Category Archives: sermon

Yx3 (on things hidden)

Recently at our monthly Not Church gathering our theme was the parable of the jewel hidden in the robe. If you have not read or heard the parable, you really should before proceeding and you can find a link to it here.


labyrinth    ~    © erin dunigan 2013

During the gathering that particular Sunday, the parable was read three different times, by three different readers, each reading spread throughout the rest of the morning’s activities.

There was quite a stir after – why three times? Was the big question. Why did we read it three times?

Some assumed that each of the three readings would have a different telling of the story. But, alas, all three readings were the same story, the parable of the jewel hidden in the robe.

The topic came up again last night, more than a week after our gathering, at a dinner with some friends. “Why was the parable read three times?” again was the entry point into the conversation, which unfolded from there.

For though we read the parable three times in our gathering, there was never any direct teaching from it, upon it, about it, or regarding it. The rest of the ‘sermon’ for the day came from a re-telling of the movie version of the Life of Pi, woven together with a discussion of the recently confirmed discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. The written version of the sermon can be found here, for those who were not present to hear it.

“I believe that the parable means that God is planted within all of us (the jewel) and we have only to look within, rather than to search so many outward paths, to find that, to realize that, to experience that,” the conversation continued as I listened. “So why didn’t you just say that?” was the question begged.

Why not tell people this amazing, beautiful and life changing truth – that what you are seeking out there is to be found in here, that that which is inside of you doing the seeking, is, in a very real sense, already that which is sought. The answer is to go within, to awaken to this ‘jewel’ that already is.  “So why didn’t you just say that?” hung in the air as the conversation unfolded. I listened.

It is a good question. A valid question. A worthwhile question.

Which, in response, brings me to a question of my own –  Why didn’t the rich man in the parable tell his friend he was leaving him with the jewel?

“Because the friend was inebriated, passed out,” you answer. The rich man could not tell him – it was impossible.

Okay then – why did he not leave a note? “Hey, by the way, when you wake up, check your hem – I left something for you.” Or, better yet, why didn’t he just put the jewel in the man’s hand, so that when he woke up he would find it right there? Why ‘bury’ it within his hem?

It would have been so much easier! It would have saved the man so much undue suffering – he would not have found himself in such want, in such need. In fact, it seems almost wrong that he did not leave the gift in a more obvious way – what is the point of such a precious gift, if the receiver doesn’t even know that he has it? It is a waste, isn’t it? Would it have been so hard to leave a simple note?

But there was no note. The inebriated man woke up, found his friend gone, and went on his way, blind to that which he had, clueless to the reality of the precious gift which he now carried with him – unaware of the seed that had been planted.

It was now up to him to look within and discover that it was there all along.

hidden gems, the life of pi and the higgs boson


light                                                                                        © erin dunigan 2013

The Jewel Hidden in the Robe*

Once upon a time there lived a man who had, as a friend, a rich public servant. One day the man called on his rich friend, who entertained him with food and wine. He became completely inebriated and fell asleep. The rich friend, however, suddenly had to set out on a journey involving urgent public business. He wanted to give his friend a priceless jewel which had the mystic power to fulfill any desire. But his friend was fast asleep. Finding no other alternative, he sewed the gem into the hem of his sleeping friend’s robe. The man awoke to find his friend gone, totally unaware of the jewel his friend had given him. Before long, he allowed himself to sink into poverty, wandering through many countries and experiencing many hardships. After a long time, now reduced to sheer want, he met his old friend. The rich man, surprised at his condition, told him about the gift he had given him, and the man learned for the first time that he had possessed the priceless jewel all along.


A month ago today there was a rather catacysmic discovery in the world of science (pun most definitely intended).

On March 14 it was reported that scientists had apparently discovered the elusive Higgs Boson – that which is thought to explain what has been called one of the most fundamental riddles of science’s understanding of the universe – how the Big Bang created something out of nothing.

“The discovery explains what once seemed unexplainable and still is a bit hard for the average person to comprehend. But it means the key theory that scientists use to explain everything works – for now at least,” according to a piece in the Huffington Post.

To understand what this might mean, consider something along the lines of molasses or snow – when other particles pass through it, they stick  and form atoms – thus giving them their mass, their being, if you will. It is for this that the Higgs Boson has been referred to as ‘the God particle’ – that which holds everything together and gives it its substance.

Though the existence of such a concept was first theorized some 50 plus years ago, it has only just, as it seems at least, been confirmed. This confirmation has come from a network of scientists who have been working on it, and with the help of the world’s largest atom smasher – CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland – which produces huge surges of energy thought to replicate those that may have existed just after the big bang. Crushing energy. Intense. Powerful.

This Higgs field is thought to be everywhere around us, surrounding us, with all particles moving in the presence of this field. If there was no such thing there would be no mass – everything, in fact, would be ‘massless.’

Prior to this discovery every particle within the Standard Model of particle physics had been discovered – except the Higgs Boson, which is the very key to what holds it all together.

Missing. Undiscovered. Yet all around us – even, in fact, within us. Predicted, but not yet proven. Theorized, but not  quite concretized.


I finally decided I had to see it for myself.

People had been telling me about it, wondering what I thought of it, and suggesting that I might find it interesting. So, upon hearing that Jim and Ross had a copy, and knowing that they have the best way to experience such things, a few weeks ago I invited myself over to watch the Life of Pi.

If you do not know the story, I’m sorry, I’m going to spoil it for you – here’s your excuse to duck out!

The story is about a young Indian boy, Pi Pattel. Born a Hindu, he has a sort of religious conversion – or more like addition, and realizes that Vishnu has lead him to Christ and finds his spiritual practice in the space of a mosque.

His father runs a zoo and so Pi grows up amongst the animals and his three faiths until one day his dad says that they and the animals will be moving to Canada. They board a Japanese cargo ship and set sail, only to encounter rough seas that sink the ship. Pi, we later find out, is the sole survivor, cast away on a lifeboat for 227 days.

We are invited into the story through the grown up Pi, now living in Canada, talking to an American author who has been sent there to hear his story – a story, the author has been told, that will make him believe in God. The author, ironically, is without a story, having thrown his latest novel away after years of work. He has come to Pi looking for a story.

A story is most definitely what he gets.

As Pi’s story of the shipwreck unfolds, we come to find out that he was not actually alone on that lifeboat – initially he shared it with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutang, and, the biggest surprise, a Bengal tiger. The hyena quickly takes care of the zebra and the orangutang, to Pi’s anguish. Fearing that he might be next, he is saved when the tiger makes quick work of the hyena.

For the next two hundred plus days Pi struggles to keep himself alive, but also to keep the tiger fed with something other than himself. It is a beautiful movie – one you must see for its stunning images, if for nothing else.

Finally, after an encounter with a carnivorous island, Pi and Richard Parker, the tiger, wash up along the shore of Mexico. Barely able to continue on, Pi looks up and sees Richard Parker disappear into the jungle. Pi is rescued shortly after.

Because he is the lone survivor from the shipwreck, officials from the Japanese company come to the hospital to try and get a report from Pi of what happened. Pi tells them the story – of a zebra, a hyena, an orangutang, and of course, Richard Parker, the tiger, who he credits for keeping him alive. Without needing to provide for and also be careful of Richard Parker I would not have made it, he says.

Needless to say, the Japanese officials are left speechless and rather incredulous from this report.

What else do you want from me? Asks Pi.

A story that won’t make us look like fools, they respond. We need a simpler story for our report. One our company can understand. A story we can all believe.

So, a story without things you’ve never seen before? Without surprises or animals or islands?

Yes, they respond, the truth.

And so he told them another story – a story of a lifeboat with a sailor, a cook, a mother, and a young boy. A story of cannibalism in which the cook kills both the sailor and the mother, and finally is killed by the boy. A story that is raw, detailed, harsh.

As Pi gets to the end of this story, now back in the present day in his living room with the author, he poses a question:

I’ve told you two stories. Neither explains what caused the sinking of the ship and no one can prove either one. In both stories the ship sinks, my family dies, and I suffer.

So, which story do you prefer?


The man awoke to find his friend gone, totally unaware of the jewel his friend had given him. Before long, he allowed himself to sink into poverty, wandering through many countries and experiencing many hardships. After a long time, now reduced to sheer want, he met his old friend. The rich man, surprised at his condition, told him about the gift he had given him, and the man learned for the first time that he had possessed the priceless jewel all along.


Finding a Higgs more or less as expected is actually a bit deflating, one of the scientists interviewed remarked. Physicists had  hoped that, rather than confirm what they had theorized, instead perhaps new mysteries might have been opened up through the discovery.

“Scientists always want to be wrong in their theories. They always want to be surprised,” he said. “It’s a bittersweet victory when your theory turns out to be right, because it means, on the one hand, you’re right, that’s nice, but on the other hand, you haven’t learned anything new that’s surprising.”


As modern day Pi brings his story to a close there in his living room, there is a sound at the door.  “That is my wife and children, would you like to stay for dinner?” He asks the author who is visibly surprised.

You mean you have a family?

Yes, a wife, two children and a cat.

So your story does have a happy ending, responds the author.

That is up to you, says Pi.  It is your story now.

So, which story do you prefer? Pi asks him. The one with the tiger. That’s the better story – responds the author.

And the man learned for the first time that he had possessed the priceless jewel all along….


*Our theme for the April Not Church gathering, The Jewel Hidden in the Robe, is actually a parable – a short story, more like a Buddhist koan than what we might think of as a fable or morality tale.  This parable comes from the Lotus Sutra, thought to have been written sometime in the range of 100 BD to 200AD. It is said to be a discourse delivered by the Buddha, most likely toward the end of his life, written down at the time, then hidden away for five hundred years.

on easter, making sopes, and finishing the music

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border music
© erin dunigan 2013

Good morning. It is wonderful to be with you all, on this the fifth anniversary of our La Mision Easter celebration. Whether it is your first time with us, or your fifth, know that you are welcome here, that you belong here – that this is a place that is open to all people, of all faiths, or of no faith, where we are seeking to journey together along the spiritual path though we come from very different approaches to that.

I have had people ask me how in the world do we have an Easter celebration that is so inclusive, that welcomes atheists and devout believers, that has those who have dedicated their lives to spiritual things and those who think that, to be honest, they are kind of a bunch of BS, those who are intrigued by the spiritual life and those who would rather just get on with living the life in front of them. It is, I grant you, an interesting mix. We are, of course, an eclectic community. For that I, for one, am incredibly thankful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this gathering and it seems to me there is an important question that is sort of hanging in the air surrounding it – this Easter thing, which, of course, is a Christian feast day commemorating the crucifixion – crucifixion was a common death in the first century in the Roman empire. It was for criminals. When the man Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, the story says that it was with a thief, a terrorist even, on either side of him. It was a shameful, degrading way to die – reserved for those who were a threat to the system –  and, more importantly, this day is a day commemorating the resurrection, the somehow living beyond death of a man, named Jesus of Nazareth, who walked this earth and through his resurrection became the living Christ.

It can be a crazy thing to get one’s head around.

For some, it is accepted without question – it is a matter of faith. Done. For others, it seems like a fairy story that asks one to check their brains at the door. We are both in this room.

So, I wonder, if just for a moment, we can all – those who accept this and those who think it is a bit too crazy to actually believe – I wonder if we might let go of, for the moment, the question ‘Did it happen?’ Did it actually happen? Did a man who was dead come back to life? What did that look like? Did Jesus actually walk out of the tomb where his dead body had been laid? Was the resurrection a flash of light? Is this meant more as metaphor?

They are good questions. They are important questions. They are questions that have been the cause of much wrestling by people who have dedicated their lives to such wondering – and they still don’t agree, they still don’t know, definitively, one way or another what actually happened – there were no video cameras, no iPhones there to capture the moment. Only the stories of those who experienced it, passed down through generations.

So I wonder if, just for this moment, we might set aside the question ‘did it happen?’ and wonder together instead, ‘does it happen?’


It is, as I mentioned, the 5th anniversary of our Easter service. But it just so happens that it is another very important anniversary, which is less well known, but, if you ask me, also very important.

It is the fifth anniversary of the first time I ever ate sopes.

vitaIt was on Easter evening, five years ago, that I had my first taste of a sope – made by Vita. It was delicious! I fell in love immediately.  I had to know how to make them for myself.

So, not long after that first sope experience, I invited Vita over, and some of you, my neighbors, to make sopes. I have to admit – my first attempts, well, they were less than ideal. Some were too small, some were too thin, others were too thick – if you watch Vita make them, each sope is identical, perfectly shaped, perfect thickness – a work of art, really. Mine were something more like play dough thrown against the wall.

For in making sopes there is both the consistency of the dough that has to be just right – not too much water or they will fall apart, mostly masa, but a little bit of flour, and then work them together into a consistency that will not crumble but is also not too mushy.

In the five years since I’d like to say that I’ve perfected the sope making – but the reality is, Vita’s are still more precise, more perfect than mine. I’m guessing she’s had more than five years of practice at it.

But that hasn’t stopped me. We’ve had many a sope night at my house – when friends from the US come to visit I make sure that they are in the kitchen at least one of their nights, learning how to roll the balls of dough, flatten them, make the ridges around them, and then delight in tasting them. I’ve modified the traditional sope somewhat – making vegetarian sopes with a potato filling instead of meat, or using whatever I happen to have on hand for the fillings.

As I thought about it, I realized, making sopes is a lot like Easter. It’s a lot like this gathering here.


That first Easter as we gathered downstairs here in Kathleen’s house we were led by Gary Wilburn – a man many of you had the privilege of knowing. Gary was a retired Presbyterian minister. Retired not because he was tired of being a minister or ready to be done with it, but because he had been diagnosed with ALS. He and Bev made the decision to live full time in what had previously been their vacation home here on the beach in La Mision. As their first Easter approached, they wondered what they might do – were they to do nothing? It did not seem right. Easter, after all, is arguably the biggest day in the Christian year.

But it just so happened that there was a bit of a minister match maker in the midst – Marty Harriman, who introduced me to Bev and Gary and next thing you knew, we were planning and then hosting our first La Mision Easter service.  What a gift that was in so many ways.

You might think that because I’m a minister I remember sermons all the time – I don’t. Sometimes, sure. But most often, nope. But I remember Gary’s sermon from that day. It was called ‘Finishing the Music.’ In it he told the story of Puccini, the great musician who wrote Madame Butterfly, La Boehme, and so many other majestic operas, and who was stricken with cancer in 1922.  So what did he do?  He sat down to write a new opera.  His students asked him, “But suppose you die?”  “Oh,” he replied confidently, “never fear.  YOU will finish it!”

Puccini did die…and as he predicted, his students did finish his music.  The premier of the great opera, was held at La Scala Opera House under the direction of Puccini’s best student – Arturo Toscanini.

The performance proceeded and came to that point in the music where the composer had finally laid down his pen.  Tears streamed down Toscanini’s face.  He put down his baton and turned to the audience and said, “Thus far, the master wrote…and then the master died.”

Then, picking up his baton, his face wreathed with smiles and determination, Toscanini shouted to the audience, “BUT HIS DISCIPLES FINISHED HIS MUSIC!”  And they played on through the grand finale.

So shall you and I play on, said Gary, as he finished that sermon on that first Easter celebration.  He concluded it with an Amen. There was not a dry eye in the room.


It is said that Jesus, toward the end of his life, told his disciples, his friends, “You will do far greater things than these.”  A bit crazy, if you think of it, as the story up to that point has us learning that Jesus had not only restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, multiplied loaves to feed five thousand, and healed all sorts of disease and sickness. You will do far greater things than these, he said to his friends, his followers. Really?

Earlier in the week some of us gathered for a Passover celebration – Pesach, as Ron has instructed me – the Hebrew way of saying Passover. As we sat down to begin the reading of the Haggadah, the Passover story that is read every year, re-telling the story of exodus, of liberation from captivity, Ron shared with us an important, an essential, part of this re-telling of the Passover story – when we read it, we are not reading a story about an event that happened way back when, to some other people. No, as we read it, it is our story, we are the ones who have been liberated from that which binds us, we are the ones who have been set free, who have crossed from death to life – it is our story.

We are, if you like, not just those who would eat sopes one time five years ago – we are those who are ourselves learning how to make sopes, and then sharing that feast with others.

In the Jewish tradition, as in the Christian tradition, we are called to be as the phrase tikkun olam puts it, repairers of the world – actively involved in sowing love, justice, peace, and joy.

So today, on this day where we celebrate resurrection – new life – that death does not have the final word, that the systems of power and domination do not have the final say,  I wonder what would happen if we were to ask ourselves, not, did it happen, as if the only importance were the historical validity of a particular event two thousand years ago,  but does it happen?

Does it happen?

Are people set free from their bondage? From their addictions? From the things that weigh us down, that threaten our very ability to carry on? Is hospitality practiced amongst us? Are those who have much sharing out of their abundance with those who have less? Is life being lived in the now, in the present, awake to the moment, and to its fullness? Are we growing in love, in compassion, in service to one another?

For, of course, it is we who will finish the music. We who are, even now, here in this place, continuing the music. Even as we gather here today.

So shall you and I play on.  Amen.

pruning, abiding and bearing fruit: repentance and the days of awe*


I remember, after I had been ordained–three years ago this October–though there were many emotions present, there was one with a very particular outlet.

I was excited, finally, to be able to have something to say that I ‘do’ when crossing the  border from Mexico to the US and being questioned by the border guards. Up until that point I had tried to describe it–well, I’m in the process of becoming a Presbyterian minister, but I’m also a photographer and a writer and I travel a lot–but now I could just say “I’m a Presbyterian minister.” Easy. Done.


My first time crossing, after being ‘official’ as a minister I drove up to the gate (this was pre-SENTRI pass for those who pay attention to such details) ready to give my answer.

Sure enough the guard asked me, “What do you do?” Almost too proudly I responded, “I’m a Presbyterian minister” to which his immediate response was, “Recite the 23rd Psalm.”

I blanked. Totally blanked. This was not what I was expecting from the US Border Guard.

“Yea though I walk thru the shadow of death…” I tried, starting in the middle and stopping far short of the end.

“Keep going,” he said.

“Well, I don’t have it memorized,” I had to admit to him. “Do you?” I asked him in return.

“Yep,” he responded.

“Well, you must be Catholic,” I replied, to which he, smiling, answered in the affirmative.

“I’m Presbyterian, we don’t have to memorize Psalm 23,” I responded, rather pathetically, I can admit.

He, smiling, waved me through as I, in my shame, crossed over to the other side.

The very next time I crossed, not to be dissuaded, I planned on the same answer–though I still hadn’t memorized the 23rd Psalm.

“What do you do?” the border guard asked me. “I’m a Presbyterian minister,” I responded.

“Do you have any drugs, tobacco or alcohol with you?” he responded.

Oh, so you must be Presbyterian too…

This month our Not Church theme is the Days of Awe. It is a phrase that references the Jewish calendar, a ten day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah, and ending with Yom Kippur.

It is said that on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, God writes each person’s fate for the coming year into the Book of Life, and on Yom Kippur those records are sealed. The time between, then, is a sort of ‘purgatory’ if you will in which one can, if necessary, attempt to change the outcome.

What is interesting is that the two days are not back to back, one right after the other.  They are separated by ten days, what are known as the Days of Awe. This ‘grace period’ in a sense, is a time of penitence, of repentance, of considering what one has done that is not exactly what might have been best, and what one might do, in the coming year, to change that.

The new year begins with repentance. Ten days of repentance. It’s not unlike the New Year, the January 1st one, being a time of making resolutions. Though with the Days of Awe there is more of a focus on this need to cleanse that which has kept one distant.

Many of you know that I like to work in my garden. I’ve given you a break from garden stories for the past few months, but you know that can last only so long…

Lately I’ve been planting fruit trees. Many fruit trees. At last count I’ve got 15. You name the fruit, I’ve likely got it. except for Quince, which I had to look up when the plant guys were trying to sell me a membrillo to see what that meant. Even having the translation, knowing that the tree was a quince didn’t help me much. I’m not sure what to do with a quince.

But mango, apple (yes, I do have both mango and apple planted in the same yard…we’ll see how that goes) peach, nectarine, plum, avocado, guava, pomegranate, pear, tangerine, lemon, lime, grapefruit and, most recently, orange. I’ve also got an almond tree, a pistachio bush, and two grape vines.

Not that long ago I posted a photo of my grape vine, newly purchased, and captioned it ‘grapes!’ A friend on facebook correctly pointed out that, in fact, this was not a photo of grapes, but of a grape vine (with not even a flower at this point) and that by calling it grapes I was expressing something that I ‘saw’ but that clearly was not yet realized.

Which, of course, is what I think the ‘Days of Awe’ are all about…

Jesus, himself a Jew, who, it happens, liked to tell stories from the garden, is said to have put it this way in the book of John–the most poetic and mystical of the four gospels:

I am the vine and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit. (John 15:1-5)

Pruning, abiding, and bearing fruit.

It seems to me that the word ‘repentance‘ has got a bit of a PR problem.  I think that the idea ‘repentance’ can be a word we don’t necessarily like talking about. It too easily can bring up images of hate mongers, standing on the corner spewing vitriol, or protesting whatever they see as the current threat, while waving signs that say “Repent!”

If that’s what ‘repent’ is, I want nothing to do with it.

But in Hebrew, which is the language of the Jewish Scriptures, the word translated as repent is most often the Hebrew word Shoov, which, literally, means to turn. When I was in seminary, studying Hebrew one summer, my friends and I had to memorize something in the range of 40 words a day. The mnemonic which we used to remember Shoov was the image of your shoe, turning around. That’s free of charge. There was also another word, Ohell, which we remembered as “Ohell there’s a bear in the tent” but I can’t remember if the word means ‘tent’ or ‘bear.’ Since there are more tents than bears in the Bible, I’m guessing it was the former…

I also took Greek, which is the language of the Christian Scriptures, known often as the New Testament. In Greek the word for repent is most often metanoia, or to change ones mind.

So repent literally means to turn around–to stop going in one direction and turn, or return, in the opposite direction. It is a changing of ones mind.

It is not so much about “Horrible me, I’m an awful person, what must I do to rid myself of my horrible-ness.” It is more like ‘pruning’ which is an entirely different concept altogether. I’ve seen it primarily in my bougainvillea.

Last winter I gave the bougainvillea what I would call a good haircut. So good, in fact, that people who saw it wondered if it would ever come back. It had been a few years since I had pruned it, and in the intervening time it had gotten rather ‘leggy’ and not very full. So I pruned it. It was not because I was mad at it, or because it is an awful plant and needed to be punished–I pruned it because I wanted it to grow well.  And this summer? The blossoms are abundant, the foliage is dense and green.

The Days of Awe give us an opportunity to reflect, to prune.

But the thing about pruning, and about bearing fruit is that they both, of course, assume planting. There is a Chinese proverb–the best time to plant a tree is 100 years ago. The second best time is today.

The thing is, if you want to eat grapes now, you don’t plant a grape vine. If you want to eat grapes now you go to the fruteria and, provided they are in season, which they are currently, you buy yourself some grapes.

Planting a grape vine is something different entirely.

Though I have 15 fruit trees, this summer I can tell you exactly how much fruit I ate from them: three nectarines and one plum. That’s it. Four pieces of fruit. Granted, they were delicious. The best nectarine you’ve ever eaten. A plum that was sweet beyond anything that you’d buy at the store. But, that’s something in the range of $50 per piece of fruit, if you do the math.

It’s not exactly a great deal. At least not yet.

Right now, in fact, it seems a bit absurd, really.

But give it time. It will most definitely seem absurd. But, I trust, for entirely different reasons.

For I remember, as a kid growing up, we had a plum tree in our back yard. There were three of us–my mom, my dad and I–and we could not possibly eat all of the plums that came from that tree in a given summer, making jam with some, and giving the rest away. In fact, I was born in June, and that summer the plum tree on Snug Harbor Road had a bumper crop. Let’s just say, my mom learned the hard way that what she ate, I ate. But, I like to think that the love of plums, fresh from the tree, was instilled within me from the very milk that I feasted on when I was only weeks old.

That was one tree, with three people. I’ve planted 15 trees. I hope you all like fruit…

The Days of Awe invite us into a time of reflection, of repentance, of turning away from certain ways of being, pruning if you will, and turning toward that which bears fruit, abiding.

We are invited to consider that which we need to let go of, that which binds us, that which keeps us from being who we already are.

The fundamental question asked, in the ten day period represented by the Days of Awe, is ‘will my name be written in the book of life?’

We are called to turn, to change our minds, to repent.

But, at the end of the day, the point is not the pruning. The point is to bear fruit.

Jesus, when he preached among the people, put it this way: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Turn. Return. Change your mind. That which you are seeking, it is not ‘out there’ distant in some far off place or for some future time. Believe. It is right here, now, among you, within you.

You are already who you are still becoming–like a Presbyterian minister who doesn’t know the 23rd Psalm. Like a fruit tree. Like a grape vine.  This process doesn’t happen over night or immediately. It is not instantaneous. There is a time, a grace period–the Days of Awe–a space between the New Year and the Day of Atonement.

It’s like seeing that young vine, still only a plant, no fruit yet to speak of, and proclaiming, “grapes!”


*presented at Not Church September 9, 2012