Devotion: Spiritual Literacy
Before each National Lutheran Choir concert, a member or guest of the choir delivers a devotion. The following words were spoken prior to the December 7 4:30 p.m. Christmas Festival by Diane Fleming, widow of our founding director Larry Fleming. The saint she makes reference to in her devotion is Larry's mother who passed on Thanksgiving weekend this year.
The last time we were together we were honoring all the saints in our lives who from their labors rest. Since that time, we have lost another saint....a saint without whose existence this choir would not be a reality. A saint who knew and tried to live by these words: “You may have all the rest, Give me Jesus.” A saint who knew herself more as sinner - living in awe and wonder at the marvel of this night "...how Jesus my Savior did come for to die.”
It was holy ground, those last days I was with her. And I was introduced to a new term as I listened to the sermon given by a man who never really knew this woman or her son. “Spiritual literacy.” Now for those of you who know me, you know, I’m not a fan of this word “spiritual” but hearing his description I found myself shaking my head a "Yes" rather than a "No." Spiritual literacy is being able to see that all ground is holy ground. It’s being able to see the divine in the things that surround you each day. It’s being able to wonder at those coincidences not really coincidences. Like when this pastor closed his sermon with the text from Lord of the Dance. Like when I set my Bible on the ground outside the church to greet people, my eyes immediately drawn to the tiny heart shaped stone that laid solitarily beside it. Spiritual literacy. Holy ground. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning reminds us:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
Robert Benson in his book, Between the Dreamng and the Coming True:The Road to God says this:
“And then I knew what it meant to be on holy ground - ground that had been made holy by the One who made it and by those who walk it and do the work of the Christ on it. We do not often see the place we are standing as holy ground. But the fault does not lie with the ground; it lies with us. We do not always see the saints among us, either, but that is because we do not see what it is we are looking at. We do not always see that we should be moving about our days and lives and places with awe and reverance and wonder, with the same soft steps with which we enter the room of a sleeping child or the mysterious slience of a cathedral. There is no ground that is not holy ground.”
It’s my personal belief that our purpose here tonight is to be a lens to the marvel of this night -- for the saint/sinner sitting next to you -- those in this room and those in the room upstairs. A lens that enhances our ability “to see.” To gain awareness, unwittingly, perhaps, of spiritual literacy. To be moved to take off our shoes. To be held in awe at this God made Flesh. To realize “this need to dance, this need to kneel: this mystery.” To feel we are on holy ground.
In closing I offer up words from the program tonight - John V. Taylor’s “To a Grandchild”:
Give me for Christmas, then, your kind seeing,
Not studying candles - angel; manger, star -
But staring as at a portrait, God’s I guess,
That shocks and holds the eye, till all my being,
Gathered, intent and still, as now you are,
Breathes out its wonder in a wordless yes.
Let us pray words of Martin Luther: “Come, holy Light, guide divine, now cause the word of life to shine.” Amen.