Tag Archives: rain

Drenched by Christ

Rain on hillsIt’s been raining here in northern California and our happy earth drinks in the spring drenching, this gift from the heavens. Perhaps our rolling greens will not turn to golden browns quite yet.

It is often these quiet things, these gentle tears of the skies, that delight human senses. We pause and watch and listen. We turn off phones and radios and TVs and ponder, seeing new life birthing in buds and babies, feeling our own beating hearts dance to the rhythm of our breathing.

We are beautiful creatures both infinitely complex and varied, composed of miraculous maps within, historical maps, biological maps, genetic maps. We look to the heavens and see the miraculous maps of the universe, God’s stardust. We are small, tiny parts of a whole, and yet we are giants, of tremendous worth to our loving Creator.

As I stepped through the Holy Liturgy in our parish church this morning, I gazed at the high altar covered with white Easter lilies. I was flooded with wonder. There we were, ordinary folks, sailing in this old ark of a church, taking part in eternity intersecting time. With raspy voices we sing our hymns and the organ pumps out jeweled notes. We are an integral part of the great thanksgiving, the Sunday offering, the Divine Liturgy, the “work of the people.” We hear the silence too, moments of prayer, quiet seconds linking words of confession and absolution, sacrament and scripture. We watch tall tapers flame behind white lilies, a garden holding the tabernacle of God’s Real Presence.

I have found that the Eucharistic liturgy is both earthy and heavenly, uniting our two natures. For the duration of this hour our bodies and souls sing as one, married, united by love.

I’ve been typing up my late bishop’s sermons, and when asked to offer word suggestions for a dedication plaque, I thought of the love of God. Our bishop showed us the love of God, that it was real and living, that it was ours for the asking. And of course, when we are showered with such love we can shower others with such love. It is who we are meant to be, why we were created, to love and be loved.

It is all a mystery. St. John writes that God is love: “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). But love is far more than a feeling, just as God is far more than wishful thinking. Love is complex and simple, demanding and sacrificial. Just like God. 

So God the Father loves us through God the Son, Jesus, whose very name is holy, one to be breathed in and out with a sacred sense of life and living. It is a name beyond all names, and with the naming of God we pull Him into our hearts and minds and souls, enlivening our bodies with His very breath, the breath of His Holy Spirit.

We have a church conference coming up, an Anglican Synod, and the days together with parishes from many states will be days of mingling the heavenly and the earthly. We shall sit on hard chairs and listen to speeches and reports, but we will also pray together, sing together, and love one another. We shall weave a tapestry of the Body of Christ, so that we may unite as one breath of love, at one in the breathing in and out of the Holy Spirit, the Name of Jesus, to show our world that God is love.

Christ the Good ShepherdToday is called Good Shepherd Sunday. I have a beloved icon that shows Christ in red-and-blue robes carrying a lamb over His shoulders. A wooden crossbeam stretches behind Him. Christ is the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep. He knows them and they know Him. The lamb He carries is like the lamb carried into the temple for sacrifice. We know, of course, that Christ is the sacrificial lamb. He replaces the lamb once sacrificed. For love of us.

I have a recurring nightmare where I am hiking along a steep mountainside in the dusk of evening. I must reach safety before dark and I must watch where I step or I shall fall far into the caverns below. Waking from these nightmares I recall thankfully that Christ will find me wherever I am and bring me safely home with Him. I will not be lost, for not one of His sheep are lost. He is the Good Shepherd.

And because of the Church and its liturgical dance of love, I know His voice when he calls my name. Like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, I recognize Him by his voice. Like the disciples at Emmaus I see Him in the breaking of the bread. He is real. He is love.

I also have a recurring dream in which I am flying like a bird, low over green hills, arms outstretched like wings. I can sense in the dream that my arms must push downward through the air so that I can rise, as though I am swimming. It is a beautiful dream, a soaring dream, and one beating with love.

And so like these green hills, drenched and quenched by the rain, I am drenched and quenched by Christ. Christ in sacrament and scripture, in song and dance, in the breath of each day. I know that nightmares will be redeemed by dreams, dark terrors turned into bright joys.

As the clergy and acolytes recessed down the red-carpeted aisle toward the open doors of the narthex, the crucifix held high, the torches aflame, we sang the wonderful Hymn #88, “Jesus Lives,” written by German poet Christian Gellert in 1757 and set to the tune “St. Albinus” in the 19th century by Henry Gauntlett. We are instructed in the top left corner of the page to sing joyously and so we do. I particularly like the first and fourth verses, for they sing of the promise of the Good Shepherd:

 Jesus lives! thy terrors now/ Can no longer, death, appall us;/ Jesus lives! by this we know/ Thou, O grave canst not enthrall us. Alleluia!

Jesus lives! our hearts know well/ Naught from us his love shall sever;/ Life, nor death, nor powers of hell/ Tear us from his keeping ever. Alleluia!

A Dry Season

hills2It’s a dry season here in the Bay Area. Brown hills holding their gnarly oaks roll east from the Pacific toward the Sierras. “We need rain,” a friend said. “As always,” I said. “Tahoe was down fifteen feet,” someone else told me. “No snow pack I guess,” I lamented.

Man has always battled the natural world, has always been subject to “Mother Nature,” a fickle mother. When we are dry, she doesn’t always give us rain, and we have learned to store water in great basins carved from our mountains and valleys. We do not want to be prodigal with the gift of rain; we must ration it for the future.

And as Joseph instructed the Egyptian pharaoh, we build storehouses for our grain. We use our intellect to breed better crops to feed not just ourselves, but the world. We invent better machinery to deliver food from farm to table. But even so, we can’t control the weather. We still do rain dances; we pray and plan in the full years to be ready for the lean ones. We have savings accounts, or wish we had. We buy insurance or wish we had. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” “See a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”

We are little people doing battle with the the great universe. And yet we have these huge egos, believing we can fly close to the sun with waxen wings. We are the boy David facing the cosmic Goliath with a sling and a stone. We are full of hubris, pride that goes before the fall, the Greek nemesis. We want to be our own gods. We do not see our wings melting.

I sometimes wonder how these great contrasts between reality and unreality, between who we are and who we imagine we are, live together in our souls. I suppose such pride can be good, for it propels us forward, encourages us to create as God creates, drives us to better our world and its peoples using a mind that reflects God’s own, made in his image. Somewhere deep inside, beyond politically correct and cool and longing for acceptance, we want to be good and true. There is a kernel of humility in each of us, a mustard seed that we want to water to grow to be fully good.

Christians explain this dynamic between good and evil, humility and pride by pointing to our innate goodness having come from our very creation, being made in God’s image, birthed by his love. We point to our sinfulness – our desire to disobey God – as having come from our fallen nature. Somewhere deep within our human beginnings, deep within the garden we call Eden, so long ago, we made a wrong turn, and that turn led to other wrong turns, which led to others.

The saints are those who try to correct those wrong turns, those who try to re-turn onto the right path. We want to learn from them for they know the way, opening themselves to God through prayer and sacrament. They scour their hearts through confession and repentance, re-turning. They prepare a place for God to live, to dwell within. We tell the stories of the saints to one another and to our children. We tell of saints from the past and the present, yes even some who live among us, so that we might touch the hem of their garment, so that we might learn how to re-turn onto the right path as they have done.

As Christians, we have a way, a path out of the jungle into the light into God himself. When we are thirsty, we have sacramental fountains and scriptural rivers of water and life that make sense of all the dry seasons. We store our water and grain in the heart of the Church, so that we will not thirst or hunger.

We have a way forward as we move among one another, healing and loving as God heals and loves, allowing him to work in and through us. So that the natural world – with its storms or lack of storms, with its heat and its cold, with its lions that devour and bears that maul – is set in perspective. It is a good world, but a not-always-friendly world. Yet its goodness lies at the heart of each seed sprouting to the light. We know this is true. So it is good for us to use our talents as best we can to be good caretakers, producing foods and storing water for a hungry and thirsty world.

We are in the dry season. Fall is coming soon. The leaves will die and turn and drop to the earth in glorious color. We too will die and turn and drop to the earth, our ashen flesh becoming dust, our souls bursting in their own glorious color as they wing to the light. We watch and we pray and we give thanks for it all, for the goodness of even the dry times, for the harvest of God is always plentiful.