Northern California had a good drenching these last few weeks. The hills are an incomprehensible shade of green. When the winds blow billowing white clouds across the skies, I understand what God meant when he said, “It is good.”
It is good indeed, and in a time of division and heated words between neighbors, family members, and friends over propaganda spewed by the press, the natural world reminds us of our common roots as humans. The hills and the skies proclaim the glory of God, and we all share this good, earthly home together.
Many things bind us as a human family and it is good to be reminded of this. We all are born (the lucky wanted ones). We live. We die. We arrive at the portal of Heaven, knock on the door that is Christ (as the preacher said this morning), and the door opens. Does Christ know us? Do we know him? The shepherd knows his sheep we are told, and the sheep know the voice of the shepherd.
Christ binds us together. He gathers us, heals us, and teaches us to love one another as he has loved us.
One of the remarkable aspects of the two parishes my husband and I alternately attend – St. Peter’s Oakland and St. Joseph of Arimathea in Berkeley – is the varied ethnicity and multi-generations that form our congregations. The Anglican churches I have been a part of have always had this colorful cross-section (no pun intended) of worshipers, but it is particularly reflective of our urban churches. I have come to take it for granted that these varied identities unite in worship, that we all become sisters and brothers, a family. When we have our divisions, and we do, we are gathered back together at the altar, hearing the voice of our shepherd calling us in for supper.
And with the Supper of the Lamb, the Body and Blood of Christ, we commune together in a single communion.
Identity politics is washed away; ageism is denied and children precious; gender and race is cause for celebration. We teach our young the way of acceptance and love by singing together, praying together, worshiping God together. We form processions, singing hymns our ancestors sang, and time disappears. We genuflect and we kneel.
When our natural families fragment and reform, we depend on Sunday worship to give us not only identity, but meaning, purpose, and peace. Priests counsel and forgive. The sisters and brothers of our parish family uplift one another in prayer, sometimes with names on lists, names laid at the altar to be spoken. We pray for those who suffer, here and outside our parish. We pray for the unborn who never had a chance, and for the mothers who mourn them. We pray for the students who study, the teachers who teach, the speakers who speak. We pray for peace and freedom. We give thanks. We worship our Creator.
The sufferings of today are no worse than other times, just colored differently by culture, freedom, and choice. We have been, and always will be, selfish creatures, shunning sacrifice, lazy and dishonest in our confession of sin. But one day a week we are redeemed. We are given a chance to start over. And we don’t have to be alone in this re-birthing, for we have the family of God, no small thing.
This morning, as the contralto sang “Ave Maria,” and her voice soared in amber arcs through the russet barrel-vaulted dome over the altar, I returned from my communion, thankful. The notes were like rain on my parched heart, greening me like the hills. Having received the Son of God in the form of bread and wine, I knew my soul was greened too. I was ready for the week to come and all of its challenges.
Our individual identities are many, each one of us so unique, so very different from one another. But our creator calls our names, and having been baptized with water and spirit, we know his voice. When we look to the hills and up to the skies, we find others are looking too, answering his call. They are all around us. We join hands in a dance of joy, this family, this earthly and heavenly host.
And our Creator says, “It is good.”