Oakland church

Sustainable Spirituality

It’s the fall, and for many of us, it’s a very hectic time of year. A time where some of us can lose hope in the busy- ness of it all. The same can be true for us as a faith community, with everything from Karaoke parties, to Blessings of the Animals, to preschool welcome parties, and Sierra Leone Bike fundraisers. My special thanks to all of you who led these events, who volunteered to support them, and who invited friends to take part. Each of these events are beautiful ministries to the wider community. They are also a lot of work!

This Sunday, we will explore our need for balance, and for spiritual practices that sustain us, in times where hope seems lost. We will explore this in worship and after the service when I share highlights from my sabbatical. Childcare and lunch will be provided!

A sustainable spirituality begins with self-care. Flight attendants always remind parents traveling with children in the event of emergency to put their own oxygen mask on first. By tending to our own wholeness, we contribute to the wholeness of others. Self-care can mean taking a walk in the woods. It can mean demanding time for the exercise we know our bodies need. It can be writing in a journal. It can be curling up with a good book. It can be getting a massage. It can be picking up a musical instrument too long laid aside.

Self-care can be saying “no” to yet another request for help—including from this church. The Chinese pictograph for “busy,” Brother David Steindl-Rast reminds us, comprises two characters, one for heart and one for killing. Thomas Merton admonished, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

Sustainable spirituality requires practice. Prayer, meditation, yoga, and tai-chi shrink the ego and open it to receive the infinite. Spiritual disciplines help restore our sense of being whole, forgiven, and at peace. Just a few minutes of silence each day can restore our balance and our sanity.

Through all the days and nights of exhaustion, frustration, and sometimes despair of being a pastor, I’ve persisted in my daily meditation practice. Often I asked myself: how can I find the time? And the answer was always the same: how can I afford not to? “Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt,” says the Tao te Ching. “Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”

Another practice of sustainable spirituality is to make an offering of our lives, our work, our successes, even our failures. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna counsels, “Whatever you do, make it an offering to me: the food you eat, the sacrifices you make, the help you give, even your suffering.” When we offer ourselves up to love, to God, to any larger purpose, we surrender our egos, which just get in our way anyway. It’s not about us anymore, and in a way we can relax—not give up the struggle, but give up our self-importance. We become an instrument of God’s peace.

Blessings upon your week,

With love, Pastor Laurie


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