The whole earth cries glory...

As you know, I listen carefully to my tears. Both Fr. Ed Hays and Frederick
Buechner were my masters in learning the wisdom of my wounds - and they are both clear that our tears are prayers too great for human words. Beuchner puts it like this:

You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. Almost any move made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, bu6t more often than not God is speak to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.

This morning I was twice surprised by unexpected tears: playing an extended jazz improvisation on "Shalom Chaverim" with Carlton filled me with such a sense of delight I shed a quiet tear; and later, at our surprise baby shower for Ashely and James, I was moved when John brought in the carved out water melon in the shape of a newborn child. The sweetness and care, the compassion and commitment to loving one another as Christ loved us, was palpable - and I was full to overflowing. I don't pretend to understand the mysterious message of today's tears except to say I was grateful they visited.

A new year of programming and ministry started today - the beginning of my 8th year in this place - one filled with anticipation and awe as well as some anxiety. Clearly babies, new life, generosity and jazz are to be part of the mix, but what else is on the horizon? I suspect a necessary winnowing is starting to take place - one that will extend well into my sabbatical - as those who are not committed to the radical path of God revealed in Christ (those whom I call the people who believe they are smarter than Jesus) discover that their opinions are and distractions are not what the community needs right now. Rather, we need those willing to give of themselves in sacrificial and playful ways so that the joy of Jesus is palpable within and among us. Maybe I truly have become a cranky old man but while I want to give everyone space to discern their own spiritual journey in life, I don't have much juice left for those who want to waste my time with idle cynicism.

No, I really am a fool for Christ and sense that for me and our faith community, his upside down kingdom and the absurdity of the Cross is where I want to spend my time, energy and resources. Years ago, Sir George MacLeod who founded the ecumenical monastery that is now the Iona Community, wrote:

Invisible we see You, Christ beneath us. 
With earthly eyes we see beneath us stones and dust 
and dross, fit subjects for the analyst’s table. 
But with the eye of faith, we know You uphold. 
In You all things consist and hang together: 
The very atom is light energy, 
the grass is vibrant, 
the rocks pulsate. 
All is in flux; turn but a stone and an angel moves.

Roy Ferguson, once community leader at Iona, put it like this:

For George MacLeod the material is the vehicle of the spiritual and is therefore holy: if Christ is in all things, everything is every blessed  thing, and the political as well as the personal comes under his sovereignty. The whole earth shall cry glory! It is a theology of incarnation and a theology of transfiguration, with a high view of the church. George’'s radicalism is therefore a matter of roots: and the roots are to be found in personal and public worship of a holy yet accessible God, who is in and through all things. 

The young family with a new child just weeks away from being born is speaking to my heart with tears of joy - and prayers of deep concern and promise. The jazz we played this morning evoked tears of gratitude for creativity as well as hope for the broken world we live in. Early in my ordained ministry I was captivated by MacLeod's work and words. In midcourse, we visited Iona and I experienced renewal and new directions. Now, in my later years in anticipation of sabbatical and who knows what more, I hear the new/old invitation from Iona to celebrate the holy in the human, the extraordinary in the ordinary and the song of the Lord as the whole earth cries glory.

As the "season of creation" unfolds over the next month - and the earth shifts from warm to cool and summer to autumn -I feel at one with the old prophet of Israel who sang: Holy, holy, holy! The Earth is filled with the glory of God! MacLeod's prayer holds resonance in my heart as this day comes to a close:

The Whole Earth shall cry “Glory!”
Almighty God, Creator:
The morning is Yours, rising into fullness.
The summer is Yours, dipping into autumn.
Eternity is Yours, dipping into time.
The vibrant grasses, the scent of flowers,
the lichen on the rocks, the tang of seaweed,
All are yours.
Gladly we live in this garden of Your creating.

But creation is not enough.
Always in the beauty, the foreshadowing of decay.
The lambs frolicking careless:
so soon to be led off to slaughter.
Nature red and scarred as well as lush and green.
In the garden also: Always the thorn.
Creation is not enough.

Almighty God, Redeemer:
The sap of life in our bones and being is Yours, lifting us to ecstasy.
But always in the beauty:
the tang of sin, in our consciences.
The dry lichen of sins long dead,
but seared upon our minds.
In the garden that is each of us, always the thorn.

Yet all are Yours as we yield them again to You.
Not only our lives that You have given are Yours:
but also our sins that You have taken.
Even our livid rebellions and putrid sins:
You have taken them all away
and nailed them to the Cross!
Our redemption is enough: and we are free.

Holy Spirit, Enlivener:
Breathe on us, fill us with life anew.
In Your new creation, already upon us,
breaking through, groaning and travailing,
but already breaking through, breathe on us.

Till that day when night and autumn vanish:
and lambs grown sheep are no more slaughtered: and even the
thorn shall fade
and the whole earth shall cry “Glory!” at the marriage feast of the

In this new creation, already upon us,
fill us with life anew.
You are admitting us now
into a wonderful communion,
The foretaste of that final feast.
Help us to put on the wedding garment of rejoicing
which is none of our fashioning
but Your gift to us alone.
By the glories of Your creation,
which we did not devise:
by the assurance of Your freeing us,
which we could not accomplish:
by the wind of Your Spirit, eddying down the centuries through
these walls renewed:
whispering through our recaptured oneness, fanning our faith to
help us to put on the wedding garment.
So shall we go out into the world, new created, new redeemed,
and new enchained together:
to fight for Your Kingdom in our fallen world.


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