Sermon Text: The Golden Age of Introverts
Some people say it's the Golden Age of Introverts.
It's the era of social distancing. People who are naturally more quiet and reserved find it easier than the outgoing, talkative types. But even for introverts, it's a hard time. Not even shy people like being locked up.
I think we all need help in coping. So I've been rooting around in Christian tradition for ideas. And I use the word "rooting" intentionally. We find our roots in our Christian tradition. There are lots of roots and branches in our spirituality. And that means lots of different ideas, images and resources for us to consider. Since the lockdown, I've been talking about some of them in these online sermons.
I've suggested some traditional spiritual practices: focused breathing...meditation on the natural world...doing acts of kindness...remembering the good stuff...savoring simple pleasures.
So today, as we live in the Golden Age of Introverts, I want to consider the image of the monk.
There is a tradition in Christianity and other religions of the spiritual hermit, the one who lives alone with God. Originally, a monk was either male or female. The word "monk" comes from a Greek word meaning "alone." The first monks did not live in monasteries together. They withdrew from society and led solitary lives of prayer and meditation. They voluntarily chose seclusion, withdrawal, isolation.
Now, in this golden age of introverts, most of us have involuntarily had to choose seclusion, withdrawal, and isolation. It has been forced upon us by the pandemic.
Maybe we can make it feel better by using the ancient image of the monk, the religious solitary, the holy hermit. Some of us live with someone else, and are quarantined in community -- a spouse or partner, kids or parents. But other members of St. Mark's are living alone. Don't you think that is harder? My heart goes out to those of you who are in this enforced solitude.
The original monks did have connections to other people. Although they were mostly alone, they did have contact with others -- friends could visit, letters could be written.
Today, phone calls would be part of the mix. Maybe those of you who are living alone can find comfort in this image of the monk, living in solitude and yet connected to others.
Of course, there is one key element. The focus of the hidden life of the monk was prayer. These people chose to be alone in order to be together with God. They led -- and lead -- lives of prayer.
I want to mention two of my friends from St. Mark's. Carolyn and Mary both live alone.
And they have lived alone for many years. But Carolyn and Mary are both women of prayer. I don't mean they just say their prayers each day. I mean they are devoted to prayer. They have a ministry of intercession for other people, including you and me.
They are part of the St. Mark's Prayer Chain. This is a small group of people behind the scenes who pray hard. Trina Cooney coordinates our prayer chain, and when people ask for prayers, this group quietly and confidentially prays for others. It is confidential -- they don't talk about it -- except they talk about it to God....a lot.
So my friends Mary and Carolyn are part of the Prayer Chain. They were isolated even before the pandemic. But they don't live alone. They live with God. Some people may think they are not doing much for the world. But they are doing a mighty thing. They are praying...praying for you and me, praying for people we care about, praying for our world. They are monks...they are holy hermits...they are religious solitaries.
And this image of the monk, or religious solitary, can be a comfort to all of us right now.
It's the golden age of introverts, but none of us want to be totally alone. The solitary monk is never really alone. The monk is with God.
Even if we live in a family, we still have -- and need -- some solitude. We need alone time. Even when we get past this lockdown, there will be times when we need -- or again are forced into -- solitude. This image of the solitary monk can be useful to us.
Now, there is one other aspect of the monk worth considering. It comes not from Christian monks as much as Eastern monks. Buddhist and Hindu monks sometimes have a bowl. They take their bowls along on their pilgrimages. Other people generously put gifts in their bowls. It's usually a little food to help the monks on their way.
Well, when you think about it, the beggar's bowl is an image for all of us. Each day a monk goes out with an empty bowl in hand. Whatever is placed in the bowl will be nourishment for that day. And so, like a monk going out with an empty bowl, we set out to see what each day offers.
And it will be good enough.
To put this in Christian language, we say, "Thy will be done." In more universal language, we say, "Yes."
So welcome to the Golden Age of Introverts. We're going to have to make the best of it.
We have the image of the solitary monk in our spiritual tradition to inspire us. We have friends of our own, like Mary and Carolyn, to inspire us. And we have the image of the beggar's bowl to inspire us. We receive whatever is placed in our bowls each day. We will find it is good enough.
And so we say, "Yes."