Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | March 11, 2022

Congregation Update: The One Needful Thing this Lent

Blog|The Rev. Jude Harmon

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Matthew 6:28b-29

Dear Congregation, 

As I write this, I just finished welcoming our Tuesday evening yoga community to Grace Cathedral, an opportunity each week to sense how the wider Bay Area is doing. For those of us who are empaths, greeting the stream of people entering our cathedral to practice is like taking the emotional temperature of the city. Tonight felt different. An almost visceral unease. A sense of something that is off. We all feel it, we’re all experiencing it right now. I saw a meme today that read, “Two years ago this was our last normal week, and no one knew it”. How true. 

Each Tuesday we select a theme to guide our yoga practice and tonight was “non-attachment” — one of the most often misunderstood concepts in Eastern spirituality. Many of us hear that and think it means not caring about the world, or simply not allowing ourselves to be moved by the things of this world because they will cause suffering when they inevitably fail to meet our expectations. Apathy will never disappoint us. But that’s not really the point. 

Instead, I read non-attachment in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions to mean something more like surrendering our need to control in a world that we cannot control to discover a kind of inner freedom that can, paradoxically, lead to loving others more deeply and achieving a kind of self-mastery. Non-attachment isn’t about apathy; it’s about cultivating healthy empathy. The paralysis we may feel before Ukraine, or at the pump, or facing a broken relationship or dysfunctional workplace cannot be overcome by doubling down on our anxiety and fear. We must find another way. Throughout Lent, we are reminded to store up our treasure in heaven, not here on this darkling plain where moth and dust destroy. We are reminded that our life in God is not about amassing a series of short-term gains, but keeping our eyes on the long game. Fight the good fight. Run the race. Strive to win the imperishable crown. This Lent, as in every Lent, we are called to fast, to give alms and to repent of our sins. But all of this is for naught if it does not correspond to a change in our hearts and minds. A turning toward God. What we give up in privation, or even what we take up in edification, as Lenten disciplines are not actually the point: they are merely vehicles of this transformation. Sometimes the most obvious discipline is the one we instinctively avoid. 

As folks got settled on their mats, my heart was filled with compassion for the crowd. I knew where their anxiety was coming from. Looking out on them, I shared how prone I am to doom-scroll through the news, to try and stay ahead of every eventuality, to manage risk. In doing so, though, I confessed, I risk losing sight of what is needful at this moment. So, I will tell you what I told them: at least for now, here in this place, at home or at work this week, give yourself permission to unplug. It’s not self-indulgent to let go of the anxiety and fear for a while: to put down your phone, to turn off your computer, to walk away and walk around, and to let the eyes of your heart gaze upon a world still full of beauty and hope and possibility. Love on those around you. Be present to yourself, to your heart, to your mat, to your pew… to your kneeler. Return to your breath. And return again. And with each return let go of all that stands between you and God, between you and community, between you and yourself. Come home. 

Love and prayers for a Holy Lent, 

The Rev. Jude Aaron Harmon 
Canon for Innovative Ministries & Founding Pastor of The Vine

P.S. We are thrilled to announce the re-opening of Grace Cathedral to the general public on Wednesday, March 16 with the launch of our Visitor Experience! Explore the cathedral from 10 am–5 pm Monday through Saturday. Check out our blog for more details.

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