Texts: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Ezekiel 2:1-5; Mark 5:1-13
It’s called the Four-Fold Way. Although I spent time this week trying to find it’s origins, I am still unclear where or from whom it originated. A woman by the name of Angeles Arrien wrote a book with the title: The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary but it is unclear to me if, indeed, she is the originator of the concept. We know the mantra here at Pullen because former pastor, Mahan Siler, taught it to us. This four-fold way goes like this: show up; pay attention; speak your truth; and don’t be attached to outcomes. Along the way, someone added, again unclear who added, to the third way: speak your truth in love. Maybe Mahan added the “in love” part. It sounds like him. In the book by Arrien, the mantra is presented a bit different: show up; pay attention to what has heart and meaning; tell the truth without blame or judgment; and be open yet unattached to outcome.
It is rare for me to read all the lectionary texts for a particular Sunday and immediately discern a common thread. But that is exactly what happened this week. As soon as I read all of the lectionary passages for today, I immediately saw the thread of the four-fold way, especially the path “don’t be attached to the outcome.” Rather, though, than starting with these biblical stories, I want to explore this four-fold way through the lives of four ordinary people who became extraordinary people by showing up, paying attention, speaking truth, and not being attached to the outcome.
Our first ordinary person is a familiar one, a young girl who said yes to God. Mary, the mother of Jesus is revered in Christianity, considered the holiest of humans. Yet, when the angel appeared to Mary, she was unremarkable. In an extraordinary act of showing up, Mary didn’t run from the angel, or dispute that her own fate would be jeopardized by bearing a child out of wedlock, or negotiate for more time so that she could “process it all.” She simply said “Here am I.” Mary said yes without having any idea how this one yes would change her life, and ultimately change the world.
Sometimes all we have to do is “show up” and we change the world around us.
For over 5,000 years, salt has been produced all along the west coast of India. It is a naturally occurring commodity that the Indians used liberally in their own trade and diet. During British rule, in one cruel demonstration of the economy of extraction as our friend Walter Bruggemann calls it, the British claimed all profits to salt production, to the point that they made it illegal for Indians to make their own salt, forcing them to buy their own natural commodity from the ruling foreign government with significant taxation. This was just one of the extractive policies of the times, but it was one that became a flashpoint when Ghandi brilliantly devised a way for the Indian people to “show up” and to “pay attention”—to non-violently defy British rule.
On March 12, 1930, Gandhi set out from his ashram, or religious retreat, with several dozen followers on a trek of some 240 miles to the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. His plan was to defy British policy by making salt from seawater. All along the way, Gandhi addressed large crowds, and with each passing day an increasing number of people joined the salt march. By the time they reached Dandi on April 5, Gandhi was at the head of a crowd of tens of thousands. Ghandi was arrested before he finished the action he planned, but he mobilized hundreds of thousands, and authorities arrested more than 60,000 people. The Salt March did not have an immediate impact in terms of policy or change, but it catalyzed civil disobedience all across India and, in hindsight, was a turning point for Indian involvement in their own independence.
Pay attention to what has truth and meaning, (the salt) and you may find the thread that can unravel the knot.
Speak Your Truth
Fredrick Douglass was a prominent abolitionist leader and orator who was born into slavery around 1818. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, Douglass was invited by the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society’s to give the keynote address commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Douglass begins his speech honoring his hosts and the holiday, comparing the Fourth of July to the biblical emancipation of the Hebrews. He catalogs how the British had oppressed the early Americans, and how Americans had attempted to peacefully assert their rightfully position, but to no avail. Up to this point in the narrative, Douglass is telling the great American story of deliverance from tyranny. And then, about half way through is speech, he begins speaking truth. I can only share a small portion of this remarkable speech today, but if you have never read it, I encourage you to look it up when you get home. Hear now, these words of Fredrick Douglass:
Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
…such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us… -The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…
Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them…My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. … I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America!
Whatever the cost, one must speak their truth.
Don’t be attached to the outcome
This is the story of Sir Nicholas George Winton, a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation that would later be known as the Czech Kindertransport.
As the story goes, shortly before Christmas 1938, Winton was planning to travel to Switzerland for a skiing holiday. He decided instead to visit Prague and help his friend Martin Blake, who had called Winton to ask him to assist in Jewish welfare work. It was during that visit that Winton single-handedly established an organization to aid children from Jewish families at risk from the Nazis. He set up his office at a dining room table in his hotel in Prague. And in November 1938, following Kristallnacht in Nazi-ruled Germany, the House of Commons approved a measure to allow the entry into Britain of refugees younger than 17, provided they had a place to stay and a warranty of £50 was deposited for their eventual return to their own country.
Nicholas Winton found homes for 669 children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. After the war, he did not discuss his efforts with anyone; his wife found out what he had done only after she discovered a scrapbook in their attic in 1988, detailing the children’s parents and the families that took them in.
Winton died this past week, on July 1. He was 106 years old. His death came 76 years to the day after 241 of the children he saved left Prague on a train.
We have to do what we are called to do not knowing what the outcome may be and not being attached to the outcome.
David, Ezekiel, and Jesus all knew something about the four-fold way, especially this fourth path of not being attached to the outcome. Ezekiel said, “Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they shall know that there had been a prophet among them.” In other words, “don’t be attached to the outcome.” Jesus said, “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet…” In other words, “don’t be attached to the outcome.”
How do we most faithfully walk this fourth path? It seems to me that the fourth path may be best understood as a spiritual discipline. It is not easy. It requires practice. It asks of us to let go of our need to control and embrace trusting in something or someone that is larger than us. And along with practice, this fourth way requires a significant amount of grace and a lot of shaking off of the dust!
It is this fourth path that is represented at the table that we now gather around—the table of showing up, paying attention, speaking truth, and, most of all, not being attached to the outcome.