Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sermon March 16, 2014 – Lent 2

Terror, and the pit, and the snare
   are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!
18 Whoever flees at the sound of the terror
   shall fall into the pit,
and whoever climbs out of the pit
   shall be caught in the snare.

It can feel at times in our journey on this world that we are in danger of becoming lost and disoriented and falling into a pit as the prophet Isaiah says.  On Ash Wednesday and last Sunday when we began our Lenten journey I introduced you to an exploration into the journey which has is its goal Spiritual Renewal.  That is the type of renewal in our culture which is unique to the church.  Spiritual Renewal is a way which can help us navigate through those times in life in which we feel as if we are tottering on the edge of the pit.  It can also help us to more closely follow our Saviour each day – in the good times as well as the bad times.

Last Sunday we looked at one form of prayer – Lectio Divino or Holy Reading as a way of listening to how God is speaking to us and where God is leading us through scripture.  Today I want to offer you another way which can help you navigate on that journey in life.  Today we are going to explore the Sacred Path of the Labyrinth.  The first thing that is important to know about the labyrinth is that it is not the same as a maze.  You may be more familiar with the maze which is a network of paths that are a puzzle which has to be solved to find your way out of.  In a maze you can take wrong turns and run into dead ends.  It is something that you might not actually solve. 

However, the labyrinth is different.  It is a path that if followed will lead to you on the inward journey to the centre and out again on the return journey.  There are many twists and turns but the path will never lead you astray.  The labyrinth is an ancient form which has – as far as we know – always been used as a spiritual practice.  The oldest surviving labyrinth is found in a rock carving at Luzzanas in Sardinia which dates from about 2500 B.C.E. The remains of a labyrinth can be found in Mount Knossos on the Island of Crete.  Labyrinths have been known to people for over four thousand years and have been found in almost every religious tradition around the world. 

Although it is an ancient spiritual and religious tradition it fell out of use in modern culture and was only rediscovered and moved into popular culture in the 1990’s with the work of different people including clergy and laypeople at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.  Since then it seems to have taken the western world by storm and labyrinths have become almost common place in different cities.  There is a beautiful outdoor labyrinth at the Kanuga Conference Centre of the Episcopal Church in North Carolina where my wife Lorna and I attend dream Conferences’ and an indoor one at the Mount Carmel Retreat Centre in Niagara Fall which hosts our spiritual direction program.  We have walked the labyrinth many times and both found to to be an important part of our spiritual journeys.

Walking the labyrinth can represent different things to different people.  It can represent the journey into wholeness which is undertaken as we seek to become the people God intends us to be.  IT can be a form of walking meditation.  It can represent the twists and turns our spiritual life takes which never seems to be a straight live.  But if we follow the path which God intends for us and listen to where God is leading us it can represent the journey that God will guide us on throughout our lives until we reach our final goal- union with God when our life on this earth have run its course. 

We can’t experience a full-fledged walking of the labyrinth this morning of course but we can walk it with our fingers.  The greeters will be passing out a diagram pf the 11 course labyrinth along with a pointer and I invite you to follow the path of the labyrinth to the center and back again – as time allows.  As you follow the path notice and experience how at times you will seem to be approaching the destination on the inward journey – the centre and then there will be a sharp turn which will take you away from the centre. 

There are many ways to approach the labyrinth walk.  I am drawing the work of Rev. Lauren Artress who is a canon of Grace Cathedral.    There are many ways to walk the labyrinth.  One beneficial way is to simply quiet you mind letting go of all thoughts and cares.  As thoughts enter your mind just note them and release them.  The goal is to let a gracious sense of attention flow through you. 

Another way is to ask a question before beginning you walk and focus on it was you walk.  Keep the question in your conscious mind and you proceed and see what response you receive. 

Take you time – it is important to proceed at a slow steady pace.  We will have five minutes or so and I encourage you to continue your journey later at your leisure and experience it.  IF you have a chance to walk a full sized labyrinth I encourage you to experience it – as many times as possible. 


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