Reflection: November 4

Published on Nov 5th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         As Jasmine so eloquently outlined last Sunday during her prayers of the people, we are now in the season of winter according to the Celtic seasonal calendar.  All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as we now call it, marks that change from one season to the next, from fall ending the cycle of growth to this season of going within, of taking stock and reflecting all in preparation for the birth of new life at spring.  With Standard Time upon us, the time has come for slowing down and taking stock!

         I’ve always liked the festival of All Saints.  I have profound memories attached to a few experiences I’ve had at an All Saints worship. This festival appeals to my Celtic soul and I think of those who have influenced me and “who have shuffled off this mortal coil,” as William Shakespeare said in Hamlet.

         At All Saints, I ask myself and say out loud, “How is your heart-sight, these days, David?”  All Saints Day—All Hallows’ Eve—invites this question: How is our heart-sight, these days?

         Anne Hoffman, from The United Church of Christ’s daily devotionals for October 31st, Halloween, talked about death and healing.[1]  She painted this picture of a warm bath and being bone tired and soaking in it.  She said in her devotional that when she gets tired, she looks at a paper-mâché puppet on her desk that reads, “One of these days you’ll be dead.”  Sounds cheery, don’t you think?  She goes on to say, “I look at it every time I feel myself losing heart…. I call it facing the truth of my impermanent, fragile self and letting that reality flood the present with its inevitability.”  Acknowledging that we are mortal, Hoffman said, reminds us that the force of light and love connects all things living—past, present, and future—and creates more light and love in our lives and in the life of the world.  When we live in denial of our mortality or when we live as if the essence of life depends on me right now, we lose our connection to life.

         I think that was what Jesus was saying in the story told in John about Lazarus.  The continuum of life doesn’t end with death but goes on. But we get stuck on either denying that death is part of life and thus get caught up in things that try to stave off death, or we get consumed by grief and are unable to move beyond our brokenness.  Either way, like Mary and Martha, we can get stuck in not seeing with our heart-sight the gift of life and light that extends beyond and unites us all in a healing spiral of love and light!

         As you know, I struggle with depression and part of that struggle is that I get stuck on all of the horrors of what is going on in the world.  The election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil is the latest case in point.  But I’ve come to recognize, perhaps as Anne Hoffman has, that I focus too much on the negative, the challenges and injustices, the lack of peace and hope and love in our world; in other words, I’m focusing on death.  And I need to look up and see that paper mâché puppet that invites me to see that I, too, will die, but that before that time, I can focus on healing, hope and love. Through compassion, I can shift my inward gaze from death to life, from cynicism to hope, from despair to possibility. I realize that my negativity and focus on injustice and oppression is part of my being caught up in a culture of death and scarcity.

         I’m not going to ignore injustice and oppression, nor am I going to become like Pollyanna, but I am going to try to live more fully the words of Lolita Lebrón, for example, in her poem, “I have all the passion of life.”  Lolita was imprisoned for more than 20 years for her political activism because she wanted the US out of Puerto Rico; she was finally freed in 1978 and died in 2010. Part of her poem reads:

I have all the passion of life.  I love the sun and the stars and the seeds.
Everything fascinates me: water, brooks, groves, dew and cascades.
That’s why they stare and ask: Lolita, what do you see of any beauty.  What do you like?  The sky? These sterile and arid mountains, these hours so full of ugliness and injustice, with endless sighs and the pushing and shoving?”
“Why do you sing and laugh, Lolita?  Is your face really lit up with the joy of life? Are you mad, Lolita?”[2]

         Is it mad to affirm life? Is it mad to want freedom, peace and justice? Is it mad to live from a sense of gratitude?  Is it mad that we can see more clearly the gift of life and choose to live from that gift?  Is it mad to want life for all?  Is it mad to feel connected to the animals who are dying at record rates because human beings have poisoned their habitat?  Is it mad to affirm that the light of all life is here right now, at this very moment, inviting us to affirm life and live as fully as we are able? Is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ mad today?

         If it is mad, take me away now!  Amen.

 

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[1]http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_death_beckons_and_heals.

[2]From Ecumenical Decade 1988-1998, Churches in Solidarity with Women.  World Council of Churches, Geneva. Page 29.

 

 

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