“…a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.”
Welcome to our
“Annual Allentown Bluegrass Eucharist.”
We are without use of the courtyard
for a little while longer,
but we do not know how long.
We will adjourn to the courtyard today
for coffee and baked goods –
that as much as we can do.
Last week, as she entered the red carpet area,
someone who comes on occasion
“Where is everyone?”
“Welcome to summer,” was my response.
One of the nice things about the courtyard
is that we fill it,
and the last two summers
we more than filled it.
But in here,
in order to have that cozy feeling,
we need to invite one another
to leave our usual pew –
we are creatures of habit, aren’t we –
and sit forward.
So next week,
pretend like we like each other,
and sit up closer.
The other thing about being in here
is the dang pew dividers.
They make logistics difficult.
We could have made a diagram
and point everyone
to follow the same route to Communion,
we going to act like we are out
in the courtyard instead.
So be polite,
be unconcerned about confusion,
and find your way to one of the two Communion stations
when it comes time.
I just have to believe
we are a lot smarter than we look.
If you attended Thursday@7
the fourth Thursday in May,
which was the last time I offered the reflection,
I apologize if this sounds really familiar.
We read the same Gospel story back then
and it is one of those stories
that rarely appear on Sunday morning
in the lectionary,
so I cannot resist something similar today.
Hopefully it is meaty enough,
to think about more than once.
So we begin with something
a lot of people,
at least those who grew up in a Church,
simply cannot get their mind around:
That story we just read about Jesus,
is about how his family
thought he was nuts.
Now I need to add some fine print here,
like on a Big Pharma commercial
that warns the product can kill you before it helps you.
The story we just heard
from the Gospel of Mark,
is a cut and paste version.
The beginning and end of this little snippet
is separated in Mark’s Gospel
by several extraneous proclamations and anecdotes.
As Jeff Wilbers,
Trinity’s only Screen Writer that I know of,
reminded me recently,
a good story has to have a beginning, middle, and end;
and the Gospel-writers did not seem to know it.
So I cut and pasted
in order for the story to be more coherent.
You can look it up yourself in chapter three,
if you want.
Anyway, the long and short of it,
is that Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters,
so the story says,
thought he was freak’n out of his mind.
They showed up at the door of his house
so the story says,
because they thought he was “beside himself.”
Jesus’ own family
came to take him home
because they thought he was bonkers.
Now, the reason a lot of church people
find that hard to believe,
is that they were taught,
1) Jesus didn’t have and brothers and sisters, and,
2) Jesus’ mom was always right.
This is one of those frequent cases
when Church dogma
does not always agree
with the Gospel stories.
And so the question,
for people who care,
is which story are you going to believe?
Now, the reason that is juicy for us, is:
1) We know what it is like
to have our family think we are nuts, and,
2) We have to decide
which story about ourselves we are going to believe.
Ah, the plot thickens.
Turns out, once again,
a seemingly boring or goofy little Bible story
is really about us.
Now, I am going to tell you something
about people in the helping professions.
Look around here
at anyone in this place, who is a
whatever helping profession you can name,
and if you peel back the thinnest layer of skin
you will find someone desperate
for love and approval.
But if you are one of those people,
don’t feel naked;
the truth is,
all of us are desperate
for love and approval.
Most of us did not get enough of it,
or have it given to us well enough,
when we were children.
And that can say as much about us
as about our parents and siblings.
Our families may have heaped approval on us
but maybe we had a chink in our receptor
that kept us from absorbing it.
OR, maybe we just wanted more
than is humanly possible to absorb.
Whatever the reason,
most of us either
don’t know how,
or don’t know where,
to fill up the tank
when it comes to love and approval.
People in the helping professions,
have simply learned how to pretend
we are not on a desperate search for love and approval
even while we go about
because we want it.
In a way, the helping professions
are the most co-dependent of all!
So next time you are looking over
at your therapist
you can say to yourself,
“Well, they are just as thirsty as I am.”
Now here is my point:
we do not lose our thirst.
The yearning for love and approval
is like fear.
Only a certain kind of psychopath
does not have fear;
so the question is,
how do we live with
and act in spite of,
When it comes to love and approval,
we never stop wanting
or hoping for it.
So the question,
it seems to me anyway,
is how do we stay true to ourselves
even at the risk of losing
those things we thirst for,
that we cannot live without?
A large mirror is held up so that the congregation
sees itself instead of Cam.
So, you are not hearing me right now…
you are not even seeing me right now.
What you see
is someone you associate with me.
I remind you
of some other
or who knows what,
that you knew
at some other time
in some other situation.
I am telling right now,
is being filtered
through your own past experiences;
so that you are not hearing
what I am saying.
Instead, you are hearing
what I am saying,
and you are changing it
into whatever you are
changing it into.
So, I am a mirror right now;
of your past experiences
that receives me
and what I am saying,
and then reflects it back to you
in the language,
and images and memories of your own life.
There is very little of Cam Miller
being received by you just now,
and a whole lot of
The mirror is now removed.
You see, both the brain
and the body
are incredible receptors
of information and experience
that is pulled in,
Whatever images and words
from Cam Miller
are being received right now,
are being ingested
and forever integrated
with whatever memories and information
YOUR brain and body
chose to associate them with.
That is how we work!
I do not see you
as you are,
any more than you see me
as I am.
One of my favorite analogies for this,
is to pretend that we could somehow
hook a computer monitor
to each one of our brains right now.
If we could,
we would be able to walk around this sanctuary
and look at what each other is seeing.
And if we could do that,
we would be astounded
by how differently
we each see the same thing.
If we looked at one another’s monitor
to see what each person sees
when they look up at the preacher,
we would laugh or cry
at how differently we each see me:
I would be a different size,
and a different color,
and a different shape,
and I would have a different sounding voice
in each monitor.
If we listened closely,
we would also recognize
that each one of us was hearing
something different from the sermon;
sometimes very different.
It will rock our world
when and if
we truly accept the fact
that there is a veil between us
just as much as there is a veil
between God and us.
We do not get to know one another,
truly know one another,
in the way we desire.
Rather, we get small glimpses,
when the window opens
before it closes again.
And in those moments,
we cannot ENTER
the life of another person;
all we get is a taste
that is still only tasted upon our own tongue.
But we desire
so much more than a glimpse or a taste.
We want to be FOLDED INTO another.
We want to be BURIED for a moment
in the life of another.
We want to be BATHED
in the love of another.
We want to be ENGULFED
in the strong arms of another’s approval.
But what we want
is not possible.
And if we allow ourselves to be led
by a desperate desire
that is impossible to satiate,
we will self-medicate our pain,
and fall into all manner of tragic unhappiness.
we have options!
We can learn to live inside our own skin.
We can learn to live in our own skin
with and without the love and approval of others.
When that happens,
the love and approval of others
is rich, creamy gravy we can enjoy
but that is not essential.
If I truly accept,
deep down in my bones,
that your approval and disapproval of me
has more to do with your own stuff
than it has to do with me,
then it is a game changer.
Instead of getting angry, hurt, and defensive
when you tell me something
that is hard to hear, I can listen to you
and receive your feedback,
and like a squirrel breaking open
and disposing of shells…
I can take the nut of information
and use it to learn from.
when you tell me how wonderful I am,
I can hear it
and know that whatever you received from me
was as much your own stuff
as it was anything I did;
and I can smile that you have benefited
without my ego taking credit
for more power and influence
than I actually have.
When we can live within such moments
of standing clearly within ourselves;
when we are very clear
that the veil between us
cannot truly be breached…
then we can see
and hear so much more
of who we truly are.
And in such moments,
we gain greater clarity about one another
and for one another.
Frankly, it makes the love between us
so much more fragrant
But do not look for a life lived
in such moments.
We do have moments of standing within ourselves,
and they are our best moments;
but most of us cannot live there very long.
It is like Mindfulness
or being fully present,
it is impossible to stay there very long.
But we can keep practicing,
and when we feel anger
instead of reacting and lashing out,
we can see them as red flags
reminding us that we are not
standing within ourselves,
and that we have fallen into the mistaken belief
that the other actually knows us.
And when we are so very thirsty
for love and approval,
instead of reaching out
to suck it in from anywhere we can,
we will be reminded
that love and approval
truly, it only begins,
from the inside-out.
So hold that thought:
from the inside-out.
The story from Mark
never tells us how Jesus dealt with it.
He is kind of dismissive of his family
when he asks his friends,
“Who is my mother, and brothers, and sisters?”
But I have to believe
he figured out how to move beyond
of his initial reaction,
to his family thinking he was nuts.
I like to imagine,
that as he went on to endure
people showering him with love on the one hand,
and angry blame on the other,
he was able to discover,
from the inside-out.
That is our opportunity too.