The wise T-Bone Burnett - a beautiful mess of a man who is also one of my favorite musicians - once recorded a song called "The Trap Door." It is on the album of the same name and is essentially a rock'n'roll restatement of the Sermon on the Mount. The opening verse confesses that:
It's a funny thing about humility As soon as you know you're being humble You're no longer humble It's a funny thing about life You've got to give up your life to be alive
You've got to suffer to know compassion You can't want nothing if you want satisfaction
This morning's worship felt like the realization of this very verse: we got 8" of beautiful snow last night so only the people who really wanted to be there got to church. Well yes as the 1 or 2 grumps who wanted to be there in order gloat over who DIDN'T make it! And that's part of the paradox - part of the totality - the blessing alongside of the curse - the joy and the sorrow - the light and the darkness? Nevertheless, there was a unique and playful spirit present today that was very attentive, very gentle and very focused.
One family brought a gaggle of girls to Eucharist because they'd had a sleep over the night before and wanted to see the church in the snow. A few young families got up early to shovel and snow-blow their way out to the main road. And another 60+ people trucked through the sludge in order to sing praise to the Lord on the third Sunday of Advent when Mary's Magnificat shaped our prayers.
It's a funny thing about love The harder you try to be loved The less lovable you are It's a funny thing about pride When you're being proud You should be ashamed
You find only pain if you seek after pleasure You work like a slave if you seek out the leisure...
Watch out for the trap door - watch out for the trap door
Two things touched me in a profound way during today's liturgy:
+ First, I invited a lot of song during my message about singing Mary's song. I gave examples that ranged from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" to U2's "Beautiful Day" as well as the American civil rights movements go to song: "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." When I called up the South African freedom song, "We Are Marching in the Light of God" some of my friends joined in singing along in understated harmony. No prompting and no notice, just spontaneous grace. Later, three very different women in the band sang a stunning take on "It Is Well with My Soul." As they sang my eyes were full to overflowing with joy as I remembered my friends, John and Pete, who turned me on to that song back in Tucson. (They are celebrating 12 years of marriage this April and I can't wait for their visit from Texas after Easter!)
+ Second, I was made aware of how sacred and unique this community of faith is - not perfect, far from it - but sacred and filled with compassion. When I came in from hiking the field in snow shoes with Lucie and Dianne, there was a note from a long time member of the congregation telling me how deeply she loved today's music. Of even greater joy, however, was her mother's enthusiasm for worship and willing participation in Eucharist. No one could have ever seen that one coming but in love and generosity it was clear that there was a place for everyone at today's feast.
Fr. Richard Rohr recently wrote of the incredible blessing that comes to us as both
individuals and groups when we are open to the Cosmic Christ's reconciling of our divisions through the Cross. Rohr puts it like this:
He made the two into one, breaking down the barrier keeping them
apart. . . . He destroyed in his own person the hostility
. . . to create one single New Humanity . . . restoring
peace through the cross, to unite them in a single Body and reconcile all things
into God. — Ephesians
What an absolutely
amazing passage this is! It is an utterly new agenda for humanity which has
never largely been followed. It demands a rather high level of consciousness
In the mystery of
paradox, if you try to rest on one side and forget the other, you always lose
the Bigger Truth. The “Four Square Gospel,” revealed on the cross, is always
Yes/And. As many sages have said, the opposite of every profound truth is
normally another profound truth, and they must listen to one another for wisdom
We’ve seen, for
example, Christian cultures, like much of Latin America, Russia, and Europe,
that are entirely centered on a pious, individualistic notion of the Cross,
while losing any real sense of Resurrection for history or others. Justice for
the poor, for animals, or for the earth was not even in the conversation. In
the USA, on the other hand, we created a convenient prosperity
gospel—trumped-up resurrection for a few and almost no reference to the pain
and suffering of the world. Much of American evangelical Christianity up to now
has had little capacity for self-criticism, and tries to get to resurrection
without any acknowledgment of the cross that most of the world must carry. They
limit Christ’s salvation to a very individualistic notion, and their “Christ”
ends up being very small and stingy.
Jesus was hung on—and
held together—the cosmic collision of opposites (revealed in the very geometric
sign of the cross). He let it destroy him, as his two nailed hands held all the
great opposites safely together as one: the good and the bad thief, heaven and
earth, matter and spirit, both sinners and saints gathered at his feet, a
traditional Jew revealing a very revolutionary message to his and all religion,
a naked male body revealing an utterly feminine soul. On the cross, Jesus
becomes the Cosmic Christ.
It is now 4 pm and the sun is slipping from view as the Advent darkness deepens. This day has been a reminder of God's never-ending but always mysterious grace. It has also been a reminder to give thanks for the experience of blessings... and especially to watch out for the trap door!