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Jul 7th: Beauty, Contemplation, and Radical Compassion, with Rev. Dr. Ken Evers-Hood.

Posted: Sun, Jul 7, 2024
Beauty, Contemplation, and Radical Compassion with Rev. Dr. Ken Evers-Hood. Series: Beguiled By Beauty: Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. This Sunday, guest speaker Rev. Dr. Ken Evers-Hood discusses Finding Beauty in Difficult Places: Navigating Dualistic and Unitive Mindsets. Can we find beauty as a way to connect with God? Join us and explore dualistic and unitive mindsets for navigating when beauty is easy or difficult to see.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski


Beauty, Contemplation, and Radical Compassion with Rev. Dr. Ken Evers-Hood. Series: Beguiled By Beauty: Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon.

This Sunday, guest speaker Rev. Dr. Ken Evers-Hood discusses Finding Beauty in Difficult Places: Navigating Dualistic and Unitive Mindsets. Can we find beauty as a way to connect with God? Join us and explore dualistic and unitive mindsets for navigating when beauty is easy or difficult to see.


So Steven and first pres bend are going to be on a journey the next six weeks, talking about God and beauty and contemplation and being beguiled by beauty. And so I’m going to speak on beauty today. And I love this connection of God and beauty. All my life, I’ve been drawn by art, by poetry, by music, and it has always been so easy for me to find something beautiful in those mediums and get drawn in and somehow in there, that’s how I get connected with a love that is is so much bigger than myself that God is the only name I have for it. I love being in nature and having this sense of the of the sublime, the grandeur, and connecting with God in that way, it has always made sense to me to look at at beauty as a place that’s not just something that’s nice to look at, but it’s something that actually draws us in and gives us a direct and a profound experience of the ineffable, the unnameable love of God. Having said that beauty also can make me a little bit nervous to the word Beauty and the way that we, we humans, use the word beauty. I’m a creative I hang around artists, I hang around musicians and and sometimes we can be some of the judgiest, the most difficult people in the world when it comes to beauty, because sometimes you begin to figure out, oh, only certain people and pieces of art and music, only certain things are considered to be beautiful, and other things not so much. Certainly true in the world, right? It’s easy to be in a beautiful place in the world and feel God’s presence. I I did a three year graduate program in New Jersey. And I’m not not banging on New Jersey, but it was, it was fine, but not quite as easy to find the beauty there as it is say here in the Pacific Northwest. And that that gives us the notion, then, that beauty and God are somehow more present or present at all in some things, in people and places, and then not so much in others. And that that’s hard for me. So what I’m gonna offer this morning are two mindsets, two ways of looking at the world as a way of helping us navigate the very good draw that all of us feel towards chasing after what’s beautiful and looking for God there, but also also this sense of having deeper eyes, searching eyes, so that even when we encounter someone, a person, a place that we can’t see beauty immediately, that that we can pause and look for the hidden beauty, maybe underneath. So the two mindsets that I want to offer us this morning are what we call the dualistic mindset, a mindset of seeing the world as good and bad, primarily of us and them, a dualistic mindset that all of us, all of us are shaped with, and also, at the same time, a unitive mindset, a mindset where we aren’t seeing ourselves as separate from the world around us, the others around us, and we’re not carving the world up into good and bad, ugly and beautiful, but in the unitive mindset, we have this heart that’s big enough to see a kind of union or connection underneath, in with and under all things. So the dualistic mindset, this is just what all of us are born with. It’s, it’s, it’s the way that we encounter the world all of the time. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s how we navigate the world. It’s how we know safety in the dualistic mindset. This is just how how we see everything. We see ourselves as separate, and we see everything else as other. You know, I was a kid with Sesame Street growing up, and you always did that which of these things is is not like the other? Right? So that’s teaching children a dualistic mindset, and we need to do that. We need to be able to wander through the world and and know that that dog might seem friendly and that dog might seem okay, but, but we need to be really, really careful, right? We need to be really careful, because not everything is safe, and this is the kind of mindset that we have when we think that some things are beautiful and some things are not. And this is the kind of mindset that Jesus was forever challenging us in and pushing against because he would tell stories like the parable The prodigal son, or the parable The Good Samaritan, where there would be people in those stories that we could easily map onto, good guys and bad guys, like the prodigal older brother, who was responsible and good, he’s the good guy, right? And and the prodigal Jesus invited us into a larger way of seeing that story, where there is no good and bad. They were all beloved children, same with the the Good Samaritan. Um, if we knew that story, well, we’d know that if we were original hearers, the Samaritan is, is not a good guy. He’s an enemy. And the priest and the Levi, those are the good guys. And again, Jesus is, is bursting that good and bad dualism and inviting us to see a unity underneath that brings us to the unitive mindset, the unit of mindset. Sometimes we feel this when we’re calm. We hear this in mystics, but it’s this notion that the things that seem to divide us and separate us, that that really underneath there really is a God big enough that made all of this and some somehow has arms wide enough to pull it all together. Recently, the astronaut Bill Anders died, and Bill Anders is is well remembered for giving us one of the most powerful images of our entire generation. It’s called Earthrise, and it was the first picture of the Earth from space. And it changes everything. Changes everything down here in our dualistic way. You know, we carved the world up into us and them. I remember when I came to Oregon and the notion of beavers and ducks, I’d never, I’d never known such enmity. But from from way out there in space, when you look at Earth, from way, way far away, there are no beavers and ducks. There’s no us and them. There’s not even a difference between humans and animals and and rocks. It’s it’s all one. And we have this sense from that image we had, this this inkling of hell, there might be a god big enough who could love even all of of that. But just as with dualism, the unitive mindset isn’t a place we always want to live either, right? It’s not like the dualistic mindsets bad and the unit of mindsets good. I’ve heard people do that. That’s just another form of dualism. No, no, the unitive mindset is beautiful, and it’s not a place we always live. Because imagine if you came to me and something really difficult had happened, and and as a pastor, you wanted to share this with with me, and it was something truly awful and difficult. And imagine if I wanted to be in this kind of unitive mindset where there’s room for all things. And I heard what you said, and I said, Yeah, well, you know, things happen. I mean, we can’t just judge between good or bad, right? Things happen. All things work for good for those who love God, right? Oh, no, that would be a failure, be a failure on my part, to feel the pain and the difficulty of this event that really did happen for you, and really was in that moment, awful, sometimes even awful beyond words. No, we have to be able, somehow, to be able to honor that we have this dualistic mindset that carves the world up into beautiful and not so beautiful, and a unitive mindset that has room for somehow there being a kind of beauty to All things. I’m old enough at this point that my eyes, my eyes don’t work so well in distance and close up. And I’ve had to learn with context now how to be able to kind of to go back and forth. And I think, I think that’s as a disciple, what, what I’m being called to. Do when it comes to beauty. And on the one hand, I want to honor and acknowledge that there are some places that are just beautiful and easy to see, and I want to honor that. But then I also want to be able to know that when I’m having a hard time seeing beauty, it doesn’t mean it’s not there, but it means that I need to shift somehow, and I need to pull back a little bit that example of someone coming to me with something hard that happens all the time in my line of work, and one of the great gifts of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is sitting with someone who’s experiencing something so so difficult and heart wrenching, and really being able to allow my heart to be present, enough to be heard, right, allow myself to be present enough to share just a little bit of what that person is is experiencing when the story they’ve been living in has been has been ripped to shreds, and they don’t quite yet have another story to come into. And I can sit with them and feel that enough, but, but they don’t need me to just get sucked down into that pain and awfulness entirely. They don’t need or want that from me. They also need if I’m going to be useful to at the same time, then pull back into that unitive mindset, into that mindset that’s so big and says, Even if this thing that’s happening is mysterious and it’s painful and I don’t like it in the moment. I can, in this unit of mindset, acknowledge that it has happened. And so this has happened, and so this other thing has happened. Right in this unit of mindset, we can look at this huge and vast and complicated world and just acknowledge, even if we don’t like it all the time, that it is, it is here, right and and there is always something on the other side, a wholeness that we haven’t quite yet seen, that We have to trust. And so I wonder for you, as you’re listening to this, which of these mindsets makes more easy sense for you, this easy notion of seeing beauty in places that are obviously beautiful and draws in, or this, this unitive sense of even when it’s hard to see. It’s hard to see where there might be beauty to trust, and especially when we imagine that Earth from from all the way up in space to trust that from the from a perspective that’s big enough, there might be room, there might be even a kind of beauty in the hardest of experiences, though it may take us a long, long time to see and we can never tell someone else to find meaning for themselves. Yet, I love the author, E B White Stuart Little and those beautiful children’s books he wrote one time that every morning he wakes up caught between a desire to save or to fix the world, a dualistic mindset and a desire to savor it, to enjoy it. I wonder, friends, I wonder where beauty might be for you today, beauty that’s easy to see, and I wonder where that difficult beauty is that’s hiding and waiting for you to draw closer. I wish you peace. You.

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