Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Meeting in Rumi's field" -- a sermon for the third Sunday of Lent

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, March 23, 2014

Come Holy Spirit, and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Take our minds and think through them.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our souls, and set them on fire.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Those words were written by Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet. Listen to them again:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Part of the honor of priesthood is meeting people in fields. Sometimes the field is my office. Sometimes it’s a coffeehouse. Sometimes it’s a hospital room.

It happens in moments of crisis, and more often than not, the crisis involves relationship. A spouse. A partner. A friend. A lover.

A child. A parent.

A boss. An employee. A coworker.

A fellow parishioner.

Something in the relationship is causing pain. Pain deep enough that it can no longer be ignored. Often ignoring the pain, avoiding the conflict behind the pain, is what has caused it to get to this crisis point in the first place.

Of course, these conversations are not limited to priests. You have them, too. You have them with friends, family, and others who decide to trust you and whom you decide to trust enough to let into the pain. You know these conversations. They are holy ground. They are holy ground because they are places where we get real with one another.

And real is the promised land. Real is where the healing happens. Real happens in that place beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. Real happens in Rumi’s field.

I have found the most powerful question to ask in these holy conversations is:

What is your truth?

Your truth is precisely that. Your truth. It is what you know to be true for you. Your truth is who you are out in Rumi’s field. It is not arguable in terms of right or wrong. It just is.

Your truth is not about the suspected motives of others. It is not “she is trying to undermine me.” But rather “When she does this, I feel undermined.”

Your truth is not about causation. It is not “He is making me angry.” but simply “I am angry.”

Do you notice the difference? The first – “she is trying to undermine me” … “ he is making me angry” – can be argued. You can already hear her saying “No, I’m not trying to undermine you!” or him saying “I’m not the one making you angry.”

But when you go to Rumi’s field. When you go to that place beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing and clearly state just what is:

“I feel undermined.”

“I am angry.”

There can be no argument.

Nobody can tell you “No you don’t! You don’t feel angry!” It is your truth. Your understanding of your truth may – and hopefully will – evolve. You may realize there is something underneath your anger. That maybe you’re really not so much angry as afraid. But in that moment, you feel angry – and no one can argue that you don’t. It’s your truth.

Close your eyes and try this for a moment. Think of a relationship in your life that needs healing. Now picture yourself with that person in Rumi’s field. What is your truth in that relationship? What is the first sentence that starts with “I” that you would use that cannot be argued but that just is your truth?

What would you say to that person in Rumi’s field? Let me give you a minute to ponder that.


Does anyone want to share their truth? You don’t have to share who the relationship is with. Just what your truth is. Here, I’ll start. In the relationship I’m thinking of, part of my truth is:

I am afraid for you.

Notice I didn’t say “You are making me afraid.” But “I am afraid for you.”

Does anyone else want to share their one sentence of truth?

I love you. I feel manipulated. I feel used.

Our truth is precious because it is raw and honest and unarguable. Because of that, our truth can be our greatest strength, but it also makes us incredibly vulnerable. The people who shared right now, who shared that piece of their truth, showed incredible courage.

When you think of your relationship that needs healing, and think of your truth, and think of what it would be like to share your truth with that person … what do you think it would be like to do that? Anyone?

Freeing. Scary.

It would probably be all these things and more. But even then the work of healing is only just beginning. Because in addition to sharing your truth, you have a question to ask.

Rumi doesn’t say, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I will drag you there and make you listen to me.”

No, he says: “I’ll meet you there.”

And so in addition to sharing your truth, you must also ask the question of the other:

“What is your truth?”

Healing happens when we meet in that field not just to speak plainly in sharing our truth but in listening just as deeply in hearing the other’s truth. The truth we share and the truth we hear might be liberating, it might be terrifying, it might be devastating. But it will be real. And once we meet in that field of truth beyond right and wrong, healing can begin.

Because there is one more thing about Rumi’s field. It is not just any field. It is the desert field where Jesus lives. And it is a field with a deep and everflowing well. A well of living water that leads to life that is eternal in its depth.

In this morning’s Gospel, we hear a remarkable conversation. A conversation that takes place in Rumi’s field. The two participants are Jesus and a Samaritan woman … two people who are divided so much by race and gender that the world has decreed they should have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

And yet instead of having nothing to do with each other, they decide to have everything to do with each other. What we notice first about this conversation is how brutally honest it is. Jesus and the Samaritan woman passionately interrogate one another – not the interrogation of trying to prove the other wrong but the passionate searching of wanting to know the other as much and even more as they want to be known themselves. They speak plainly and listen deeply. Even though their cultures say they should not even be speaking to one another, they felt compelled to listen to each other, to speak truth to each other, to know each other.

And how does the woman know that Jesus is who he says he is? How does she know he is the Christ? Not just because he shared that truth with her, but because Jesus heard and was able to reflect back her truth.

She says: “He told me everything I have ever done.” The proof to her that this was the Christ? He knows me. He knows my truth. And because of that she was able to know his truth. She was able to know Christ.

We have talked this Lent about meeting together in the desert as a place of healing. The first Sunday of Lent, we heard the story of Jesus’ temptations and experienced the desert as a place where we become aware of our deepest needs, wounds and vulnerabilities. A place where we know we need God.

Last week, Amy walked us through the story of Nicodemus and we heard how God’s healing doesn’t restore us to what we were before but transforms us into something new and different. It requires change. We are never the same after God touches us.

This Sunday, the rubber hits the road. Healing happens in the very real and vulnerable places of relationship, of conversations where we share our truths. Healing happens one conversation at a time. The anticipation of those conversations can be so anxiety provoking that we can put them off forever, but we can have the courage of the Samaritan woman because we have something in common with her. And that is we do not enter into the conversation alone.

When we meet in Rumi’s field. When we have the real conversation. When we share our truth and invite each other’s truth. Jesus is there.

In that incredibly vulnerable space of sharing our truth and listening deeply to the truth of the other, Jesus is there. Jesus who himself is the truth and the life. And he is there offering healing. Healing that leads to eternal life. Not in a chronological sense of never dying but in a far more powerful sense. Life that is eternal in depth. Life of knowing fully and being fully known. Life that allows our relationships to be characterized by love and truth.

And Jesus even goes so far as to call this relationship worship.

The hour is coming, and is now here, Jesus says, when the true worshipers will worship the Father how? In spirit and truth. Literally in breath and in truth. You have heard me say countless times that the heart of all we do is the Eucharist. Laying our lives on the table with Christ and watching new life emerge. That is true worship.

That is meeting in Rumi’s field. It is laying the truth of our lives on the table with one another and inviting Christ into it to change us both, to change us all into something new. To take what was broken and make it whole. To speak our truth plainly and to listen to the other’s truth deeply and together to ask Christ to lead us in loving into something new.

Worship is not just what we do in here. Worship is what we do one conversation at a time. Not winning an argument but sharing ourselves and receiving one another in breath and in truth. Speaking plainly and listening deeply. Inviting Christ the healer to take our truths and heal the divisions between us, divisions as deep as Jew and Samaritan and more.

The desert of Lent. The table of Eucharist. The coffee shop booth. The kitchen table. The lovers’ bed.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, these are the fields. And Jesus is there waiting. Waiting for us to offer ourselves in spirit and in truth. Waiting with healing waters that will never run dry.

Let’s meet each other there.


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