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Rise for the Creed, kneel for the Prayers

by davesandel on December 12th, 2021

Third Sunday of Advent, December 12, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Rise for the Creed, kneel for the Prayers

Rejoice in the Lord always. And I say it again, “Rejoice!” Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

In his new memoir That Time of Year, Garrison Keillor wanders around his life, mostly chronologically but always focused on his relationships. Wandering, he picks up a teddy bear here, a movie manuscript there, and in fact or fiction never stops writing – limericks in his church bulletins, monologues for Prairie Home Companion, letters to his Minnesotan aunts. They loved him and hugged him. He loved them back.

And he begins and keeps on returning to his faith.

I go forward for Communion as we sing “I will lift them up on the last day” and I can’t sing, I’m crying. I grew up among Tightly Closed Brethren and now in my old age I am accepted at the Lord’s Table at last and this moves me. I listen to the benediction and the rackety postlude and then the priest in the back of the sanctuary calls out the charge to go forth and do that which we’ve been put here to do.

Like me, Mr. Keillor is a product of liberal arts. He cannot “code,” and he avoided STEM classes (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) at the University of Minnesota. He read classics and he wrote parodies of them, all the while growing his heart as well as his brain. As he ages he calls satire “an acceptable outlet for arrogance”, which keeps him at arms length from the kind of comedy which made him famous. Now he is becoming more a man of tender mercies.

Shout for joy, and sing! Be glad and exult in all your heart, for the Lord has removed the judgment against you and turned away your enemies. He sings joyfully BECAUSE OF YOU, as one sings at festivals.

My friend Shannon sent me “a good read” the other day, a synopsis of The Master and the Emissary by Ian McGilchrist. The “emissary turns out to be my left brain, and the “master” is my right brain.

The left brain asks “what.” The right brain focuses on “how.” The right hemisphere gives me a big picture, which can only grow larger as I watch, until it falls back from mystery. The left hemisphere “focuses and grasps. It processes what we experience and re-presents parts in a way that helps us use what is around us in order to make life more manageable and liveable.” What it cannot understand, it rejects and even resents.

I need not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, I will present my requests to God. God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage IS the Lord. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

I appreciate traffic designers and software developers. Every day I am grateful for computer chips made from billions of tiny, efficient transistors. But there’s a problem. “The right hemisphere sees possibility and the left hemisphere prizes predictability.” New paradigms are the stuff of life on the one hand, and anathema on the other. The left brain does all the talking, but it is not in charge. At least, it shouldn’t be.

The left hemisphere has enabled the building of remarkable institutions and technologies. Civilization would not exist without it. But if the left hemisphere operates on its own without connecting with the master right hemisphere, civilizations have no soul, no meaning. They begin to collapse, just like ancient Greece and Rome.

Being a getting-older man who is too often caught up in himself, I reminisce about the beautiful past and forbode about the future. Something wicked this way comes. My body is wearing out, so the culture must be wearing out too. I notice this in myself and hate it. So I am cognizant of Garrison’s grateful pleasure, when he is invited each week to the Episcopalian communion table. As he approaches 80 his perspective is widening with joy, even as he can’t walk up the steps to church quite so quickly anymore.

 (Zephaniah 3, Isaiah 12, Philippians 4, Isaiah 61, Luke 3)

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