Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wonder and Acceptance

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 -- Week of 4 Advent, Year Two
Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon, Missionary in China, 1912

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, 939)
Psalms 66, 67 (morning) 116, 117 (evening)
1 Samuel 2:1b-10
Titus 2:1-10
Luke 1:26-38

First, a note about the new observance in our trial calendar, Holy Women, Holy Men.
Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon [Dec. 14, 1840-Dec. 24, 1912] Southern Baptist missionary to China. During a famine, she stopped eating in solidarity with the people she served. As her health deteriorated, she was sent back to US but died when the boat reached Kobe, Japan. The Southern Baptists still hold a Lottie Moon Christmas Food Offering for mission work. (Dec. 22)

How can it be?
Let it be.

Mary's dual exclamation of wonder and acceptance is a beautiful model. As the angel Gabriel begins to tell her a complicated tale that bears examination, she hears his words with wonder and openness. She asks of the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" She asks an open-ended, wondering question that speaks to the most mystifying part of his announcement. It's an honest question; it's an open question.

In our Circles of Trust ministries, we teach small groups to ask honest, open questions of one another as an aid toward discernment. A circle of listeners will hear a focus person describe briefly a situation in their life about which the focus person is seeking clarity or direction. The listeners will then ask honest, open questions that are intended to help the discerner access one's own inner wisdom.

The creator of the Circles of Trust, Parker Palmer says, "The best single mark of an honest, open question is that the questioner could not possibly know the answer to it." Mary wonders, "How can this be?" She doesn't shut off the conversation. She doesn't go into a long list of issues and complexities. She goes to the place of wonder, and asks the open, honest question that is on her heart.

The angel gives her an answer. She listens. Someone has said that Americans don't listen, they reload. Mary listens. The angel tells her more wonders. For most of us this answer would not be satisfactory. Our need to control would begin to take over, and we'd begin debate with an angel.

"Let it be," Mary says. Fundamental words of trust. Let it be. I quoted from Gerald May the other day, from his wonderful little book "Simply Sane." I think I've read it five times. It's about time for another read. Gerald May says, "Things are as they are whether one accepts them or not. So they may as well be accepted." "Let it be," says Mary. She accepts the reality that has already begun deep within her. We know that it will bring her both joy and pain.

There is something interesting that Mary does not say. She does not object or protest when the angel says of her that she is blessed, that she has found favor with God. She accepts that as well. That may have been the harder acceptance. "Oh no, not me. I have so many faults. God couldn't find such favor in me." That's what most of us would say. Not Mary. She lets the angel announce not only her motherhood, but also her state of beloved favor before God. She accepts such a divine complement. "Let it be."

Going back to Gerald May: "Things are as they are whether one accepts them or not. So they may as well be accepted. If one can accept everything, just as it is, totally, one simply can be. But total acceptance is very rare. There can be no exceptions if acceptance is total. Nothing withheld. If this kind of acceptance sounds passive, then it is incomplete. One has forgotten to accept one's desire to change things. If one can accept each situation, just as it is, and also accept one's own reaction to that situation, just as it is, there is nothing left but wonder.

"Acceptance of one's self is often more difficult than acceptance of a situation. But anywhere, any time, it is possible to do the best one can and then say something like, 'I accept,' or 'Thy will be done,' or 'I offer everything else to the universe.'"

We know that the central message of the gospel is a message of grace. God loves us. We are blessed; we are God's beloved. Despite whatever we may think, we have found favor with God.

How can this be?
Let it be.

The gift that Mary would give us: Wonder and Acceptance.


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 4:28 PM, Blogger George said...

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, ....

At 10:46 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Hi Lowell,

Quite a thought, that most would probably start a debate with an angel! I had to laugh at that.

Thanks George - groovy music.

Peace to all this winter night. Janet

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the music, George.

I'm sure I've debated with an angel before. I'm too full of my own opinions so much.

A friend wrote today saying that we often "listen with our mind in our ear." We can't hear the other because we are too full of our own thoughts.



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