SACRAMENTAL EATING

Lenten Practice: Holy Attention
Daily Act: Eat mindfully and slowly. Savor each bite. Notice the texture, color, and taste of your food, and consider where it comes from. Give thanks for the nourishment that is yours this day.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“AWAKEN ME TO YOUR PRESENCE IN AND THROUGH ALL CREATION.”

A Mindfulness Meal Meditation
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation.
When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament.”
-Wendell Berry

We bless this act of eating. The blessing is for us- to see what is already sacred and life-giving- to approach this meal as sacrament. May we savor. May we be awake enough to feel the textures and linger in each taste. May we slow our pace enough to notice the holy in each bite- a communion.

Silence

We are mindful of all those in our world who do not have access to food, or who live in places where nutritious food is hard to find. While food is a basic human right, we are aware of how food has also become a justice issue and a matter of privilege. We are prayerful for those who hunger. We recommit ourselves in each act of eating to the cause of abolishing poverty in our own neighborhoods and across the globe.

Silence

We consider the devastation to our earth that has been caused by a food culture of separation and convenience. May we make wise choices as we consider the sources of our food and do our best to support, with our hands and wallets, the options most aligned with the thriving of all life. With the food before us now, we ponder the origins of the ingredients and consider the parts of the earth that have been gathered, and the people who gathered them, placed here at our table. What field? What plant? Whose hands? How did the sun warm and the rain nourish and the soil sustain?

Silence

We realize our absolute interconnectedness with all life knowing that what physically sustains us comes from the earth. My welfare resides in your welfare. Our very life depends on this complex system of lives of which we are a part. We are in awe and grateful to be alive on this planet. The act of eating humbles us. Each breath- sacred life. Each bite- sacred life.

Silence

We focus on hope- knowing that each day we have the opportunity to impact the earth and our local communities in positive, life-giving ways. We pause in reverence for this gift of LIFE that is ours this day. We pray that we will be wise stewards of our bodies and all the other bodies that share this sacred space as neighbors. May we live in ways that contribute to wholeness for all the earth, which leads to wholeness for ourselves.

Silence

Amen.

REASONS TO BE IN AWE

Lenten Practice: Holy Attention
Daily Act: Find reasons to be in awe. What amazes you throughout your day?
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“AWAKEN ME TO YOUR PRESENCE IN AND THROUGH ALL CREATION.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“We must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe.” Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace

A million miracles wait to greet us in every moment of the day.
The gift holy attention can bring is wider perspective.

I take a sip of my coffee and ponder its origins: Fair Trade Bolivian.

Where did these exact beans come from? I imagine the elements of the South American landscape that nurtured them to fullest life. I close my eyes and begin to see the soil that formed them, the sun that warmed them, the hands that picked them for a fair wage.

And whose hands, specifically? What woman or man, with a pulsing alive heart, with dreams and sorrows, with a family and community and story, reached out to harvest what I now enjoy? What was the thought in their mind at the exact moment they reached for these beans? What is their home like and what of their life? What events surrounded their day as they held in their work-worn hands the beans I ground fresh this morning which now join in awakening me to the holy of this day?

I revel at our connectedness.
I sip with new reverence.
I pray blessing upon the worker’s well-being who brought me this coffee this day, and the particular piece of earth that has been designated for this harvest.
O God- may my actions, small and large, honor the sacredness of the whole of creation.

Holy attention may also be the beginning of justice.

It is something so simple that can so easily be cast aside, rushed through on the way to more “important” things.

But take a moment to imagine this: I live in Ohio. There is still snow on the ground and I am drinking coffee from Bolivia.

A miracle!
Ancient enough ancestors would not believe it.

The day has barely begun and already I am in awe at an ordinary act, at how our lives are holy connected beyond what we can know. Already I can see how my choices create or diminish potential for God’s dream of peace to be made real.

I have not yet stepped outside to see the mystery of God in the face of my neighbors, or the possibility of spring waiting to break forth from barren branches, or to witness how the sun turns to gold everything within it’s reach.

If you look, really look, at whatever is before you and allow a sacred curiosity to emerge from your soul, you will find unceasing reasons to be in awe.

The Practice of Holy Attention: “Engaging in the practice of holy attention allows us to suspend our inner conversations and agendas and give reverent and receptive focus to a specific person or portion of God’s creation. Respecting another as an unrepeatable miracle whose life journey is unique and sacred brings awareness to and affirmation of God’s presence in all creation. We do this in the spirit of Christ who saw into the deep hearts of people and recognized their true identities as God’s beloved. During Lent, as we continue to empty ourselves (fasting) and evaluate our lives (examen), we begin to make space for awareness of where God is showing up in the world around us.” (2015 Guide for Lent, Community of Christ)

Justice and the Wilderness Way

Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Stand for justice. Is there an issue in your community or in the world that is calling you to engage in a deeper way? (For example: Write a letter to a political leader or give money to a sustainable cause to align your life with God’s vision of shalom.)
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The desert way of Lent does not waste time removing us from the comfortable status quo where our lives can sometimes settle. There is no hierarchy in the desert… just an ancient, holy, evolutionary pattern making life possible in seemingly desolate conditions. There is adaptation and endurance. There is resourcefulness and stewardship of bodily (and spiritual) reserves in dry times. There is surprising grace in the rare rain that pours out unrestricted on all life in equal measure.

In The Wisdom of The Desert, Thomas Merton describes the profound social and spiritual implications of the 4th century desert fathers and mothers. When Christianity became the religion of the empire, a trickle of concerned Christians made their way into the harshness of the wilderness to seek and preserve what they believed mattered most in the Christian life. Knowing how vulnerable we are to comfort, convenience, and status, they made every effort at great personal sacrifice to rid themselves of anything that kept them from being free in God’s Spirit to keep the mission of Christ alive in their time.

Merton suggests:

We cannot do exactly what they did. But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God… Let it suffice for me to say that we need to learn from these men of the fourth century how to ignore prejudice, defy compulsion and strike out fearlessly into the unknown. (P.24, The Wisdom of The Desert)

Lent is about justice. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days of spiritual resistance before he came back to unroll the scroll of Isaiah and provocatively proclaim his mission. (Luke 4:18-19) Sometimes it takes that long… sometimes longer… for us to shed our compulsions and addictions to the systems of exploitation we have come to rely on. It can take that long to realize how we have become too comfortable, how the allure of settling in to the culture around us is too easy, how our prophetic vision grows dull when we are drenched in the shallow benefits of the same world we are called to question and transform.

Like Jesus, and the desert abbas and ammas, we learn that the journey into the wilderness is not just a solitary way. It is a strengthening journey of transformation to sharpen again our prophetic lens and return to our cultures with God’s Spirit on fire within us- seeking shalom potential and resisting everything that is not.

For those who attend summer camps and reunions, you may get a taste of this wilderness effect on your way of seeing. Many describe those first few days home when things don’t feel quite right. There is a struggle to articulate what you have experienced to the ones you enter back into the normal rhythms of everyday life with. Imagine if it were not just a week, but forty days! The same thing can happen to those who travel to other countries and return to their own with a slightly different perspective. Having stepped outside the norms, stepping back in can feel disjunctive.

This is what Lent is. The wilderness way leads to justice and peace.

That disjunctive feeling? Hold onto it. Dare to stay in it just for a while. Return to it, in love, as often as you can. Let the dissonance form your response. It is a holy discomfort. It is a sacred way of seeing. It is the kingdom of God within you rubbing its sharp edges against the oppression and injustice we become blinded to otherwise. The Christian life is a constant practice in adjusting our prophetic vision.

What do you see? How does the wilderness way of Lent form your response?