By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin
In the madness of keeping up, a gentler invitation has entered our hearts, revealing the depth of our attachments to status and things. It whispers, “less, less, less”—echoing in the cavernous soul, trembling the foundations of this life we’ve made thus far.
What is small and quiet can become most mighty. Such is the way of Christ. Just one thought planted, proposing an alternative way, screeches to a halt the illusions of success, casting light on the hidden motivations for our money and time. We gasp at how subtle and impactful the neglect of our deepest values can be. We barely remember how, along the way, we traded in these values for a dream that was never truly ours.
What do we really need? What does matter most? Sacred conversations with courageous souls, unwilling to live in the wearying status quo, spark conviction in us anew. We, too, can choose a simpler way—discerning for ourselves what is necessary and what is abundance. Liberation from materialism beckons, release from the incessant cultural chant of “more, more, more.” Sometimes we share stories to share courage. I am grateful for the handfuls of fresh courage we have received.
This Lent, we have asked writers to share their stories of sacred resistance after the model of Jesus in the desert in the Daily Bread Blog (You can subscribe here: http://www.cofchrist.org/blog/daily-bread#!/). They are stories of release and awareness, of growing honesty and hopeful transformation. We invite you to journey this Lenten way with us, finding new courage and conviction in stories shared. How is the Spirit inviting you to resist and release in the desert this Lent?
As we receive these stories and consider the intersections with our own, you are also invited into a practice of Spiritual Freedom (click here to access the practice), which is about becoming radically available to God as we discover and release distractions and attachments.
Additional Lenten Resources, including a retreat companion on Sacred Restraint, can be found here: https://spiritualformationcenter.org/news-and-events/lent-2017/
However you practice Lent this year, may it be a time of transformation and renewal for ourselves, our communities, and the world. Blessings of courage as you resist and release along the Lenten way!
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin
Sometimes what is most profound is in the details.
A beautiful Advent worship had been planned. A young girl, beloved by our congregation, with severe physical disabilities was invited to light the Advent candle. As she rolled to the front of our circle in her wheel chair, Gail (our pastor) realized she would not be able to bend to the table where the candles were displayed.
Gail lifted two candles from the Advent cluster, one already lit and one waiting for flame. Handing the unlit candle to the young girl, she held the other one in her own hand, catching hot wax as it dripped down the side. Arms reached toward one another as one light became two.
The service continued, but as Gail sat back down beside me, I saw the wax already cooling on her fingertips. This sight became to me a symbol of the presence I also felt– God with us. I deeply admired Gail’s compassionate leadership, her impulse for inclusion, her sacrificial act to bear light for and with another.
Bearing light is not easy. It may result in hot wax on your fingertips, or other forms of discomfort and inconvenience as we make a way for the peaceable kin-dom to flourish among us. Being a witness to this light-bearing restored hope in me, and a renewed conviction about the light I am called to bear in places darkened by fear or despair.
However we hold the light and in whatever place, what was clear to me in that moment was the incomprehensible width of invitation. It is a light for all people, within all people, carried by each one. As we move toward Christmas, may we reach toward flame and heat held by others brave enough to guide the way, that one light may become many.
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” –Luke 1: 40-45, NRSV
I love the image at the heart of this Advent text. Mary and Elizabeth, both unexpected carriers of this new life gift, greet in joy as they recognize the divine life within each other. Elizabeth proclaims that the child in her womb moves, leaps, in recognition of the child in Mary’s. The sacred life forming within us pulls us toward awareness of the sacred life forming in others.
This text describes our hope for relationship– that we might find ourselves expectant of the divine life present in every person we encounter. My own ministry has been shaped by Margaret Guenther’s simple wisdom, “when in doubt, I always assume that God is at work.” What if I adopted that attitude toward every person I greet? How might my relationships, expectations, and behaviors change if I assumed God’s presence and activity in everyone?
In my culture, we find ourselves in a tense time of suspicion, division, and increasing fear. As I ponder the meaning of Advent into these realities, the story of Mary and Elizabeth offers hope for what can be. Two women offer a sacred yes, bear an impossible promise, and delight in the presence of the sacred in each other.
May it be also with us. May we have the courage to see the sacred coming to life in each one, even in unexpected people and places. May we nurture that life as together we bring to birth a world of justice and love.