Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast. Psalm 139: 7-10
One of the challenging things about being a minister in a congregation is maintaining my personal, not congregationally related, connection with God/Jesus/Spirit/Sacred. So often when I pick up one of my many Bibles or read something on-line or attend a worship service outside of my own congregation, I immediately start to think of how I can use it in the congregation. And much as I love my congregation and congregational ministry, that reading, that worship experience, that ritual, becomes ‘work.’ The ongoing challenge of nurturing my own sense of the sacred becomes tiring that there are times when I resist God and God’s presence. My heart and mind and soul need a break from the demands of my work and so I try to flee from God.
Psalm 139, one of my favourite psalms, reminds me that there is nowhere I can go to escape from God. This makes God either faithful companion or a divine stalker!
Yesterday, a clergy friend and I went on a 5k hike. If you can call it a hike when you are on groomed, fairly level, trails. In fact, we laughed at a sign that said, “Steep incline ahead.” However, the trail is part of the old railway track system and steep incline for a train is very different that a person on foot. (Hmmm, there might be a sermon in that!) We had promised each other not to talk shop… and that lasted until about halfway through the forested path, which then opened up to an ocean vista, with a bench conveniently placed to rest. But we, or at least I, talked shop with a difference. I felt no burden of responsibility to do anything about anything that is taking place at the church right now. We shared stories of our respective congregations and then seemed to silently place them in God’s keeping. We continued our walk, shared a meal and went our respective ways. God was present.
Later in the day Woody and I headed to Terrence Bay for our stained glass class. I met the instructor, LynetteRichards when she participated in a program I offered at my church last year. One of the things I love about learning a new skill is how it absorbs me, how mind, body and soul are united and how it helps me escape from my own thoughts. There was someone new at the class last night, someone who had been taking a daytime class but who had been unable to continue because of work commitment. As we chatted for a few minutes, introducing ourselves, etc. I discovered that she is a Spiritual Director, and had studied with some of the leading contemplative voices: Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr to name two. She was very interested in the Atlantic Jubilee Program that I am participating in and we discovered a common love of the contemplative path.
God was present.
As I write this, I am also watching the police processional in Moncton. A sea of red and blue as police officers from all over the country come together to pay tribute to the three RCMP officers who lost their lives last week. God is present in that massed gathering, in the accolades that will be shared, and in the tears that will be shed. I found inspiration and hope as I read the account of how a couple risked their own lives to try and save one of the officers and in theletter by a Moncton teacher. God is present.
The words of the psalmist seem particularly profound today.
Where do you go, or what do you try to do, to flee from God?