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November 20, 2015


Recently, I've had a similar conversation with a number of different folks (Grace members, pastors, family, organizers).  The conversations have centered on what I would call "news fatigue/news avoidance."

With all the tragic events across the world, as well as in the U.S., and in our own city, people report feeling assaulted with the ugly, violent, tension-filled, hateful parts of our human experience.  Added to the actual events, there is the compounding of the conflicts and underlying causes as politicians and commentators weigh in with words and thoughts and commentary that is at best unhelpful, at worst adding fuel to the fire.

We know, if we believe the polls, that majorities of peoples, not just in this country, but in many places in the world, live either with an anxious dis-ease or downright fearfulness.

Some who have shared with me have chosen to declare a moratorium on the news, simply feeling overwhelmed, deciding to turn off the radio, the tv, the news feeds on their computers and phones, to leave the newspaper on the front step.  Sometimes we do need to disengage, to focus on other things, hopefully things that bring both a sense of peace as well as new energy to engage in the world.  But if we choose the myriad forms of distraction available to us, it may not be helpful.  

Our prayer, our wish, our hope when it feels like the world is coming apart at the seams, is a new sense of unity among the human family, a unity with all creeds, colors, cultures included.  That is a great hope, but often feels like an impossible dream.

I often find it helpful to turn to the mystics of the great religions at times such as these. In Jesus' final prayer, he said, "I pray that all may be one."  Julian of Norwich adds, "By myself I am nothing at all, but in general, I AM, IN THE ONEING OF LOVE.  For it is in this ONEING, that the life of all people exists."

When we find ourselves continually reacting ... to the news of tragic events, to the inequity and oppression that so many suffer under, to the violence splashed across our television and computer screens, we can so easily lose our center.

If you believe Julian of Norwich, our center, indeed, the center of every human being alive today, is love.  Julian, and many, if not all the mystics, tell us that we regain our center in the silence.  Sometimes we lament that God is silent ... but maybe we should lament that we spend so little time in the silence, where God often dwells and speaks.

Richard Rohr adds this, "Silence precedes, undergirds, and grounds everything.  We cannot just see it as an accident, or as something unnecessary.  But unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things — words, events, relationships, identities — all become rather superficial, without depth or content.  They lose meaning.  All we search for is life of more events, more situations which have to increasingly contain ever higher stimulation, more excitement, and more color  ....  it really is the most simple and stripped down things that ironically have the power to give us the greatest happiness."

The world, in all its beauty, and all its gross ugliness, needs each one of us.  It needs all of us.  But it does not need us if we are reactionaries, quickly dumbing down into "us and them" thinking, reacting in fear or anger or stupidity to the events happening around us.

The world needs — we all need — each and every one of us, to find our way into the "oneing of love", into the unity which includes great diversity seen through the eyes of love.

So, it is often helpful to turn off the news, to retreat for a while, to go off to a quiet place, to enter into the silence, to listen, to seek, the very voice of God.  

That would be helpful, I think.

Pastor Dan

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