and then they move on. Instead of rehearsing the past, reliving it to the point of needing a therapist to talk it out with, or pills to take the edge off, or becoming so fearful that they attack another living being or form armies or governments to protect them – they simply become mindful. All wild animals are aware of their surrounds – they are also aware that they could become prey to a bigger or stronger animal – but they don’t allow that knowledge to ruin this moment. When we insist on being minded, we are revealing the truth that we never feel safe enough to enjoy right now. Animals don’t have that problem. They are in every moment of their lives, whether it’s a moment of terror, or a moment of serenity. Does that mean we have to live our lives like animals, not grieving over disaster or not protecting ourselves from future attacks? No. What it means is we have to stop letting the past, and our need to feel secure at all costs, prevent us from really living into the life the Holy calls us to live. The Holy calls us to move to the glory of mindfulness where our lives are still minded – but the difference is, in this glory we are minded by the Holy and ruled not by fear, but by love. Breathe deeply.

There’s a red fox torn by a huntsman’s pack (That’s my soul up there)

There’s a black-winged gull with a broken back (That’s my soul up there) There’s a little black spot on the sun today It’s the same old thing as yesterday [Chorus] I have stood here before, inside the pouring rain

With the world turning circles, running ’round my brain I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign

But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

King of pain

I’ll always be king of pain, I’ll always be king of pain

Our second song, comes from a quartet of sisters known as Sister Sledge. They grew up singing in church in Philadelphia, and formed as a group in 1972. Today’s song was released in 1979 and went gold with the help of dance clubs playing it over and over again. “We Are Family” has been used as the theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates when they won the world series in 1979 and has been in movies from Private Benjamin to Madea’s Family Reunion. Let’s try it.

We are family I got all my sisters with me We are family Get up everybody and sing (Repeat)

In our Jesus story, we find our guy in a familiar setting, surrounded by a crowd, only this crowd is gathering around Jesus’ home in Nazareth. Jesus is trying to get in some rest after preaching before large crowds and healing the sick along the way. Instead, a mob decides to come over. They’ve heard about Jesus and his works and they’ve come to one, inescapable conclusion: Jesus is as crazy as a bedbug. “He has gone out of his mind,” they said. They got so concerned they called the Scribes in Jerusalem – those guys who were in charge of minding the affairs of the Jewish people. And, they called Jesus’ family – his ultimate minders in this society. Jesus, by doing all this crazy stuff like healing people and preaching about love, mercy and forgiveness, was bringing shame to his family. This was not an instance of people flocking to Jesus to hear his message. No, this was an intervention. The community brought in the people who were supposed to minding Jesus, the Scribes, the officials, and his family. They accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan – filled with an evil demon! Whatever it was that had put this poor boy so out of his mind, it needed to be exorcised right this minute – and those in authority, the Scribes and his family – were just the people to do it. It’s easy to see why people thought Jesus was out of his mind. He was preaching against the very society of minders that his kinsmen had constructed to make them feel safe and secure. It’s true that the Jews dreamed of a world where God’s law ruled. They truly wanted a Messiah to be raised up and revolutionize the political world – to get rid of their Roman minders and bring back that kingly system of rule that Samuel had given them – only with the Messiah, God’s true king, as ruler. But, Jesus kept up this crazy talk that the kingdom of God would not be found out there, in a political system, no matter how fair and equitable it was. Instead, Jesus said, the kingdom of God can only be found within – in that divine part of each of us that needs no outside minder, but instead only needs the mindfulness that unites us not just with God, but with each other. Crazy, right? Even today, people who believe that get called crazy. Even we, as progressive Christians, still yearn for a fairer system of minders – a government that can be the best people can make it with limited corruption and maximum benefit for the most people. We dream of that and there’s nothing wrong with working for that. But, to move from the glory of being minded ultimately means that we break free of all earthly authority over us and become mindful – which is a state where we so thoroughly realize our unity with every creature on this earth that all we want to do is love it, take care of it, and see it thrive. This is the place where we realize, at the deepest level, we are family. Crazy, right?

Everyone can see we’re together as we walk on by {Hey!} And we fly just like birds of a feather,

I won’t tell no lie

{All!} of the people around us, they say,

can they be that close Just let me state for the record

we’re giving love in a family dose

CHORUS: We are family I got all my sisters with me

We are family Get up everybody and sing (Repeat)

So, how do we move from this glory of being minded to the glory of mindfulness? I mean, it’s one thing for Jesus to do that – but, we’re not Jesus, right? It’s true, we’re not Jesus, but we have the same abilities he had. We have the ability to move out of our need to be minded and into the oneness with this world that he attained – because we have something very important in common with Jesus – we are all what Martha Beck calls “wayfinders.” She defines a wayfinder as “people who feel an internal call to heal any authentic part of the world, beginning with their own true nature.” This describes Jesus and his ministry perfectly. He was all about healing, returning people to their authentic selves, and healing his own divine nature. Beck says the best way to drop into our wayfinding nature, and experience that oneness Jesus and the Holy call us into, is to “drop into wordlessness” – to abandon the language that only further confuses us and makes us feel insecure and disconnected from one another and God. This may sound contradictory since Jesus did a lot of talking during his ministry. But, observe how Jesus spoke. He spoke in parables – in stories that so confused those around him, they were left speechless – or in a state of wordless wonder. This is what made Jesus such a powerful wayfinder – he knew how to use language to instantly connect people to the wordless world of the Holy – that place of exquisite silence where we realize that we have far more in common with one another than we’ll ever have differences. In this wordless world, when we stop labeling the world as good, bad, ugly, or even beautiful and wonderful, we can feel our ultimate connection not just to the Holy, but to the sun, the moon, the stars, the lions, the giraffes, the leopards, the snakes, and their kin, the politicians. We feel at one with our family, with our loved ones, with strangers and even with our enemies. It is in this state of Holy wordlessness that all barriers disappear and we understand how deeply we rely on the whole for us to exist as individuals at all. Crazy, right? Jesus’ family thought so. They come to his house to plead with him to give up this crazy notion that human beings could live any other way but in a society that minded over them. This passage makes it seem that Jesus rejects his family, but this is far from what he does. Instead, he says: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He points to those sitting around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. Remember, he’s saying this to a crowd who has come to conduct an intervention – to get him to stop what he’s doing – and instead of rejecting his family, he draws the circle bigger and includes even this crowd of detractors and disbelievers in his family – because when they realize their oneness, they, too, will want to move from the glory of being minded to the glory of mindfulness. But, how do we do that? Jesus tells us quite clearly. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. What, Jubilants, is the will of God? It’s very simple, and it’s the hardest thing we can ever do … love. Love is the only will of God. The Hebrew scriptures are filled with hundreds of rules to follow, but they all spring from one simple – but oh, so difficult – commandment to love. If you love your neighbor, you won’t kill him. If you love your neighbor, you won’t steal from her. If you love your neighbor, you won’t covet what they have. If you love your neighbor, you will, without fail, do the will of God. Let that sink in – and drop into the wordless wonder that is a profound connection with the Holy and every living thing. This is where we are aware of the unity of all creation – where we are joined with the lion, the lamb, the rich and the poor. When you get into that state, people may think you’re a bit woo woo, or they may just find you downright mad. And when they call you crazy, Jubilants, and they will – all you need to say is: “Welcome to the family.”

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun to get our share of this world’s delights

(High) high hopes we have for the future

and our goal’s in sight

(We!) No, we don’t get depressed, here’s what we call our golden rule Have faith in you and the things you do,

you won’t go wrong,

this is our family jewel

CHORUS: We are family I got all my sisters with me

We are family Get up everybody and sing

Oh, Yeah!