• The Rev. Arianne Rice

Intention


It is good to be together for worship in the parish hall of our church! We haven’t done so in awhile and it is good to be in this sacred space. Instead of the beauty of stained glass we get to look out our windows and see the beauty of God’s creation, so much green in morning light. And thanks be to God we get to enjoy that view with the cool breeze of air-conditioning!**

Paul’s letter reminds us that together we create a household of God. Our coming together in this space is what makes it sacred. Being brought together through Christ we create a temple of the holy.

And while there may not be “dividing walls” that separate us there are streets and zip codes between where we are and the kids of Franklin Square downtown, so I’m equally excited for the next two weeks! Where again we will grow this household of God to include all of them. Using our beautiful space to uplift, inspire and encourage.

So we are here to bless and sanctify this space. We worship here this morning to make a right beginning of a major stewardship effort. Replacing our roof, a multi-phase project and endeavor. And that’s what we do in a faith community – we begin meetings, conversations, programs and projects by giving thanks and praise, by asking God’s blessing, with intention.

We are the household of God. We are temples of the holy, as one body and as individuals. Each of us holding the light of Christ within. Christ in me – and Christ in you – Namaste.

That ancient Sanskrit word conveys the same truth. And is uttered far more frequently in this space at the end of our community yoga practice. At the beginning of practice, as the teacher invites us to settle into our mats, take some deep breaths and get grounded, often times, one is asked to set an intention. What brought you to your mat for this practice? What do you intend to cultivate in this practice this morning that you will carry with you when you leave? Compassion? Strength? Healing?

Makes sense to ask the same question before worship, don’t you think? What intention do you bring to your seat this morning? What Christ-like quality do you intend to cultivate this morning? Compassion? Strength? Healing?

Intention is the beginning of mindfulness. This word, mindfulness, is pretty commonplace in our vernacular these days. It isn’t a flighty, blissful attitude of being in the moment – forgetting about the future or the past. Its heightened attention. Its setting an intention to bring our whole attention to one thing – the activity we currently find ourselves engaged in.

Mindful eating is saying grace before a meal – and carrying that spirit of grace throughout the meal. Paying attention to the food, awareness of the many hands that brought it to your plate. Paying attention to the conversation, or the sweet silence, around you at the table.

Mindful work may be opening your email with attention. Not reactively responding to every ding and beep your phone makes opening whatever notification it tells you to. Instead, setting aside time to read email – prepare for the onslaught of questions, information, pleas and demands on your time by thoughtfully reading each one, without doing anything else “in the background.” Responding to what needs responding to and letting go of the ones that don’t.

Mindfulness is the truth that defies multi-tasking. It is giving your heart, mind and soul to the task at hand which is what helps us discern if that task at hand is really something that is worth our time. Is something that cultivates the qualities of Christ, i.e. human growth, to help us use our gifts wisely.

This is the teaching I hear from the gospel this morning. Not a criticism of Martha and her badge of busyness, but an alternative way of looking at her situation. Martha is distracted, literally being “pulled in many directions.” You know what that feels like don’t you?

This story needs to be read in tandem with our story last week, the young lawyer wanting to know, “what do I do to inherit eternal life?” Both Martha and the young lawyer want to know what to do? Which tasks are the ones that need tending to? Which tasks are what God wants of us? What are we to do? The heart of almost every silent, individual prayer.

In both cases Jesus responds with – love. In the case of the lawyer it is being merciful, that’s love. In the case of Martha, it is being present to the love within and around her, that’s Christ. In both exchanges Jesus invites the person who want to know what to do – to reorient themselves towards their being.

What is the intention you bring? What is your starting place? What are you cultivating?

So what does mindfulness get us? What’s the good news? Well, if you read publications like Harvard Business Review, apparently it will make you more productive, better organizations, more successful. That’s good I suppose.

But in terms of living a wholehearted life it will align your values with the values of the kingdom of God. Helping us create the “operating system” that cultivates seeing with the “eyes of our heart enlightened.” It helps us feel the beating of our hearts and the depth of our breath. The gifts that sustain us, that remind us of our finitude and hopefully gratitude, for what we have been given.

So put your hands over your heart – feel the temple of the divine in you – and ask yourself, for this Sabbath day – what is one intention for your attention? What aspect of the divine needs to grow in you? Namaste.

** Usually, I record my sermons using my cell phone. This morning with my topic being the intention with which we focus our attention, there was no attention paid to pressing “Record.” So below is a summary of what I preached.

CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

1401 Carrollton Avenue
Towson, Maryland 21204

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8:00 am - Holy Eucharist

10:00 am – Choral Eucharist with Children's Chapel

Nursery Care is available during the 10 am service

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