Doug, one of my hosts here in Portland, jokingly confessed that he assumed I would spend my spare week here in his place in silent meditation filling his home with a mystical holy aroma, as if I were a plug-in spiritual fragrance–a Glad™ Prayer Freshener. Well, I do my part, but I can’t take credit for the wafting up of any sacred scents.
Yesterday Doug, his husband Bruce, and I went to West Hills Friends Church. This is a semi-programmed Quaker church. Unlike my normal Quaker meeting, this one has leaders who give sermons, lead songs, say prayers and do Bible readings. Lots more bells and whistles than I normally go for, but a great service all the same.
They had about 20 minutes of silence, which I confess was my favorite part. I’m unprogrammed that way, but I can see the value of a semi-programmed meeting, especially for folks who are new to Quakerism. It can be daunting to pop into a Quaker meeting where no one starts anything. We just sit down in silence with no welcome or introduction. I imagine the newcomer thinking, “When is this going to start?”
This Sunday, one message that came through, first in the sermon and then in messages out of the silence, was that we must not judge by the exterior of the people around us. Although it may not be obvious at first (or 10th) glance, a bit of God is in everyone. One woman spoke of St. Francis and how he created the first manger scenes with living people. She said that with his draw towards the lowly, St. Francis must have put some of the ugliest people in the choicest roles of the nativity. The woman went on to say that she has begun to construct a mental nativity with the most difficult people in her life as Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men. That screaming baby on the plane gets casts as the Baby Jesus (I somehow think that even Marvin would approve).
This got me thinking to a message that has been knocking around in my heart for the past several months. Jesus is reported saying over and over again that the Kingdom of God is within. Then there is that wild parable about the man who finds a vast treasure, so vast that he must bury it in a nearby field. Then he goes and sells all he has so that he can purchase that field.
In thinking of that parable, I see the spiritual life as a great treasure hunt. So often I pray prayers of petition–Lord, I need this or that. Give me strength or courage and wisdom. And I need it now! But then I remind myself (or is it the Spirit?) that the Kingdom is housed within, not without in some distant land farther away than Narnia. Christ has given me everything I need for life and godliness. So then I shift my words, Thank you for the strength, wisdom and courage; now help me locate them within me.
When it comes to the difficult people, opponents, and even declared enemies, I try to turn it into a treasure hunt, a quest to find God within that person (and yes even family members). Somewhere lurking behind the challenges, the bitterness, the rejection, there is a vast treasure to discover.
Considering all this I suddenly feel drawn to silent prayer right now so that I can have ears to hear and eyes to see what is initially imperceivable but as real, or more real actually, than the overabundance of Right Guard™ body spray I doused over all myself this morning. Hmm, maybe Doug will mistake that is a sweet aroma wafting up to heaven, filling the house like a holy incense. Hmm, does the Holy Spirit come in Mountain Fresh?