What is it about Lent that invites us to transformation, and at the same time reminds us it doesn’t have to be that hard? Join Rev. Melanie as she explores this invitation to new awakening.
Speaker: Rev. Melanie Eyre
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Prayer For Peace
May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, that You abolish all wars and bloodshed from this world and extend a great and wonderful peace in the world. Nations shall not lift up the sword against one another, neither shall they learn to make war any more. May all the inhabitants of this universe acknowledge the one great truth; that we have not come into this world for friction and dissension, nor enmity and jealousy and vexation and bloodshed. We have come into the world solely that we might know You, eternally blessed One.
And therefore have mercy upon us that through us the written word will become a reality. “And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts and no sword shall cross your land.” (Lev. 26:6) “But let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream.” (Amos.5:24) “For the land shall be filled with devotion to Adonai as water covers the sea.” (Is. 11:9)
~ Based on the prayer of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, from Siddur Ha’avodah She’ba’lev, Service of the HeartTalk: Discovering Sabbath
Prayer for Humanity
May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.
~ Shantideva, Indian Buddhist sage 700 A.D. Prayer performed each morning by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Welcome. So today I’d like to talk about Lent, about this season that invites us to transformation.
I’ve spoken before about what the Christian calendar calls the liturgical year, the cycle of the year. In truth such cycles appear in other faith traditions as well – each gives us opportunities to celebrate at times, mourn at times, reflect and renew at other times. In the Christian tradition, we’re now in Lent, a 40 day invitation to reflection, awakening.
I’ve heard it said that Lent is about giving up ways of thinking that no longer serve us, it’s about entering period of spiritual practice in which we have the chance to remind ourselves of who we really are, a perfect child of God. It’s not about giving up chocolate.
I suggest that Lent is not about depriving ourselves, but about transforming ourselves.
What does an transformed life look like? How do we get there, from here? We have all the potential inside – that’s the good news. The not so good news is that we are so good at ignoring it – indeed, remaining ignorant of the light inside. We don’t know who and what we are. Our process of awakening, of enlightenment, is the journey we take to dig down until we finally experience the truth of our connection to source, to each other, to all of creation.
Is this an easy process? No, but when I say it’s not easy that doesn’t mean the natural response is to work harder. My talk today is entitled “Stop Trying” – why? Because, I suggest, we can’t work ourselves into fundamental transformation.
All the tools we have spent so many years developing, our intellect, our rational minds, our ability to plan, scheme, devise – all this seems to just get in the way. We will never reason ourselves into lives of peace and transcendent joy. We will not educate ourselves, read ourselves, into fundamental change. True transformation happens at a different level. Our busy, loud, demanding minds drown out the voice coming from our hearts. Our minds just suck up all the attention in the room. We are working so hard. We all too often are working too hard.
Father Richard Rohr, one of my favorite current Christian mystics, has noted what some may regard as a paradox. Jesus, that transformational teacher who inspired so many, didn’t really give what one might consider motivational, or even inspirational, talks. He wasn’t what Rohr called a ‘football coach.” What he did instead was lead his followers into lives, into practices, that fundamentally changed them. His goal was to give his followers a new self-image, to radically redesign how they saw themselves, their purpose, and their relationship to each other. Rohr says Jesus was not talking about changes, but about foundational change.
In writing about Lenten transformation, Rohr suggests that we depend far too much, look too often, for those folks who inspire us in the moment. While change may begin with such inspiration, it only begins there. We still need to do the work – fundamental change happens when we move beyond our minds – beyond our small “S” self, and into that larger consciousness where our true self waits to be found.
A friend of mine a while back turned me on to Seth Godin, who sends out a regular email with very insightful, short observations. He sent one out a few years ago on what he called “transformation tourism.” Here’s what he said:
“I bought the diet book, but ate my usual foods.”
“I filled the prescription, but didn’t take the meds.”
“I took the course….well, I watched the videos…but I didn’t do the exercises in writing.”
Merely looking at something almost never causes change. Tourism is fun, but rarely transformative. If it was easy, you would have already achieved the change you seek.
Change comes from new habits, from acting as if, from experiencing the inevitable discomfort of becoming.
Does that resonate in your own life? Are you a transformational tourist? I took the course, read the book, said I was going to focus more on [fill in the blank]. But then, it was too hard. Diversion called. I forgot, I got busy. Other shiny objects grabbed my attention. Then, when I felt that discomfort again, that imbalance in my life, that lack of peace, I fill the gap with another motivational moment.
The invitation Lent gives us is to remember that the only path to fundamental change comes through our own inner unfolding. Maybe that’s why it’s for a period of 40 days – these awakenings don’t usually happen overnight, but are gradual and cumulative. We are not invited to learn more with our minds, but to unpack those layers we have added that dull our own inner light.
Wayne Muller put it this way: The heart of most spiritual practice is simply this: Remember. Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true. Remember that you will die and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live.
It may take us 40 days to simply remember, to find again our own inner voice and knowing. I believe it’s not a process of education, but a process of release, and surrender. willingness to join with the flow of the divine that carries us at all times, in joyful times and difficult ones.
Foundational change comes when we shift on the inside – and what happens then? We find that shift reflected in all the ways we engage with the outside.
Not a function of work – it’s a function of willingness, and what some call grace. It’s remaining open to the presence of spirit in you, as you, and in every aspect of your life. You will begin to see life through changed eyes, through the eyes of your large “S” self. In the Christian New Testament, Paul put it this way, in Galations, Chapter 2, verse 20:
I live no longer my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.
Each one of us must find our own path to this remembering. I can tell you my experience, but it’s not yours. It is said “The Tao has ten thousand gates,’ say the masters, and it is up to each of us to find our own.” (Schipper, Taoist Body, 158) We each must find, and enter, our own gate into this greater knowing.
How do we do that? We have invitations and opportunities every day. These gates lie in our own lives, lived with awareness and compassion. When we can see the invitation of Spirit in every moment to greater awareness of our fundamental oneness, we open to becoming. Why oneness? Because it reflects the truth of who you are, who I am.
When I can meet a stranger, read the news, talk to a friend, and see the face of the divine in each person, I am becoming changed. It’s not work, it’s willingness, and remembering.
That is how we become a new creation
It’s always been there, and it remains there, waiting for each of us to remember, and listen. To shift our focus from our constantly zooming minds, to our hearts, to that inner spaciousness that knows who we are, and where we come from.
So the question for this week, for this Lenten week, is are we going to be transformational tourists, or are we going to step in to greater awakening, and true change?
Thanks for listening.
About Rev. Melanie
Rev. Melanie Eyre is an ordained Interspiritual Minister and long-time student of the world’s many diverse faith traditions. She has served as One World’s Spiritual Director since 2015 and is the founder of the North Fulton Interfaith Alliance here in Georgia. Outside of One World, Rev. Melanie has a beautiful family and enjoys officiating traditional and non-traditional rituals and other special ceremonies that mark important life transitions – weddings, baby blessings, and celebrations of life.
For more about Rev. Melanie and her practice, visit her website: Memorable Services with Heart.
From Thomas Merton:
There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.
This service aired on March 6, 2022