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The Naked Now


In all the literature on grief that I’ve read – and I’ve read a lot – they say how important it is to take a day at a time, a moment at a time, a breath at a time’
One can see the logic of it. To think of the past is painful. To consider the future can be fearful. So, stick with the moment.
This is a difficult thing to do at any time, without being in grief. Our brains are built to consider the spectrum of past, present and future. That’s one of the things that distinguishes us from other beings.
And if one could compile a thinking diary, my bet would be that most of the time we are not in the present, our monkey minds would be wandering in the past and future.
Living in the present is a Buddhist concept. Or, in my experience, it is emphasized in Buddhism more than in Christianity.
Christianity has a progressive motif that Buddhism does not. That we are growing, maturing, going on to perfection? If one is always in the present, not much will change.
I recall having this sort of discussion with Buddhist friends in Japan numerous times. And as good religious dialoguers we decided both faiths have something to offer.
As you know, we took a break and went down to New Mexico. Specifically, we spent a week at the Benedictine Monastery in Pecos – right on the Pecos River.
The Abbot was mentioning that he was friends with Franciscan writer and Monk, Richard Rohr, who is located in Albuquerque. Last year, Paula went to a conference with Rohr and then went to the monastery in Pecos.
In our discussion with the Abbot, the books Rohr has written came up, including The Naked Now: Learning to See and As the Mystics See.
Rohr is not writing about grief, but a similar point is made. We must live in the present.
In one chapter. he writes about three ways to view a sunset: The first person saw the immense physical beauty of it without any larger ideas or intuitions.
A second person saw the beauty as did the first, but this person also enjoyed the power of his mind which could understand how the sunset came to be with the rotating of the planets, the angles of light. As so on = rational, scientific understanding.
A third person saw the beauty, understood how it worked, but didn’t think about that. But in his ability to progress from seeing to explaining to “tasting” he also remained in awe before an underlying mystery, coherence, and speciousness that connected him with everything else. He used his third eye, which is the full goal of all seeing and knowing.
Elsewhere in the book Rohr says:
The mind by nature is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving. This is exactly why it cannot be present or live in the naked now.
Why is this important?
Because it is in the present that we can experience God In the epistle lesson for this Sunday in the lectionary from II Corinthians.
.Paul is addressing people who are focused on the future. Part of the reason they are focused on the future is that the present was not picnic.
Paul elaborates on his own experience as an apostle of Christ:
…through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger….
Who in his/her right mind would want to join this mission?
Let’s get things moving along – to the end when things are better. But before saying all of that, Paul reminds them that the Day of Salvation is today – it is now.
Another book that I have found interesting and helpful is: Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God by Cynthia Bourgeault.
She says the when we think of hope we usually attach it to an event – or an object – to something happening.
We hope that we make it through our trip.
We hope for good grades.
We hope our children are safe.
But she says hope is something that is not attached to outcome.
But where does that leave us in our own lives when the biopsy comes back malignant, when despite our fervent prayers healing does not occur…… it now seems that God has abandoned us……
I simply want to observe that there is another kind of hope also represented in the bible…. Beneath the “upbeat” kind of hope that parts the sea, a pull rabbits out of hats, this other hope weaves its way as a quiet, even ironic counterpoint.
She refers to the end of the book Habakkuk, where the prophet says in spite of failing conditions he rejoices in God:
Though the cherry trees don’t blossom, and strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten, and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless, and cattle barns empty
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength,
I run like a deer, I feel like I’m king of the mountain.

She calls it Mystical Hope:
Mystical Hope is not tied to a good outcome or future.
It has something to do with presence – the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.
It bears fruit within us at the psychological level in the sensations of strength, joy and satisfaction: “An unbearable lightness of being”
It is also atemporal – meaning it exists outside of time and it can only be experienced in the immediate moment in the “naked now”.
One can see why she calls this “mystical” – It isn’t about what happens. It’s about being connected to God no matter what happens
Bourgeault next writes about God’s Mercy:
We are not the source of that hope, but the source dwells deep within us. More accurate to say we dwell within it.
She calls this source “The Mercy”
A bond, an infallible link of love that holds created and uncreated realms together. A force than holds everything in existence. The gravitational field in which we live and move and have our being.
Bourgeault would be considered by many to be “new agey”
You know many times I have talked about changing Biblical language in order to get back to its original meaning. I have specifically talked about John’s use of the word “Word” for the Greek, Logos at the beginning of his Gospel.
“For the Word was God and was with God…”
I have said that this can just as easily be translated as intention, principle, force, meaning…
She offers “vibration” = The Vibration of God, indicating that it fits well with quantum physics: “An electromagnetic field of love.”
She offers Christian mystics who use numerous words for this divine presence.
Meister Eckhart: the foundation of the soul
George Fox: the inner light
Thomas Merton: le point vierge secret center at the heart of God because it can only be found in the moment – in the naked now.
She offers meditation as a spiritual practice
She then tells the story of Babbette’s feast by Isak Dinesen. A famous chef in Paris loses everything in the political foment in 1871. She escapes to stay with two sisters in Scandinavia who basically eat slop everyday.
She then learns that she has won the lottery back in Paris, and she decides to use all the funds to make a fabulous dinner for her sister’s community.
There is one guest – General Lowenhielm – who has traveled and knows what good food tastes like. In the movie, you see him tasting each dish with raised eyebrows.

Under his breath, the General quotes Psalm 85:
Mercy and Truth have met together.
Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

Man in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in his life. He trembles at the risk he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.
Bourgeault comments on this saying…
All our times are contained in something bigger: a space that is none other than Mercy itself. The fullness of time becomes this space …. All our little histories, past, present, and future; all our hopes and dreams – are already contained and, mysteriously, already fulfilled….the entire rainbow of times and colors, of past and future, of individual paths through history, is all contained – In that great white light of the simply loving presence of God…
Our possible pasts and possible futures, our lost loved ones and children never born – is contained and fulfilled I the wholeness of love from which nothing can ever possibly be lost.
Most of us want to have control in life. How much more so to have control of life and death.
So we make plans and choices – our eyes on the future. We have hopes that certain things will happen, and other things won’t.
We live in the past and the future. There is, after all so much to worry about
But General Lowenhielm through Babettee’s feast experienced in the naked now…
That everything is contain and fulfilled in the loving
Presence of God – in the Mercy
And that nothing is lost in God
I find comfort in this – believing that nothing of Kenneth has been lost.
That God can hold it all.
All is contained in God.
And I still want to hope – in spite of circumstances
Because hope is not connected to certain outcome.
Hope is found in opening ourselves the God presence in the present moment.
And in that moment, all is contained and fulfilled.
The final words of her book:
Hope is not imaginary or illusory. It is that sonar which the body of Christ holds together and finds its way. If we, as living members of the Body of Christ, can surrender our hearts, reenter the Righteousness, and listen for that sonar with all we are worth, it will guide us, both individually and corporately, to the future for which we are intended. And the body of Christ will live, and thrive, and hold us tenderly in belonging.


The Naked Now
The Sermon for Sunday, June 24, 2018
Scripture: II Corinthians 6:1-13
Pastor James Clarke

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