Welcome to worship on this famous low Sunday in the liturgical year in the church….the Sunday after Easter! After the spiritual adventure, the emotional roller coaster of Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter…
Just after the Easter bunny hops back to its den, we are ready for the excitement of Patriot’s Day! This event awakened memories of the dreadful Boston Marathon terrorist attack in 2013, which haunts us still. Over 28,600 runners on this 126th marathon! Wow. Anyone here run? Excitement!
After all the religious celebrations and emotional camaraderie , we may want to stay home, to take a breath and celebrate the highs of the Easter season…. to reflect on what effect all these celebrations have had on our spiritual journey….. our ever evolving faith, our relationship with God and each other.
Then, it was Earth Day….not a religious holiday….but for me, and I know for many of you, it’s a deeply spiritual one. It’s a day to celebrate the reawakening of our beautiful Mother Earth. It’s exciting and inspiring to see the buds on trees and shrubs, green shoots in the garden and glorious Daffodils blooming in the Saco cemetery . ( I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows}
Doesn’t it inspire us to BELIEVE more deeply in the live sustaining presence of the divine Energy in all things… and to recommit ourselves to care for the precious, too often threatened life on our incredible planet?
I was inspired to write the focus read for us this morning to illustrate how nature can inspire us in our human relationships…. if we take time to reflect…to watch and listen. The incredible harmonies of Earth will encourage symbiotic relationships that will enable human community and peace. As I watch them grow in harmony in our gardens I am deeply moved. ( trouble with word SYMBIOTIC. Spell check kept changing it to SYMBOLIC! Very different meaning.!!)
In celebration of Earth day, I want to share two stories. Each one moved me deeply and taught me much.
1. Old Senator: Not referring to Susan Collins….but a Live Oak tree in St. Augustine, Florida, over 600 years old. Arguably the oldest tree in the country. I have a very personal relationship with that tree. Whenever I am blessed to sit beneath its enormous branches, I feel an energy that moves me to tears and awe…….a profound sense of reverence.
It is a Symbiotic relationship. ( My doubting husband Ed wants to know what the tree gets out of it!)
While visiting a few years ago, I discovered that the Old Senator had been abused, either by a storm or vandalism, or both. The area beneath the tree was in disrepair and looked neglected.
I was overwhelmingly sad when I had to say good bye and wondered about its fate.
In March of this year we went to St. Augustine again and I was delighted to discover that the area around Old Senator has been restored; a new patio, more benches, a new historical sign and lights to illuminate the tree at night. Beautiful. My old friend looked cherished and I felt happy….shedding tears of joy. I sensed it feels loved and happy too!
2. Waccatee Zoological Farm in Myrtle Beach, SC. Ed and I went to a rather run down Zoo in South Carolina. Peacocks strutting around everywhere. One was Limping. I asked the Zoo keeper about him….thinking he may have a broken leg. He replied: “ No he got old just like you! Peacock arthritis. Just as I was feeling sorry for that limping peacock he raised his glorious tail……vibrant colors….proud strut. That proud old bird spoke to me. ( literally because peacocks are wicked noisy!) but also emotionally. I saw him with new eyes and was moved to consider that old age does not need to diminish our beauty and gifts of being. I can still do this he seemed to say!
Nature blesses us continually with everyday miracles.
How can we deny the existence of a Divine Spirit interacting with all life…..energizing the season…. empowering and transforming the incredible forces of creation.
A favorite poet and poem:
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES by Mary Oliver
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.”
A young Maple tree in Chicopee Falls was my teenage safe place where I climbed to “ stay awhile” , surrendering to the tree’s gentle energy flowing without expectation…to comfort and inspire me.
Always in my heart and memory is Old Senator with its enormous strong truck and it’s sweeping low branches that invite; Stay awhile.” ( when I touch a leaf or see the sky…I know why I believe.)
What do these stories and poetry have to do with our text today….. with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead…..his loving presence to dwell within and around us. Let me explain the connection for me and hope it will resonate with you.
Every Lent we deal with the darkness and violence and anxiety of Holy Week which thankfully culminates with the glorious miracle of Easter. HE HAS RISEN we proclaim, sing with joy! Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen today!
Have you often struggled with nagging doubts and questions as Thomas, the disciple did? Do we seek proof of the risen savior?
I do. I‘ll admit it. Those who know me, know that I am a doubter….a constant seeker who wants proof! When I was teaching teens for decades…I was often confronted with the doubts and question. Seriously? Is it really true?
This year, as we reflect on the spiritual highs of Lent and Holy Week , most of us, I imagine are overwhelmed by the darkness that continues to consume and threaten our every day lives; the wearisome pandemic, the devastating violence and invasion of Ukraine., political anguish and unrest, violence in our streets, inflation and environmental concerns….and more!
Have you heard the story of a man stranded on a deserted island all-alone for months. Finally, a small boat arrives….a person hops out of the boat and hands him a newspaper. “ Take some moments to read this to make sure you want to be rescued, “ he says!
This is a very challenging time and we all need a “risen savior!” We need miracles! And just as Michelle sang so beautifully moments ago…. I Believe! I believe in the miracles that each of us is capable of……because of a Risen Interactive Divine Spirit!
We escape to our favorite places of peace and beauty to remind ourselves of the presence of a God who ( as the Psalmist reminds us) is our refuge and strength …..a very present help in trouble…… This God is in the midst of the city …..right here with us….a constant source of presence and comfort. `
The profound author and spiritual guide, Joan Chittister invites us to experience God as a living energy….. the light of every soul….to see a glimpse of God in each other….in the beauty of nature. To do this we have to live mindfully….to embrace the reality of miracles. I love the line in one of her poems: God is the eternal kaleidoscope of possibility that surrounds us in nature.” The possibility is here…..the miracles are happening! We just have to be sure we don’t miss them or are too lazy or stubborn, or cynical to act on them! Thomas said that he would not believe that Jesus was risen until he had proof. Jesus returned and gave him proof and said to Thomas : Whoop te do! That’s great, TOMMY, but blessed are those who BELIEVE…. WHO HAVE NOT seen! Who have FAITH.
The resurrection story of Jesus opens all kinds of new possibilities for us. It’s not the same ole same ole!
Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, often called the father of gospel music, wrote this hymn in response to his inconsolable bereavement at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August of 1932. He was on the brink of despair and disbelief; he had all but died inside, his faith desecrated, but God’s still small voice called him back to life. Dorsey decided he would sing instead of sorrowing, he would love instead of hate, he would trust instead of disbelieve. The beautiful hymn he wrote is this:
Precious Lord take my hand Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the storm, through the night Lead me on to the light;
That song and that a broken hearted Dorsey could write it…is proof for me. He was dead but now is risen!
These stories I have shared are proof of the miracle of the Risen Spirit in the Universe…..available to each of us.
The chalk drawing on the front of our bulletin today was created by Marston Poore. He is 18 with severe Autism….non verbal. He “speaks”….communicates through his artwork…through colors.
“ Sings” in the choir…rocking….rhythmic grunts. Last week… Easter anthem….Halleluiah. Ended with his joyous grunts.
GO IN PEACE….led by Marston at Scott’s installation Service.
I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Some one will come to show the way
I believe, I believe
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer
Will still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word
Every time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
I believe, I believe…