This message was shared on May 21st and was followed by silence and shared reflection.
It was a glorious sunny day and we couldn’t resist the green grass on the hillside in Dolores Park in San Francisco. Clusters of people were on blankets sharing drinks and conversations overheard offered color and spice. San Francisco is magic on sunny days.
From the top of the hill in the park, a beautiful view of parts of the city made it hard to imagine leaving that paradise perfection. Jeremy and I sat together on the hill for a time savoring these moments free from rush and worry of impending presidential drama.
Then from across the field emerged a man walking briskly with loud music blaring from his backpack. And it wasn’t just loud it was lame music. I wondered if I was the only one who hated it. Then not long after, a group of guys chit chatting in a circle under a tree started shouting, “That fucking sucks! Turn that down.”
The guy with the music lost his cool. He began shouting and threatened violence. He started using racial slurs and language that didn’t match of the vibe of the all ages scene, chill scene. His anger increased and then a young woman further down the hill started calling him names.
It was clear that no one near him could comprehend how to respond. What was needed was a non-anxious presence. What was needed was not more fire for his fire. Jeremy decided to intervene and we both acknowledged the risk in him approaching the distressed man, but gratefully with a few questions the situation had been de-escalated.
I don’t know what he was struggling with, whether it was addiction or marginalization or mental health challenges, but his wounds were on public display and it made me feel culpable in a culture that discards people who need help.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.1
We don’t talk about this very much. Stigma and lack of understanding means that we criminalize the mentally ill and those who struggle with addiction.
But I believe that part of what is so spectacular about our faith community is that we strive to be and become a place that is safe for us to show up as we are, a place that sees us when the world does not, a place that can be infused with the Spirit of truth when the world is not. Here it is safe to have our worth affirmed, whatever it is we carry. Our seeing one another fully, allows us to see other things more fully. Love widens what we can see, what we can know and feel and create.
In one of his sort of farewell address in the book of John we hear,… “This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me;
The poem Jesus sets up is a pattern where Love is the force between Jesus, the Creator of the Universe and all of us. It still shows up among us, but not everyone sees it.
David Ewert writes about this text and he says, “the “world” cannot “SEE” this spirit, because it has not “seen” Jesus. This Spirit will abide in us as Jesus abides in us. It is a Spirit of truth. The underlying Greek word which is translated into English as “truth” is alethea. In Greek, an initial letter “a” is like our English “un.” “Lethe” is the river in Greek mythology that the dead drank from in Hades in order to forget their past. And so “a-lethea” – truth – has the sense of: waking up; remembering; overcoming oblivion and stupor; being alive and vital; not being deceived by false ideas or desires or scams; SEEING what is, as it actually is.”
We will perceive life and experience it differently if we are awake. We will create peace and savor joy and seek justice. There is a Spirit of Truth… if only we can see it.
In these words in John, I understand Jesus to be saying something like this: Always come back to love and don’t let them fool you, there is a Spirit of truth. The world won’t always seek it or see it or receive It because so much of the world isn’t awake.
But you will know this Spirit of Truth because It is already in you, abiding with you. You are one with the Force and the Force is with you. It will never leave you; It is always arriving.
You might not always see It, as you knew It, but because It is already in you, you will live. One day you will know how we are all connected, until then, you who keep the commandment of love, you who remain awake- you will know this Spirit of Truth because it is already in you, abiding with you.
I wish I knew the name of that guy in the park with the bad music and the need to be seen.
Tonight I feel especially grateful for this place to be seen. I don’t know what you are struggling with, whether addiction or marginalization or mental health challenges, but know that sacredness is already in you, abiding with you. You are seen as you are and loved.
Christians the world over would do well to remember that loving Jesus means putting love first. May this church continue to be and become a place that is safe to show up as we are, a place that sees us, even when so much of the world does not.
Like Jesus said, Always come back to love and don’t let them fool you, there is a Spirit of Truth. The world won’t always seek it or see it or receive It because so much of the world isn’t awake. But you are….
 See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers#sthash.9yMAcTSw.dpuf