by Denise Hill

I always find myself returning every so often to a commencement address Alice Walker gave in 2002. It’s entitled “All Praises to the Pause; the Universal Moment of Reflection.” In it she describes the fullness and the gift of taking a moment after something major has completed; or as life shifts from stage to stage; or as we sense the unique shiftings and subtle transformations in our lives — of taking a moment to pause and reflect before launching with all haste into the flux that is constant movement without a moment to take in and notice one’s breath… one’s being. She writes:

“…’the pause’. The moment when something major is accomplished [or completed, or sensed as shifting into something different] and we are so relieved to finally be done with it that we are already rushing, at least mentally, into The Future. Wisdom, however, requests a pause…the universal place of stopping. The universal moment of reflection.”

The sacred pause, in capitalistic society that pushes hustle & grind culture; productivity over play, and work over reflection, is indeed sacred…set apart…holy…a chosen thing…intentional…other. And yet, the sacred pause is just as Kin-dom as the mustard seed plant; or a field someone sold all to have because they had the imagination to see it; or children and their energy & ways of being & knowing. It is in the sacred pause: the pause of play; the pause of looking to & being intentional about our sabbath; and the pause of sacred, reflective gazing where we can encounter God……

In the gospels before the Spirit came; before Jesus ascended; before the disciples went out into all the world; before the letters had been written; before the acts had been performed, there was, in a room, somewhere set apart from the temple, a sacred pause…a moment set aside for sacred, reflective gazing. Something happened. Something happened that turned the world of Jesus’ followers upside down & inside out. And here they were left with this moment. Left with this trauma. Left with joys, some of them. Left with fear & anxiety, others of them. All of them in this moment together. Jesus appears. And Jesus invites Thomas to look at his wounds…to look at what happened to him…to confront how the-something that happened in the world had impacted him — intimately…viscerally; and to encounter how that-happening had now transformed him — somehow the same, and somehow not; somehow still Jesus, and somehow the Risen Christ.

I am reminded by this scene, that Love invites us to look. Love invites us to reflect & ponder.Love invites us into intentional imaginative wonder & awe. Love invites us to encounter a transformed/revealed God, so that we ourselves might be transformed — might be revealed.

Beloveds, something happened in the world. We find ourselves in the room of this pandemic-moment together. Each of us with a different point of entry. All of us, with a story of our worlds shifted. Some of us carry joy. Some of us carry trauma & anxiety. Some of us have grown. Some of us find ourselves picking up & putting back together shattered pieces. All of us have been changed. And here is God, in the midst of our moment, inviting us to look — to lay wide our hands, to run our fingers along the contours of the lines of our palms — to encounter, to touch, to see what it is that has happened to us, and how we have been transformed. How the God in us, has been revealed, anew.

This summer, we prepare our hearts & minds, not to go back — there is no going back to before the pandemic — but to move forward into what God has imagined this moment to be for us, individually and collectively. We ask ourselves: who am I, after a year plus of encountering God wherever I am — who have I become when the sacred place has been the place all around me? Who and how shall we be when we come together to collectively express, share, and encounter the divine we each bring, together?

This summer, may we continue to pause long enough to make room for play, fun, and delighting in those things that bring us joy! This summer, may we continue to pause long enough to establish & sit in our sabbath. And this summer, may we pause long enough for sacred gazing & reflection as we continue to gather for virtual worship — here…there…in our rooms set apart with Jesus, preparing our hearts & minds for when we gather in-person.

“It is the pause that gives us this clarity, this certainty. It is our time of gathering the vision together…”
(Alice Walker)

Amen. Ashe.