Friday, October 24, 2014

Treating the Earth as a conversation partner

Proper 20 Sept 28, 2014
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
Exodus 17:1-7 – Numbers 20:1-13

Step by step, stage by stage, for the past month we have been walking through the Book of Exodus. The stories and themes have been growing, with the people winding their way from Egypt into the wilderness –
step by step – trusting that someone out front is in charge – speaking for them. Like God standing on the rock at Horeb.

sort of like the processional line-up at my wedding last week – the procession just kept growing – it grew to four LEMs, a full complement of acolytes, five musicians, sisters of St. Anna the Prophet, a thurifer with incense, clergy, a Bishop, two vergers, two processional crosses, and of course, two brides. 
This is the wilderness folks!

But back to Moses: The people are trusting that someone out front is in charge – someone has a plan  – someone will find pure water for the people to drink. They are in the wilderness call the Sin, “a moonscape.”
It’s not a wilderness like the Appalachian Trail, it’s more like Nevada, and the people are complaining. The people are thirsty. They are blaming Moses.
Moses, fresh from the flight out of Egypt, is in reactionary mode, and God too, probably is in reactionary mode. God tells Moses to strike the rock for water.
A little violent, to hit the rock, but it is what God seems to think the people need at this moment, when their procession needs a strong verger. They need guidance, milk, not meat at this early point in their development as a Holy People.

There is a parallel story to this – in the Book of Numbers, chapter 20. Same wilderness, same angry, stiff-necked people. This is a second time the people are thirsty, at the end of the 40 years after they have grown, matured, and have by this time, received the teachings, the Torah, the Commandments.  It reflects a development, a growth, in the people.  [i][ii]

In this second story in Numbers,
God tells Moses to “speak to the rock” – not strike it
as in the first story. What does Moses do?
Does he speak to the rock, that is, to consider the rock as a valued conversation partner, as more than an inert substance to use to impress the people, of his amazing power.

No, he does not speak to the rock.
He hits it, not once but twice. He just whacks away at the rock until water pours out.
Now let’s fast forward a few thousand years to last weekend.
There was a little parade in new york city, to protest climate change. To protest the lack of clean water. To protest the violence toward creation, to protest treating the earth as an inert substance to use at will.

It was to be just a little protest – you know – a few thousand folks, they hoped would show up last Sunday. 400,000 people showed up. A procession four miles long.
The UN met this week on the topic of Climate Change, so all these folks showed up. Many of the leaders – the vergers – were representatives of Indigenous Peoples – and particularly indigenous women.

400,000 folks  saying no.
to striking the rock, rather than speaking to it. We haven’t brought the earth into the conversation. Into the relationship. The list of environmental problems is so long now – it is a very long procession too.

We could substitute climate change here for other actions – other ways of being violent with each other and in our relationships.

We could include other conversations – about cosmic rays and solar winds and magnetic fields and heavy water – scientists now believe the water on earth is older than the water in the solar system.

That the water we drink today has been inherited, that was the word, making the earth an even older conversation partner,
even – part of the family.
Maybe that story in Genesis is right – that the water was formed before the light. Maybe – being related isn’t just a metaphor.
We are having a coffee tasting today during the Christian Education hour.
Next week we will celebrate the Feast of St Francis, and it has been our custom to offer programs related to the environment, as a way to honor St. Francis.
                                    So today, the people who supply our coffee for coffee hour – will be here to talk about coffee plantations with shade-grown forests, where birds live and sing.
Where farmers earn a living wage.
Our coffee people are even bringing their own filtered water to use to make the coffee today.   
This coffee tasting is just one example of how we are at a tipping point - with the earth. With our water.
                  With our air. With our tar sands. With our population growth. With our consumption With our constant hunger for more.
With our violence.

We have decisions to make.
We have awareness to grow into, just as Moses does. The earth cannot speak for itself, we are its mouthpiece, although some people are speculating that the earth is now speaking,
and in ways we may not like.

Meanwhile, we are the vergers. We are Moses.

Who can the earth trust that will come out in front of the procession – to speak on its behalf?
Which story is our story – the Exodus story or the Numbers story?
How will we speak for the earth? For this water we inherited eons ago.
Strike it? Speak to it?

[i] Bill Brown,  Mythos of the Ethos.
[ii] Brennen Breed, personal email.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More than new shoes

Deity is everywhere. Blessedness is everywhere. Seeing goodness in everyday life, drawing it into where we are, calling it by name is one way we can be part of healing the world.  

A couple of days ago I was at REI, trying on hiking boots. My current shoes - well, they have a big X cut on both shoes, to give space to my bunions and my aging feet. Cut out with a big knife by Perry, our Navajo guide in Canyon de Chelle a couple summers ago. He cut right through the leather and mesh when our group stopped for a water break. Better to cut out the shoes, I figure than cut off my bones with surgery. So my feet feel better now, except in a rain storm. And of course, plenty of dust makes its way inside too - tough on socks when washing is at a minimum on long hikes. 

So I was on the hunt for new shoes with an extra-wide toe box. I laced on the Salomons - ahhhhhhh. I walked up and down the climbing rock to check the fit on downhill. Feeling the spaciousness, not just of my feet, but of everything -- the beauty of the shoe makers, the spaciousness of the places I might go in these shoes, the skies I would walk under, the ground I would touch. I was supremely thankful.

I guess I was staring across the room. A young man, a clerk in the shoe department, looked up at me, standing there on the rock. He had been busy all the while, helping folks get the right shoes. 

What inspired him to call out to me, is another beautiful mystery.

He said "What are you thinking about?"

I looked down at him - what a funny thing to say to someone trying on shoes!
"You are looking so far away," he said.
It was true. I wasn't looking at anything, just taking in the gestalt of the moment.
"I was watching all the people here being tended to, being cared for. People like you helping them, tending to them, and the people being cared for. 
It is so beautiful."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

This morning, heat is rolling off the wood stove - a penetrating heat that makes me grateful for these quiet days at home. True sabbatical. 

Sabbatical, for it to truly nourish, will be hands-on with the earth, with the elements of earth - wood, fire, water, air. Prairie, mountains, desert.

With Spring coming, comes the renewed elements of air and space, and the sun, wind, fresh breezes and moist earth present this perfectly.  Today I will plant sweet clover seed in the fields, barefoot. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

 Day 12 of Sabbatical and I am working - just not in the office! A cold front is coming in; the wind is already fierce. Time to bring up fire wood and gather kindling. Time to pull up the afghan on the couch and build a sabbatical fire. We spent yesterday tending to Lance's grave - something you can do in the country - spreading seed - grass, rye, buckwheat, clover; and I even threw some old garden seeds - collards, carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
Rev Cynthia Hizer

This second Sunday of the Epiphany, the second Sunday after the revelation of the light of Christ, comes to us in the form of a wedding, a marriage, a promise.

At this party, where we experience the revelation of the first miracle, we luxuriate in the abundance of good wine served last, of lowly people – the disciples and Mary, jesus’ mother - being the wise ones. It’s a lively time -  this big wedding party. Feasting and drinking from the river of delight and justice like the great deep.

This is the vision for us to hold on to –
to grab onto with a burning torch. It takes courage, the courage of a burning torch to hold on to this vision of justice and promise that come to us through marriage, through a wedding feast.

But this is not the first time we have this kind of luxurious party, this garden of delights in the face of a darker shadow

Back on the first Sunday of November, when we observed The Feast of All Souls, we came in here with candles and pictures of our loved ones, felt the weight of sorrow, and in the midst of it we had a similar reading from Isaiah –
again we were feasting and drinking well-aged wine and rich food filled with marrow. We saw our beloveds luxuriating in the warmth and glow of the resurrected light.

So from November, to today, we are back to this feasting, this party, this lovely wine and tinkling glasses.
We are back to seeing the world as one big festivity,  an abundance of well-being bestowed by a loving and gracious God from the beginning of time.

To find the place where we can be part of the solution to the pain in the world, we have to go back to that beginning.

Back to the marriage.
Back to the covenant.
Back to the original party where God shined light on the Christ child,
-- so the magi could find him,
-- so we can find him, in the manger, at the party, turning water to wine,
constantly bestowing his goodness for the welfare of all, so that everyone at the party can have an equally good time.

This is the heart of the season of Epiphany, as we go back to when we made a commitment to each other’s well being.

A month ago I was walking near my farm. It was dusk, as I neared the wildlife federation, a lovely wild place, a marginalized place that we have had to fight to protect.

It was near-darkness, so I decided to not enter the federation land but to turn toward home.
It was foggy that evening, with a moistness that made the air soft and pliable, and the birds were making a racket,
as I fell under the shadow of their wings.  With leaves gone I could make out every squirrel nest and clump of mistletoe as I scanned the top limbs of trees.

I realized in that moment that I finally felt married to this land – in covenant with this land – not land I had planned to live on and love forever –
I am still a yankee at heart.
But here I was, committed now, knowing that this land and I were in it for the long haul.

I started to turn away but something caught my attention. A tree caught my attention.
In fact, a giant ancient oak tree at the edge of the wood not only caught my attention but drew me into its embrace. I don’t know how else to describe what happened between the oak tree and me, except a kind of marriage.

A kind of promise to each other.
I sat under the tree until well past dark, and committed myself to making life as good as possible for this aging oak as it sent its sheltering arms over me. I felt the tree and I become one entity, no separation between us. We were in it together for our mutual well-being – what happened to me happened to it, what happened to the tree and the land, happened to me.

It is a promise, as, through the common bonds of humanity, we commit ourselves to others. Because we live together. In the largest scheme of things, we are all married to each other.
What happens to others – the poorest or marginalized or soul-sick, happens to us. it is more extreme than that -  we are really one, we are each other, with no separation.
Like the oak and me.

 So we are called, as spirit people, as people on a path to harmony, to hold up this vision, and hold it up with not one little candle, but with a burning torch.
We will not keep silent, we will not rest, until all the world experiences this marriage this luxury, this unity, this flowing goodness bestowed from before time
by a loving and gracious God.

In the last two weeks we have had baptisms and confirmations and receptions here at Epiphany – people eager to be on the path to this wholeness, to this party that God started and we are called to complete. People sitting among us in the pews so eager for this good news, so ready to be part of the solution to the pain in the world –  people who have had an epiphany – a revelation of the light, the burning torch that will guide us toward the dream of peace.