FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Julie Kae Sigars
Readings for this Sunday:
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 | Psalm 24 | Ephesians 1:3-14 | Mark 6:14-29
“God, be the love to search and keep me; God, be the prayer to move my voice; God be the strength to now uphold me: O Christ, surround me; O Christ, surround me."
-Richard Bruxcoort Colligan, #543
Anne Lamont hits a lot of us right where we live. And this past week, she posted a section from her book “Some Assembly Required” that certainly did it for me.
She writes of a time of restlessness, irritability, and discontentment, when she called a friend and they went to a Fiji Church which was the next town over. She had walked by it once and the harmonies from their singing enticed her.
After lots of comments about the size of the people and how it added to their spirituality, she talks of their singing.
“This kind of beauty softens you and expands you, which is good, but of course this makes you vulnerable to all kinds of horrible things, like, oh, feelings. And being in your body. These harmonies are soul tenderizers. They get right in there into the fibers of your being, into the usually armored muscles and chambers, and open you up with awe…When they sang Holy, Holy, Holy, …what got into me was that we are together in the universal love of God, on the same page, in creation, in hardship, in silence and out loud.
….It was a combination of supplication and deep intimate conversation with something that listens….The woman behind us was crying out a stirring, impassioned prayer of pain and trust wedded together…..[full humanity].
…The service was both other-worldly, and yet down to earth. The harmonies were round, and had solidarity, without interpretation, so spirit came out big and solid. They did not have a piano and so tuned into each other’s voices, and their sound was strong and assured, but it also had a great brightness to it, and glitter. The channel was from deep down inside the earth, that came up through the crust, and the ground, and up through our feet and up through our chests and hearts and up our throats and out of mouths and it surrounded everyone like a blanket, and it somehow also rose through the air, to the sky, to the starts, this sound that had come up through our rough feet.”
And I thought, well, that is more like David, bringing his full humanity, dancing with exuberance.
Sometimes there are so many words that we use to describe these events. Poetry, image, metaphor.
And sometimes, we are stunned into silence…no words can fully say what we are experiencing.
Let me tell you of My Mo Ranch experience. For one thing, I learned I could dance sitting in a chair. And of course, I do that every Sunday playing Glory to God while at the piano….silly me.
I went down a very tall slide, on a wooden sled, into the Guadalupe River, twice. It felt wonderful. Invigorating. I felt so alive!
Yet, another experience at MO Ranch was not so easy… I took a walk after lunch on Thursday. This was the day after the Charleston shooting in Mother Emmanuel Church. Mother. Emmanuel. Church.
I walked up a gravel road to the Chapel on the Hill. A beautiful spot. You can see it on the drive to Mo Ranch, several miles away. You can look out over the Guadalupe River and all the beauty of the Hill Country. Stunning. It was in amphitheater form, seating rising up the hill made of the stone that so many of the buildings are made of, looking out to a large simple cross and a table. I wandered around, looking for some sort of font, (yep, I am that kind of person, but you all knew that…) and couldn’t find one. Oh well. But it was pretty sunny that day, and I was aware that I had no hat…so I moved over to the shade under a large tree, where you couldn’t see the cross, and sat down. Protected. It was lovely. Comfortable. When I got up and moved toward the center, I could see the cross again. And there was a vulture sitting on it. Preening.
I am still processing this.
The abundance of meaning. Extravagant…
I looked out and saw another vulture or buzzard soaring around. Something had died. I grew up in Texas and went to our family farm many times, and had seen this. We knew what it meant. And there were many trees around that that vulture could land on. But the cross was the one it came back to, several times, while I watched.
It was most likely getting rid of blood. While sitting on the cross.
Abundance of meaning. Extravagant.
I also didn’t notice it while sitting, in the shade, protected, comfortable. Sitting in the stone pew. In church.
Abundance of meaning. Extravagant.
I took pictures. That vulture’s bulbie red face. The enormous wing span when it took off…Took pictures so I could remember. But also, to put some distance between me and the event. It took my breath away and I think I was afraid of …or in awe of….the density of metaphor.
Thursday evening, after our concert, during our last Prayer at the Close of the Day, we were finally given a time to pray about the Charleston murders. These services are held not in the big space of our full worship services, but in a beautiful stone chapel whose doors do not quite keep out the other critters from the area. Many times, there has been a mouse joining us in our worship. That evening, after praying for the victims, the shooter, the families, our country, the appointed church mouse kept running around the presider, scaring her. As it would me... Our bodies naturally …jump!
But the contrast in what we are afraid of: a mouse or a man with a gun shooting to kill was too much for me. And I did not want to think about the “natural reactions” of those in that church.
Abundance of meaning. An extravagance even. Too much for me.
And as I continue to process all of this, and as I prepare this sermon for this day, after chewing on these words of scripture for this day, I am seeing a big arc of reactions to the world we live in and our reactions to the abundance of the grace of God that floods us at the same time. A sort of “a time to do this” and “a time to do that” and sometimes, a “time to do both”….
Thirty thousand men.
Dancing with all their might.
A King, leaping and dancing.
songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
And David dancing in his ephod with all his might with the ark.
Bringing his full self to worship God, in abundance, and well, yes, extravagance. Sounds like all of them pulled out all the stops. There are moments like that, right?
The thing is, even in moments like that, that we look forward to, there may be those whose pain is too deep, too abundant, too extravagant, to join in the moment.
And our diaconal moment is to watch out for that. Not to force them into the joyousness, but to watch and sit beside. Maybe after, maybe during, but to sit beside, possibly, in silence.
Michal, named here as daughter of Saul. Hopefully, we remember that she was David’s first wife. Michal loved David. Only time we read of a wife loving her husband…Saul had grown fearful of David. David won all his battles and it seemed that everybody adored him…Saul wanted to use Michal to distract David so that Saul could have him killed. Michal instead helped David escape through a window…The relationships between Michal and David and Jonathan and Saul….a family systems theory person would go nuts…
Eventually Michal was given to another man, And then David asked for her return when he had conquer that region. Her husband wept and walked beside Michal as she was being returned to David…In the meantime, David had married multiple other wives.
This was a wounded soul. Certainly not ready for the joy and extravagance of a husband dancing…a husband leaping in his ephod, dancing with all his might, so great was his joy and thanksgiving to God.
And of course, we cannot avoid the dance that led to the death of John the Baptist. The need of Herodias and her daughter, to seduce those with power, with the only power she had….To Herod, a man full of fear, but also wonder, who spoke with John, and was perplexed by him, and liked to listen to him…This righteous and holy man, John, the Nazarite, bold of body…calling out unrighteousness.
Herod was unwilling to be brave, to say no after he made an oath. And John died for it. What a horribly extravagant, indulgent event that was. So yes. There is dancing for life, and dancing for death.
But here is the thing.
There is a cosmic force that brings us all, all things, to God.
The writer of Ephesians, in abundant rich layers of extravagant grace, reminds us, right off the bat, “With all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Holy Moly! All things! in heaven And on earth.
One of my favorite theologians, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist, wrote about the Christ event, to bring all things to God…all things….rocks, dirt, earth, water, peoples, animals, planets, universe. All means All…
A prayer of Chardin’s is this:
I pray, O master,
that the flames of hell
may not touch me
or any of those whom I love,
and even that they may never touch anyone.
(And I know, my God,
that you will forgive this bold prayer.)
Chardin died on Easter, the year I was born…1955. Fascinating, complicated man. Whose joy in life was a threat to those in power in the Roman Catholic church. His writings were not allowed to be published. But a wise housekeeper kept them all, and got them published after his death…And the world was astonished at his extravagance and layers of wondering about God and Jesus and Spirit. And at his own humanity.
In the moments to come, there might be a time for dancing, at least a sway in the walk to the table. But maybe not. There may be a time for full singing that makes the body feel like it is surrounded by a blanket, but maybe not. There may be a time when you feel unworthy, but remember…all things….As I saw online while I was in Texas: Ya’ll means All. Abundant. Extravagant. Grace.
But one thing we do know. As in David’s joyous event, THERE WILL BE FOOD! There will be food for EVERYONE! Joyous or heartbroken, meat, bread, raisin cake, food for everyone. (We have oatmeal raisin cookies for you today!)
The poet Rumi wrote: Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.
So. Dance all the time. Part of being human. Or not if it is too much. We have you covered either way. No shame. No fear. All shall be well. The table will be there.
“Spirit, open my heart to the joy and pain of living. As you love, may I love, in receiving and in giving. “
-Ruth Duck #692
Holy Wisdom, Holy Word.
Thanks be to God.
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