Living in Juneau, on our virtual island, we may not always feel our connections to the “outside.” Then earth-shattering news breaks in like Japan’s disasters and we are shocked at the oneness.
Many people live such busy lives that the lifestyle and culture also lead us to feeling like islands. At Aldersgate United Methodist Church, we have just begun a worship series and Lenten study that gleans from the book “Sacred Spaces: Stations on the Celtic Way” by Margaret Silf. In it, Silf writes of her life working at home dependent on the internet, computer, phone lines and electricity to do her work. She also lives on the island of Great Britain. Silf encourages us to look beyond our sense of being an island and remember that beneath the waters we are connected with the same bedrock, we are on the same planet, in the same solar system and the same universe. We are connected in many unseen ways.
In the Judeo-Christian traditions, in both of our faith stories of creation we hear that we were created in a kind of oneness and harmony not only with God, but with all creation. There was an original wholeness and original blessing experienced by all living things in the Garden. That is the way in which we are intended to live.
That harmony was lost in the temptation to experience power in such a way that it shifted the surface view of life. Silf suggests, “From then on, all they could see were the islands of each other. They forgot that once they had lived in the bedrock and known each other, and all creation in its wholeness.
“They rarely saw God after that, because their vision was focused on themselves. They thought [God] had banished them from the bedrock union. But in fact they had banished themselves. … In the new kingdom of their ego-selves, they discovered they had to fight for their survival. This wasn’t surprising because, after all, every living being had become its own island kingdom, and every little kingdom had to struggle to keep itself alive and to guard its boundaries against the demands of all the others. From then on, two acorns falling from the same tree were in competition for the same patch of earth. Two brothers born of the same parents were in competition for the same piece of land. …God’s Dream… had become fragmented into a million little hopes and fears. God’s Desire, expressed in original wholeness, had been broken into a million little personalized wants and wishes.”
It is not easy to live in right relationship with one another. Families of two or more find it challenging. Communities and our many organizations long for connections, yet struggle in the midst of them. The more people that are involved, the more opinions and desires that strive to be met. Are we a weaving or a tangled mess?
As I see it, the church’s season of Lent is not about guilt, but a time to review as individuals and in all of our levels of relationships. Consider it spring cleaning of the heart, mind, body and soul. What are the things that are cluttered and do not function in your life? Are there things that need repairing? Are there things you just need to let go?
And what are the things that you want to plant and make room for? What practices will help you to grow healthy relationships with God and all your relations?
United Methodists try to be of greater service by connecting resources when we help others. If you wish to to donate to the recent earthquake and tsunami damaged Japan, go to www.umcor.org — 100 percent of your donation will be sent for relief efforts. The UMCOR Advance number for Japan is 3021317.
At Aldersgate we don’t “have it all together,” but we invite you to try our connection.
• Judy Shook is pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church.