The Blessings of Summer

June 23, 2016 — Rev. Paula Norbert


Just a few days ago on the Summer Solstice, people around the earth celebrated the day when the hours of light are longest.  We know that sunshine brings warm, helps crops and flowers to grow, and allows us to feel the warmth from the sun in a special way.   Many of us look forward each year to the coming of summer.  We carry memories of the days of summer from our childhood, days when we had a long break from school and probably had as much free time as we could possibly imagine.  We yearn for the freedom and enjoyment of those days and we look forward each year to what the months ahead may offer to us in terms of being out of doors for longer stretches of time, of welcoming guests and walking the beach or hiking a mountain path.  It is surely a time of being present to the Presence of our creator all around us.  I do know that for some whose work is geared to the tourist season, summer is a time of hard work and long hours.  Our hope is that even for all who spend the summer working, that they too may find moments of rest and joy and sustenance.  Let us pray, Creator of all, we thank You for summer.  Draw us closer to You this summer.  Teach us how we can pray no matter where we are or what we are doing. Warm our souls with the awareness of Your presence, and light our path with Your Word and Counsel. As we enjoy Your creation, create in us a pure heart and a hunger and a thirst for You.   Amen.

How did you spend summers as a child?  If you grew up on a farm, your days, or those of your parents, probably began at the crack of dawn.  For others, summer provided a much-needed rest from the schedules of school and other activities.  When many of us were children, I think that summer was often a great deal less scheduled and more carefree than it has become of late.  Many young ones are almost as scheduled in the summer as they are during the year, with summer school and special camps or with summer jobs.  I think we’d all agree that summer is a great time to carve out moments to slow down and just be.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus invites his followers to take a break from their traveling and ministry to the crowds.  The story says, immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he sent the crowds away. “Come with me by yourselves,” Jesus told them, “to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Rest is so important for everyone to collect their thoughts, to reflect on their days and to try to take a pause from all that we carry in our hearts that weighs us down.  The Rev. Terry Hershey says,

“It’s not about creating a life absent of stress.
It’s about being present, even in the hectic times.
In other words, it is in the rest, the refueling, the “be-ing,” the sanctuary to refocus on essential matters, which allows us to let go, to be present, even in the busy times, the noise, the demands, the lists.”
We all  need the freedom to take a pause from the cares of the world, and of our lives.  We are invited into “the spontaneity and joy and compassion and gladness that comes from not being beholden to worry.”

The writer Gabrielle Roth points out that in places where shamans were the primary healers, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
When did you stop dancing? 
When did you stop singing? 
When did you stop being enchanted by stories? 
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
The question wasn’t, “When are you going to quit worrying?”

We simplify when we pause a spell.
When we pause, we SEE.
When we pause we find our own voice.
When we pause, we take our power back, our lives back.
When we pause we can practice the sacrament of the blessed present.

I recently saw a piece on the news about a medical doctor who writes

prescriptions for her patients to spend at least two hours a week out of doors, not an hour, nor an hour and a half, but at least two hours.  Studies show that the benefits to our emotional and physical health are great when we take the time to be outside and rest awhile.  For many of us, being outside is a lot easier when the weather is temperate, the sun is shining, and we can enjoy all the pleasures of our senses from the sound of the birds to the beauty of our gardens, to the warmth of the sun’s rays upon us.

The poet Rilke once wrote about how he learned to stand “more seeingly” in front of certain paintings. And that’s what we all could use, I believe…  To live these moments more “seemingly,” for every one of these “more seeingly” moments is a deposit to our spiritual and emotional well-being, a deposit of joyfulness, enchantment, gladness, awe, delight, peacefulness, and investment.  (Rev. Terry Hershey) It is about paying attention to the precious moments which surround us each day; it’s about allowing ourselves to rest in the beauty of the simple moments of life, and of summer.

What gifts do you recall from summer’s past?  How does God speak to us as we wander the beach or sail to the horizon?  What new blessings await us in the days ahead if we only pay attention?  Ask yourself,

When did you stop dancing? 
When did you stop singing? 
When did you stop being enchanted by stories? 
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

I will close with a poem by the writer Macrina Wiederkehr which

invites us into the heart of summer.  Getting up on a Summer Morning….