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As we pause to consider this odd parable of Jesus about inviting guests to a wedding feast, it is tempting to start humming our theme song here “All Are Welcome” and call it a day. The King started out inviting just the special people to the wedding of his son. This did not work out so well, it even got violent. Eventually the King says “all are welcome” and the rich and the poor and everyone in between ends up at the feast. This is what the Kingdom of God is like. The end. Have a nice day.

The only problem with this is that by now the disciples and us have heard many times that the Kingdom of God is not out there somewhere, it is within us. That means this parable is happening within each of us. It slowly begins to occur to us “all are welcome” is not so comfortable in our inner worlds filled with voices, memories, wounds, biases and compulsions. Tonight we are challenged to do inner work by wondering who is invited our own inner dinner table and who is not.

Avoid Nothing

There are lots of ways to find out who is missing from your inner table. Forming a committed relationship will reveal some things. Stress will reveal inner voices you are not aware of. If you want to be intentional about it, counseling can be helpful. There are also tools to discover what we are avoiding. If you have not done so already, the next time you see a book club or a workshop on the Enneagram, join up. It is a spiritual direction tool designed to expose what we seek to avoid.

The spiritual writer Andrew Cohen coined the phrase “Face Everything – Avoid Nothing” as a critical step in our evolution as spiritual beings. If we are not aware of the wounds, the compulsions, the instincts within we will misinterpret life at best and be held captive at worst. He says:

Most of us cling to a self-image that resists extremes – always in denial of our darkness and ever fearful of the overwhelming brightness of our unexplored heights. The heroic practice to Face Everything – Avoid Nothing enables us to face these extremes. Why? Because you want to evolve more than you want to hold onto any particular image of yourself.

I love this quote. I love how he names this journey as courageous. I love how he names that the brightness of our unexplored heights can be just as scary as our shadows.

I have recurrent back pain, and a few years ago I was hurting and not getting answers anywhere. I tried a therapy that focuses on the energy pulses that travel the spine. I would lie very still and the therapist tried to sense where blockages were located. The therapist said that sometimes during therapy the patients would get images from their subconscious that could be instructive. She was not kidding.

During these sessions I became introduced with the Little General within who was always fearful and always wanting control. I came to realize the pain in my joints and muscles was almost matched by the psychic pain of the Little General who felt out of control regarding the back problem! Little General will always need to be invited to my inner dinner table. I ignore him at my peril.

Practicing Everything Belongs

We see a great example of practicing “facing everything” in the writings of the Desert Fathers in the first few centuries of the Christian faith. Folks seeking spiritual guidance would travel to monastic communities in the desert. In their writings the Desert Fathers would lament that people usually came to them to find God, to talk about God, to debate about God. The monastics would always try to turn the conversation to be about them. They would say in essence: “God is just fine, how about you? What is happening inside you?” They understood that if we do not get to know the community inside, we will undoubtedly think one of those unknown voices is God’s voice!

The good news today is that we can practice Face Everything – Avoid Nothing anytime we want. Richard Rohr wrote a book called “Everything Belongs” that explores how meditation teaches us this. When we quiet ourselves to be conscious of God’s presence things start to happen – our foot hurts, the dog barks, your difficult neighbor comes to mind, you think about tomorrow’s dinner party, you suddenly feel anxious etc. etc. We are taught in meditation to face everything and cling to nothing. Let thoughts and feelings come, let them go, in non-judgmental compassion for ourselves. Even if you are like me and you always get the thought during meditation about how bad you are at meditation – let the thought come, let it go. Face everything – avoid nothing.

Is working toward an open inner table good news for you? It is scary. But I think the stakes are high. I wonder how open our outer table can really be if everything inside is not welcome to the inner table? I wonder how many times in my life I thought the voice of the Little General was the voice of God?

Amen

George von Stamwitz

Sts. Clare & Francis Ecumenical Catholic Community

Liturgy for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Saturday Evening, October 11, 2014

Focus Text: Mathew 22:1-10

Photo by mendhak on flickr.com

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