This will be the one-hundredth post on this blog, which is somewhat mind-boggling to me. Even though I’d intended to keep up with the discipline of practicing gratitude every day, I suspected that I wouldn’t be able to sustain it for very long. But I created this blog in early February, and have been posting more-or-less faithfully over the last three months. The generous support and comments from all of you have been wonderful and inspiring, and I am grateful to each of you who comes by to listen to me ramble on. I wanted to post something special for the big One-Oh-Oh, but drew a blank. I was going to go with some intentional silliness, but that’s not where I am today, either. For kicks (’cause yes, I’m a strange sort of gal), I went and looked at the readings for this Sunday, and found some really great stuff there that I’d like to reflect on.
The first thing I noticed was the earthiness in the psalm, in the alternate gospel lesson from John, and in the reading from Revelation. The word earth appears in the psalm three times, and the imagery there is beautiful. God’s light is shining on the earth, and that allows the earth to bring forth all of her marvelous fruits. What sang for me in this is the metaphor: God’s blessing is shining on us, on God’s beloved children, illuminating us and warming us, and allowing us to bring forth our own marvelous fruits.
This is all reflected in the Revelation passage – God’s light fills the holy city, the city high on a mountain, with a river flowing from it. If you’ve been reading very long, you know how powerful the river image is for me. So this image of the river of life, clear as crystal, flowing down from the city absolutely captivates me. I can feel the cool, clear water on my skin, on my lips, in my mouth. This is the very source of the living water that Jesus pours out for us. I can see the light dancing and sparkling over the surface of the river as it flows out of the city and into the countryside.
I see the tree of life on the bank of the river. It is tall and broad and strong. The bark is gnarled and bumpy, because life is gnarled and bumpy, not smooth and perfect and straight. The limbs are straight here, forked there, bent and crooked over there. The leaves shine with reflected light. They are green and lovely, peaceful and healing. As the breeze skips and dances across the river, it rustles through the leaves, and they sing for joy. And the fruits of the tree of life – they are round and ripe and perfect, bursting with sweetness and potential.
And in John, we see the man who tries so hard to get to the pool to be healed, who wants to immerse himself in the river of life, or such poor an imitation as we have in this world. In this story, he still doesn’t make it into the pool, because Jesus pours out the living water with his words: Stand up, take your mat, and walk. On this earth, next to the rivers and trees that we have, stand up and walk.
Standing up is a powerful thing. We talk about standing up for ourselves, standing up to authority. When I studied music in college, before one recital, a professor spent some time talking with us about standing. She reflected on placing your feet just so, so that you were connected to the earth and could feel the energy coming from the earth into your body, expressing it in your music, and letting the energy reflected back at you from the other performers and the audience flow back through your body and into the earth again, to complete the cycle. Each time I perform, before it is time to start, I ground myself – connect myself to the earth – in just this way. I stand up. I take my flute. And I walk through the music, connected with the earth, with the people around me, with God, with all the music that has ever been played or sung. It is similar in prayer, and sings for me particularly when we say the Creed each week. We stand up, all together. We take our books. And we walk through the words that have sustained our church for centuries. And I feel very powerfully the connection to the earth, the divine energy flowing into me, through me, and returning to the earth. I feel the connection with the other people in the nave with me, with all the other people worshipping that morning across the world, with the entire communion of saints.
And through those connections, through that earthiness, comes God. The gospel reading from John for this Sunday is an amazing gift from each member of the Trinity. The Father loves us – loves me, loves you – and makes a home with us. A home! The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of that love. And Jesus pours out for us peace: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
This love and learning and peace – these are the lights that God is shining on us, is blessing us with. This is the light and warmth we need to grow, to become who we are, to know we are loved, to try in the smallest degree to love others and shine that light for them. These are the river – these are the living water that fills us to overflowing so that we can try, in the smallest degree, to give life to ourselves and to the people around us. These are the tree of life, the trees of us – the strong and broad and gnarled and bumpy and bent and crooked trees – on which round and ripe and perfect fruits can grow, bursting with sweetness and potential. As the collect says, these are the good things that surpass our understanding, poured into our hearts by the God who loves generously, infinitely, scandalously.
May God give us God’s blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of the all-loving Divine One. And may we stand up, claim the rich blessing that is poured out for us, and walk.