It is a curious thing, the way God writes straight with the crooked lines of my soul. He must have to pull and tug the lines to make them straight. In the pulling there is suffering, growth. In the pulling there is the divine molding the mortal, the eternal sculpting those bound by time. I am reminded of the childhood reminder to stand straight, not to slouch, so that my spine does not crumble in upon itself. I must see straight ahead and not have my eyes cast down. I must mind my posture to see the clearly.
Our world is suffering, is being pulled up into God’s sight. We are called to see His glory, hear His voice, praise His name. Do we see, hear, voice with our lips?
The lockdowns and fires, here in California, border our lives with danger, threatening families with the unknown. Fear is near, sometimes knocking, and too often entering uninvited. We are adopting, at least in my home, a new routine. This alone is difficult, this change in habit. Yet I have found in the last few months, that good has come out of the pulling in of our boundaries. We have time for reflection. We have time for reading. We have opportunities we didn’t have before to love better, to forgive better, to welcome peace into our world of busyness.
When I wrote Angel Mountain, set in November of 2018, fires and smoke formed a backdrop to the preaching on the mountainside, and yet, it was reported, that the meadow where the hermit was preaching and baptizing remained clear. Christ does that. He clears away the smoke of our lives.
Time has been pulled in, pulling us into a sharper focus, like the zoom command at the top of my screen. My world may have shrunk, but I can see better, and I appreciate the sudden sun that comes through the smoke from time to time. I remember to count my blessings, breathing deeply the name of Jesus, glad to have clean water, lights, even air conditioning. Power outages will roll in from time to time here in California, for we are under a green regime in Sacramento and fossil fuels are evil, according to the manipulators who claim to know better.
The November election will determine if California policies will be the national policy. I hope not. Churches are being fined for meeting together (even while practicing social distancing) to worship God.
Sunday mornings have become the anchor of our week. Sunday is like the top of the mountain, with last week falling away on one side and the next week on the other. We tune into our virtual services and hear the Gospel and Epistle appointed for that day, sometimes three times, as we visit several parishes in our Anglican Province of Christ the King. We hear sermons discussing the same Scripture, as is customary, for sermons are usually based on the appointed lessons. And as I listen to three preachers give their own Holy Spirit inspired sermon, I am amazed at how nothing is repeated. The unique mind and heart of each priest colors his vision of God. Each one forms sentences differently, paragraphs fall together differently as works of art, each theme and message strikes a singular note, creating a tune never heard before and never to be heard again, a tune that enters my own hearing, heart, and mind. And reception of the words is individual as well, so that with my ears I hear as only I can hear, see as only I can see, understand as only I can understand. I pray that the words fill my vision with God.
These moments in earthbound time on Sunday mornings are unique in all history. These few hours occur for the first time and will never be experienced again. I am so privileged to be able to visit these chancels in Palo Alto, Berkeley, and Arizona, three different altars and furnishings, three singular experiences. And yet, they are united by the words spoken, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the poetic words of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, words translated from the Roman rite in the sixteenth century into Elizabethan English, the mystical consecration of the bread and wine to become the Real Presence of Christ.
The Gospel lesson was about Christ’s healing a man who couldn’t hear and couldn’t speak (“deaf and dumb”) told by St. Mark (7:31+). Are we hearing what God is saying to us? And when we have heard, do we witness to those words spoken, that gentle touch of our hearts? Do we allow Christ to sculpt our souls to be what we were meant to be? Or are we deaf and dumb?
When the liturgies come to a close, I know my crookedness has been straightened a bit. I still walk through my days bent and given to temptations that will bend me more. But on Sunday morning for a few brief hours, I unstop my ears to hear God’s voice. I open my lips to sing His praises. I am no longer deaf and dumb.
My crookedness has been pulled straight for a brief moment in time in which I knew eternity, and I am grateful.