Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Celtic Rhythm for Life.

What a wonderful weekend we have had. Twenty five of us gathered together at a retreat centre on beautiful Owasco Lake. It was quite eventful! We arrived in the aftermath of a storm which had brought down power lines. Hence there was no electricity. For our Friday evening session we sat in darkness, except for the odd beams of light from mobile phones (oh, the wonders of technology). Power finally came back on in the early hours of Saturday morning startling us from sleep as our bedrooms sprung into brightness.

Our theme for the weekend was a “Celtic Rhythm for Life.” We talked about developing a life practice that allows us to live a balanced life full of appreciation for all we see and hear. Nature has its own rhythm. I awaken to birdsong every morning. Last thing at night I watch the bats darting in and out of our trees.

In the introduction to the weekend +Andy said, “Life is shaped by the sun and moon and stars, in daily and monthly rhythms, and by the yearly cycles of nature in its seasons and changes.”

Today the gospel reading reflects part of this rhythm seen in nature. The text is two of a series of parables in the gospel of Mark (4: 26-34) which talk about what the Realm of God is like.

The first parable reads that the Realm of God is as if  “someone has scattered seed on the ground and would sleep and rise, night and day.”

Can you hear the rhythm? “Sleep and rise, night and day.” “Sleep and rise, night and day.” It is the basic rhythm of all of our lives, sleeping and getting up. It is the basic rhythm of nature, night and day. It is within this rhythm that grow takes place.

The second parable in today’s reading is that of the mustard seed which grows into a tree. Again we can see the same rhythm. The seed is sown and with the passing of time and seasons it grows into a tree.

When we went camping in France one of the wonderful sights to behold was the mustard fields. You can see miles and miles of fields of bright yellow mustard flowers stretching as far as the eye can see. Truly magnificent! However, I don’t think that is the mustard seed mentioned in the text. I think this parable is referring to the mustard tree (Salvadora persica.) This tree originated in Persia which now is Iran. It grows commonly in the Middle East and Africa. It is not technically a tree but an evergreen bush, a shrub which grows to twenty feet high. It has yellow-green flowers. The edible fruit is purple with pink or purple seeds

I have blogged in the past about the mustard tree so don’t intend to repeat the details but this tree is known for many properties. It is used for food, for healing, for cleansing, for shelter and for protection. In both the parables, the stories tell of something that grows from a seed. It is not a fast growth. It is a growth that happens in the rhythm of day and night, sun and rain, winter and summer.

That is how we envision the community.  It grows in the rhythm of life. Many years ago the seeds were planted. We were content, and still are content, to just keep to the rhythm and let the community grow slowly. It is enough just to be. We have always likened the way we grow to the old monastic tradition. We would just be around, a presence largely hidden and if someone discovers the community, likes what they see and hear and want to join, they come and, metaphorically, knock at the door.  And keep knocking, and then keep hanging round, maybe after a few months or a year they would decide to join us. We were delighted to welcome Tony and Thomas as novices in the community this year.

Yet, growth isn’t just about growth of the community. It is about our personal growth (and not just growth from eating the abundance of food Casowasco have provided us with!). Growth and maturity are important. How do we grow? How do we mature? It is by developing our own life practice, by finding, and keeping to our rhythm. We have talked a lot this weekend about finding or recognizing rhythm. We became more aware of the rhythms in all the busyness of own daily lives. We have practiced the rhythm of meditation and silence. We have talked about the rhythm of the church’s calendar. We have experienced the rhythm of the daily office, interspersing our day with times of prayer and reflection. We have opened our eyes to see the rhythm reflected in the natural world with the seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter. We recognized the importance of the rhythm of rest and re-creation.

It is in the finding and keeping to the rhythm of our own life practice that we experience growth. In the parables, ultimately, the result of growth is harvest or fruit. The harvest provides food. It is the harvest that gives us strength and nourishment and it is the harvest that is shared to feed others.

It always happens when we get together, various people share about their lives, and I am amazed how many are in ministries that care for those who are hurting and in need of healing and protection. The sharing of lives in this way is the result of the rhythm of the life practice, it is the abundance of the harvest.

However, harvest is not an end in itself.  It is not a linear process with a start and a finish. It is the cyclical nature of the rhythm of our lives that is important. Remember, the harvest also produces the seed and the circle continues and repeats. It is the rhythm of our lives.