Dude, Gimme A Beat

Inspired by Brother, Give Us A Word

Now

Don’t worry about tomorrow. Instead today tell someone you love them; ask someone to forgive you, say I am sorry and above all say thank you. For in those simple acts, you will find wisdom.

-Br. James Koester

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=2496

Erykah Badu – Today

Notice the ways Br. James suggests we free ourselves from worry in this meditation; express love, ask for forgiveness, express gratitude. Each of these three things have something in common – vulnerability. Expressing love puts us out on a limb because there is always the risk that the love will not be returned. Asking forgiveness may be the most blatantly difficult and humbling suggestion of the three. Fittingly, because it is so difficult to do, it arguably offers the greatest reward. That being not only the forgiveness itself, but the lifting of the weight of the burden of having wounded someone in some way. If the forgiveness is not granted, we are nevertheless lightened and freed to a large degree. Interesting….forgiveness is so central to Christianity. Juxtaposing whether forgiveness is granted has never occurred to me before. It’s like Christ understands this, our natures – asking for forgiveness is so incredibly difficult, the act of forgiveness is almost an afterthought in a sense – meaning for the one asking, the release comes in that humbling admission of wrongdoing, the willing entry into a state of vulnerability and acknowledgement that what we did hurt someone. How could God possibly decline or withhold forgiveness? Other people, they may withhold. That may be the scar that lingers from our actions. But I suspect, even in such a case, the fact someone owns up to the injury, acknowledges it and ask for forgiveness – that is a comfort to the wounded party. And even gratitude makes us vulnerable. Gratitude implicitly suggests we are not all-powerful, we are not the center of the world. We are fortunate. And gratitude brings us fully into the present. Now. Today. It makes us aware of all that we DO have. It reveals the possibility of the moment. Erykah Badu ties all of these ideas into one glorious musical bond. Her dazzling vocal style belies a certain weariness. This is no sheltered woman. She has seen and experienced life. And yet while her voice can magnificently convey pain or struggle, it never succumbs. Her voice and her vocal stylings always abound with lightness and hope. The other side of that equation of weariness and hope is strength. The power in her artistry is borne out of vulnerabilities and her recognition of them, not her denial or fleeing from them. And so I try to take this lesson today and wrap it in the majestic buoyancy of Ms. Badu and live fully and courageously today. Now today. 

Holy Cross         

If only we could get out from under the cross, but it seems to hang over us all the time. If only the archetypal symbol which we placed behind our altars, and stained into our church windows, and wore around our necks were something other than the cross. If only the chief Christian symbol were something else, say, a tree of life, reminiscent of the garden of Eden, it would so much more pleasant and less troubling.            

-Br. Curtis Almquist        

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=630

Doc Watson - Lone Pilgrim

{song selection & reflection by Peter L.}

I love Br Curtis. It is with the most profound gentleness of spirit that he gets at the troublesome nature of life under God. So much lies behind what he says about the the Cross. Without sacrifice, nothing works. Each of us dies to renew the world, and we all live on the death of others. This seems to be the basic pattern. If we aren’t giving ourselves to the greater whole, it all falls apart. It’s a reality we approach with the greatest hesitancy, and yet we fulfill it every day just by doing our jobs and raising our children (as parents or otherwise).

This is not just a matter of being good. It has to do with the nature of existence. It keeps the engine lubricated - of life and of our souls.  The only question is whether we embrace it as our deepest truth. It’s tragic. We all struggle with it. And it opens a mysterious door. For sacrifice requires a power that comes from within. Otherwise, it’s just co-dependence. It is the search for that power - through the shadows of fear - that leads us to God and through God to our oneness with each other. And I think that brings joy to the countless deaths we undergo up to the last one.

In this song, “Lone Pilgrim,”  Doc Watson gets at the way every life - simply in braving mortality - is a sacrifice to God. It comes from his album, “Doc Watson at Gerde’s Folk City.”

I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay/ And patiently stood by his tomb

When in a low whisper I heard something say/ How sweetly I sleep here alone

The tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar/ And gathering storms may arise
But calm is my feeling, at rest is my soul/ The tears are all wiped from my eyes

The call of my master compelled me from home/ No kindred or relative nigh
I met the contagion and sank to the tomb/ My soul flew to mansions on high

Go tell my companion and children most dear/ To weep not for me, now I’m gone

The same hand that led me through seas most severe/ Has kindly assisted me home

Love

God has commanded us to love one another. A most excellent commandment. And God invites us to yet more love—to share his love for the cosmos he has created, especially this good earth: to love, to cherish and to protect it.

-Br. Mark Brown

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=261

Randy Weston & Pharoah Sanders – Blue Moses

A call to relentless and complete love; to honor and care for not just ourselves, not just those in our immediate circle, not just other humans, but all that we encounter. I think there is even a command within this meditation to seek out opportunities to flex this love, make it a practice and hone and refine this state of conscious, aware compassion. I don’t hear it as a call to convert, but to care for and live the way that Jesus lived, loved the way Jesus loved. Deeds as much as words. Randy Weston and Pharoah Sanders both demonstrated this approach, certainly in their music, and in their daily lives as well, according to those who know them. I am reminded of the gospel story of the men who received their inheritances and I’ve always been haunted by the guy who simply buried his. No, he didn’t squander it or waste it. But he also did nothing with it. These two great men could have easily sat upon their musical gifts, found a commercial niche, and rode that to a lifetime of accolades and steady paychecks. But they lived their music. They understood it as a gift, and not merely their own, but a universal, shared gift. It was incumbent upon them to delve into the gift. The roads that opened on this journey not only transported them, it took along many more and will continue to do so. The music navigated them to Africa, to the roots of their own heritage. Each made extraordinary music with the Gnawa Brotherhood. But the universal element of the journey opens other roads, too, so this journey to Africa they took, it took me along and I learned along with them, but it also opened roads for me to take to my own ancestral roots. In so doing, I found fullness on that route, but it is the expansive timeless interconnectedness of humanity and the Divine One which most inspired and satiated me. And continues to do so. I’m pretty sure Moses argued with God. He offered God many reasons why he was not up to the task God had placed upon him. But he found the courage in faith to make the journey. And in so doing, offered a symbolic lesson for everyone.

Look     

Go out and look! Open your eyes and see in nature that life, new life is breaking out all around – that life is stronger than death, that hope is stronger than despair. If we really look, God’s very creation will point the way.          

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram  

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=2655

{song selection & reflection by Peter L.}

Dinah Washington - Look to the Rainbow

Yes, it’s true. I want to see. Through all my dark corners. Let the scales fall from my eyes. “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” William Blake. It’s something that takes time to grasp. You have to struggle and be broken until your deepest fears are realized. And just when all your assumptions are turned to dust, a glimmer of the unexpected appears. One thing I’ve learned is that ‘seeing’ is inseparable from the other senses. When you perceive with your whole body, the world takes on a new light. In fact, it becomes Light. As for myself, it seems to be just when I fall into the darkest place - burrowing into my helplessness - that my capacity to see the Light is renewed. I’m reminded of an idea that comes from yoga. Through the poses, the yogi brings up the poison and holds it in her throat. She doesn’t swallow it. She lets it sit there and feed her creativity. God’s creation in dark and light.

Center

In the Christian worldview we’re not at the center of everything. God is the center of things: God and God’s creation, of which we’re a small, wonderful, privileged part. John 10:10 reminds us that Jesus, not overconsumption, is the way to “abundant life.”

-Br. Robert L’Esperance

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=2392

Sonny Stitt – Tornado

The consumerist economic system demands that we identify ourselves as the center of our world. Jesus commands we understand the opposite. Again, God is found in what is counter to our rational impulse, and most especially, in what is counter to the society at large. I once asked my friend to define “megalomania”, though I had an idea of the word’s meaning, it was one of those words which I knew from context, and wasn’t sure of its precise meaning. So I asked him exactly what it meant. He extended his arms in front of his body, and then curved them, making a sort of funnel into his gut and said, “…it’s the idea that everything that’s happening is happening to, or because of, me.” That summary has had profound spiritual ramifications upon me over the years. It went well beyond defining a mere word, and blew open new doors of perception and understanding. Sonny Stitt has such a vast and magnificent catalog of work. As a leader and as a sideman, his playing spans decades and styles, and has always captured my attention when I hear him play. Yet, he remains under the radar. This track, from an album which seems in some way to be an apparition, as it does not appear on several of Sonny’s listed discographies, finds him allowing ample room for all the band to stretch out and play. He seemed relevant to the meditation in that while he is not as recognizable name as Miles or Monk or Bird in jazz, he nevertheless, produced decades of stunning music. He’s not the center of the jazz universe, but he matters greatly. And then the unintended connection – he has often grabbed my attention at those moments in a song when he is the at the center of a musical tornado, when the whole band is fully vibrant and erupting, chaos upon a tight swirl. 

Eucharist

This is a very complicated and tragic and incredibly beautiful and wonderful world that God has created and in which God is living and becoming. What it comes down to, for me, is the very thing we do at this Eucharist: the offering of our life and labor to the Lord.

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=793

UB40 & Chrissie Hynde – I Got You Babe

This meditation offers an invitation to live. It offers the assurance of God’s presence, but it also requires us to make the leap. Such leaps terrify me. But even for one who lets life happen, eventually, as long as we are alive, life erupts, whether we go along willingly and initiate the process or let it happen, or even try to hide from it. Thus, this meditation offers the assurance that in whatever manner life is led, however the build up to the present circumstances occurred, we are not alone. Within this process, we will likely be required to abandon our wills. That, too, is terrifying, but the acceptance which replaces our own will is in fact a pool of peace, wisdom and strength. Its natural flow is released when we embrace it. I think this is a lesson we must learn again and again in this life. It is counterintuitive. UB40 and Chrissie Hynde serve up this sort of assurance with such joy and sincerity, I feel like I can handle anything in its wake.

Trust     

Walk out into the deep waters of the unknown – but filled with faith and trust that God will meet you there in Christ, and that he will guide you, and carry you when you fall, that he will lead you across dry land, and land you safe on Canaan’s side.     

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram  

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/2011/10/30/crossing-over-getting-your-feet-wet-br-geoffrey-tristram/

{song selection & reflection by Peter L.}

Johnny Cash - Just As I Am

Trust begins when a baby reaches out to the world, and it reaches back. It’s a matter that goes to our deepest sense of belonging. But the world is not easy to befriend. In the rush to find a way, we can lose sight of what we are in our souls. To me the soul is the animal in us. Call it the divine animal. Arising out of existence, it knows existence in its very substance. And one thing that it instinctively sees is that earth and spirit are inextricable. The one cannot be engaged without the mediation of the other. The psalms get at this. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” How it is that we become estranged from this - our deepest understanding - lies in the long legacy of human misery.

I love to sing this song in church. Its quietude is in its trust, a message expressed in the way the line repeats at the end of each verse: “Oh, Lamb of God, I come. I come.” Johnny Cash sings it with a clarity - nakedness, even - that comes out of his life. Just as I am.

Hospitality

Radical hospitality is not synonymous with unconditional approval. It does imply a genuine welcome, a welcome that is real even though it may be (for the time being) quite minimal. And it does require respect for the other as a person created in the image of God and loved by God.

-Br. David Vryhof

Full Semron:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=317

Bad Brains – God of Love

In the full sermon from which this meditation is taken, Br. David speaks about Jesus associating with the tax collector Zaccheus. He explains the shocking ramifications of Jesus doing this in the context of his society. He then goes on to speak about the wonderful Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Workers movement.  These are the sorts of priorities of how to live which Jesus demonstrated time and again that I find irrefutable. They are the actions of a God of Love. 

Penitence

The prayer of penitence is our loving response to God who first loved us. It is a prayer deeply rooted in freedom whereby we freely and lovingly offer God our love in penitential words and deeds.

-Br. James Koester

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=1614

R.E.M. – South Central Rain

The beginning of peace and the beginning of true strength comes with a realization of our limitations. Immediately upon reading this meditation, I could hear Michael Stipe’s distinct cry “I’m Sorry” from this early REM track. And I could also hear God’s perspective in the cry, “I’m sorry”, particularly with the lines “Did you never call? I waited for your call”.

Belonging

As we cross the path of friends and strangers in the course of each day – probably mostly strangers – we carry in our hearts the compelling message of God’s inclusive love absolutely teeming from us – in our words, in our countenance, in our posture. There is no such thing as a stranger. We all belong.

-Br. Curtis Almquist

Full Sermon:  http://ssje.org/ssje/category/sermon/?p=315

The Pogues - A Pair of Brown Eyes

Upon sitting this meditation, my thoughts drifted to this gripping song by the Pogues. As I stewed in it, though, another song came to mind which fits more neatly with the meditation. By Big Audio Dynamite, the song “Funny Names” is about the strangers all around us. It’s honest, acknowledging the impulse to tribalism humans carry, but also rather optimistic. “A stranger’s a friend you just don’t know” goes one of the lines. But something kept pulling me back to the Pogues. Among their magnificent body of work, this song may be the most compelling to my ears. It is not so much about strangers and friends as it is about the nuance and frailty of human relationships; not about strangers, but an enemy, a life-threatening combatant across a battle field, and the absence of loved ones upon the end of the fight. The brown eyes of this stranger, who fate has cast as the singer’s possible killer, spark the memory of his beloved. Yet despite being strangers, despite the stakes of life and death which are on the line, there is some bond established between these men. Conflict, wars, opposition, these powerful forces also do produce bonds, respects, which though they may be grudging, are perhaps the realest forms of respect because they are forged by circumstances so unique and intense. Boxers always embrace after a fight. Even if there is genuine personal animosity between the fighters, there is a mutual respect. This is the baffling and amazing thing about life. There is something special about even the horrors of wars. There is hope and redemption and the ingredients for understanding within such a dynamic. Conversely, our frail human emotions also allow us to be so shattered by pain, fear and confusion that we can turn away and let down those we love, even at their most vulnerable moments. What an agonizing line Shane MacGowan sings, “…but when we got back, labeled parts one to three, there was no pair of brown eyes waiting for me…”. Life is such an odd, curious, delicate balance.