Invitation to Epiphany

This feast we celebrate today–this ancient story we hear again this year

is not really about those wise ones from the East:

Be they kings or astrologers,

Zoroastrians or lapsed Jews,

Babylonians or even descendants of the people of the exile;

It’s not about the star,

Its brilliant light,

Or even the remarkable convergence of planets

in the pre-dawn sky;

It’s not about those gathered around the baby

Be they shepherds or kings,

Or cattle mewing or lambs bleating;

And it’s surely not about Herod that venal king

Known for his mendacity,

His capricious cruelty,

And eliminating all threats to his questionable authority.

 

No.  This feast we celebrate today

This great feast of Epiphany,

This feast that celebrates God’s light shining in our world—

is about the baby

On whom the star shines its light;

Around whom the wise ones,

the shepherds,

the cattle and the lambs

all gather in the deep,  dark night.

 

This feast we celebrate today, this Great Feast of Epiphany is about that baby

cradled in his mother’s arms, God with us, Emmanuel.

Not a sunshine God or a summer Divine;

Not a God who visits only the most deserving of our kind;

Not God who comes for a visit, stays awhile and then leaves;

But God with us on our darkest days,

God with us through our deepest fears

and also in those most precious of moments when the whole universe seems to sing.

God with us, now and always.

God with us, Emmanuel.

To the people stumbling back from generations in exile and to the people who stayed behind in a war-ravaged Jerusalem, to a people who walked in darkness—the darkness of their temple destroyed and torn down, of families forced apart,  to a people who lived in the deepest darkness of loved ones killed before their very eyes, the prophet says most forcefully:

Raise your eyes and look about

As you behold, you will glow

Your heart will throb and thrill.

That’s not a suggestion; that’s not a request; that’s a promise that in the moment you see the hand, the glory, the child of God, you, too, will glow with God’s glory; you, too, will shine God’s light.

Like those people of the exile, like their kin scratching out a life for themselves in the rubble of Jerusalem,  like those wise ones traveling for months across the desert for just a glimpse of God’s glory, like those shepherds approaching the manger,  we, too, know darkness; we, too, long for light.

There is no avoiding or denying the darkness of our shared days:  children still sequestered from their parents in shelters and tent cities on our border; worshippers in a church in Texas and a synagogue in Pittsburgh shot down as they pray; government employees held as pawns in a forced shutdown over a wall.

There’s the darkness of our own days too:  worry about bills piling up, watching as loved ones struggle, feeling the grip of sadness on our shoulders.  We, too, know darkness.

And yet to us the prophet says most forcefully:

Raise your eyes and look about

As you behold, you will glow

Your heart will throb and thrill.

That’s more than a suggestion;

That’s more than a request;

That’s more than a promise.

That’s an invitation to Epiphany, an invitation to take stock (people do that at this time of year)—to take stock of the many epiphanies, the many moments in which you’ve caught a glimpse of God in your life or in your world or in the lives of those around you, the times when people who cross your path have been a beam of God’s light in your life.

Perhaps in the sound of the migrating cranes flying overhead—heard but yet unseen;

Or in a moment of tenderness in an ICU when a loved one rubs oil

into the dry cracked skin of one who has laid there for days;

Or in a hard conversation that opens the way to genuine reconciliation;

Or in glimpse of an inflatable swimming pool  like the one that used to     live just outside St. Michael’s far west door;

Or in any one of a multitude of moments.

Take time now to step into that invitation to Epiphany.  Raise your eyes and look about, open your heart and look back.

Bring to mind some of those epiphanies, those moments when God’s light has shined in your life. Linger a minute.  Soak in the warmth of that light.

We won’t stay there for long.  Just a moment or two.  Then I will call us back with a blessing prayer.

Let us pray:

God has called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

May you experience his kindness & blessing and be strong in faith, in hope and in love.

Because you are followers of Christ,  Who appeared on this day as a light shining in the darkness, may he make you a light to all your sisters and brothers.

The wise men followed the star and found Christ who is light from light. May you too find the Lord when your pilgrimage is ended. Amen

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Love Comes Down at Christmas

Love comes down at Christmas

In a most unusual place—

a rough stable

in a small village

in the distant reaches of the Roman Empire

Love comes down at Christmas

To a most unlikely pair—

A young girl

barely into her teens

pregnant and “Not Yet Married”

some might say “disgraced”

An older man

her betrothed

a carpenter by trade

eking out an existence by the work of his hands

family and friends and neighbors too urging him to ditch

that feckless girl

But Love comes down at Christmas

To that unlikely pair

far from home

turned out by friends and family

forced to find shelter for the night

desperate for a place to birth their child

Love comes down at Christmas

through a baby born to Mary

a baby like the babies many of you have born

a baby like we all once were

so very human and yet divine

Love so fragile, love so strong

Love, pure love, right there in the stable

 

But there’s more to the story for

Love comes out at Christmas too—

Shepherds in the fields hear a sound

An angels song sung just to them

Promising them a most special gift

A gift of joy, a gift of peace

All they need do is follow the star

 

Love still comes down at Christmas

(and throughout the year as well)

 

Love still comes down at Christmas

Even in our troubled world

Even in our messy lives

 

Here’s the best news of this day

The good news of great joy

The news of which the angels sing

 

Love doesn’t just come down to visit

Love comes down to stay.

Love comes down to dwell with us

With us in all our ragged ways

Love comes down to dwell with us

With us on our most miserable of days
And so we pause on this the holiest of days

To drink in the miracle of Christmas—

A baby—a most human baby—born in Bethlehem

Love come down at Christmas

And throughout the year as well

God with us—Emanuel.

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Of Hope and Memories: Together in the Communion of Saints

In the name of the One who wipes every tear from our eyes—sometimes with a song, sometimes with a touch, and sometimes with a word of encouragement.

Here we are. Together again.  Together with one another; together with those we love but see no longer; together with all the saints and with all that reflects the touch of our Creator.  Here we are—the Communion of Saints bound together through and in our sainting.  It feels good to be together—it feels good to be together in times such as these—Times that challenge us to find hope amidst that relentless stream of stories of hate crimes, mass shootings and everyday nastiness.  Times that underscore our deep need to live and move and have our being right smack dab in the center of the New Jerusalem!

We gather today on this great feast of all saints bearing in our hearts our memories, our fears, our doubts about the future and about the present as well.  We come together with our hopes carefully tucked close to our hearts lest they break and crumble and get swept away.

And that’s the danger of these times isn’t it—the danger that our hopes might get swept away; the danger that our hearts might break.  And yet it is in times like these—times of deep darkness that that community of memory and hope, that Communion of Saints,  surrounds us and protects us and keeps us afloat just like those round orange life preservers you find on boats.  The Communion of Saints cobbled together out of memories and stories all the while pointing the way to hope.

Memories from our own lives and the lives of others; memories that sustain and encourage. Memories of those times in which we wondered if we would even make to the break of another day; and memories of when we did make it through to another day; memories passed down from those we love but see no longer:  stories of struggle and survival that now inform our lives;  stories of people we’ve never met—people from a different time, a different place—who in the face of extreme hardship managed to care deeply for one another and to live with courage and hope: stories of parents bidding farewell to their children, giving them a kiss as they see them off to at least the hope of a better life in a distant land; stories of mothers holding their children close and singing softly as bombs fall around them; stories of kids planting seeds and seedlings thus making the world around them more beautiful and the air cleaner.  People leaning into hope.

These last few weeks have been hard for all of us.  The pipe bombs, the bullets, the words of hate that threaten to saturate our airwaves, the racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, classist and misogynist acts that have come to mark the lives of people we know, people we love, people who share the air we all breathe.

Last Sunday was particularly hard for me.  I suspect I was not alone in that.

In the afternoon, I made my way downtown to the Gathering Against A Week of Hate.  By the time I got there, a small crowd had formed in front of the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum on west Central—a crowd of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and many others.  Old and young.  Prosperous and not so prosperous.

Introductions were made, short speeches given, stories told, prayers offered.  What moved me most and what has sustained me most this week was the story a native woman told.  I’ll try to do it justice.

She told the story of young boy caught in the grip of the Holocaust.  He and many others were standing in line—a line leading to certain death.  Something was holding up the process, so the boy stepped out of line.  And then he did something truly extraordinary.  He went from person to person, reaching out his hand, touching them, greeting each person with a vision of their future—for one a future of teaching grandchildren to read, for another watching her daughter give birth, visons of young men grown old.  All visions of hope.  As that young boy made his way down that line, people began extending their hands to him—blessings given and blessings received.  Somehow everything stopped.  The folks standing in that line were turned around and sent back to the line of life.

That story, the telling of it, and the group gathered to hear it have helped me through this last week.  Memories drawing people together in hope.  Memories spurring people on. Building a community of people linked to and sustained by hopes from the past while at the same time supporting one another in their struggle for justice and their acts of kindness. Kind of like the Communion of Saints.

This is my prayer this morning:  Let this Great Feast of All Saints, this festival of memory and hope, this poignant gathering of those who saint–both the living and the dead, both the present and the absent be for us an invitation to join together in the building of the New Jerusalem–not one built with stones and mortar, not one bound by the limits of time and space–but a living, breathing, caring Communion of saints at work in their sainting–the New Jerusalem built with the living stones of ordinary people like you and me loving and caring for one another and the world in which we live.

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The Stories We Tell

The gospel we just heard begins with these words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

What has come into being in him is life, and the life is the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

Like John, the voice crying from the wilderness across the Jordan; like the prophet of third Isaiah, like the psalmist, we, too, live in a land and a time of darkness.  Darkness marks and often mars our days.  We can’t avoid it.  We live in dark times.

Boulders of hate and state-sponsored meanness and callous indifference to the neediest among us litter the landscape of our lives.  Our earth warms; waters rise; the atmosphere that blankets us thins and frays; the poorest on the earth suffer most.  A cold war threatens to turn hot.

The words of a poet, a prophet, a preacher come to mind.  In a time, some of us remember well—America of the early 1950’s—Howard Thurman wrote these words:

Let the bells be silenced

Let the gifts be stillborn

Let cheer be muted

Let music be soundless

Violence stalks the land:

Soaring above the cry of the dying

Rising above the whimper of the starving

Floating above the flying machines of death

Violence still stalks our land—in shopping malls and concert halls and schools and churches too, violence stalks our land.  Even here in New Mexico, in this thin place where spirit infuses the earth and the air and the space in between, a young white-supremacist well-armed and filled with bitterness and hate, bursts into a school and kills two students.

In the darkness of our days, we cry out with the psalmist

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

Like the watercourses of the Negev or the Rio Puerte or even the Rio Grande

In the darkness of our lives, we give voice to our hope that

Those who sowed with tears/will reap with songs of joy

That Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed

Will come again in joy, shouldering the sheaves

We pause again.  We look back—back into our own lives and into the lives of those who have gone before us.

With the psalmist we remember those times

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion….

For Then  was our mouth filled with laughter/and our tongue with shouts of joy.

And with the psalmist we remember that the Lord has done great things for us; we remember those moments of restoration:

—when God promised old Abraham (and Sarah and Hagar too) that their descendants would be more numerous than all the stars in the heavens;

—when God brought Joseph and Jacob back together again;

—when God brought the exiles home to the Promised Land, first from Egypt

and then from Babylon.

Perhaps we remember moments when, in the darkness of our own lives—as individuals, as this community of faith, and as a country—God has mended our broken hearts, our broken lives, our shattered world.  Moments when we’ve caught a glimpse of that light shining in the darkness of our own day, of our own time of our own world.

Elie Wiesel—author, activist and Holocaust survivor—used to tell the old Hasidic story of the four rabbis, each of whom lived in a time of great darkness.  The first rabbi, in deep desperation, went out to the forest, set a fire, and then prayed for a miracle which did indeed occur; years later, another rabbi lived in another time of darkness.  He, too, went out the forest.  He couldn’t remember how to build the fire, but he remembered the prayer and sure enough his prayer, too, was met with a miracle.  Many years later, a third rabbi was living in darkness.  He couldn’t remember how to build the fire or even the prayer, but he made his way to the forest and his efforts were rewarded with yet another miracle.  Generations later, another rabbi faced a time of great hardship for his people.  All he had were his words.  “I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest.  All I can do is to tell the story, and that must be sufficient.”  And it was.  You see, God made humankind because God loves stories.

You and I, we stand today with John on the far side of the Jordan.  We join him in pointing to the light—the moments of light that have illumined the dark places of our own lives.

Ours is the work of pointing to that light; ours is the work of telling our own stories of light puncturing the darkness; and ours is the work of drawing out and hearing such stories of others.  Every time one of those stories gets told, that light that is the life of the world gets just a little brighter.

Take a moment.  Bring to mind one of your stories of light shining in the darkness in your life or in the life of someone you love.  Let your mind linger with that story.

Perhaps on your way out of church this morning, you’ll share stories of light with oneanother.  Pointing to light—that the work God calls us to this Advent.

 

 

 

 

 

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Connected: A Sermon on the Occasionof the Feast of St. Francis

Peace and all good to each and every one of you.

That’s the way Francis of Assisi greeted people—“Peace and all good to you.”  A prayer really.  A prayer people in his day—and ours as well—needed and still need to hear.

They, like us, lived in turbulent times.

They, like us, were often subject to the whims of capricious leaders and imperious overlords.

They, like us, found themselves in the midst of great change as money began to rule their lives and as the gap between rich and poor widened with a vast and increasingly vulnerable underclass becoming both more visible and more vulnerable.

They, like many of us, found their safety nets slipping away and their sense of place eroding.

Today, we meet Francis in our world marked by incomprehensible violence—not only the violence we saw last Sunday in Las Vegas and the violence of almost weekly mass shootings, but also the daily violence of an epidemic of shooting deaths and life-changing gun injuries.

Today, we meet Francis in our world of extremes—of wealth and poverty, of sickness and health, of hope and hopelessness, a world of insiders and outsiders, a world of death dealing divisions.

A world not unlike the one in which Jesus of Nazareth lived.

Today we celebrate the life of Francis of Assisi who accepted—no welcomed enthusiastically—Jesus’ invitation to take up his yoke and cross and follow him.

When you strain out all the fluff and nonsense that surrounds Francis of Assisi, when you filter out all the wild tales and fanciful stories, when you look closely at his writings and the demonstrable facts of his life, what you find is a delightful and loving and quite shrewd man who loved Jesus above all else, who lived the gospel as best he could, and who preached that gospel by his words and by his life.

Even after you boil off all that Francis malarkey, you get this wonderfully nuanced and deep and deeply loving and quite wise Francis who changed and is still changing worlds like ours simply by the living out of his love of God.

Sometimes I wonder how it came to him.  I wonder what it was that moved him from being a young bon vivant to a truly humble servant of the living God.  I wonder what it was that turned his heart to God.  I wonder when he started seeing the suffering around him and what moved him to respond.

There are those who say it all began in a prison cell in Perugia.  They say he came back  from that war and that cell a different man.  Changed.  Not quite a new man but not the youth who went off to war.

Francis himself said, “God allowed me to begin my repentance in this way:  when I lived in sin, seeing lepers was a very bitter experience for me.  God himself guided me into their midst and among them I performed acts of charity.  What appeared bitter to me became sweetness of the soul and body.”

Perhaps Francis’ sense of deep connectedness with God and with God’s entire creation began when he saw that he and the leper before him were one—different but yet the same, distinct but yet connected.

Is it so surprising that some years later after crossing seas and battlefields and human-made boundaries determined by language and religion and features of the land and seas, Francis, returning to Assisi,  one day put pen to paper and wrote his wonderful hymn of praise The Canticle of the Sun?

A song that offers praise not only to God but also from God through God’s creation—through Brother Sun and Sister Moon and Brother Wind and Sister Water and Brother Fire and Sister Mother Earth—the created both praising and receiving and passing on praise to and from  the Creator and all of creation.

Marvel with me at the man who wrote those words—a man who followed Jesus into enemy camps and lepers’ sores; a man lived humbly and loved deeply serving and leading with an uncommon charity and a spirit of forgiveness, a man who could writes such words while lying sick and blind and in deep sorrow and disappointment.  Marvel  with me at that extraordinary sense of connectedness fashioned in a world of division and disconnection.  Ligaments of love and likeness binding together forces as distinct and disparate as water and fire and sun and wind and life-giving earth and bodily death.

Today I hear those words as an invitation to a life grounded in a deep sense of connection.  An invitation that takes on a sense of urgency in the times in which we live.  An invitation that asks us to reflect on the bonds that connect us both with those some might see as the lepers of our day and also with the air we breathe, the earth we walk, the waters we drink.  And an invitation to explore—as individuals and as this part of the Body of Christ we know as St. Michael’—what a life lived from that point of connection with Christ and with Christ in one another might look like at this moment in our life in community and in our own individual lives.  An exploration.  A trying on.  A listening deeply to the call of Christ.  Not a set of answers determined in advance of the conversation but a deep and prayerful and searching and prolonged conversation about where Christ is calling us in relationship with our neighbors—neighbors others spurn and reject.

A few months before he died, my closest seminary friend—a Francis-obsessed deacon—wrote,

“When I start feeling that I am severely diminished and the world is closing in on me, I think of St. Francis at the end of his life. He is very sick, almost blind and is  sleeping in a hut in the courtyard of Clare’s St. Damiano. He wakes up one morning, staggers into the open, opens his arms and begins to recite his great hymn to the universe in which he is connected as a fellow sibling to all his brothers and sisters in the universe—Sister Moon and Brother Sun,and all the rest.   Not only does it capture the whole world view of the middle ages but it reverberates with the community of the universe. ”

My friend then concluded, “If I can remain part of this universe, I, like Francis, am struggling to be a good Christian.”

A fitting response to Francis’ invitation to connection to God, to one another, and, as my friend David put it. “the community of the universe.”

How shall we respond to Francis’ invitation?

 

 

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More to the Story

There’s more to the story of Hagar we just heard.  Beginning with her name.

Her people call her Hajar.  That’s what we will do today.  We’ll call her by her rightful name.  It’s the least that we can do.

Legend has it that Hajar was an Egyptian princess living in Pharaoh’s palace.  It makes me wonder—was that how she got hooked up with Abraham and Sarah?  Do you suppose that Pharaoh gave Hajar to Sarah and Abraham when he sent them packing?  A kind of consolation prize.

We first meet Hajar in the book of Genesis.  Just five short chapters before the section we read this morning.  Sarah and Abraham—that old and rich and very privileged patriarch have been waiting some time for God’s promise of descendants as numerous as all the stars in the heavens to produce even one descendant.   Sarah takes on the role of marriage broker and gives her handmaid Hajar to Abraham as a secondary wife.  A kind of consolation prize.

The magic works.  Hajar gets pregnant.  Then the trouble begins.  The way our Bible tells it, Hajar gets uppity and Sarah gets nasty.  Hajar and the child growing in her womb flee to the wilderness—the desert beyond Abraham’s and Sarah’s camp.  She stops beside a spring.  There she meets a messenger of God.  “What’s up?” that messenger of God asks the tearful woman bending down to take a drink of water.  I can imagine she had quite a story to tell that messenger of God.  Quite a story of desolation and distress.

What was God’s response to her distress?  “Back you go,” God said to Hajar, “this wilderness is no place for a woman growing heavy with child.”  But before God sent her packing, God equipped her with a promise—a promise almost as great as the one God gave to Abraham.  To Hajar God said, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted.”

At that moment, Hajar looks up at that messenger of God standing before her face and says, “You are El-Roi”—the God who sees.

Here I must break in to the story and add a parenthetical note:  Hajar is the only person in the Bible to name God.  Just sit with that for a moment or two.  A person in exile, a runaway slave, a stranger in the land, a refugee, a person darn near undocumented in the Abrahamic tradition, an illegal immigrant in the land of promise—is the one who gives a name to God.  The only one to give a name to God.

Hajar returns to Abraham’s and Sarah’s camp fortified by the promise she received and maybe just a bit emboldened by her act of naming God.

The scene shifts.  Time passes.  The child born to Hajar approaches adolescence.  And the child born at last to Sarah turns six.  Abraham holds a feast—a weaning feast.  Two mothers watch their children as they play.  One swells with pride as she watches her son on the verge of manhood—so confident, so skilled, so bold.  The other burns with anger as she watches the two at play.  “That slave girl’s child will never take my son’s place,” Old Sarah promises herself.  Then she goes to Abraham demanding he cast out that slave-girl Hajar and her bastard son Ishmael.

Rising early the next morning his heart heavy with grief and resignation, Abraham leads Hajar and their son to the edge of the wilderness supplying them with but one jug of water and one loaf of bread; dispatching them to an almost certain death.

Hajar, her heart heavy too, tells young Ismael to lie down under the shade of a bush.  Perhaps she adds, “Stay here while I look for water and forage for food.”    Then she goes off.  Some distance away.  She lifts her voice to the heavens and howls as only a grieving mother can howl.

But it’s not her howl God hears.  God hears Ishmael’s silent tears.  God then offers Hajar yet another promise—a promise that her son will be the father of a nation.  Then and only then does God open her eyes to the spring of water right there at her feet.

Some time later, Hajar goes off to find Ishmael a wife from her Egyptian homeland.  There the tale ends.  But Hajar’s story endures.  You see, sacred story comes to life in the lives of ordinary folk—yours and mine and the people we meet along the way:

*Hajar taking the shape of a pack-laden homeless man riding his rickety bike down the streets of Albuquerque just looking for a place to pitch his tent;

*Hajar dogging our memories of that weird kid no one wanted to sit by or eat with or pick for a team when we were in middle school;

*Hajar and her husband, fearing what will happen to their children as ICE agents stop their car and then arrest them;

*Hajar, languishing in an immigration detention center where guards address her not by her name but by the number of her bed;

*Hajar—could her name now be Susanna—taking sanctuary in church in a town not far from here;

*Hajar in the face of an Iraqi man, ICE closing in while he waits for sanctuary and hopes he’s not sent back to certain death.

You and I—we meet Hajar at the edge of the wilderness of our day and time—a wilderness of rabid xenophobia focused largely but not exclusively on Muslims–a people who trace their lineage from Hajar’s son Ishmael.  We have a choice:  will we hear their cries?  Will we address their needs?

For us here today at St. Michael’s those questions have taken on a certain urgency.

That man I just mentioned, the Iraqi who is facing deportation hearings and can’t find a place in sanctuary, just learned his ICE check-in has been pushed up.  It’s tomorrow.

If he is seized and then sent back, things won’t go well for him.  You see he’s a refugee from Iraq.  He fled in the early 1990’s.   He worked for the U.S. training soldiers then sent to Iraq.

Do we give him a jug of water, a loaf of bread and then send him on his way?  Or do we do what we can to show our support for this shape Hajar is taking at this moment in this place?

Sometimes sacred story comforts us; sometimes sacred story inspires us; sometimes it alarms us; sometimes it challenges us.  Today, both the story of Hajar and the Gospel challenge us.  Remember what Jesus said to those within earshot:  “…. Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

The choice is ours.

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A New Earth

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Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter—the eighth day of the Easter Octave.  Alleluias resound as we remember ours is a God full of surprises.  A God who even brings life out of death.  Today we give thanks for new life rising from an empty tomb.

Today we at St. Michael’s are also celebrating Earth Day—a day recognized and celebrated all over the earth.  A day celebrated in places where the face of the earth is being renewed and a day celebrated in places where the face of the earth is being desecrated at ever more alarming rates.  Even as the alleluias resound we can’t help but hear cries of lament from the earth and the children who dwell therein.

Today, on this our Earth Day, I find myself remembering that first Earth Day forty-seven years ago.  Our country was a mess—the war in Vietnam still raging, protests all over the country, violence in our cities, lakes in which one would dare not swim (Lake Erie even caught on fire!), air which was hard to breathe, a toxic oil spill that killed fish and birds and sea mammals in it’s wide wide wake.  People in those days looked out at their world and lamented.  Hence–Earth Day.   A day launched—primarily but not entirely on college campuses, a call for renewal conveyed primarily but not entirely through speakers and teach-ins that focused in sometimes mind-numbing details on the many ways we humans were destroying the face of the earth.

And yet what I remember about that first Earth Day are not the facts or the personalities or the mechanisms of the day or of the movement but rather a most improbable scene that took place at the principal demonstration on my college campus.  It wasn’t the first day of spring and it surely wasn’t a warm day but still at least two thousand people crowded into the plaza in front of the student union.  There was a band, speakers chanting earnestly through bull horns, even a geodesic dome for on-lookers to wonder at.  But what caught my eye, in the midst of important speeches by important people decrying the condition of our planet was a sprite of a woman dancing joyfully at the edge of the crowd weaving a web of delight around that gaggle of protestors and on-lookers and the curious ones like me.  It seemed as if she’d made a connection the rest of us had missed.

We—you and I, the earth and all that dwells therein—are made for joy—the joy that moved that young woman to dance, the joy that reverberates through all of creation. How does Teilllhard de Chardin put it—“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”  I might couple joy with delight in God’s creation—both God’s joy and delight in the created order and all of creation’s joy and delight as well.  Remember God says to the people of Israel, the people returning from captivity in Babylon, “I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight….no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.”

So also John of Patmos assured the people who listened to his revelation, people who faced persecution by the reigning empire of their day, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth” and then repeated to them the promise of God to make his home among them and to wipe every tear from their eyes.

Like the people returning from captivity in Babylon, like the people to whom John of Patmos preached, like the disciples hiding behind doors locked from fear, we, too, know fear and despair.  We, too, sometimes feel at the mercy of destructive forces far beyond our control.  As we look out at a world in which forests are cleared and species die off and water ways dry up, it’s hard not to feel despair.  It’s hard not to worry about tomorrow.

But that is not where we are called to be.  We are an Easter people.  We are called to live in hope.  Joy and delight are woven into our DNA.  After all—we are people who live with the knowledge that death and destruction do not have the very last word.  God is always making the world new.  We know that in our bones.  After all—we are Easter people.

And yet we are not called to sit idly by.  Waiting for the rapture is not an option.

Perhaps the place to start is with (or maybe in) delight—delight in God’s creation—all of it.  Delight even in the face of fear and despair.   Delight even as the earth seems to spinning off it’s course.  I’m reminded of a story I once heard about a young London model during the blitz.  She got a fantastic modeling job in a fancy store.  All she had to do was walk around the store in a fabulous fur coat.  Then the sirens sounded.  The city was being bombed yet again.  Most people headed to the shelters but she dashed out into the empty street where she danced and danced and danced in that fabulous fur coat.  A dance of defiant delight in a very dark moment.

Taking delight in the dance is an important first step, but delight is not enough.  The psalmist reminds us that God has made us but little lower than the angels and given us mastery over the works of God’s hands.  How we live on this earth and what we do with and to it matter.

On this, the forty-seventh celebration of Earth Day, my mind turns back to that improbable dancer wending her way around the outskirts of that crowd, sometimes darting into the center, often touching people gently on their arm, turning her head up to theirs in a gesture of recognition and connection and then inviting them into the dance.

What do Easter people do when the Lord of the Dance extends her hand to us?

Of course, we join in.  Some of us with our two left feet tentatively swaying to the music and taking a small step forward or maybe just to the side when we feel confident.  Some of us leaping gracefully in step with the dancer.  All of us sustained in the dance with the memory of the many ways in the past the Lord of the Dance has cared for us and all creation; all of us moving to the beat of God’s consistent care for all she has created.

On this, the 47th Earth Day and on this, the second Sunday of Easter we hear the words of the prologue of the Gospel of John.  “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”  The Chinese translate that to “In the beginning was the road and the road was with God and the road was God.” Perhaps we might say, “In the beginning was the dance and the dance was with God and the dance was God.  Shall we dance?

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