Monday, July 14, 2014
"A Lantern Unto my Feet"
"Your Word is a Lantern Unto My Feet
and a Light Upon my path"
This is the way it has been with me all my life.
Somehow among the first things in my life was this sense that God was there; perhaps in here. And moreover, that God had something to say to me; not in words, but in a movement of the heart. I developed an appetite for God.
And when I heard the scriptures say “Your word is a lantern unto my feet”, I immediately recognized that those words were speaking to me. They spoke to me in moments of tragedy such as when my dad died. They spoke to me in moments of joy such as when, on Christmas morning I came downstairs to see my own first bicycle.
God has been my companion along the way, always awakening hope both in the scripture and in the breaking of the bread. I loved communion as a child. I still do. Imagine; communion: becoming ONE with God. Imagine coming to the altar rail, and eating just a tiny wafer and sipping just a little wine, and in that moment to taste and to see how good God is.
So strong was the communion I felt with God that I became a priest of the church and have now served so for over 42 years.
I also heard the scripture say that Jesus came into the world for the sake of the poor and the outcast, the imprisoned, the sick, the vulnerable and the “least of these”. Therefore the kind of priest I would become would be an activist priest, precisely because I was resolved to become obedient to Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to all nations; all peoples.
Things were very quiet here on Thursday morning. There wasn’t a soul around here. I went into the church and the silence was breathtaking. I noticed the architecture, the stained glass windows, the appointments in the building at the altar, the pulpit, the lectern. I admired the wood work and thought of those whose skill and artistry created this marvel of a place in which to worship. They created a place where we could actually sense, touch and feel holy things and be in the presence of the holy itself.
I thought of the literature of the Prayer Book and the Bible. Oh and the music; how I love the music of the church. I will confess to you I also love other kinds of music. I loved the pop stuff of the 50’s. But then I discovered classical music when I lived in Toronto. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra came to our school one day and played The Peer Gynt Suite #1 by Edvard Grieg; Morning Mood, the Death of Ase, Anitra’s Dance, and in the Hall of the Mountain King. It was as if my life changed. I came home and told my step father about this amazing experience and he said; “Listen to this!” He found his old recording of Rimsky Korsakov’s “Sheherazade”. I was hooked.
I loved music. Church music, pop music, classical music. Now this will date me but I attended any performance I could at Massey Hall to hear the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. At the time the TSO was conducted by a young up and coming genius; Seiji Ozawa, who later went on to become the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
I had season tickets to the BSO and the Boston Bruins. My tastes in life have always been rather eclectic. I loved music. I loved sports. I played goal and defense for a neighborhood team when I lived in Toronto and enjoyed mixing it up with the others. I had a low center of gravity even then so being on defense gave me some advantages other players didn’t have, and I have to confess that body contact sport had a satisfaction all of its own.
But here is the funny thing; for me it is all of a piece. This beautiful sacred space, the literature, the music, the sounds of life, the sport of it is all part of what I believe God wants for us to enjoy.
Oh and then I heard Pablo Cassals and Yitzak Pearlman and so many others. I heard Ella Fitzgerald, met Earl “Fatha” Hines, Sonny Terry and Brownie MaGee. Then of course, I learned the joy of Irish folk music and the beat, as they say went on.
All this creativity, all this struggle for justice for the poor and marginalized for me was of a piece. It all brought to me the Joy of Jesus. “Your word is a lantern unto my feet and a light upon my path”.
It is thus that when I return to my rest at night I can say “thank you” and when I awaken in the morning I can say “lets see what we can get into today”. For in it all and through it all is my Divine Companion.
The Gospel lesson tells us that a sower went out to sow. And yes some seed fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. To be sure, not everything in my life bears fruit, neither does it in yours. Some falls on the rock and just doesn’t take root. God knows that’s true with me. Some of those seeds get choked off by weeds, and by the cares and anxieties of life. I can relate to that and so can you. But for the most part, that seed falls on good ground and bears fruit; some a hundred fold, fifty fold, or thirty fold.
I do not know how to compute the contribution I’ve made to this world. Neither can you. But this I know. The seed has fallen on good ground in our hearts and here we are to seek that lantern that lights our way through our lives; that lantern that brings us wisdom, delights our hears, guides our pathway, and brings us peace and joy.
This lantern challenges us along time and again to become active agents of God’s goodness in a world where there is so much human need. Is there not something we can do to alleviate the suffering of so many in this world. Yes, there is. That is why we are here; to bring peace with justice where we can achieve it.
And when all breaks down in violence and conflict, we are then even all more dedicated to the ministry we were given in the first place; the ministry of reconciliation. To be sure this is the most difficult and challenging of all our ministries. And some of us know how dangerous and difficult it is to impose ourselves in the middle between waring factions, but there can be no alternative but to dig in and do it!
Three Israeli teens die and a Palestinian teen is then burned to death in an unending cycle of reprisal after reprisal in a land where a tooth of a tooth is the prevailing ethic. Not far away in Syria and Iraq a new and emerging group of extremists loosely categorized as ISIS have emerged to the right of al Qaeda. How would you like to be in the midst of bringing peace to that land? And among those peoples?
Much like the rivalry between the two nations born in Rebecca’s womb; the rivalry between Jacob and Esau, from nation to family contest and conflict are a reality that will always be a part of the landscape we live in.
Actually that would be no more difficult than bringing a reconciling presence between The President of these United States and Tea Party activists.
When I hear; “Your word is a lantern unto my feet and a light upon my path” I’m realistic enough to know that there are those intractable imponderables that I will not resolve in my lifetime, but that will not stop or prevent me from giving it my best efforts, not will it prevent me from living my life with all the joy of Jesus.
Jesus put himself into the heart of the conflict and then he died upon the cross for these sins of ours these sins in which so many innocents die. He died in innocence. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate,as John's Gospel puts it; "And the Word of God became Flesh and we beheld his Glory full of Grace and Truth."
This is why we follow him. He has sent us into the world to bring his love into history. He is a "Lantern unto my feet and a Light upon my path"
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen