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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

God is Making Room | January 29, 2023 by Rev. Dr. Kathryn Benton

I give praise to Brigid, daughter of Ireland

Daughter of all lands, let us praise her.

The bright torch of Leinster, shining across the country

The leader of Ireland's youth, leader of gentle women.

The house of Winter is dark, cutting with its sharpness

But on Brigid's Day, Spring in Ireland draws near to us.

I give praise to Brigid, daughter of Ireland

Daughter of all lands, let us praise her.

The opening music is in honor of the Irish Saint Brigid whose feast day is celebrated on February 1. As usual, this holiday finds its resonance with a Pagan holiday as well, Imbolc. Imbolc represents the half point between the solstices, much like November 1st (Samhain).

This music reminds me of the music of Hildegard. It is haunting and ethereal. The holiday calls forth the energy of the divine feminine…the mother of all to help us through a dark time…the house of Winter is dark, cutting with its sharpness. It is the hope that Spring is on its way…not only the actual Spring of flowers and warmer weather, but the Spring of the spirit…offering more light and beauty…new life and new hope!

The celebration of her coming is something that links us to the natural world…to the turning of the seasons, the growth of the trees and the birthing of new life. Brigid is also the patron saint of so many, including women in childbirth, beggars, poetry, sacred wells, as well as arts and crafts. She also holds fire in her left hand…the fire of creativity and compassion. This fire is said to have burned in Kildare during her lifetime and then was relit more recently at the Justice and Peace Conference of the organization Afri.

The conference of this organization this year is entitled, Darkness, Dawn and Light. The organization works on peace and justice issues, as well as global warming and climate change and has been supported by Desmond Tutu. They are working to connect people across separations in order to do the work of peace and social justice…the work we are called to do at this fragmented time.

I thought this past week a lot about this separation…this fragmentation…the separation of human beings from the Earth and of course from each other as well. The time I spend with people, often near the end of life, has taught me that the only remedy to this fragmentation is compassion. It is an ability to enter into their experience in order to truly understand them. This is something, I think, that takes practice and can perhaps only be achieved (or worked toward) when we want to expand our own experience…when we go beyond our own group…our own awareness of life. I sometimes do this with music, such as a recording of my favorite song that I played for several people:

I also came across this poem in the book, Love Beyond God by a friend of Fellowship Church, Adam Lawrence Dyer. I shared this with some of the patients as well. It goes like this:

What if every time you woke your sigh

was felt by every being on Earth?

What if every time you spoke

your words were heard by every ear on Earth?

What if when you told a joke

You tickled the senses of every smile on Earth?

What if with each tender stroke

You shared the touch with every hand on Earth?

What if when your heart broke

You tasted the tears running down every cheek on Earth?

No bond or brand or “guilted” yoke,

Surely this is love that reaches beyond,

That holds one to another and every other to one.

No matter the color or where we’re from.

This is now. This is we.

This is Love. This is God.

And this is love beyond God.

What if indeed! What if we were so connected that we could sense the pain and sorrow and the joy and celebration of the entire world…including the Earth herself? What if we were grounded in the assumption that we were one? Would that also mean that life and death are part of one respiration? Would it mean that the inner and outer are one and the same? Dorothee Sölle spoke of this in her book, Against the Wind. She described the experience of one of her relatives dying…alone in a hospital, hooked up to a machine…in her words, treated like a machine. She sums up an alternative way of being with people in a way that truly resonates with my own experience:

What I learned from this remarkable woman (Dorothy Day)

is that spirituality is a movement of the Spirit where separation

between inward and outward…is done away with. In spirituality,

what is inward is to become outward, visible and audible.

When we learn to share pain and joy with others, everyday life is hallowed, because our desires and fears begin to radiate in it.

Our lives and experiences are not casual items to be discarded by treasures worthy of being remembered and reflected upon, lamented and named.

I think this is how we connect with nature when we are free to do that…when we are able to experience the wind in our face, the scent of the flower, the feel of grass on our feet, the heat and the cold of our particular climate. What is inward becomes outward as well. There is no separation. In speaking of our connection with others, this is what is often called compassion…or feeling with another. It is the dream of Fellowship Church…the dream that if we multiply encounters in an environment of fellowship…of deep connection…we will come closer to that Beloved Community that Dr. King spoke of. We will be unable to discard the treasures of our experiences…of our participation in life and we will slowly make room in our hearts for compassion.

God is making room in my heart for compassion: the awareness that where my life begins is where your life begins; the awareness that the sensitiveness to your needs cannot be separated from the sensitiveness to my needs; the awareness that the joys of my heart are never mine alone – nor are my sorrows. I struggle against the work of God in my heart; I want to be let alone. I want my boundaries to remain fixed, that I may be at rest. But even now, as I turn to God in the quietness, God’s work in me is ever the same. God is at work enlarging the boundaries of my heart.

Dr. Howard Thurman

I want to continue this work, though it is difficult. We at Fellowship Church have certainly been commissioned to do it too! Thurman points out though, that we do not have to do it alone…God is at work!

I would like to leave you with a poem by Persian/Mystic Hafiz. He points out that this work can be fun…we might want to play it with someone. There is a Wonderful Game:

There is a game we should play,

And it goes like this:

We hold hands and look into each other's eyes

And scan each other's face.

Then I say,

"Now tell me a difference you see between us."

And you might respond,

"Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine!"

Then I would say,

"Yes, my dear, almost ten times!"

But let's keep playing.

Let's go deeper,

Go deeper.

For if we do,

Our spirits will embrace

And interweave.

Our union will be so glorious

That even God

Will not be able to tell us apart.

There is a wonderful game

We should play with everyone

And it goes like this...

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