When a 10+ year old book comes into your life from two unrelated sources within the span of a week, it might be worth paying attention. That book for me this week was Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life. I’m on page 14 so am barely worthy of commenting on it, but the title itself is a phrase I needed to be reminded of.
“A hidden wholeness” comes from Thomas Merton’s poem “Hagia Sophia”:
“There is in all things…a hidden wholeness. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a foundation of action and joy. It rises up in gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being.”
Much of this past year has been diving deeper into the broken legacy of racial injustice. For those of us who don’t experience this on a daily basis, it is perhaps a hidden brokenness, something we can choose to examine or ignore. Examination raises a host of questions about personal and collective responses. And one can always dig deeper.
Palmer suggests that every outward journey of seeking to make the world more whole is incomplete if not accompanied by the inward journey toward the hidden wholeness of an undivided life. He writes that this is a journey beyond ethics and information. And it is not an ideal. “Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
This week I needed to be reminded that beneath the hidden (or not so hidden) brokenness, there is a hidden wholeness, “a silence that is a foundation of action and joy.” I needed those three words held together in the same sentence: silence…action…joy.
If this election season is sucking your will to live, here’s a breath of fresh air. HERE is a reflection guide for voters called “Faith, Values, and the 2016 Election: Toward a Politics of the Golden Rule.” It is published by Faith in Public Life and has strong ecumenical and interfaith endorsement. The Ohio Director of Faith in Public Life, Amanda Hoyt, lives just up the street from the church and is delivering these far and wide. We’ll have paper copies on the table by the entrance to the sanctuary.
In four pages the booklet gives commentary and broad policy proposals with these headers:
An Economy of Inclusion
Global Warming: A threat to creation and our children’s future
Dignity, Welcome, and Citizenship for Immigrants
Restorative and Racial Justice
Protecting our Nation, Affirming our Values
The Introduction to the booklet states: “Politics as usual is insufficient for the urgent task of addressing the defining moral issues of our time…Religious leaders and ordinary people of faith have always been at the forefront of struggles for justice…This reflection guide provides a framework to think about key moral issues heading into the election.”
What I especially appreciate about the booklet is that the framework continues past election day and gives a common language for promoting the policies that we hope to lead to a more just, equitable, sustainable, and caring world.
Peace and fresh breath to you.
Last evening after our Worship Commission met I went into the sanctuary to experience worship of another kind, the service already underway. About 100 members of the Little Minyan Jewish congregation were beginning their observance of the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The congregation is in the Reconstructionist stream of Judaism – theologically and socially progressive while valuing traditional liturgy. They use our space for their high holy days. Their spiritual leader, Jessica Shimberg, gave an invitation to join them at any time. I found a seat in the back as a cello and piano were playing a hauntingly mournful piece. Everyone was standing.
In looking through their prayer book, I noted that one of the first prayers for Yom Kippur reads: “We accept into our midst whoever seeks to pray. Whether righteous or unrighteous, all shall pray as one community.”
The commentary below states: “This prayer has long been associated with the Hidden Jews – the Jews in Spain who converted to Christianity during the Inquisition and kept their Jewish faith hidden in order to survive. This prayer allowed them to pray as Jews by forgiving the vows they had made to another religion. What a deep resonance this interpretation has for gay and lesbian Jews who are living hidden, secret lives. For those in the closet about their gay identity in their Jewish communities, and those in the closet about their Jewish lives in the gay community, this prayer recognizes the pain of hidden and split identities and offers the hope for integration and healing.”
By way of sweet coincidence, yesterday was also National Coming Out Day. How wonderful that we are at the point in our culture where we can honor the journey of those who have come out to themselves, family, friends, and the wider community. What a joy to be a part of a congregation that has had its own coming out process. It’s also a time to remember that the journey remains a dangerous one for too many, and that a split identity sometimes serves as a form of survival in a hostile environment.
Because the Jewish day begins at sundown, Yom Kippur continues today, and the congregation is gathered here as I write. On this day of At-one-ment may we repent of a religion of inquisitions, and embrace a religion of redemptive love. May we recognize the pain of hidden and split identities, in ourselves and others, and receive hope for integration and healing. May we redeem that within us which is polluted and toxic for the Living Water which sustains life and enables us to flourish.