It is as though the natural world were waking to spring, after a long slumber. The oaks are full and rustling in the breeze outside my window. It is as though they were saying “shush…” slowly and sleepily, listening to the breath of life blowing over the land. The branches dance and wave gently, their leaves absorbing the sun, raised open to the light.
The world is waking up.
So too, we humans sense the change. We yearn for the light, for something greater than we are, for the good, the true, and the beautiful.
We are told to watch and wait for the second coming of Christ. Is it soon? The disorder in the world cries for order, for a loving order, one which frees us to fly. But the wars and the rumors of wars, the false prophets, the flippant lies told without care – all these things point to Christ’s coming. In our lifetimes? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We do not know and perhaps it is best we do not know but must be ready.
The borders of our nation are porous and illegals and the unvetted pour in. Prisoners convicted of violent crimes roam and threaten California communities. The borders of our lives, of our safety, are no longer holding.
Our children are taught to hate our country, to welcome its destruction, to agree silently to the silencers, to be afraid to be free, to speak.
And yet the breeze of life blows over our land. Parents organize. Truth-tellers publish. Freedom, so fragile, catches its breath in fits and starts as we the people awake to our imprisonment.
Pastors and priests preach truth once again, bolstering flocks with Christ. They feed souls with Scripture, Sacraments, and creeds. They heal minds with meaning, with the whys and wherefores, building strong arks of peace in our souls before the floodwaters rise.
And so, as we tuned into our virtual liturgies in Illinois (1), Arizona (1), and California (4), we were flooded by God, by his power, by His voice, by the song He sings to us.
We sang our thanksgivings for life itself, for the natural world awake around us, the planet that spins in a galaxy finetuned second by second to nurture and keep us safe. We marveled at the stunning nature of nature, its infinite complexity. We plunged into the sea of understanding that gives order to our daily crises. We were called to recall who we were, are, and ever shall be, uniquely loved by our Creator, individually and as a living part of Christ’s Body.
For a few hours this fourth Sunday in Eastertide, we considered the words of St. James: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” We learn that God made us by speaking a word upon the cosmos. We hear that we trust this Creator who is our Father and who is light, who is ever faithful in His care for us. We see that we are to “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”
It is all true, we think. It is truly true, that as members of the Body of Christ we are part of His vine, His taproot into life. We grow in this life eternal as the word is grafted onto us. We must be meek to receive; we must repent; we must love. We must listen to our holy ones who are true and good and be deaf to the unholy who are false and evil. The engrafted word in Scripture and Sacraments enlivens us to face the roaring lions eager to devour.
We wake to this Spirit that moves among and within us. There will always be troubles in the world, always be plague and heartache. We are the blessed ones, to understand what it all means, to choose a path through a forest of danger and doubt. The Lord is our Shepherd. We fear no evil. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We sang with all our hearts the recessional hymn in the Berkeley chapel:
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
To his feet thy tribute bring;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore is praises sing:
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise him for his grace and favor
To our fathers in distress;
Praise him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless:
Glorious in his faithfulness
Father-like he tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame he knows;
In his hand he gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows.
Angels, help us to adore him;
Ye behold him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Praise with us the God of grace!
(H.F. Lyte, 1834, based on Psalm 103)