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The Melrose Chapel
Luke 24:1-12 ● John 20:1-18
Several weeks ago Sr. Heléna Marie explained how both the Book of Lamentations and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are tools for grieving. I chewed on that idea for the rest of Lent. In fact, when I was scheduled to preach on the fifth Sunday of Lent, I planned to explore anointing as a tool for grieving. I’m fascinated by the idea that the whole of Lent is something of a class in how to grieve effectively.
But Lent has ended and the time for grieving is over. Frankly, in spite of my fascination with the tools of grief, the long weeks of Lent have exhausted my store of hushed seriousness. Drab soup is fine for awhile, but enough is enough. I’m ready to stash the purple, pull out the stops and get over my own sad self.
Which is why I had to back up a few steps when I read both gospel possibilities for this Easter morning. The purple may have disappeared, but where are the bells and balloons? Where the sense of relief and joy that all our sorrow at the foot of the cross was unnecessary? Where the raised glasses and laughter and full amnesia of our sorrow?
What we have instead are the reactions and emotions you would expect upon discovering an empty tomb: sorrow, skepticism, anger, suspicion, surprise, suggestions of the unbelievable … but gladness and celebration? Not exactly.
I find it bizarre that I’ve observed Easter all my life, and until this year managed to completely miss this part of the Easter message, but maybe I’m in good company. I know we’ve already broken our alleluia fast and declared the resurrection to be a fait accompli. We already know how the Christian message turns out, but in our eagerness to live into the hope of the resurrection, it’s oh-so easy to pass by the empty tomb with little more than a casual, curious glance.
So take a few moments and transport yourself back to the circle of Jesus’ friends on that strange morning. Go with them on that slow, sad walk to the cemetery, expecting to pay appropriate respect to the body of your beloved friend and teacher. As far as you know, he was brutally put to death two days earlier. As far as you know, you will find his battered remains wrapped in swaddling, much as he came into the world over thirty years ago.
You arrive at the grave. But something is wrong. The stone sealing the tomb has been rolled to one side. Who did that, and why? You walk slowly forward. Someone has been here before you, and ugly scenarios race through your mind. Has his body been further desecrated by one of his many enemies? (How could anyone do such an unspeakable thing?) Or what if the body has been stolen? The whats, and whos and whys fly around inside your head, which now aches with dread as well as sadness.
You are among the few who are willing to walk forward and dare to step into the burial cave. What you see wasn’t even on your mental list of possibilities: the grave windings have been neatly folded and laid to one side. The body itself … is gone. For the first time since you saw that misplaced stone your mind goes blank. It is no longer able to put meaning to what your eyes see.
Just then you see a flash of light. Some movement. The sound of wind, blowing through trees that aren’t even there, carries the faint ringing of bells. Later, the others will have their own stories to tell of that moment. Everyone experienced something out of the ordinary — way outside of ordinary, in fact — but none of the accounts match.
Mary’s may be the most surreal, and certainly it is the most detailed. She claims to have seen two figures (angels, perhaps?) sitting inside the tomb, and she actually spoke with them. If that wasn’t fantastic enough, she says a third appearance called her by name, and then she recognized this one as Jesus himself.
Your friends have always been a bit stand-offish with Mary; she was too close to Jesus for their liking, and, being a Celt, was given to supernatural experiences of “thin places”. To be perfectly honest, they were jealous of her. You have always liked and trusted her, but even you don’t know what to make of her story.
Over two thousand years later we are still asking ourselves: what are we to make of this story?
An empty tomb “moment” begins with an opening — a passageway that appears where none should logically be. When faced with such an unanticipated gap, we are challenged to approach — and, if we dare, to pass through the opening into the unknown.
This is a moment of grace, yet we enter with trepidation; when we dare to cross the threshold, we risk entering a place where the unexpected is the norm, and where we may be seriously changed in the twinkling of an eye. An everyday trip up the mountain, a meeting in a locked second-floor room, an empty tomb … it begins with the benign appearance of normalcy but we soon lose our ability to hold on to what were once unshakable assumptions and beliefs.
Welcome to the world of fecund nothingness, the land of seamlessness and allurement, the zero-point field of liminal, numinous, wild creation, where time doesn’t quite exist and matter and energy can’t tell each other apart.
Transported into a quantum physics world that occupies the distance between sorrow and elation, we have nothing familiar with which to ground ourselves. Clothing shines so brightly we cannot look at it; people stroll through walls and walk on water; God talks in a voice everyone hears, and dead friends come back to life. Amazingly, this can happen to us, yet when it is over we twang back into ourselves and our lives as if nothing unusual happened. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
Even though we are back in familiar territory, in chronos time and Euclidian space, we find ourselves nudged by little differences. A voice here. An idea there. And eventually we find ourselves exploring the very real possibility of resurrection.
So bring on the music. Ring the bells. Pop the Swedish oven pancake into the oven and let us rejoice!
For though we don’t know how it happened, we can’t explain it, and we may never figure out its full meaning, we have been to an empty tomb, and we’ve all been changed. It’s time to weave that mystical experience into the clothing of our human experience. It is time — to reckon with resurrection.
The Liturgy of the Palms; Palm Sunday; Year C; RCL
The summer after my senior year in college, I lived in Galveston, Texas. I worked at the Jack Tar Hotel on the “strip” but after getting fired from there for having a bad attitude (all too true—world’s worst cocktail waitress), I worked, much more happily, waiting tables at Tuffy’s Seafood Restaurant on the south jetty. It was a good time. After work, in the wee hours of the morning, my friends and I would go bar-hopping and then about mid-morning, we’d be looking for a good breakfast. One such morning, walking along a charming old street I spotted a likely place but was confused by the sign on the door that read “en rance”. Thinking it was some kind of Cajun or Frenchified term unknown to me, I asked my companions, a couple of whom were locals, what was the meaning. Everyone, except me, burst into laughter because they saw what I did not, merely that the letter “t” was missing from the word entrance and that “en rance” did not indicate a required state of mind or some secret code necessary for admittance. En rance. Funny how things stay with a person. I always think of it now when entering a place for the first time. It’s become a kind of gird your loins, no guts no glory, sort of thing.
Well, anyway and I hope not completely irrelevantly, today Jesus is making his en rance into Jerusalem, and maybe we have just done an “enrancement” around our farm. The Gospel text, noted in most Bibles as “Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem”, is all about making an approach, entering in, being well received. It is also all about a provocative, symbolic act calculated to end up just where it does on Good Friday. And it’s also all about that donkey. I know it all hangs together somehow but don’t know that I will succeed in hanging it myself, so will take a leaf out of Sr. HM’s book, and set before you three, maybe it’s four, strands of the story, that we might weave together later as the Spirit moves.
Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. He and we know what is coming. He has tried to prepare his disciples, but they don’t like what they hear and so, rather obtusely, just don’t go there with him. But we know that Jesus must make his way into Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain and dwelling place, for the penultimate purpose of being betrayed, reviled, condemned, tortured and killed. It is difficult for us not to think ahead to the ultimate purpose, but this is what Holy Week is for, to slow us down and stay with the man. So for today, let us only consider his approach, entry, and reception into Jerusalem.
When you come to think of it, making an approach, entering, being received is something we all do, over and over, every day, in all situations, under all circumstances. Whether we are joining a conversation, making a new friend, embarking upon a vision quest, we are continually making the approach, entering in, hoping for a good reception. How do we do it? Boldly go where no one has gone before, like a star trekker or conquistador; or back into a darkened room like they do in scary movies; or sneak in like a spy or cat burglar; or like Jesus, just walk in, more or less, unarmed and disarming. Jesus of course, is the master and actual perfect example of “the medium is the message”. He never departs from humility, simplicity, compassion, or radical inclusiveness in his speech, his action, or his intention.
Here his intention is to take on the unholy trinity of empire, hierarchy, and institution. How to do so humbly, simply, compassionately, and so that everyone can take part? The Universe, Jesus’ heavenly Abba, Jesus himself has need of (as the text says), resorts to, again calls upon the donkey. I say again because doesn’t this donkey call up images of Bethlehem? No room at the inn, the manger, the animals as first witnesses of the wondrous birth. Doesn’t the image of the colt, never ridden, call up the image of the Virgin herself? The presence of the donkey takes us right into the space and time of the Feast of the Incarnation and once more Jesus is borne by flesh and blood and once more embodied purity and innocence carry the Incarnate Word onto the next stage.
The Incarnation is a powerful message. That we have everything we need to overcome the oppression of institutional and hierarchical empire, church, and in our own day corporation, by virtue of our human birth is totally and immediately engaging. Down come the cloaks; out come the palm fronds, up surge the voices shouting hosannas. And nothing can stop it—just like you can’t stop a birth once it’s in motion. Jesus says, if it weren’t these people, then the stones would be shouting.
Just like the action of birth cannot be stopped, the action of this text does not stop. There are so many forward motion verbs in this story. Once the reading begins, we are moved right along with no pause until we’re in. But the strange thing is, there is no exact point in the text when Jesus enters in. He is on his way, approaching, coming down the Mount of Olives, drawing near, and then all of the sudden he’s in. As I read it over and over, it began to seem like a filmed dream sequence where the subject, Jesus, is in three-dimensional relief, not seeming to be in motion himself as much as the background or scene is changing or proceeding along behind or around him. Maybe it’s not Jesus who is in motion in this passage, but the people. He doesn’t really enter or get in until those cloaks come down and the hosannas spring up. I understand that there is a centuries old argument about the exact point at which, in the Eucharist, transubstantiation takes place and that seems analogous to this triumphal entry story. Doesn’t matter when exactly, but our presence–our joyful, singing, praising, shouting presence– is required for a triumph and a Eucharist.
So there are the strands: the entering in, the donkey, the dream like quality, and the similarity to the procession through the liturgy. I really get a sense of the spirally essence of Scripture—always curving back on itself and we end up at new and different heights or depths, depending on how you want to look at it. It’s weird. But hey, we’ve made it—we’re in Jerusalem now, headed for the temple, headed for the upper room, headed for the garden, headed for, well, you know…
Carol Bernice, CHS
Little Melrose Chapel March 28, 2010
Last Sunday after Epiphany
Melrose Chapel – 14 February 2010
We are in love with light.
For us, light means we are awake and aware, that we have clarity, that what happens around us and to us makes sense. Light brings us safety and comfort and convenience. We can make light stretch out a day — even to its full height of twenty-four hours if we want. Light is powerful, snatching us out of darkness in an instant. Light is necessary and light is beautiful.
Light feels good.
But darkness … well, darkness feels bad. It is unsafe, providing a convenient cloak under which evil deeds take place. Darkness invites nightmares and night terrors and things that go bump into our lives. It distorts reality, robbing our lovely Earth of all her color. You can’t even see the darned thing, which raises its scary quotient significantly. When you don’t understand, or are unaware, it is said that you are “in the dark”. Light “dawns”, but darkness sneaks up on us. At its best darkness is something we endure for the least amount of time possible.
Both our love affair with light and our hate affair with darkness have received encouragement from a mostly unchallenged religious framework. We celebrate the seasons and feasts of light, but save the dark work of unearthing our sins for Lent; we encourage each other to put our lights on lamp stands, yet no one tells us to show off our dark side; we remind ourselves that [bad] darkness cannot overcome the [good] light; we believe that Jesus came to be and to bring [very good] Light into our [very bad] dark world.
The transfiguration event is read more than once in our lectionary year; much of the preaching on this last Sunday of Epiphany gravitates around one of three topics: 1) the appearance of Jesus and his ancient confreres; 2) Peter’s silly attempt to prolong the event with the construction of booths; or 3) God’s pronouncement regarding Jesus.
But I believe the reason we hear about the transfiguration more frequently than other passages is not found entirely in shining faces or divine announcements or a perfectly natural desire to hold on to something good. I think there is a less obvious (and perhaps more crucial) lesson for us here, one that has to do with the aftermath of that day.
As was said yesterday in our bible study, you can’t live your whole life on a mountaintop — eventually you must come down. Jesus, and probably his disciples, knew that returning to their everyday lives might well end up badly. They left that mountaintop and began a journey into darkness.
I suggest the following:
- that life requires that we leave the brilliant light of reason and clarity and enter a world that includes darkness;
- that the awakened awareness of a mountaintop experience is not a goal to be attained — an end to be reached — but a place to be visited on our embodied journey; and
- that both are necessary.
Together light and dark comprise a unity; one completes the other. We are only whole (perfect) when we experience both. If it sounds like I’m about to present a case for humanity as essentially broken, fear not. What I do want to attempt is the restoration of an ancient perception of darkness — an understanding that could rehabilitate and reclaim the place darkness holds in our lives.
Cherishing light and shunning darkness has not always been the human way; in fact, it appeared relatively recently in our collective psyche.
How did this happen? We have a good working knowledge of why light is essential for life, but darkness? Not so much. Is there any possibility that darkness might actually be necessary for life?
We begin our search with the Universe itself: no matter how many stars and galaxies we see on a good night, we are always struck by the essential darkness of it all. We know that matter occupies less than 1% of the Universe. The rest we call “dark matter” or “dark energy”, partly because we do not understand just what it is, and partly because whatever it is, we can’t see it. But the sheer weight of its existence in the Universe indicates that somehow, in some way we do not understand, darkness must be necessary — very necessary — for life to evolve.
In the realm of visible matter, a solar system consists of spherical bodies circling a constantly shining star. I suppose it is possible that a sun-centered structure could have developed where planets always faced their sun, leaving their backsides forever dark … but that is not the case in our Universe. Each spins so that both light and dark make regular appearances. Even on this more local astronomic scale, a balance between dark and light appears to be a necessary condition for life.
In the current issue of “Tricycle” magazine [Spring 2010], Clark Strand [S] makes a convincing argument that the human species began to back away from, and eventually all but lost the value of, darkness when we invented the incandescent light bulb. Even though we were able to extend our days a bit with candles and gaslights, the light bulb set us free to push the darkness away thoroughly, and for as many hours as we wished. Before long, our tradition of sleeping in the dark and when it became dark, was squeezed into about eight or less hours a day.
The human pattern of sleep for hundreds of thousands of years was not an uninterrupted eight-hour stint. As the light disappeared around dusk, humans began to settle in for the night. When sleepiness occurred, one slept, no matter what “time” it was, and no one fussed about how long the sleep lasted. It began when it started and was over when it ended. This is an essential pattern of Earth; creatures sleep when they are tired, waken when they are not.
In the 1990s Thomas Wehr [W]studied humans to determine if they we have retained the circadian sleep pattern of our forebears, in spite of our modern-day altered sleep patterns. Each subject submitted to fourteen hours of darkness at night, and Wehr tracked their sleep patterns. What he found was amazing. Once the subjects had paid back a “chronic sleep debt” [W], they settled into eight-hour blocks of sleep. But the sleep hours weren’t consecutive.
When darkness set in, each subject would lie in bed quietly for two hours, and then quickly fall asleep. Four hours later they would wake again, rest quietly for two hours and once again go to sleep. Those rest hours turned out to be extremely important.
Strand tells us that they consisted of “a mode of awareness that was neither active consciousness nor actual sleep, but another state ‘with an endocrinology all its own [W].’” [S]
It is possible that this sleep-and-rest arrangement, available only when we allow darkness in its fullness back into our lives, provides a communication channel between dreams and waking life, and that alone is probably of great value to a species which no longer avails itself of myth and fantasy.
But Wehr learned something one more thing, and for me it changes everything. His subjects reported that during the day they had never felt so awake before. To verify this claim, Wehr used a standard test used by sleep labs to measure wakeful consciousness, and found out they were correct. In fact, these subjects were “more awake than the rest of us, more awake than modern human beings were ordinarily thought to be.” [S]
Wehr had unearthed the human “capacity for a consciousness that had … been allowed to wither away.”
Strand suggests that the tendency for humans in middle age to begin experiencing middle-of-the-night sleeplessness — which we think of as abnormal, another pathology to be “fixed” with chemistry — happens because we are supposed to wake up, not because we can’t sleep!
It seems we have traded true wakefulness for a “jittery hyperaltertness”, “fueled by caffeine, by communication technologies, by entertainment, by the sheer velocity of human progress, but most of all by light.” [S] It turns out that darkness, far from being a feared enemy, is the antidote for twenty-first century western wackiness.
Green, organic, natural, safe, easy, free, immediately available to everyone …
Well, who knew.
Jesus did; he gave his friends an amazing full-light revelation on that mountaintop, and despite their tendency to sleep that day, they were awakened in a way we have probably never experienced. When Peter fell into the trap of wanting to extend the light, the event ended — but not as a punishment; it was an instruction, a learning experience. Be careful, because if you cling to the light, you will end up losing the very thing you most want: true, holy, healing, satisfying, intense consciousness. And the way back to that kind of bright alertness is to release our grasp on light and to value, live, sleep and rest in darkness.
In its turn, shared with light, darkness may prove to be the missing link which, when rewoven into our daily lives, could transfigure the entire human species.
Well, just a little something to ponder in the darkness.
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany Year C RCL
All quotations from The Inclusive Bible
The lessons today are about the call from God—receiving the call, accepting the call, and then the implications of living into the call. We have three different calls to study—Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter—and it is quite instructive to find the similarities in their three different stories and then relate them to our own lives. Because have we not, all of us sitting here, received the call? Have not all Christians sitting in pews today all over the world received the call? Else we wouldn’t be sitting here—after all, people who don’t want to go to church, don’t go to church, much less join religious communities. Still, most of us don’t think that our call from God, even those of us who are professional Religious, is anything like Isaiah’s or Paul’s or Peter’s.
Their calls were really something. Isaiah’s came in a vision of YHWH on his throne, with the Seraphs (literally burning ones) chanting the Sanctus and the enveloping smoke and all that; Paul likens his call to being snatched from the womb—one minute you are one place and the next minute someplace entirely different; and Peter was witness to a natural miracle, the draught of fishes, at his call. Our own stories don’t seem to be as dramatic.
I want to suggest, however, that what makes these three stories like each other is the same thing that makes them like our own story; and is the same thing that holds the potential for making us disciples just like Peter, and apostles just like Paul, even prophets just like Isaiah. You perhaps anticipate what I will say. It is the declaration of unworthiness that is the common thread. Didn’t we all feel that way?
Isaiah says, “Woe is me, I am doomed! I have unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” Paul said, “I am the least of the apostles; in fact, because I persecuted the church of God., I do not even deserve the name.” And Peter says, “Leave me, Rabbi, for I’m a sinner.” A variation on the theme of not me, I’m no good, seems to be the standard acceptance speech for the call from God. It doesn’t sound practiced, say like when I might get the Oscar or something; nobody thanks their mom or their third grade teacher. No, the immediate response to the call from God is a fearful, bone-chilling feeling of unworthiness. In the end, however, the fear of not responding to God overcomes the fear of actually hearing from God—and we accept God’s call.
It would be good to say that we accept without further hesitation or reservation, but that is just not the case. Our brother Peter, God love him, was rebuked by his Lord Jesus so many times, you’d think he would have learned, but no…Isaiah, just moments after declaring, “Here I am, send me!” and then hearing the nature of his task asked just how long he had to keep that up. Paul, bless him, never actually complains or whines or balks, but does continually give glory to God in Christ Jesus, for all the suffering he undergoes and for all the hard work he does.
More and more these biblical giants sound more and more just like us. What sets them apart, enshrines their particular stories in Scripture, is their faithfulness, their perseverance to the end—they never quit. There was no reason, much less excuse, that was sufficient to separate them from the experience of God, of living in the Presence, of accepting the call. Not jail, danger, torture, illness, injury, loneliness, poverty, persecution, ridicule, fear of any of the foregoing, or even death.
In another Epistle, the letter to the Hebrews, the writer warns us, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” That is what we must remember when we think of our own call. Our God is the living God and our call is for our own time here on our living Earth. We have professed our lives on behalf of the call, we have discerned as a community the nature of our call at this time and in this place, and now we are at the faithfulness part. So let us keep the faith dear ones and sing our praises to God, and tend the land, and strengthen the church. Because who is God going to call, if not us.
Carol Bernice, CHS
Little Melrose Chapel
February 7, 2010
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room wherethe disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
All of us are familiar with the Christian seasonal round — the Jesus stories, the Hebrew scriptures, the Church’s liturgical celebrations. I suspect many of us attend the observance of these events from Jesus’ life with the ease and intimacy born of our years in church. The comfort of our oft-repeated tradition anchors our religious life.
But an anchor too firmly grounded can cause trouble; we are in danger of walking into chapel one fine high holy day knowing what we will hear, how we will react. Our minds may linger just as surely on the festive meal we will share afterward as on the gospel of the day.
We already know it all—the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the preaching, the deaths, the struggles of the early Church … we’ve seen this movie over and over, we recite the words like avid fans watching for the umpteenth time, we laugh and smile and cry at all the right places, and the end is always the same.
We certainly don’t expect the service to rock us to our core.
Had we been among those first-century disciples, though, things would be very much different for us. In less than two months they had watched their leader and friend brutally murdered, and then experienced his presence for weeks afterward in bizarre and unsettling ways. Then, right before their eyes he disappears again. As always, his words to them during this strange time more often than not left them scratching their beards in bewilderment.
Not only were Jesus’ here-one-minute-gone-the-next post death appearances disturbing, the political environment was heating up around them as well, and they were at the center of the conflict. They knew they, too, could wind up like Jesus; even gathering for the Passover meal was dangerous. They could easily imagine a variety of futures for themselves, but most of them were not good.
But no one, not a single one of them, expected what actually happened that night.
Being a companion of Jesus meant living on the edge of insanity, see-sawing between what they had always known and held as their world view, while trying to grasp the entirely different, strange and baffling new “way” of being that Jesus taught.
We have to ask ourselves: where is Jesus speaking to us today? How is he meeting us, right here, right now? What is he asking of us so we can step up to the great plate of Life?
We have all noticed and worried about our dwindling numbers, the effect of the economic crisis on our bank accounts, the imminent loss of oil-based energy and products from our lives, the effect of dramatic climate changes taking place with unanticipated speed. We are aware that everything we’ve come to expect from being trained to and immersed in a consumerist society is undergoing deep scrutiny. Earth is withering. We simply cannot go on as we have in the past. And I truly mean we — this is not about “them”, it is about us.
It is tempting to lock ourselves, figuratively speaking, into our convent, hoping we will be spared what is inevitably before us, believing that If we just stay faithful to what we have always done, God may spare us from having to change. But like the amazing Universe God assembled, Jesus is all about transformation. To hide our heads in the sand is to simply opt out of Life in all its glory and challenge and wonder.
That upper room of so long ago turned out not to be safe after all, in spite of the disciples best efforts to lock themselves in. The truth of Jesus’ teaching will not be stopped by a locked door, nor by a locked mind. Jesus will show up when and where he is not expected; he will hand us peace with one hand and show the wounds of crucifixion with the other, and against all logic these paradoxical realities will fill us with joy.
Jesus had a back-up plan in case he didn’t live long enough to finish his work. Though the Holy Spirit was obviously present and hard at work in the Universe from before time and space flared into being, the fall-back plan was to make that active presence and availability of the Spirit unmistakably obvious to his disciples — to awaken in them a conscious awareness of that wild, fiery, fierce, unpredictable and all-wise member of the Trinity. And when fully awakened, those disciples were indeed set on fire. Nothing could stop their witness to the unitive way forward initiated by Jesus — not even death.
Just like those confused, amazed, worried disciples, we too are being called by God into an entirely different, strange and baffling new “way” of being. We, all of us on this planet, are experiencing a dramatic shift in our planetary reality, and to get from where we are to where we’re going, we have to blaze a completely new path through uncharted terrain. We will soon face global challenges with a cosmic understanding that could never have even been dreamed in the first century.
Our Community is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, and we are compelled to respond and follow her, no matter what scary or wild or strange road she takes us down. The one thing we can count on is that the Holy Spirit does not play it safe.
Given our existence in a Universal transformative moment, we might consider rewriting our founding mission to guide us through the next fifty years: “The Community is organized as a living witness to the office and work of God the Holy Spirit on Earth. Its members must ever strive to be channels through which, as at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may again cause all communities of life on Earth to thrive in the unity designed into life from its inception.”
Our calling is wider than our tiny community; it is wider than the Church; it is wider than the state of New York, wider than the United States, and wider even than all of humanity. It is broader than theology or biology or any other “-ology” you can name. It is bigger than education or medicine or the military or big business. It is a calling driven by a Universe designed and sustained by Sacred Mystery. It is a calling that flares forth through emergent activity, held to an ever-deepening unitive way by powers that have shaped it for nearly fourteen billion years.
The times, they are a-changin’ and big, terrifying storms are a-comin’. We will have to find our way through a crush of crises ahead. Not everyone — perhaps even most of us — won’t make it. But it is exactly this kind of pressure-cooker crunch that enables the Universe to trigger sweeping and immediate transformation. This is the amazing moment in which we find ourselves.
As sisters and companions of CHS, we don’t have the luxury of playing it safe; we cannot ignore what is before us, nor the gifts we have been given to provide all we will need: wisdom, counsel, godliness, understanding, knowledge, mystical strength and awe.
If we are to move forward into Jesus’ unitive way, we must allow our hearts to change radically — we will learn to understand that loving our “enemies” means not seeing them as enemies at all, but as us; we will accept and protect the rights of every non-human community; we will value diversity, however it comes to us, as necessary and sacred. We will cease to measure our success by profit and goods, valuing instead sustainability and happiness. We will replace competition with cooperation.
Whether we are hung upside down on Patmos or done in by a rogue virus, we will all one day die. What we do between now and then will determine how — and whether — Earth’s future children will live.
I can’t imagine a larger, more worthy calling than that.
[RCL Year B]
THERE YOU WILL SEE HIM
I don’t remember when I first heard this text from Mark; neither do I remember when I first learned there was a second, longer ending; but I do know and remember that whenever I do hear it, or read it, I get a thrill—every time. For years I’ve been wondering about this but only now, this past Holy Week and because I was asked to preach, did I undertake to sit with the text and examine why it is so thrilling to me. And thrill is the right word by the way because the feeling is just like these dictionary definitions given by my good ol’ pal Merriam-Webster: “to cause to experience a sudden sharp feeling of excitement; to cause to have a shivering or tingling sensation; to cause to vibrate or tremble perceptibly; to move or pass so as to cause a sudden wave of emotion”, well, you get the idea. To me this is quite appropriate to Easter morning. So having sat and pondered, meditated and mulled, I narrowed down all the images of the text from Mary Magdelene and the spices to sunrise and the rolled back stone to the young man in white—all fairly provocative themselves—to the thrilling culprit—Galilee. It’s Galilee. I want to go to Galilee and I want to go right now. Galilee looms in my imagination as a kind of cross between Katmandu and the feeling I had being welcomed into St. Hilda’s by Sr. Elise that first day. Adventure, beauty, youth and home all rolled into one. Not to mention Jesus. So hey, where is Galilee, how do I get there from here and why Galilee?
Interesting question, why…why not Jerusalem or Rome or heaven for that matter? The first thing that comes to mind is that it was home to Jesus and his disciples. “I’ll see you back at the ranch, boys.” But that promise to see Him again was to all of us, even us here, now, two thousand years later and how many thousands of miles away from a place on the map called Galilee. That’s not home. Why then does it sound like home? Well, mostly because Jesus is there and if it’s home to Jesus then it’s home to us. Here’s what I mean.
Jesus so often calls himself the Son of Adam. I just read in A Theology of the Built Environment by Tim Gorringe, “according to the second creation story humankind (Adam) is taken from the dust (adamah)—rooted, therefore, in the soil.”(p. 58). It is a different word from that used to indicate a land or territory belonging to a people; no, Adam comes from the word meaning that from which we all come, the literal ground of our being, our human solidarity, Earth, the fertile Earth, our Mother Earth.
Not only are we, and Jesus, rooted in the soil, but we, to quote Tim Gorringe again (p58), who references Genesis 2.7, have a special and absolutely necessary relationship to it: our vocation is defined in terms of tilling and tending it. This bears repeating—our vocation according to the Bible is to till and tend the soil. The ideal, peaceful agrarian society however, is beyond our grasp. Our biblical story tells us we didn’t get past the first generation before everything fell apart and brother slew brother.
To make a long story short it was the Law that was to set us to rights again, but that’s not a sure thing, to wit all those prophets, most notably (for our purposes here today) Jeremiah:How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it the animals and birds are swept away… I have forsaken my house, I have abandoned my portion, I have given the beloved of my heart into the hands of her enemies. (Jer. 12.4,7)
That almost sounds like God the Father talking about Jesus as if he were Earth herself. Moving on then to Jesus, how does giving the beloved over accomplish what the Law does not—does sacrifice reconnect us with our true vocation? Well, I don’t know but I think so because sacrifice is a critical component of how things work as we heard all last week and in the lessons earlier this morning. What then must we sacrifice to get to Galilee where we will see Jesus? He’s already there and we’re still on the way and I bet it’s something big.
By all accounts (I have not been) Galilee is a region of great fertility and natural richness. There are streams and waterfalls along with vast fields of greenery and colorful wildflowers. Flora and wildlife thrive. There are several high mountains. It is a bird migration corridor. Because of rocky terrain most settlements in Galilee are villages connected by relatively few roads. The climate is mild.
And Jesus is there. The young man in white said, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth” he is not here. He didn’t say the Messiah or the Son of God or the King of Kings but just the man, Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was crucified. He has gone on before you to Galilee, not heaven mind you, but a place on Earth. And we’ll see him when we get there. When do we get to that place on Earth where we see Jesus? How do we get there? Well, I must say that I really do and think and believe it is by tilling and tending the soil. It is after all the resurrection of the body we’re celebrating, although celebrate seems too mild a word, and as there’s only One body, we can do nothing but till and tend–this is our glory. To do so consciously with every thought, word and deed–this is our prayer. Amen.