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Remaining in Thyself

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 - 8:1 and Reclaiming Our Lost Sense of Self by Jack Kornfield


Sunday September 12th, 2021



Happy Sunday and welcome to you on this special day in the life of our congregation and our community! Thank you to our incredible team of volunteers, and staff for all of the powerful creativity and connection used to keep us going in this time. The last time I had a community in here with me for this time was March 8, 2020. So welcome, welcome back into your sacred circle.


In our tradition, today is the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost and as we come to this time in our service, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and to let yourself arrive and take in some deep breathes, to notice your heartbeat and to breathe in peace, to breathe out stress, to hear whatever word God has for you today. Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19)


They said she had withdrawn her commitment to her team, stepped down from the stadium of history, not shown up perfectly because she couldn’t toughen up or build the brawn to keep going. Some called her weak and a failure, faltering at just the moment she should have been able to rise. But others said she was brave and bold and finally drawing a boundary around her body and the best of herself.


Simone Biles is one of the Greatest of All Time and she had to back out of the Tokyo Olympics this July because her body and her mind were out of sync. For those of you already familiar with gymnastics terms, this is called the twisties and it is “the feeling of being lost in the air, making an athlete unable to complete skills to their usual ability.” And it is extremely dangerous for a gymnast when this happens. But the pressure to carry on, of course is huge and not long ago the athletes would have. The world often wants us and women in particular, to sacrifice our bodies for entertainment, for achievement, for others to feel their power, to ignore our insights and our instincts. We are told to remain stoic, sometimes told to endure pain so others can continue to feel comfortable.


That was how it was for beloved American gymnast Kerri Strug back in 1996. My friends and I watched her every move, awestruck at what she could do. She was part of the team that was called the “Magnificent Seven,” and over the Summer Games in Atlanta she “severely injured her ankle after an awkward landing from the vault. But she was told to continue to perform a second vault – on her injured ankle – and nailed the landing on one foot, before collapsing in pain.” As one writer noted, “That iconic, viral moment, before viral videos were really a thing, helped Team USA earn their first-ever gold medal in women’s gymnastics…. (and) While the world cheered her on for her perseverance,” But the truth she was conditioned to push through her pain under an abusive environment where girls were afraid to challenge authority.”


She sacrificed her body for entertainment, for achievement, for others to feel their power, because the culture around her told her to ignore her instincts and her insights, to remain stoic, to endure pain so others could continue to feel okay. And we lament that she felt that way but we know this isn’t what should be and it isn’t what the wisdom in our tradition says.


The sacred text from the Wisdom of Solomon tells us that wisdom itself is like a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God- an image of God’s goodness.” And it allows us to know our power because as the text says, “Although wisdom(she) is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things…”


While remaining in herself, while remaining in ourselves, remaining true to who we are at our core, allows us to be renewed each day and to even renew others. And when we remain in our true selves, we are able to let go of worrying or protecting or defending who we are- because if we are living our true selves, we can just be kind and shine like a “spotless mirror of the working of God…”


But it can be hard to get to this place because in order to survive as kids we learn to ignore all of these things. We develop these constructs that are mental and social that are like our containers. These are like false expressions that we wear to please or survive or get by.


As Richard Rohr notes, “Our separate self is who we think we are, but our thinking does not make it true… He goes on, “If we do not let go of our separate self/false self at the right time and in the right way, we remain stuck, trapped, and addicted…Only in our True Self can we be truly free...”


When we are remaining in that place and living from that place, there is freedom for our true selves and living from that place, there is freedom. And as Jack Cornfield wrote of the discovery of the true self, “From this sense of true nature, we can also discover and honor our personal destiny, our self for this life,” He calls it “the unique patterns through which our awakening will express itself.” And this has made me wonder what if remaining in our true selves and living from that place, means we can be in awe of the unique patterns of other human lives instead of need or trying to fully understand them or even manage them? What if our collective awakening is connected to each of us uncovering and living from and remaining in, our true selves, being honest about who we are and who we aren’t, and allowing others to do the same?


More and more people are being drawn to our vision and mission here as a church; I am guessing part of it is, making meaning out of this moment on planet earth, how can we as a church, ensure each one is seen? How do we let each of us- people of different generational cohorts, different educational backgrounds, different theological frameworks, different expressions of gender, different political persuasions, different life experiences, how can each of us be more in awe of the unique patterns of other human lives, turning ourselves toward wonder? I am thinking of this because it seems to me that there are fewer and fewer places in our culture, where people are allowed to hang out with those they might not choose. And that is one of the beautiful things about church.


What a blessing that there are now places where it is okay, where we can live our true selves, where we are no longer expected to sacrifice our bodies our minds, our hearts, for others to feel okay. What a good thing that our culture gives permission, what a gift to be living in a moment when we no longer need to remain stoic, enduring pain. Simone Biles dared to love her body and to trust her instincts. She dared to remain in herself and it brought goodness, giving permission for others to do the same, making a way for more to claim their power and their place, and to be seen and be heard. Another member of the 1996 “Magnificent Seven,” gymnast Dominque Moceanu wrote of her support for Biles when she said, “I was 14 y/o with a tibial stress fracture, left alone with no cervical spine exam after this fall,” “I competed in the Olympic floor final minutes later. Simone Biles’s decision demonstrates that we have a say in our own health—“a say” I NEVER felt I had as an Olympian.” Maybe that is one of the ways that we know we are being true, rooted in our true selves? If our words and actions create something that feel like “an image of God’s goodness,” not just for us but for others?

And this feels more important now in our congregation and in our community. How do we continue to live out our call to be a wild and wondrous mix, a diverse expression, unique patterns of human life? When most other groups are divided by niches agreed upon so most are opting into a group of people who think alike, how do we model something else? How can we be a place where people of all kinds are invited to remain in our true selves? Where all of us are able to let go of worrying or protecting or defending who we are- because we are rooted in our true selves?

Wisdom as you heard in the Hebrew scripture is given the feminine pronoun and it is defined not by knowledge, but listening to the inner voice. So beloved of God, the world often wants us to sacrifice who we are for others to feel their power, or to feel more comfortable but don’t ignore your instincts and your insights to endure. Beloved be brave in a world that wants you to be less. Be who you are. Live from your true self. This is a place to remember that whoever you are, you are crafted in the image of God. What if what we really need right now is each of us, living as our true selves, being seen and loved as we are? May that be so for all of us. Amen.


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