Today we continue our Lenten series on spiritual practices offering silence to be present to God and deepen your connection.
CM is also hosting a series on Mental & Emotional Wellness and after worship today we are hosting a speaker to talk about addiction and recovery, we hope you will join us. It is through this lens that I read today’s scripture readings and prepared for this service.
I dare say that there is no one that addiction does not touch. Whether it is you yourself who wrestles with addiction or someone in your friend or family circle, addiction is part of this culture and a topic we need to talk about in our faith community. For too long addiction and recovery have remained in the shadows. Topics of shame for many that need to be hidden away or not spoken of in “polite company” like in church. Or it might be denial that keeps us from seeing what is true and how addiction touches us.
Our Caring Ministry team invites you to let go of this old notion because it is not helping anyone to keep things hidden. For there to be any healing, we must speak more openly about addiction and take away the stigma and shame. And we must learn to honor those in recovery and the journey they are on because I can tell you that in this community, we have people all along the journey themselves or walking with their loved one on it. We see you and are here to be on the journey with you.
A personal share. Addiction touches me personally. Some of you know that in November, our nephew died of what the coroner is calling an accidental drug overdose. He had struggled for years with addiction to drugs and alcohol and sought and received help. It wasn’t enough for him and sadly he was found dead on a Tuesday afternoon, 4 days after returning home from time in rehab and jail. A life gone too soon leaving 4 children and many friends and family behind. Addiction effects everyone around and the ripple effects will remain for perhaps a lifetime for those who survive.
Gabor Mate, a world-renowned expert on addiction, trauma and the brain defines addiction like this. “any behavior that gives you temporary relief, temporary pleasure, but in the long term, causes harm, has some negative consequences and you can’t give it up despite those negative consequences.
And from that perspective, you can understand that there are many, many addictions. Yes, there is the addiction to drugs, but there is also the addiction to consumerism, there is the addiction to sex, to the internet, to shopping, to food.”
He goes on to speak about some of the people he has worked with in his career and what he has learned. He says this, “They lose their health, they lose their beauty, they lose their teeth, they lose their wealth, they lose human relationships and in the end, they often lose their lives. And yet, nothing shakes them from their addiction, nothing can force them to give up their addiction.
The addictions are powerful and the question is: why? And as one of my patients said to me, “I’m not afraid of dying,” he said, “I’m more afraid of living.” A question we have to ask is: why are people afraid of life? And, if you want to understand addiction, you can’t look at what’s wrong with the addiction, you have to look at what’s right about it.
In other words, what is the person getting from the addiction? What are they getting that otherwise they don’t have? What addicts get is release from pain, what they get is a sense of peace, a sense of control, a sense of calmness, very, very temporarily.
Now if you look at the drugs like heroin, like morphine, like codeine, if you look at cocaine, if you look at alcohol, these are all pain killers. In one way or another, they all soothe pain. And thus the real question in addiction is not why the addiction, but why the pain?” (The Power of Addiction and The Addiction to Power: Gabor Maté Ted Talk Transcript)
Why the pain? Such a powerful question. And how do we be church for those in pain?
Lee & Leanne’s song … Leave what’s heavy behind.
Whatever causes you pain, whatever is heavy, is it time to leave it behind so that something new can sprout? We all have something that causes pain or is heavy. What will we do with it? As I think about this, I am reminded about Henri Nouwen’s book on The Wounded Healer.
“Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.
Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.” (https://henrinouwen.org/meditation/the-wounded-healer/)
What are you carrying that’s heavy? Is it time to leave it behind? Just like the seed in the gospel reading that served its purpose, whatever you are carrying served its purpose and now you can leave it behind you. No need to carry it any longer. Have a good cry as the song says and let it go, move on, see what might be possible. Maybe you need some help to let it go – and it’s okay to ask for it as hard as that may sound. Your church family is here to support you.
What might grow. How might your life change? You might lose something as the gospel says, but more likely you’ll gain something. How might what’s heavy be transformed into something beautiful or nourishing when you let it go?
Sometimes letting go takes different forms.
Jesus in the gospel text today … quietly and calmly says my soul is troubled. It’s like that sometimes. Quiet, calm. And we can go to silence to center, to hear God’s still, small voice. That was this past week’s spiritual practice suggestions – to be quiet. To listen to the silence. We will practice that together shortly.
And the Hebrew text says Jesus offered up loud cries & supplications. It’s like that sometimes too! Nicole preached about that a couple of weeks ago with her sermon on anger. Sometimes we just need to get out our emotions and it comes out loud and messy and that’s ok too.
If we don’t get out our grief, sadness, frustration or whatever, it eats at us and begins to consume us and then we can look for ways outside of ourselves to soothe the soul or the pain, to calm the monkey mind, the voice in our head that says we are worthless, don’t deserve, the fear, the anxiety … whatever.
It’s up to us whether we choose to deal with the heaviness or pain with drugs or alcohol or some other destructive thing for our mind, body or soul. Or if we turn to God and to community for support, because here’s the thing, we can’t do it all alone. We all need some help – that’s the wisdom from AA, but I think it’s also wisdom about how we BE church.
I love the line in that song about I want to be let in, I want to share with you what is heavy. No need to do it alone. Not in a co-dependent, I can fix you kind of way, but in a way that you know that you are not alone as you go through whatever is weighing you down. Isn’t that what church is about – finding a community of people you can be yourself in, to help you grow, stand with you as your wrestle? To help us let go of what is burdening us – what’s heavy so that we can carry on? And to be supported?
The gospel today says The seed can not grow if it isn’t planted. It will die and no one will benefit from its fruit. As a church community, let’s plant seeds of acceptance, safety, and compassion so that everyone who comes across our path knows that they can share the heaviness inside and get support. You might save a life from suicide or addiction. You might save your own too. We are in this together.
And that brings us to our spiritual practice today – silence. Whether you are grieving, happy, lamenting, or sad, silence can help you connect to God – and to other people. I’d like to share the Meditation for the Day from the book 24 Hours a Day by Richard Walker – this is the meditation that goes with the reading that Karen offered. I’ll read the invitation to meditation. Then sing a song called Listen in the Silence written by Linnea Good. And then we’ll have a bit of extended silence. If we were in Taize or Breathing Space, we would sit for 10 minutes in silence which I personally love, but I won’t do that to you. Let’s try 2 minutes together – Philip will bring us back with the singing bowl. Find yourself in a comfortable position if possible. Both feet on the floor. Close your eyes if you are comfortable or softly gaze in front of you. Take in a deep breath and let it out.
Meditation for the Day
Withdraw into the calm of communion with God. Rest in that calm and peace. When the soul finds its home of rest in God, then it is that real life begins. Only when you are calm and serene can you do good work. Emotional upsets make you useless. The eternal life is calmness and when you enter into that, then you live as an eternal being. Calmness is based on complete trust in God. Nothing in this world can separate you from the love of God.
Listen in Silence by Linnea Good
Listen in the silence, listen in the noise, listen for the sound of the Spirit’s voice