Before we begin today, can i invite you to join me in closing your eyes and takes some moments to attend to the action of breathing.. .
The Hebrew tradition considers the breath (inhaling and exhaling) is the same as making the sound ‘Yah-weh’ of the first inhaling breath
“I will bless the LORD (YHWH) at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My (very) soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.” Psalm 34:1-2, NRSV
For me the Day of Prayer was a reminder of the rich and vivid world which opens up when we close our eyes. A world of longing, yearning and desires. And behind that yearning something even deeper.. a stillness, a rest, a pause.
Yesterday was our day of prayer, and a wonderful day it was, full of rich insights. I hope that the impact will stay with us all through the next few weeks and months and weave its way into the ongoing stories of our lives….
Given that we had this day, I decided to offer some reflections on prayer, and how prayer creates the pause which opens up a rich and subversive way of engaging in the world. A way of seeing differently…
But prayer (even to talk about it) is an odd thing isn’t it?.. we all have some kind of relationship with that word Prayer. I wonder what you might be thinking if I leave a little pause after the word now….
(doing I right/not right, not enough, not well, love it, wish you had more time….I wonder…?)
Today I want to take a few minutes to offer a reassurance that prayer (whatever we might call it, however we might understand it) is much more within your grasp than you think.
I want to suggest that prayer runs within us, beneath the surface, under the skin… and if we take time to inhabit prayer if creates moment of pause which may usher in new beginnings.
And that pause is everything… (Bergson and Time / Time and impatience..)
When we stop to consider a pause, we realise that a pause exists in between moments. In music a pause happens between notes. In a film it may be marked by the screen going dark. (us surrounded in dark) until the next scene opens up… the moment to exhale, wafting to inhale again.. the moment of holding, the thought before judgment… the pause is a distinct thing, it is its own thing.. although it makes up the whole… the pauses in music make it what it is.
And to pray seems to be about the pauses too. Occupying and moving ourselves into In-between places. Pause seem to separate moments – but also draw them together… there is something about a pause which identifies a boundary and then enables us to cross a boundary.
I fear that often when we think of prayer we consider it something outside of ourselves.. something to reach for, to jump high for, something to struggle to achieve…
But to jump up high, to reach out all presuppose one thing – a God who is somehow away from us, outside of us and away from us.
When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, the sense of separation goes. Union is seen to be the fundamental reality and separateness a highly filtered mental perception.”
― Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land:
(Which asks another question.. who do we think is really doing the praying when we pray?
Longing is the prayer of God. Do we pray for others, or is the act of longing the prayer itself?)
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”(Augustine).
Something about rest, homecoming with God.
But this pause is not simply a state of peace, it seems that the pause is also ready for change…
In our two readings we witness pauses… Jesus seems to be taking a pause, drawing a breath. Marking the end of one thing and the beginning of something new… in this case it is * the Holy Spirit, the paraclete. (the ‘alongside one’).
And… in Acts too there is something of a pause, an in-between moment. Paul, Silas and Timothy encounter Lydia and connect her already-live faith to the story of Jesus the Christ. Another connection-making; a pause between one way of being and another. The pause draws two worlds together.
In the person of Jesus this idea of pause is becomes profound… Jesus appears to his followers as an in-between place…. A pause, between humanity and God… a breath;
Yet, Jesus doesn’t only exist in between worlds.. but crosses and them draws them together.. Jesus creates new connections ….
Jesus’ specific words here are pointing to the Ascension – and then further towards Pentecost..
‘I am leaving (pause) I am coming’
Jesus is implying that incarnation, being one human, is not the final word; God’s divine being will enter within our very selves. It is the coming Holy Spirit who reveals ‘the truth of Christ’ – who offers ‘the peace’ of Christ.
And so this pause is subversive. The pax Christi – not Pax Romana reveals very opposing worlds. The peace of Christ, (which is always coming) subverts the status quo, subverts governments and empires. (Witness the empty platitudes of ‘thoughts and prayers’ in America). The pause suggests a movement to something new – not the same.
Which maybe draws us back to the idea of prayer in the everyday – … The moment of closing our eyes and to allow a pause. The pause may take place in so many ways –as a walk, a moment with art, a weeping, a holding, a thought, an ache. To pause in prayer, to hold each other in love, to gasp in wonder at the depth of life is to create a small space of potential – to allow for newness to come in….
The contemplatives speak of ‘The myth of separation’ the idea that God is somehow away from ourselves.. yet the contemplative act – the pause – asks us to look again, to cross a border, and to discover God in our depths. In our deepest longings, in the ground of our being.
Such divisions do not belong to God. Because God overcomes all of these.. Calls from the depths… Peace is given to you Jesus is saying .. don’t struggle receive
The poet Malcolm Guite once described prayer like blood flowing through our veins… most of the time we are not even aware of it. Until, that is, there is a wounding and pain, a tear in the skin,; then—like blood—our prayers flow into consciousness, a pause from the everyday in the most vivid ways…
So let me ask you in these final moments; what if you imagined God as within you holding you, keeping you, as your ground and depth; rather than distant detached and hard to reach out to? What if you dared to let go, as prayer invites us to do – to let go and simply be?
God is always coming toward you.. Maybe we simply close our eyes and treasure that pause….
GS Collins May 2019