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The Sacredness of God Moments

Th Sacredness of God Moments: Connectedness, Hope, Belonging, and Love


By Dr. Donald Sawatzky


March 3, 2024

 

1 Corinthians 12:4-11


The question I asked myself when Jim asked me to present the reflection the morning was: “What would be most meaningful for me to share on this Sunday morning?” In thinking about this, I remembered the words of Richard Wagamese in his book, Embers. His advice: don’t just write what you know. Write what you wish to know What you reveal to yourself, you reveal to the reader (in this case the listener). Storytelling is about discovery. A unique practice in this church has been the sharing of stories we refer to as God moments. The stories we share, often experience of awe and wonder are, I believe, as meaningful to the teller of the story as to the listener. The sharing time seems sacred.


I want to acknowledge that a number of people have directly contributed to my reflection today. Bev was, and is, my primary collaborator and confidant. The reading from Corinthians acknowledges the interdependence of all the body part6s, members of community and all of creation. Each has its own unique spirit. Books written by John O’Donahue and Richard Wagamese, modern day mystics, poets and storytellers were also primary sources. It was Bev who shared a recording of an interview she listened to in which O’Donahue was interviewed by Mary Hines on the program called Tapestry on CBC Radio. I listened to the interview and found myself in tears. O’Donahue talked about a restlessness in the human heart and a longing that lives deep within us. It is a basic human need to belong. To belong not only at a superficial level but there’s a longing to Be – to be fully present and to be fully alive. It is experiences of being fully alive that I hear being reported as God moments.


On the day I began to write this I heard Yvonne display with pride the hockey jersey and the feeling of belonging she experienced with her grandchildren. Elaine talked about the awe and wonder she experienced in seeing swans on Wood Lake. Fran talked about the hope and joy she experienced with a grandchild who is blooming in spite of being in very difficult circumstances. Previously we have heard about renewals of old friendships, the excitement of a new romance or the death of a soulmate.


Following the advice of Wagamese, my intent this morning will be to raise questions as opposed to having answers. I will also organize what I am going to say as my story. I’m not a theologian but have also been interested in theology and philosophy in addition to my specialization in psychology. I’ve always been interested in the connections between and among these disciplines. While thinking about the role of God moments in our lives, I wondered what they had in common. What make what might otherwise be an ordinary moment a God moment?


I will begin by sharing a God moment that I have talked about before. In doing so I’m moving out of my comfort zone and feeling some vulnerability. Some of you will remember my experience with a hummingbird.


About three years ago I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer – Merkel cell carcinoma. I had surgery on my buttocks in July of 2020 followed by a lengthy recovery period which took me well into November. This was followed by 28 days of radiation treatment. Initially I was unable to sit, so spent day after day on a colourful mattress spread out on a lounge chair on our deck. Although Bev was there, and John visited most days (for which I’m very grateful) my time was pretty solitary. One day in July, a beautiful tiny hummingbird appeared between the pillars on our deck. Initially, I was focused on the beauty and the incredible acrobatics of this tiny bird. I assumed the bird was attracted to the bright colours on my mattress. It came back daily then flew to the same barren twig at the top of the tree across the driveway. Because it predictably always came home to the same spot, I called it Homer. There were days when it didn’t immediately appear, and I worried that something might have happened to it. There was always relief when he appeared and I would call out “He’s back!”.


Eventually, when I was able to sit, I began to spend time at my office desk on the opposite side of the house. Twice Homer appeared at my window. Homer left for the winter then reappeared in the spring to the same twig. One day I was sitting at my office desk on the opposite side of the house and was startled to see home outside my window. I believe this experience with Homer will always be strongly embedded in my memories.


There is an underlying mystery to this entire experience for me. And there are endless questions.


My focus after a few weeks shifted from observing this little bird to experiencing it. Observing the beautiful little bird was in itself a God moment for me. I moved in my thoughts and feelings to another level when I felt a strong connection t6o this little bird and wondered how the bird might be experiencing me. If I am connected to this little bird, what is my connection to nature mor generally? What is my connection to the cosmos? What happens to my spirit when I die? I asked myself many questions.


During this time my fears related to my medical issues and of death generally began to dissipate. The visits from Homer were no longer ordinary, but became part of a larger reality. A reality based in Spirit. I moved from merely observing to experiencing. I believe now that this transition began through being alone – in solitude. I spent much time visualizing, being mindful of my reactions, of meditating, and in prayer. I believe I moved to a lager reality in which I belonged in the context of Spirit. I daily experienced the God presence.


O’Donahue references Meister Eckhart when he talks about an amazing region within you that is divine. Nothing that has ever happened to you has damaged or tarnished it. You can go there for refreshment and renewal. It appears that this space is best accessed through solitude.

I am going to read a piece from John O’Donohue which he titles “A Blessing of Solitude”.


May you recognize in your life the presence,

power, and light of your soul.

 

May you realize that you are never alone,

that your soul in its brightness and belonging

connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

 

May you have respect for your individuality and difference.

 

May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,

that you have a special destiny here,

that behind the façade of your life

there is something beautiful and eternal happening.

 

May you learn to see your self

with the same delight,

pride, and expectation

with which God sees you in every moment.


These are the words of a wise man, John O’Donohue. What is most meaningful to me is the following: “May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.”

There are moments when we sense our interconnection with all things more than just interesting encounters. They are invitations into relationship. As O’Donohue suggests, we are privileged to still have time. The shape of each of our souls is different. Much unhappiness at the end of life derives from the fact that we are living the life expected of us, rather than the life of unique possibilities. We have fallen out of rhythm with the secret signature and light of our own nature. Gerald the Giraffe found his own rhythm. Jesus struggled in the desert but found and accepted his role and destiny after 40 days of solitude.

To summarize, the words connection, belonging, hope and love are four words I associate with God moments. Connectedness to a grandchild, to an old friend, to nature, to God, and to our memories. Important relationships do not end with death.

What is the role of religion? The word religion, as Richard Rohr points out, breaks down as re, “again”, and ligeos, meaning connection. Religion is meant to offer us support to connect again that which has been separated. We need reminders to connect with the whole – the holy.

As an aside to this thought it seems apparent that when religion loses its purpose and colludes with the forces of separation, it becomes irrelevant and consequently irreverent.

The word “belong”, O’Donohue suggests, is two words – “Be who I am at this moment and “longing” to be all that I can. We long to feel a part of something, whether it is a family, church community or universe. Many development psychologists suggest that the need for a child to belong in a family is a most important determiner of future behaviours. When I walk into this church and am greeted with warmth,  feel I belong. It is often a God moment for me.

Most basically, we long for love. No matter how competent or self-assured we are, the one thing we deeply long for is to love and be loved. To be loved by partners, friends, our children, or grandchildren. Even by our dogs and cats. We all long to be seen and loved. We can never be fully visible to ourselves. Good friends are mirrors through which we can see ourselves with more clarity.


In conclusion, I will read you a poem by Richard Wagamese that deeply resonates with me and uniquely summarizes the overall intent of what I have been talking about and wee have been singing about this morning. The piece I will read is taken from Wagamese’s book of Ojibway Meditations called “Embers”.


I want to listen deeply enough that I hear

every and nothing at the same time

and am made more by the enduring quality of my silence.

I want to question deeply enough that I am made

more not by the answers so much as my desire to

continue asking questions.

I want to speak deeply

enough that I am made more by the articulation

of my truth shifting into the day’s shape.

In this way, listening, pondering and sharing

become my connection to the oneness of life,

and there is no longer any part of me in exile.

 

AMEN

 

Primary References

O’Donahue, John (2022) Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. Harper Collin: New York.

O’Donahue, John (Dec. 17, 2023) Our most Requested Interview. Tapestry, CBC Listen.

Wagamese, Richard (2016) Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations. Douglas and McIntyre: Madeira Park, B.C.

Wagamese, Richard (2021) What Comes from Spirit. Douglas and McIntyre: Madeira Park, B.C.

 

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