Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Sermon February 28, 2016 – Lent 3
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. Isaiah 55: 1-3
It can feel at times in our journey in this world that we are in danger eating food that does not feel our souls as the prophet Isaiah says. Last Sunday I introduced you to an exploration into the journey which has is its goal Spiritual Renewal—bread and wine for the soul. That is the type of renewal in our culture which is a special calling of 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 Divina or Holy Reading as a way of listening to how God is speaking to us and where God is leading us through scripture. If you would like to explore that there will be a Lectio Divinoa Group that will meet at 9:30 before worship service starting next Sunday. This will be led by Joe Wooden. For more information please talk to Joe or me. 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. As I noted last week there are many different ways of spiritual practice. As we are all unique children of God it is important to find the way that is best for you. Lorna finds the labyrinth to be a particularly meaningful Spiritual practice. Lorna has even constructed a seven course labyrinth at our cottage in P.E.I. I, on the other hand, don’t find it as meaningful. However, I do use a labyrinth when I have the opportunity.
The labyrinth 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 the spiritual direction program we completed.
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 or prayer. It can represent the twists and turns our spiritual life takes which never seems to be a straight line. 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. You should have received with the bulletin a diagram of the 11 course labyrinth. Using a finger 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, San Francisco. 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 your 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—a number of times.