Prayer of Gratitude & Despair: Earth Day

Hear these words of thanksgiving and of lament.

Ours be a prayer of gratitude,

raising praise for life that sustains and renews,

to grace that surrounds and surprises,

for the abiding truth: there is no separation

between us and the rest

of the interdependent web

of all existence.

Ours be a lament of despair

in the form of a poem by Adrienne Rich:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save.

So much has been destroyed.

I have to cast my lot with those who,

age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,

reconstitute the world.

May we walk lightly,

May we seek humbly,

May we breathe deeply,

May we bring compassion,

May we be whole.

by v-collins

by v-collins

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How of Now: Holding this Earth, Our Gratitude, Our Pain (sermon)

First Parish Church of Groton, April 26, 2015

 Audio version here.

Perhaps you know this parable, which invites us to see with new eyes, or eyes that are willing to see newly:

There once was a simple farmer who lived and struggled alongside his neighbors and friends, trying to exist and fulfill a peaceful life. One day news arrived from far away, that his old loving father had died. His neighbors gathered to grieve, but the farmer simply said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” 

In time relatives brought a very fine horse of great cost and fine breeding, left to the farmer by his father. All the villagers and neighbors gathered in delight with him to celebrate his good fortune, but he just said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg they let him off.

Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

It is Earth Day.  Well, it is the Sunday after Earth Day, which counts as Earth Day in Church.

Earth Day is a joyful event — a chance to celebrate the planet and its natural richness, to connect with the spirit of generation and regeneration. It is opportunities to learn about how we can reduce in greenhouse gases or carbon footprints, gathering together in community to bless and embody the interconnected web of which we most definitely a part. A chance to experience and express our gratitude for this, our only planet.


Earth Day, especially with each new micro-bit of data, each new study released from a reputable source, each latest news report on nearly all of the channels or web sites worth trusting, each alarming announcement from some United Nations office, has its shadow side whose most recognizable name is Climate Change. These shadows are both deep and ragged, often causing us to either be paralyzed with fear or to turn away in denial (or both).  As Joanna Macy says,

dandelionspiralAll of us are prey to the fear that it may be too late, and thus any effort is essentially hopeless. Any strategy we can mount seems so puny in comparison with the mighty systemic forces embedded in the military-industrial complex. The accelerating pace of destruction and contamination may already be taking us beyond those tipping points where ecological and social systems unravel irreparably.

Joanna Macy is a Buddhist scholar and environmental activist who has developed something called The Work That Reconnects. The Work That Reconnects follows a four-point spiral – perhaps you will recognize it in the flow of today’s worship service and in this sermon. It starts with gratitude (including recognizing new life, new members, and joining our sparkling glass bead-jewels into a greater whole), honoring our pain (and surrounding it with tears of holy water), seeing with new eyes, and going forth.

Jewels of gratitude for the earth, stones of despair for the world -- First Parish ritual for Earth Day, 2015

Jewels of gratitude for the earth, stones of despair for the world — First Parish ritual for Earth Day, 2015

The intention of this work is to help us not be stuck, paralyzed by those deep, ragged shadows, but to face them, and in so doing, find ways to be part of the good that is still very much possible.

What are the options? In the midst of what we know about Climate Change, how it impacts the Have-Nots much more direly than the Haves; how some changes, like gigantic sheets of ice melting, are happening more rapidly than originally forecast, even just a few years ago; how so many animal species have gone extinct and even more are well on that same path?

I see five broad strokes of options:

  • Option #1: Use up natural resources faster, while they are still available, often purely for profit.
  • Option #2: Nihilistic hedonism — seeking material and corporal pleasure no matter the impact on the earth or on community – what we might call, “You only live once” attitude.
  • Option #3: Stick our heads in the sand.
  • Option #4: Do what one can with the belief that we can still tip the balance and still save humanity and nature as we know it. (More or less.)

Even though my North American life means that even without trying, I take part in one, two, and three on a regular basis (We all do. We are in this together.), these options, to be blunt, suck.  (That is theological terminology for really really bad.)

What I observe is that people of good conscious have been focusing on Option Four. But this is one is getting harder and harder to do. Not because we can’t do good things in the world. The harder and harder part is finding evidence for the latter part: that we can still tip the balance, that we haven’t already passed the point of no return.

In her book, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein believes it is possible if we act now and we act collectively and fundamentally – changing not light bulbs, but our whole economic system. A gargantuan task, but possible, she says. But not for much longer, if we want it to make a difference in keeping our planet liveable for human beings.  Click here for a two-minute book trailer.)

What catches my attention is Option #5. The one I haven’t named quite yet.

Klein, Macy, our own Unitarian Universalist environmental activist Tim deChristopher, and many others – perhaps folks sitting here in this sanctuary — believe that the climate crisis just might be the “very existential crisis we need to release and unleash […] suppressed values on a global and sustained scale, to provide us with a chance for a mass jailbreak” [Klein] from certain doom.

The very thing we need to see through new (and yes, urgent) eyes.

What suppressed values? What is Option Five?

It is focusing not on whether, in the end (whatever that means) we will survive, but focusing instead, on who we will be and how we will act in the meantime, in the Now.

What kinds of actions and what kind of people will we be – moral? compassionate? generous? justice-seeking? This is Option Five: choosing to do good not knowing what will happen in the end, doing good in the face of uncertainty, without guarantee of result or even survival.

Beloved farmer, poet, prophet Wendell Berry tells us, “All we can do to prepare rightly for tomorrow is do the right thing today…. If using less energy would be a good idea for the future, that is because it is a good idea.”

Klein gives examples from both ends of the continuum of possible How-actions: how there has been amazing generosity among strangers in the face of catastrophes (blessings on the people of Kathmandu in Nepal in the midst of their devastating earthquake), global responses of aid when extreme weather has devastated places and people.

Also how climate change is already “coarsening” us, with humanity acting as if empathy, and not fossil fuels, is the finite resource.

899192e95a296608d1de3aebf7e25e65Our first principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of each individual and our seventh principle affirms our belonging to the interdependent web of all existence and in between we hear Walt Whitman’s beautiful words from Song of Myself, that we “contain multitudes.” We say, amen, we are a mess of contradictions: persistent empathy and solidarity, as well as compassion fatigue and coarsening.

I have decided to call this Option Five, to give it more substance in my life, the How of Now rather than the What of Then. Choosing to guide my actions and commitments to how I want to be now, rather than trying to know what will happen then, in the future.

This is where our final stop, the fourth point, on the spiral brings us: going forth.

Because even existing here in the long shadows of damage of our own making, we believe that we are called to be people of compassion over consumption, of justice and fairness over security and I’ve-got-me-mines.

Ours is a faith that aspires to creating Beloved Community, not Beloved Certainty.

“Spiral Mandala” by Jim Bubgardner

The wise Joanna Macy says it this way:

there is no way to tell how the larger story will end. So we learn again that hardest and most rewarding of lessons: how to make friends with uncertainty; how to pour your whole passion into a project when you can’t be sure it’s going to work. How to free yourself from dependence on seeing the results of your actions.

Did you notice the post-it notes in your pews?* I invite you, during the postlude, to write one thing (or more than one thing), that you commit to doing as you go forth into this uncertain world. Who do you want to be and how do you want to be that person?

What action – of compassion, of conservation, of (social) change, of creativity, of connection – will you take knowing that you are part of the interdependent web of all existence?

Perhaps it will be to plant an extra row in your garden, that you might give fresh produce to the local food pantry this summer.

Maybe you will choose to read that article with the headline about climate-change-doom that your fear tells you to skip over, saving the cute-kitten-video-clip for another time.

Perhaps you will go to a local meeting about the Kinder Morgan pipeline and learn about the organizing to protect the land and the landowner and our communities (let me tell you, in Western Mass, where I live, they are learning civil disobedience rather than cede their land, homes, and forests to this project).

Maybe you will take part in the Village concept right here: taking care of ourselves across the lifespan, here, in our hometown, in our own homes.

Maybe it will be to renew your commitment to keep your re-usable grocery bags in your car and to never use new plastic bags again. You can impose your own plastic grocery bag tax: if you forget the ones you already own, you are not allowed to use the free ones at the cash register, but must buy a new re-usable bag. That will get you to remember to keep them in the car and bring them with pretty darn quick.

Perhaps you will spend more time than you usually do sitting in silence in a place of nature, opening to the fact and feeling that there really is no separation, that we are part and particle of nature as it is part and particle of us. Then let that deep truth guide your actions.

Whatever compassionate, conservationist, justice-y, creative, change thing you will do to go forth, write it on that post-it. Memorize it, which is to say, place it on your heart.

Then, as you leave the sanctuary, there is a poster of the earth, made by the youth in our Middle Matters program, made by people whose lives will bear the brunt of our mistakes and our strivings much more than we can ever know. Place it there, as our communal tribute and promise to go forth, marshalling hope in the face of the uncertain, choosing the How of Now, not the What of Then.


The completed (only just begun) Going Forth board from First Parish…

Let me close repeating again the wisdom from Wendell Berry: “All we can do to prepare rightly for tomorrow is do the right thing today…. If using less energy would be a good idea for the future, that is because it is a good idea.”

May it be so. Amen. Blessed be.

* Post-it notes made, according to the package labeling, with adhesive derived from plants and paper from trees sustainably managed, reducing the use of petroleum and making them recycle-able (which regular post-it notes are not).

Posted in Buddhism, Earth, End of the World, Hope, Sermons, Unitarian Universalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Hope of Raspberry Brambles

It’s risky, writing about hope without being in touch with at least some semblance of it, particularly when one aspires to be a minister.

My post yesterday for today’s Earth Day was not hope-giving. It was well-crafted. It was articulate. Someone even called it “compassionate.”  But it was not hopeful.

I was not hopeful.

It’s such a delicate balance, this hope thing.

How to live in the world without rose-colored glasses, how to see Reality (even in a post-modern world that informs us there are many Realities), how to stay awake?

quote from a poem by William Stafford

quote from a poem by William Stafford

quote from a poem by William Stafford

quote from a poem by William Stafford

So I wrote, and posted, and as I did, the “crusty, sharp edges of my own complicity” were popping holes in any balloon of hope that might catch a ride on a gentle breeze.

Then I walked out to my garden, the one late in making itself available because of our heavy winter just past and the long-lasting snow mounds.

I walked out to the raspberry canes.  I gave myself over to this scratchy annual early spring ritual.

A ritual of breaking off the grey-dead cane, hollowed out, some still gasping at life, but nevertheless already beyond regeneration.

A ritual of pulling some of the out-of-bound upstarts, for they throw themselves fecundly to places where no bramble should ever grow.

A ritual of blessing the live canes that they might bring their dusky-red manna come the end of July.

photo by Tiffany Woods

photo by Tiffany Woods

It reminded me of the wisdom to be found in this Mary Oliver poem, “When I Am Among the Trees,”

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

For the poet, she goes to the trees.  Which sometimes works for me, too.  But today, it was the raspberry bushes, not as elegant as trees, but still containing some of the same magic.

After disentangling myself from the Screen of Over-Information;big-Flat-head-cane-borer-Fig-2

after I breathing the air of green-yard-bursting forth;

after thirty minutes of caring for this hedge that needs/does not need me;

after feeling somethings sharp scrape my forearms, but it was not my complicity;

after something real of this earth, both alive and dead, took me within its fortress;

after something wild made a promise to offer its fruits to me yet again, as it has done

done summer after summer;

I felt better.

I moved closer to sensing that I, too, “have come into the world …to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”   This may not be hope.  But it is connection.

I am reminded of the classic tale of the Buddha, when tempted by Mara, touched the earth and banished Mara.  There are many interpretations of this story, but I am struck how when the Buddha literally grounded himself, something generative, even hopeful, was allowed to happen — made possible by connection.  To the earth.

His earth, at least in the story, was not a raspberry bramble, but mine, at least today, was.

Truly a blessing.

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Earth Day 2015

In the early 1980s, we all lived under the pale of mutual nuclear destruction.  Are you, dear reader, old enough to remember?

77538I was in high school then and I took this very personally.  While others were out partying, or working, I was reading Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth.

In general my parents could not afford to send me to summer camp. Plus, where I grew up, nobody did that.  But one year, they cobbled the money together for me to go spend a week at a local public university for a program designed for high school students to study the impact of nuclear despair on fiction.

Yeah, I was really fun to hang out with when I was 14…

Back then, as I still do, I collected quotes.  Lucky for me — and for you — even at 14, I had more or less good taste. Not consistently mind you, but some of my choices stand the test of time.  Here is one that continues to keep me good company:

actual page from my book of collected quotes

actual page from my book of collected quotes

“I don’t know how long we have. We have to do this work because we believe in peace and in building peace. We start with ourselves, our communities: the circles get larger. If the bomb falls tomorrow, there’s something so valid about living this way, that we would live this way anyway.”   (Elissa Melamed)

We don’t live under the same nuclear pall we did thirty/thirty-five years ago, but we could change out just a few words and that quote would still hold its message:

“I don’t know how long we have. We have to do this work because we believe in the interdependent web of all existence and in honoring our place in it. We start with ourselves, our communities: the circles get larger. If the planet dies tomorrow, there’s something so valid about living this way, that we would live this way anyway.”

Full disclosure: though I aspire to live such a valid way of living, I do not often find myself doing so.

Despite attempts to always have a travel mug with me, I don’t, and thus end up with so-called disposable containers for my coffee, or my food.

Completion of this seminary degree has required a hellish amount of driving miles, which has a certain irony for a minister in the tradition that claims Universalism which rejects the existence of hell.

I am still not quite sure what the phrase “perma culture” means though I understand it to be one of the ways we can walk lightly on the earth and holds substantial promise as a way for us to live into the Great Turning, rather than the Great Unraveling.

photo by Karen G. Johnston

photo by Karen G. Johnston

Last week, I could have re-arranged my schedule and added my body and voice to Harvard’s HeatWeek, a collection of powerful voices pressuring the university to divest of fossil fuels…but I did not.

I fear removing my shoes and walking barefoot because beneath my feet I will find the crusty, sharp edges of my own complicity.

I do not do all that I can. I do do some things.

I haven’t eaten meat in a quarter century (the meat industry is a huge source of greenhouse gases, as well as a great example of humans striving to live outside sustainable means, particularly if you look at the typical American meat diet).

by v-collins

by v-collins

I used my financial resources to acquire a (used) hybrid car to be more responsible as I drive all those hellish miles.

I have pledged that at least half of my clothes (on average) are second-hand – acquired from sources like Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Savers (and occasionally, Ebay). Each morning, when I walk out of the house, I assess the percentage of recycled clothes that I have on that day; a good day is 66% or more! This has been my practice for well over fifteen years, if not longer.

And yet, I am aware that any solution, if there are any effective ones, will not come from individual actions, but from collective ones that hold systems, not individuals, accountable. Solutions that demand immediate and comprehensive change not by little ole you or little ole me, but by those in power: corporations and nations.

In the aptly named article, “Forget Shorter Showers,” Derrick Jensen tells us,

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

In the end of that article, Jensen goes to a place that I am not willing to go to – that activism is the only way to respond to the crisis confronting us. I can’t not join Jensen there because he’s wrong; he’s not. This crisis needs activists. Active activists. More  than there currently are.

But there are other ways to engage this crisis, to do the work that Elissa Melamed was describing. Joanna Macy describes three ways to actively move us away from the Great Unraveling and toward the Great Turning (I have blogged about it here.). Activism is one, which she refers to as Holding Actions. But also there is creating life-sustaining activities (she calls them Gaian Ways) which create the world now that we want to see (hence, perma-culture; hence, cities and towns built for walking and riding bikes, not using cars; hence raising children who give and create, rather than take and destroy) and shifting consciousness and staying awake (and helping guide others, replenish others) for this next stage of our (nature’s) life on this planet.

Slide1I am still working out what I can do.  There might not be enough time for me to keep working out my part, and I am not sure what to do about that except to keep doing what I am doing the best that I can. Some days are clearer, cleaner than others.  Most days — who am I kidding?  all days — are complicated and messy.

I bet you are, too. If not, I invite you to.  I invite you to take into your heart, as I will keep doing myself, day by day, one day at a time, the words of 19th century Unitarian minister, Edward Everett Hale:

I-am-only-one-but-still Update on next day’s sense of hope: click here.

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F*ck Bucket Lists

So there’s this thing.  A term of art that apparently everyone (who’s anyone) knows what it means and its relative import (very) in the scheme of things.  There’s even a mediocre-to-bad movie I cannot bring myself to watch.

When did this become a thing?  How did this become a thing?  It wasn’t a thing when I was growing up.  It wasn’t a thing when I was a young adult.bucket-list-pic

So when did Bucket List become a thing?

According to June Thomas at,

In 2004, the term was used—perhaps for the first time?—in the context of things to do before one kicks the bucket (a phrase in use since at least 1785) in the book Unfair & Unbalanced: The Lunatic Magniloquence of Henry E. Panky, by Patrick M. Carlisle. That work includes the sentences, “So, anyway, a Great Man, in his querulous twilight years, who doesn’t want to go gently into that blacky black night. He wants to cut loose, dance on the razor’s edge, pry the lid off his bucket list!”

Interesting enough.  But right now, even though a Google search has helped me to establish the likely origins of the phrase and given me more insight into its place in the Zeitgeist, mostly what I want to say is

 Fuck the Bucket List

Yes, the concept sappily pulls at our heart strings — the not-so-great movie is about two older men breaking out of a cancer ward in order to, before they die, do things have never done before.  I mean, who is going to be a Grinch about that?

Enter me, stage now.

There are several web sites that are vehicles to help any one of us to create a bucket list — from our own ideas, or inspired by items on other people’s list — and then to track our progress.  As one of these web sites promises, you can “achieve your life goals.”

A bucket list of EXPERIENCES is better than the accumulation of THINGS.  It does have that going for it.

5812733PROBLEM #1: Yet there is still the whole aspect of intrinsic materialism here — let’s turn life into goals that can be measured and achieved (and likely, lots of money spent and planet resources consumed “on the journey”).

images from

images from

Though most of us (at least those who are sighted) can see  a sunset without much financial cost, I am pretty darn sure it costs beaucoup buckaroos for most of us to see the Northern Lights (or swim with dolphins or “see Egypt” or what have you).

iStock_000009612455XSmall_NOWPROBLEM #2: Another pet peeve I have with this bucket-list-sh*t: its focus on the future.  It’s wicked hard to stay in the now if you are trying to check off the next item on your list.

PROBLEM #3: the striving for more.  The seduction of status-seeking: cool items to check off the list and competitively comparing progress (“How many do you have left? I’ve already done __________”).  There’s a Tumblr that is actually called “the perfect bucket list.”  Yes, in case you didn’t know, perfection is possible.  And if your list is not like this one, made of contributions from folks around the globe, well, then, yours is flawed.

from the Perfect Bucket List Tumblr: see Problem #1

from the Perfect Bucket List Tumblr: see Problem #1

PROBLEM # 4: One more thing to add to my crank list. asks,

c4102696-3fee-45fd-aff9-ab18d531fc57As if most people who are compelled to create such a list are just lazing about, passive, unknowing, and just need a little kick start from a web site.  There’s a built-in judgment that life is not fully lived until one a) creates a bucket list and b) checks off most or all of the items on it.

For instance, the thing that might have you “waiting” could be a cancerous tumor ravaging your body from the inside out, swelling your right arm and fingers, chemotherapy having burnt itself out, malignant rash extending further and further.

Maybe, just maybe, you are “waiting” for a miracle — which is otherwise, in this case, called a moment — without debilitating pain, to get out of the recliner that has been moved into the room with the best sunlight and playful shadows dancing on the walls.  Maybe while you are waiting, you have the salve of companionable friends telling terrible jokes and laughing nonetheless because they love you and sometimes laughter is better than tears (though not always).

Maybe, the waiting is not actually waiting, but is choosing to be with what is here now, even if that is grief.  Grief at what is already lost, what is being lost, what will go undone, interspersed moments of appreciation for what was and what is.

In the movie (and book, for all I know), “Wild (2014),” there is this line:

There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.

At the risk of being too trite, I think there is something wise and true here.  Certainly something wiser than any bucket list.  So here’s my advice:

Don’t go chasing the list.

Fuck the bucket.

Instead, put yourself in the way of beauty. 

painted by Karen G. Johnston

painted by Karen G. Johnston

for A.R.

Posted in Chaplaincy, Hope | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Tiny Resurrections: Easter Sunrise 2015 (sermon)

Easter Sunrise 2015

photo by Susan Fry

The loss has been real. The darkness. Its apparent permanence. Hope cruelly stolen.

Two millennia ago, we could not speak in the past tense, as we do now. We wouldn’t have found the rock rolled back, not quite yet. We wouldn’t yet be sure what to make of the empty tomb, the strange gardener clad in white who showed up in our most confused state.

The loss would be wordless, but by no means soundless. There would be keening. Our spirit’s hunger and thirst would know no satiation. Our bodies would be bent, contorted, sent to the ground by a force of grief beyond our ken.

It would be not unlike what Rev. Kate Braestrup describes when she accompanies the Maine Wardens on the terrible job of informing people that their loved one is dead. The loss is so real. There is no anesthesia. No promise of sunrise. No promise of return.

Still, somehow, even though nearly everybody falls to the ground, what Kate Braestrup, as chaplain, has witnessed, over and over again, is that “there is something in us that knows how to do that.”

Do what? Take the blow. Feel the grief. Be knocked down. Fall to our knees.

And when we find ourselves down there, on our knees, the gravity of ground pulling us without recourse, sending us into full fetal position because we have lost what we most cherish,… eventually, at some point, ultimately, there is something else in us, something else we know how to do: we rise.

Kate Braestrup, and the wardens with whom she works, see it over and over. They all agree, nearly everyone goes down and then, though it seems like an eternity, though it is an eternity in the heart of that person, they rise. Twenty minutes. Maybe less, but not usually more. They rise to their feet, they come back to themselves, and they ask questions sensible to the circumstance.

photo by Susan Fry

photo by Susan Fry

And this is the thing. This is the true miracle, this thing that happens despite the loss without a name, despite the thirst that cannot be quenched, despite what death takes away: there is “a tiny resurrection.” In ordinary lives, in the face of all that is lost, not all is lost, and we rise. We experience resurrection.

We are resurrection.

It is as if our bodies, not necessarily our minds, not always our hearts, but our bodies know the wisdom found in these lines from the poet, Denise Levertov (from her poem, The Fountain):

Don’t say,

don’t say there is no water

to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen
the fountain

springing out of the rock wall

and you

drinking there.

And I too

before your eyes

found footholds

and climbed

photo by  Katyare

photo by Katyare

Don’t say,

don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there

among its scalloped green and gray stones,

it is still there

and always there

with its quiet song

and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out

through the rock.

In this season of so many resurrections,

let us sing praises.

With the rising of the sun,

let us praise the return of the light.

Let us praise bodies that rise,

from the depths of despair and grief,

and praise these bodies that rise early,

as well as lungs that fill with brisk morning air.

Let us praise the quenching waters,

seen or unseen, still there and always there.

Let us praise resurrections in our lives,

from the grandest to the tiniest,

whatever form they take.

Amen. Blessed be.

Posted in Death, Hope, Sermons, Unitarian Universalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reflection on Holy Saturday

For Christians, this week ending with Easter on Sunday is called Holy Week (which I learned just a few short years ago, go figure).  Here is a reflection I wrote for the day after Jesus was hung on the cross and before anyone had any inkling of what was to come.

photo by Charles Tilford

photo by Charles Tilford

In Matthew, Jesus appears to Mary; she mistakes him as a gardener. The disciples, while fishing, encounter a man, but do not know him as Jesus until he performs a miracle. In Luke, there is the story of Jesus eating with his followers, demonstrating his flesh and bone reality, not some spiritual haunting or hallucination. In John’s Gospel, there is the story of doubting Thomas, who cannot trust the senses of his eyes, and must touch Jesus’ wounds.

I reflect on that time of bone-deep sorrow: what it must have been like to lose your savior, to lose the one to whom you had given your heart and your hope. They had their eyesight, but couldn’t see him. They had their hearing, but could not always discern the voice of their Beloved.

There are limits to our senses. Then, as now.

 Mantis shrimp -- photo by Klaus Stiefel

Mantis shrimp — photo by Klaus Stiefel

Science tells us that there are creatures, so-called lesser on a scale that places humanity toward the top, which can discern colors unavailable to human sight. The human eye contains three color cones, allowing us to see seven colors in the rainbow. A sparrow also has three, but its sense of red is sharper, so its rainbow starts before and ends after the one we see. Butterflies? Five or six of these color receptors. The strange sea creature called the mantis shrimp? Sixteen.

We can see a rainbow. Yet what is out there, beyond our perception, is much wider and much richer than what we perceive. Let this be the comfort and wisdom of Holy Saturday.

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