I do not know about you but I always feel a wave of remorse as I turn the calendar from July to August. It seems like summer passes just too quickly. In my house, we have even resorted to muting the TV commercials for “back to school” sales.
Nonetheless, I have begun speaking the “have you thought about your summer homework” reminders knowing that September will be upon us before we know it. And so it is with eyes on September 12th, our Gathering Sunday, that I ask you “have you thought about your summer homework?”
If you remember, when we were last all together in worship on June 20th, I spoke to you of Brother Lawrence and how he spent his life practicing the presence of God. I spoke to you of how Brother Lawrence trained himself to step into God’s presence in every moment of every day. Whether it be washing pots or cutting carrots, Brother Lawrence would strike up a conversation with God and ask God to makes God’s presence known to him. Brother Lawrence believed that unlike the lily of the field or the sparrow who instinctively dwell fully in the now of God’s presence, we have to practice how to do so. We need to remember and relearn what it is to unwrap ourselves from the shroud of self absorption and to emerge once again to the presence of God with us.
And then I asked you how will you call upon God in the weeks to come? Will you practice going into the wilderness like Elijah or going to the back of the boat to wake up Jesus when you need him like the disciples when the storm at sea threatened to drown them? Some of you, I said, may be moved by the early morning peace to sit for a moment in silence, to center down in prayer and to wait in that stillness for what a colleague of mine calls “the whisper of wisdom.” Some of you may practice the presence of God in a late afternoon run when the beat of your own pounding heart merges with the pulse of the universe, when you find yourself at one with all that is. There are many ways to practice the presence of God, I said. But, whatever it is, I asked you consider this as your summer assignment, your homework for the season, take some time to practice the presence of God.
So now, as we turn our eyes and heart to our upcoming Gathering Sunday, I invite you to take a moment if you would, to write down in two or three paragraphs an experience you had this summer when you felt yourself draw close to the Holy. Or if you had an experience of really needing to feel the presence of the Holy but instead you only encountered what felt like an absence, let us hear of that as well. Parents, please encourage your children to share their experiences as well. If writing is challenging, ask them if they’d be willing to draw a picture. Jot it all down and either email or mail it to me. You can sign your name or leave it blank.
On September 12, we will lift up some of these experiences in our time of prayer. We also will publish all of them in a devotional booklet to nourish us in Advent as we prepare for Jesus’ birth.
May the days of summer spent and those still to come fill us with the desire to know God more deeply and the courage to practice bringing ourselves into God’s presence in all that we do. Amen.