Today the Eclipse

Today the eclipse:
sun undone by
the ellipsis moon
so that dark and light
might bleed into
each other; so that
a shadow may
open the door to love
and let dreaming
into day – wolf and lamb
at play; a world upside
down.

Perhaps we all need
a little more eclipse, a little
break in the day, in the
way we do things:
judging him using her bagging it.

They say that if you look at the sun
you might burn its image on your eye.
I say that if you look at love
you might burn with God.

Night in the afternoon. Chaos at tea time.
Did this day preach to you?
Can I get a witness?

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Love’s Paean

Dear readers,

This week I’m posting an excerpt from a sermon I gave this week in Keffer Chapel. The text for the day was 1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as the Hymn of Love.

Allen

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Paul writes that if we do not have love we are a noisy gong, that we are nothing, that we gain nothing. And here he describes this love we are to have. This is quite a list describing this little four letter noun. But I must tell you that we have a problem with the English translation here. Most of the words describing love – patient, kind, envious, etc. – most of these are adjectives. They modify the noun love, but in Greek the language of the New Testament, absolutely all of these words are verbs.

Our translation has turned verbs into adjectives. In other words, in the Greek text love isn’t patient, but love bears and abides and undergoes. Love isn’t kind but love cares and cries and caresses. Love might be a noun here, but it is a busy noun. Love acts. It endures, it hopes, it believes, it suffers. Love in other words, sounds a lot like a person – after all these are verbs we normally associate with people, and so the apostle seems to invite us to think of a person when we hear of this love that we have, this love we possess: a person like Immanuel, like God with us, like Jesus.

The apostle John writes that God is love and the apostle Paul writes that if we do not have love we are a noisy gong: if we do not possess love we are nothing. John indicates that we have love in Jesus. But can we really talk about having love, about having Jesus, about having God? Is God willing to be possessed by us? Is God, is love willing to

Be sullied by our lust

To be marred by our mistakes

To be tainted by our far from sainted steely stares.

Does love really want to live in this heart?

 

What might happen to such a love? It will surely be betrayed. I will sell this love for 30 pieces of silver; I will crucify this love to show that I am in power; I will bury this love rather than be burdened by it.

I will be Judas Iscariot: I will be driven by a greed that colonizes.

I will be Pontius Pilate: I will exercise privilege in feigning power over

the indigenous, the immigrant, the poor

I will be the soldier at the tomb: frightened that people will see my vulnerability.

 

I will crucify love. I know I will, because I know that I have. I remember it all too well.

But the good news is that the love that we betray will not stay in the tomb. The hymn-writer sings us into hope

“In the grave they laid him, Love by hatred slain

Thinking that he would never wake again,

Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen

Love is come again, like wheat arising green.”

 

Love is come again, like wheat arising green. Love never ends.

No love never ends, but it bends its bearers

So that we who have love find that love finally has us

We who bear this holy possession find ourselves borne by it,

We start to see the world through the eyes of love,

instead of seeing love through the eyes of the world

We find that our desires are chiseled true

We become agents of truth and reconciliation

We, like God, begin to so love the world.

 

And so

we do justice by opening our minds, our hearts, our hands,

we love kindness by loving our bodies and the body politic,

and we walk humbly with God, treading ever so lightly on the earth, our Mother.

Amen. May it be so.

Do You Feel the Love?

I just started following the very wise and quotable author, Eugene Peterson, on Twitter. When I was a parish pastor, I found his words to be balm for my soul. He reminded me regularly to say no to distractions that kept the main thing from being the main thing. He spoke eloquently of the pastoral arts as arts – not sciences demanding fool-proof methods. Ministry means instinct and intuition formed by prayer more than data and its distractions. He called me again and again into community. I am happy to make his acquaintance, again.

I look forward to seeing how he makes use of Twitter. I use Twitter in a course I teach this semester. I have my students share experiences and information gleaned from a community service learning module that is a core component of the course. (If you are interested in finding out a bit about their experience, check out #gc102csl). Consequently, I have been observing the perils and possibilities of this mode of communication. Many scoff at the 140 character restriction, preferring the endless ream of characters available on other social media. But I think Twitter has possibility if you work with the idea that it serves to communicate aphorisms and such, or links for further reading. I tell my students that this assigned use of Twitter serves two purposes; first, it challenges them to think about how they might communicate for the sake of the agency where they work. Second, it charges them with the responsibility of intentionally communicating themselves into the social-media-sphere. Many people – especially young people – are unaware that potential employers search your social media self before considering you as an employee. In sum, those who turn to social media develop a public persona. We need to take responsibility for that. This brings me back to Peterson.

When I checked out Peterson’s home page on Twitter, I noticed that he has something like 10.4 K followers, and follows no one. I imagine the Pope and other notable figures have comparable statistics. But this leaves me asking: is this the real purpose of social media? To launch ideas in one direction alone? Of course, for all I know, Peterson may well have another handle wherein he engages others online, but the optics are odd, all the same. It is problematic to have “followers” while following no-one.

Having said that, I am also well aware of the burden of following people who tweet their every thought, meeting, encounter, and scratch. I find myself buried in posts that burden my brain. But I still feel some degree of responsibility for reciprocity. If you follow me, I need to think seriously about following you. Of course, that need not equate to a requirement to do this; but at least the thought should cross my mind – or, to but it differently, my mind should be crossed by thought of following you. I need to live into the yoke that is both a burden and a buoy by attending to concrete relationships. People mock social media, and I can appreciate that, but at the end of the day it is another way to communicate, and modes of communication always enable both love and its obverse possibility. I’m hoping you feel the love.

Advent Won

This last week we lit a candle in church.  Most weeks we light candles, but for those in certain Christian traditions, this last week saw the lighting of the first candle in the Advent wreath of four.  Each candle lit marks one more week of our path to Christmas.  Advent has been variously described in the church, but I like those descriptions pointing to it as a time of deep yearning: for peace, for love, for hope, for joy, and above all for the arrival of God in our lives.  In the season of advent we note that our will for what is well points us to that deepest of desires – God’s desire to be with us in even our darkest moments.

I like it that Advent occurs before the winter solstice in northern climes.  As the sun makes its way further and further down the horizon, we begin to mark these days of yearning.  In my walk home these days, I start in the light, but by the time I make it to downtown Kitchener the streetlights are on.  What I find most intriguing, however, is the number of businesses that “arrive” for my observation.  In the summer, when I walk home, many of the windows of the businesses do nothing more than reflect my image.  When I look in the windows, I see me.  But in this season of Advent, in this time of darkness, the lights in the shops flick on and when I look in the window I no longer see me, but the inner workings of this storefront or that.  I suddenly discover that there are apartments above shops; there are people busy in businesses some 5 metres from my path.  A world is at work on the other side of that mirror come window.

I suppose, in a way, this pilgrimage is a parable for faith’s journey.  It starts in the light where I see me in the mirror, and ends in the dark where I see the other as my focus becomes outward-focused.  We meander towards home, and along the way the darkness comes – but not the kind of darkness that extinguishes the light, but rather the kind that makes it finally visible.  Or better yet, it isn’t so much the light that becomes visible as what the light enlightens.  The other person, the unknown place now before my eyes as I slide from self-reflection to contemplation of God at work in the world.

Of course, I do not mean to romanticize darkness.  There is a darkness that is dangerous.  But there is also a darkness that eases the eyes, that slows the pace and focusses the gaze.   This time of the sun’s slippage is a transition time.  As the sun crosses the border of the horizon we are allowed to look into another world, and so see our own world in a new way.  I imagine that the experience of Advent in the Southern Hemisphere is rather different: rich, I am sure, in its own way.  But for me, these days of darkening are precious indeed.  I feel a little like we experience the reversal of birth.  As we light the second candle next Sunday, I will hold my breath and listen for my soul being nudged further along into the shadows, into another corner where I will see yet another sight.

Eternal Springs Hope

Last Wednesday evening my GC 101 (Christianity and Global Citizenship) class went to hear two speakers dialogue on the topic of Truth and Reconciliation after TRC.  The TRC is a commission established by the government of Canada to address the horrid legacy of Indian Residential School system and began shortly after the formal apology by the Canadian government in 2008.  The commission’s mandate was extended but will soon be complete.  Many of us are asking “What next?”  The dialogue was a propos to the topic of the class that day: Where do we find hope?

I had helped organize the dialogue, and so had some hosting responsibilities after the dialogue proper.  Consequently I had one of my colleagues take over my class until the point came when I would be able to get back.  It took twenty minutes or so and she had, in the interim, written the word “Hope” on the blackboard, and then invited students to come to the board and write words to respond to the theme of hope.  You can see the results:

IMG_20141119_210256IMG_20141119_210240

When I came into the class she told me it was now up to me to make some poetry with these words, so here it goes:

How can we sing hope?

Where will we find strength to suffice?

Whence reassurance and solace for our spirit?


How can faith forge a future?

Is it possible apart from forgiveness and its revelation of revolution:

a refusal to render eye for eye?  A freedom to

love the neighbor no matter what,

no matter where?


How can we love?

Love’s continuities, love’s capabilities, love reliabilities

escape me.  I fail to love even me.  I am undone

and so only won by the One whose

promise, whose

plan place me

in the divine palm.


And there, there in the nail scars

God’s trust in me thrusts even me

into love divine,

into faith fleet of foot

into holy hope.