Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lent 3A sermon

3rd Sunday in Lent—Year A March 23, 2014 Keep Calm and Carry On. This slogan originated in Great Britain as one of a series of posters by the Ministry of Information in 1939-on the eve of World War 2. This 3rd poster in the series was never actually posted in the public because it was being reserved for a scenario such as the German Blitz bombing, but by the time the blitz bombing happened, the posters had become unpopular with the British people who viewed them as patronizing and divisive. Thus the poster campaign came to a halt before “Keep Calm and Carry On” was ever employed, but the image with the British crown and the slogan have been rediscovered of late and have struck a chord in popular imagination these days. It seems like everywhere you look on social media, there are many and varied spoofs on this. The flip-side of this “Keep Calm and Carry On” is actually panic, and we see it everywhere we look these days. I encounter it daily while trying to get my children to school before the tardy bell. It’s why the “keep calm and carry on” slogan is everywhere, because it is an antidote to panic, and panic is everywhere. Our Old Testament reading shows us today that panic is nothing new. We see the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and in a full blown panic (that most like has started with one or two but then spreads like an epidemic throughout the entire company). They are worried about not having any water. They doubt God; they become divisive; they forget how God has already saved them. And as a result of their panic, God’s actions of providing water for them out of a rock in the wilderness become remembered as the sight of their panic, their quarreling and their testing of God. (As another commentator put it: “When the going gets tough, the Israelites get grumpy.”—boy if that doesn’t hit close to home!) In the Psalm today, we see the same pattern, but it makes it more personal: the remembering and recitation of God’s saving works—the ways that God has saved us and the injunction (spoken in a separate voice, in God’s voice) to harden not your hearts, don’t test God; don’t panic; don’t be like the children of Israel in the wilderness or you will be denied the rest and peace of God. The Psalm is a reminder of how our own panic blocks us from receiving God’s blessings, God’s peace. Lent is a time for turning away from what keeps us from God and turning back toward God. And one of the things that keeps us from God, that separates us from the peace of God is panic. This past week, I had two conversations with parishioners that got me to thinking. One person said he didn’t see how the Israelites could doubt if the parting of the Red Sea had been a big, show stopping event. I’ve pondered that all week and come to the realization that we are not so different. Every single day of our lives, we come across big, show stopping events that testify to the ways that God cares for us, and they all get buried under the layers of our busyness, our boredom, our panic, and our inattention. No matter how quietly or dramatically God reveals God’s care for us, still we don’t remember. The other person shared with me that she is in the process of giving up fear for Lent, and I thought “now that is truly a discipline of turning away from something that keeps us from dwelling in the fullness of the grace of God. I appreciate both of these perspectives because they have helped me to see how we are the children of Israel. We can see how our fear, our own panic overcomes our reason and our remembering of who God is and what God has done and continues to do for us. They help us remember how our panic is an impediment between us and God. So what do we do? It’s all very admirable in a British stiff-upper-lip kind of way to bandy about the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry on” but how might we do this spiritually? 1. We have to learn to dwell with our own thirst and not panic about it. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, has written about this in a poem titled “Thirst.” Thirst Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning. How do we slowly learn prayers and slowly learn thirst? What does that have to do with panic (or not?) 2. Learning Prayer is showing up before God. It is paying attention to the world around us; it is paying attention to how God shows up in our lives and how God speaks to us often through others; and it is paying attention to our own hearts—both the light and the darkness which we would rather not acknowledge. When we show up before God and we pay attention to our hearts, our lives, then we can identify our panic. We stop and recognize it and offer it to God, asking God to take it and replace it with peace (and do that over and over and over again). I invite you to be intentional in this practice this week. Pay attention to your hearts, your lives. Of what are you afraid? Poke around in the dark corners of your heart and discover where are the shadows of panic in your soul? What is it that is overshadowing the saving works of God in your life and in our story? Spend a few moments here and now and reflect on this, and when you come forward to communion, offer the source of your fear, your panic to God.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2nd Sunday in Lent-Year A sermon

Lent 2 Year A March 16, 2014 During this Lenten season, we are on a journey. It is a journey of turning away from the impediments in our lives that keep us from dwelling in the fullness of God’s love, and it is a journey of turning back toward God. (Or perhaps even turning toward God for the very first time, for those who prepare to be baptized at Easter Vigil.) Every Sunday in the Episcopal Church we read one piece of scripture out of the book of Psalms. Have you ever wondered why we read out of this book over any other week after week? I think it is because they are the songs of humanity. They express the full range of human emotions, and they encompass all aspects of both the individual and communal faith journey. In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris writes in a chapter titled The Paradox of the Psalms, about how she found her way back to God and the faith after being out of the church for some twenty years. She wrote about what went wrong in her early, childhood experiences of church, talking about wearing Sunday best and sitting up straight, quoting a poem by Anne Sexton titled: Protestant Easter, 8 years old. “I knew that ‘when he was a little boy/Jesus was good all the time.’ And I made a confused attempt to connect his story with what I saw around me on Sunday morning: ‘they pounded nails into his hands./After that, well, after that/everyone wore hats…/The important thing for me/is that I’m wearing white gloves.” Norris goes on to talk about how what went wrong for her in her Christians upbringing was centered in “the belief that one had to be dressed up, both outwardly and inwardly to meet God, the insidious notion that I need be a firm and even cheerful believer before I dare show my face in ‘His’ church.” (90). Over the course of the chapter, Norris talks about how she found her way back to God through her immersion in the Psalms in a Benedictine community. She quotes British Benedictine Sebastian Moore who has said that, “‘God behaves in the psalms in ways he is not allowed to behave in systematic theology” and also that the images of the psalms, ‘rough hewn from earthy experience [are] absolutely different from formal prayer.’” Today we have prayed together Psalm 121. This is a Psalm that may have been written to be sung in the setting of the context of a pilgrimage, perhaps on the way to Jerusalem. It starts with a question: “from where is my help to come?” and the rest of the Psalm answers that question. Psalm 121 begins in a place in which we might not be altogether comfortable beginning—it makes us begin from a place of neediness, a place of poverty. If we give ourselves over to the praying of this psalm, then it can put us in mind of that fact that we are all on this journey that is life and we are all infinitely fragile, infinitely needy, infinitely anxious. Beginning from this place on this Second Sunday in Lent is a good reminder for us because it helps us remember that our Lenten journeys are less about our own accomplishments, what we might be able to do, and more about our fundamental dependence upon God and God’s help. And interestingly enough, different translations of this Psalm highlight this differently. We read the BCP translation this morning, but let me share with you the NRSV translation. If you want, you can watch your BCP translation in the insert as I read so you can note the differences: Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. What was the main difference you noticed? In the NRSV translation, the Hebrew word shamar, which is used 6 times in the course of the Psalm, is translated as “keep” every time. 6 times we say to each other and to ourselves that God is our keeper, that God is faithful in God’s keeping of us. What does that even mean? What does it mean to be kept by God in the face of our own neediness? These are not nice words in our culture, when we talk about someone being needy or being “kept,” these are insults for us. And yet, this is where Psalm 121 takes us today on this Lenten pilgrimage. This can be a shocking revelation to us! We’re not needy! We balance our own checkbooks; we stay on top of our own medical appointments; we do our own shopping; and we generally take personal responsibility for our own well being. The idea that we have a keeper who watches over us and protects us may be tough to understand, let alone accept. If we have a keeper, we must lose some of our independence; we must first give ourselves to the one who offers us protection and solace and safety. (Feasting on the Word Pastoral Perspective 60). And yet we know, deep down in our hearts, the loneliness, the emptiness, the heartbreak, the spiritual poverty, the hunger for more meaning that we just can’t find or provide on our own. Lent is a time to embrace our own neediness and to rest in God’s promises to keep us. And in that embracing, what we must remember is that God’s keeping of us is rooted deeply in God’s love for us. This Lent, I’ve been following a video series that is produced by the brothers of SSJE, and this past week, on Wednesday, the video was in response to the question: What is your reminder that you are loved? Here is what Brother Curtis Almquist had to say about the love and the keeping of us by God: “God loves you and you may be, at this moment, or you may be able to remember some moments, where you felt that to the core of your being. But what happens when the weather changes and that feeling has gone away? Well, I would say two things. One, I think love is ultimately not a feeling it’s a decision and it’s God’s decision and God adores you. You make God’s day. You’re the apple of God’s eye. God loves you. That’s the truth. Some days you may get in touch with the feeling that encompasses that. But I would say number one, cling to the truth. That’s of your essence. You are loved of God and God has hopes of spending eternity with you. Second of all, especially if the feeling of love is lost on you right now, write this on a piece of paper “God loves me” and keep that piece of paper with you. I’d encourage you to cart that piece of paper with you through the day and tuck it under your pillow at night. And you might say, “And when I do that will I feel that God loves me?” I don’t know. I don’t know if you will or not. But I think the truth of that has every potential of sinking into the reality of your being because it’s a decision and it’s God’s decision and the invitation for you is to cooperate with that decision. God is operating with love in your life and your response [is] to co-operate with the truth of it. You’ll catch on. You’ll catch on.” May you be brave enough to kneel before God this day, offering to God your own neediness, your own poverty, and allowing yourself to be kept in the never-failing love of God.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

1st Sunday in Lent--Year A

Lent 1A March 9, 2014 I cannot pray the words of the Great Litany without being transported to another time and place in my past. This long prayer that we prayed at the beginning of our service is a prayer that covers any condition and petition that we can think of. We usually pray it here on the 1st Sunday of Lent; and it is a sufficiently penitential start to this penitential and reflective season. But the first time that I can remember ever praying the Great Litany was on the 2nd day of classes at seminary in the midst of great chaos and fear and confusion as we all huddled together in the chapel at General Seminary in New York City on September 11, 2001. We didn’t even know what to pray for at that point, so someone started praying the Great Litany. The Psalmist today speaks of this in Psalm 32 that we just read together—“therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble, when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.” Many of us, myself included, instinctively pray to God in times of trouble or fear or uncertainty. When those we love are suffering; when the outcome is unknown; when we are at the end of our strength and our hope and we just don’t know what to do. But other times, we are like Miss Cornelia, staunch pillar of the Presbyterian church in the book Anne of Green Gables. When Miss Cornelia asked one of her friends about another woman’s health, her friend Susan said, “Oh…I’m afraid she’s going to have to rely on the Lord now.” “Oh no!” Miss Cornelia responded. “Surely it isn’t as bad as all that!” For many of us, those are our only prayers; prayer has become for us a last-ditch effort; a spiritual “Hail Mary pass” to God. It is no wonder that we are so rootless, so restless, so searching for meaning and connection and things to fill us up! My friends, it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be this way! During this season of Lent—a time of deliberate turning and returning toward God-- we are being offered an invitation. It is an invitation to find in God “a hiding place,” a place of safety and comfort and rest. It is an invitation to rediscover your identity in God. (Did you happen to notice that is how Satan tempted both Eve and Jesus in today’s readings? By questioning their identity and their belonging in God….) It is an invitation to you to fall in love with God again, to allow God to kindle or rekindle in you desire for God. Now, look, I know this is scary stuff! We Episcopalians can be quite allergic to prayer. But don’t be afraid! God is already at work in you and in this parish, kindling our desire for God. God is already at work through the Holy Spirit praying in us already with sighs too deep for words. Your vestry and I have embarked on a study of the book Unbinding the Gospel by Martha Grace Reese which includes 40 days of prayer exercises and journaling. This is what the author has to say about prayer: “Remember the Spirit’s word to the church at Ephesus? ‘I know your words, your toil, and your patient endurance…I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.’ We work so hard but the joy, the ‘first love,’ the ‘in love’ feelings with God fade to dusty duty, good works, more work. Prayer is the way to stay in love with God. Prayer is the way individuals, small groups, and congregations grow and become vivid. It is a habit, a discipline, but not a discipline with a clenched jaw. Prayer is more about receiving from God than it is about asking God for things or working hard at intercession…. Prayer involves effort, habit, and focus; but it results in lightness and energy and excitement.” (51) So where do we even begin? 1. If you’re not coming to church every week, then I encourage you to try to take on weekly attendance for every Sunday in Lent. In that way, you will be praying regularly with the gathered community. Spend that time that you are in church inviting God to rekindle God’s love in you and to ground you in your identity as God’s beloved child. Your prayer could be as simple as “Come, Lord Jesus!” 2. Consider trying to pray daily throughout the season of Lent. There are a variety of practices to help you do this—the Daily Office with scripture readings for each day (found in the book of Common Prayer under Morning, Noonday, Evening Prayer and Compline or online at; there’s also Lection Divina—praying with a particular piece of scripture. This is what Bishop Gray is modeling for us in his reading and reflection on 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans; Centering Prayer—where you focus on sitting in silence and emptying yourself in God’s presence. When your thoughts wander, you have a sacred word that you repeat to help gently refocus your openness to God. (There’s a group that meets in the parlor every Thursday morning. They would be happy to teach you more about this ancient method of praying.) You can journal; do yoga; pray the rosary (yes, we have an Anglican rosary); sing in the car; pray in the shower (some of my most connected prayers happen in this way.) 3. If that seems too intimidating to you, ask someone to teach you how to pray. We have a number of practitioners of a variety of prayer here in our midst. I can help you find them or I am delighted to help you myself. There are as many different ways to pray as there are people. Don’t be afraid! Prayer is about you and God; it is about being open to a connection with God who already knows you intimately and loves you thoroughly. Listen to God’s spirit that is already kindling the desire in you and trust that; follow that. May you recognize this season of Lent as being an invitation to you from God—an invitation to find in God a hiding place, a place of safety, comfort and rest. May you recognize it is an invitation from God for you to rediscover your identity inside of the heart of God—rediscovering your belovedness, your cherishedness, your belonging in God. May you accept this invitation from God to fall in love with God again through prayer, through worship, through community. In a workshop on Centering Prayer, a nun expressed to Fr. Thomas Keating feelings of failure at this meditative exercise, because during the twenty minute practice session she'd "had ten thousand thoughts.” "How lovely!" said Keating, without missing a beat. "Ten thousand opportunities to return to God."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday--2014

Ash Wednesday- March 5, 2014 Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return… Ashes to ashes and dust to dust… All of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song…. We here who have buried so many loved ones these past couple of years cannot help but hear the echoes of our burial liturgy in the words of Ash Wednesday today. Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. This whole season just past we have cavorted; we have celebrated; we have worn masks; we have, at times perhaps, felt like we could live forever. Today, we take off our masks; we stare at our own reflections in the mirror of our prayers and liturgy, and we see the shadow of death reflected in our eyes. Ash Wednesday and Lent are a time when we dwell with our mortality for a season. They are also a time when we are called to repentance. Now please note that repentance is not the same thing as penance, which is a popular practice during Lent. It is what folks do when they give up something for Lent. (This practice of penance can have a place in a healthy Lenten discipline, as long as it helps to focus one toward a re-orienting of our relationship with God, focusing on that which has become an impediment in our relationship with God, as opposed to mere self-improvement.) Repentance, which is God’s call to us during this season of Lent, means returning to God, reconnecting with God. And it also means “‘to go beyond the mind that we have’—a mind shaped by our socialization and enculturation” (Marcus Borg Patheos article March 4, 2014). When we begin this season of repentance today, we are turning away from not loving God with our whole heart, and mind, and strength and not loving our neighbors as ourselves; we are turning away from not forgiving others, as we have been forgiven and turning back toward God who loves and forgives us all infinitely. We are turning away from being deaf to God’s call to serve, as Christ served us and not being true to the mind of Christ, and we are turning back toward listening to God’s call in our lives and in our world. We are turning away from our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives; our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people; our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves; our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, and we are turning back toward God, who dwells in each and every one of us and cherishes and loves all of God’s creation in a way that we cannot and do not. We turn away from our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us, our fear to be changed and our laziness and self-indulgence, and we turn toward God who kindles in our hearts the desire to be in relationship with God that is nurtured through prayer and worship and community. We are turning away from our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, from all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us and from our waste and pollution of God’s creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, and we are turning toward God, the creator and redeemer of all that is. Today and over the course of these 40 days, we are invited to be focused on repenting of all that separates us from God and from each other. But it’s not so much about wallowing in guilt for all our sins for 40 days and nights, it’s about turning away from death, from all that separates us from God and turning toward life—turning toward God, walking through this death that we so often choose for ourselves into the resurrection that God invites us to participate in. So I invite you to consider--how might you do Lent differently this year? How might this Lent be an invitation from God for you to go beyond the mind that you have and dwell more deeply in the mind of Christ? How might you let go of some of the guilt, the empty rituals, and invite God to help you turn away from what is death in your life—turning toward God, life, and resurrection? Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return… All of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song…

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Last Sunday after the Epiphany--Year A

Last Sunday after Epiphany—Year A March 2, 2014 How do you spend your time? It’s a simple enough question, but I’m not sure I would be able to answer it immediately. It’s a question of what has value for us, what clamors for our attention, what gives us deep joy, deep meaning. It is a question of stewardship. It is a question of discipleship. How do you spend your time? In our gospel reading for this week, we see Matthew’s version of the Transfiguration. Jesus and his disciples—Peter, James and John- go up the mountain and these three disciples witness Jesus’s transfiguration and his conversing with Moses and Elijah—two key figures from Israel’s past. Peter gets very excited and starts planning for the future, how to prolong their time there, when a voice from the cloud speaks saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" The disciples fall to the ground, overcome by fear, and Jesus says to them, “Don’t be afraid. Get up. We’ve got stuff to do.” There is so much of discipleship in this story—how we glimpse the glory of God, how we fall down, how we get up again at Jesus’s invitation, how we are so often afraid when we encounter God, and how Jesus invites us, encourages us to not be afraid. But it also speaks to us about intentionally spending time as opposed to using it. It speaks to us of how listening to Jesus will change the way that we spend out time, our attention, our resources. This past week, someone shared a powerful story with me during a time when we were waiting. It was a time that was very difficult, when we wanted to fast-forward to the future and know the outcome, and yet, in that moment, we were waiting together, with only the present and some stories from the past to occupy us. As we waited, my friend read to me to pass the time the story called The Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy, and it gets to the heart of the question how do you spend your time and the connection—how do you live out your discipleship of Jesus Christ in and through that. Here it is. It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake. So, …he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to anyone who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do. And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently. In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything…. Equally various were the answers to the second question—who are the most necessary people. Some said the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary. To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship. All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom. The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit's cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his body-guard behind, went on alone. When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily. The King went up to him and said: "I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?" The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging. "You are tired," said the King, "let me take the spade and work awhile for you." "Thanks!" said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground. When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said: "Now rest awhile-and let me work a bit." But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said: "I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home." "Here comes someone running," said the hermit, "let us see who it is." The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man's clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound. When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit's help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep--so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes. "Forgive me!" said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him. "I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for," said the King. "You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!" The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property. Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before. The King approached him, and said: "For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man." "You have already been answered!" said the hermit, still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him. "How answered? What do you mean?" asked the King. "Do you not see," replied the hermit. "If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important-- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with anyone else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!" How do you spend your time?