Be Still And Know I Am God
It is Saturday and sometimes on Saturday I indulge myself with a longer time of prayer. As I was deep into the stillness this morning, it occurred to me that these times of meditation are the freest times of my life. In silence with the words “beauty, mystery, and community” rolling through my mind as a mantra, the only thing I am doing is sitting in the presence of God. I fit into no narrative. I inspire no action or reaction. I am. That is all. This is freedom.
Five million dollars was my number when I graduated from college in 1989. It was my freedom number. With five million dollars and my house paid off, then I could do what I wanted. Then I would be free to serve the poor, get involved in politics, spend more time at church, and travel wherever and whenever I like. Money was the ticket to ride the freedom train, and I was saving up.
But along the way I got side-tracked. Maybe it was because I realized I had neither the capacity to make that kind of money nor the discipline to save that kind of money. And anyway, the pursuit of the money goal seemed confining and intellectually uninspiring. It seemed to bind me, and, paradoxically, the more money I made, the less I seemed to have. I had more bills with a wife in medical school and newborn daughter in the house: daycare, diapers, and debt.
So I sought to free my mind from the patterns of a workday routine through study, particularly theological study. My narrative moved from the winner-loser model over scarce resources, to one of intellectual rigor around things divine. There’s a ton written about God, incidentally. And so, I stepped into the freedom of our forefathers, seeking liberation through understanding God, Christ, and the church. Some good came of this. I learned some stuff, but mostly that the more I read about God the less I knew, and that a mind spinning with rules of doctrine was not the path to liberation.
So I gave up understanding in favor of obedience, and this was helpful. I became acquainted with the spiritual exercises of daily prayer, weekly worship, weekly Sabbath, the liturgical cycle, pilgrimage, tithing, and fasting. I tried them all, and some have settled as permanent patterns in my life. There is no doubt that obedience to the exercises has given me a measure of freedom. And yet, it also gives me a measure of achievement that spins a narrative in my mind of spiritual accomplishment, thus fueling the hubris of personal satisfaction. At best obedience is a bracketed freedom.
Where then does freedom lie? How is one liberated from the things, the policies, and the rules? I suppose one never is truly free. Money is a useful medium of exchange. Rules and policies can be wisdom collected and passed down over time. Exercises are indeed designed to transform the body and the spirit. Use, know, practice; money, study, exercises: these all have place in God’s divine economy.
Then step out of the economy.
“Be still then, and know that I am God,” says Psalm 46:10. Stop. Be still. Stop your body. Ignore your mind. Just sit. Relax in the presence of God. Give up everything. Do nothing. Be for a little while each day. Rest with alacrity. There is no action, no dogma, no exercise. There is no narrative of success or knowledge. No history. No aspiration. You don’t have to believe in God to do this. In fact, believe nothing. You need no written words, only the desire, the hope to be free. So be free. You are. The means is there. It is as simple as can be: be still in the presence of God.
A Reflection on Evolution
by the rev. Peter Snow
Summer is finally here. My yard is full of life exploding in riotous color and profusion of shapes. Even in my small garden the diversity is incredible, and species are dependent one on another. The struggle to become is all around me, and the rush to life is on. Ants farm the aphids, the bees are loud among the blooms, and the hummingbirds draw nectar from the fuschias. Even viruses are part of the show as they demonstrate their past presence in the stains of color that pattern the rose petals. This is evolution at work, the act of creation on the hoof. It is all around me, and I am inevitably part of it. Even my appreciation of the perfection of my new rose blossom is predicated on my being not apart from, but part of, this profusion of life becoming.
Creation did not happen but is happening right here in my yard and evolution has not stopped nor reached its conclusion. I cannot escape my common heritage with the rest of creation, though I constantly deny that relationship. So I wonder, what is the next stage of evolution for us? We are not exempt from the rules of that process because that program is still running. We are not the end of creation or the summit of evolution, but part of an experiment underway. Is this experiment what is described as the Kingdom of God in the gospels? When the words of Jesus of Nazareth are read with that thought in mind, then the Kingdom of God feels very close and is truly upon us. The Kingdom of God is inescapable for all.
If this is so, and the next step in creation or evolution is to become spiritual beings, then the conversion of our souls or emotional selves is the challenge. And we can’t do that alone. We not only need the rest of creation around us, but we also need a road map and companion on the way. Suddenly the person of the risen Christ is indispensable, and the words of Jesus of Nazareth illuminate our way. We can’t make this transition by ourselves. All around us creation witnesses to us and points the way if we will take notice. Maybe this is what Christianity has to offer people of this new century.
—Fr. Peter Snow
Chamber Music Recital on August 14, Ushers Needed
On August 14 at 6 pm, the Epiphany Seattle Music Guild will host another wonderful recital in the Chapel featuring Byron Schenkman and Friends. Byron is one of the most talented (and charming) pianists you will ever have the opportunity to hear. The concert follows the 5 pm service, which will be held in the church on this day. Come and invite your friends and family for a lovely evening of wonderful music!
We want to give a warm welcome to our concert guests who are unfamiliar with the parish and need a little friendly guidance to the right spot. With that task, we could use some help in greeting folks that evening. We would like to place greeters/ushers at the church door as well as the chapel door because the church door is our wheelchair accessible entrance. Anyone who helps greet or usher is welcome to reserve a space in the chapel to sit once the concert begins.
Whether you can help or not, please come and enjoy the concert—beautiful interlude for a summer evening!
Epiphany Seattle Music Guild
It’s Time for the Fall Backpack Drive
September seems like it’s a long way off, but it’s time to start thinking about school supplies for teenagers at the YWCA! Every summer we collect backpacks and supplies for the residents at the E Cherry transitional housing facility who otherwise may not be able to afford what they need for the new school year. Our goal this year is to donate 60 fully loaded backpacks.
There is a full list of the supplies that will go in each backpack on our website here or you can download this flyer to print. Small groups may want to consider donating a few backpacks together. The due date for donations is August 21. When you decide what you will contribute, contact Ann McCurdy so she will know what’s coming.
Following the Sweeny-Bender Blog?
Recently the Sweeny-Bender family has been hanging out in Bali, and they have been enjoying learning about the deep spirituality of Balinese culture. Read more about it here.
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
July 31, 2016
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14; 2:18–23
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
July 29: Summer Concert Series – Peter Benjamin Band
Slight change of plan to the lineup for the last summer concert of July. Peter Benjamin will bring his acoustic indie-rock show to the courtyard instead of DAD. Bring a picnic and enjoy some sun at 6:30 pm. RSVP on Facebook!
August 6: Flower Class
Love flowers but wondering what to actually do with them in a vase? Join Ann Kurtz in the Great Hall at 10 am to learn a straightforward process of creating a lush seasonal flower arrangement for your home. Cost is $40 for supplies. Bring a vase of your choosing and clippers. Space is limited, so contact Ann to reserve your spot.
August 10: Front Office Luncheon and Training Meeting
We would like to expand our group of front desk volunteers and are asking for your help. If you think you might be interested in taking a weekly shift or just as needed, come to a luncheon at the office to hear more about front desk fun! Contact Diane if you would like to come.
August 14: Music Guild Recital – Byron Schenkman and Friends
Pianist Byron Schenkman, along with flutist Joshua Romatowski and cellist Nathan Whittaker, will offer a recital of Classical and Neoclassical trios by Clementi, Haydn, and Martinu, featuring our newly acquired 1901 Hamburg Steinway piano. Join us at 6 pm in the Chapel. Find more information here.
August 21: Bring Donations for the Fall Backpack Drive
Every year, Epiphany collects backpacks and school supplies for teenagers who live at in YWCA transitional housing. Find out how you can help at epiphanyseattle.org/fall-backpack-drive.
September 11: Fall Kickoff Sunday – Save the Date!
This is the first Sunday of the program year, which we will celebrate with a picnic after the morning services. This year, we’ll be starting a slightly new format for education and formation during the 10 am hour. Plus, there will be two organ recitals that afternoon! More details to come!
September 22: Fundraising Breakfast for Recovery Café
You are invited to an Education of the Heart, Friend and Fundraising event for Recovery Café, a refuge of healing and transformation for people traumatized by homelessness, addiction, and other mental health challenges. Learn more about their work on September 22 at 7:30 am at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. More information here.