Did Lazarus still stink after Jesus said, "No death for you today, Laz"
Did the women at the tomb smell anything....unpleasant?
Don't give me that "Jesus was perfect so he didn't smell" crap.
I went to a house on Saturday.
It was a home before Harvey. Now it is tomb that stinks of mold and death.
And yet a man lives there.
Is dying there.
Is fighting the toxins, and cancer, and poverty there.
We wore long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves and a mask
when we entered the tomb this warm spring day.
I helped pack his treasures. Under his frail and weary watchful eye.
I helped bag his other stuff for the trash. I did it while he was not looking.
I didn't want him clinging to the stuff that was already gone to rust and poison.
We herded bugs from one drawer to the next.
The younger ones among us ripped out drywall that gave itself quickly to shreds
yearning to be relieved of clinging by rusted nails to decades-old lumber.
The house will not know Easter in 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 months.
What we did on Saturday was deal with the stink and the death.
We are not holy magicians. Poof! Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!
We have to deal with the stink first. The smell of death.
The noxious odor of our indifference to the poor.
On Saturday, I went back to my home.
Stripped out of my stinky clothes.
Washed them separately from my other clothes.
Took a shower. Scrubbed old hurricane flood water from my fingernails.
And then I planted seeds in a garden.
I planted dry seeds in the soil made of dead plants.
I worked for the man in the tomb-house so that he would be one day closer to Easter.
I worked for my garden to be one day closer to Easter.
I wait for the stink of my own humanity to be one day closer to Easter.
Today is someone's birthday. Chances are you know someone born today. Famous or not so much. Parents make a big deal of their children's birthdays and consequently so do the children as we grow up. Until it gets to the time when we notice that no one notices. Or perhaps we don't like the march of time being acknowledged with cake. Or it dawns on us that we are being feted for an event that we cannot remember and we had no say in. Of all the people who were born on this day, I suspect - and I am only guessing - that most of them are grumpy about their birthday or worse, unloved. Perhaps a surprising number do not even know it is their birthday. I am glad the someone that I know whose birthday is today was born. Glad this person came into being. Glad this person learned to engineer mechanics, to fly, to go very fast without killing anyone, to fit miraculously into another person's life, to rage again injustice, to love cats and to be kind to me. This person shares a birthday with a bazillion other people on the planet. Each of them worthwhile. Each of them a gift. Imagine what it would be like if we celebrated birthdays every day with reverence and joy and loved each other well. I don't think we would miss the cake.
I have a magnetic reaction to this ....word? concept? monster? child?
Drawn to it and repulsed by it.
We watched Notre Dame Cathedral burn this week.
The timbers were beautiful. Strong. And vulnerable.
No sprinkler systems. No firewalls. That was an intentional choice.
Driven yes, a bit by cost but more by holding open a vulnerable space
as its creators designed it.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
I have been a pastor standing in the destruction of a sanctuary
Vulnerable to flooding.
Was it worth the risk? Could we do better in this season with
our buildings, our arts and science to mark this time in history?
Even so that the future generations won't call us fools.
No one wants to engage in conversation.
We attend to walls. We loathe vulnerability. We attend to the beauty of the past.
We don't open ourselves to present glory.
I have stood on the footprints of ancient cathedrals where only the walls stand
Holding up nothing. Holding in nothing. Exposed to rain and bird droppings.
The stonewalls serving only to declare sacred,
It still holds something holy
Even in the droppings and the ashes.
It holds the most vulnerable creation of all.
A human being. Able to perceive life, to dream.
Unable to protect itself from
Being hurt or fearful or dying.
Vulnerable to life and death.
Capable of being the sanctuary and the vessel of love.
Notre Dame. Our Lady.
The last place where Christ curled in fetal position in as much safety
as any human can offer another human.
We are all born vulnerable.
We spend our lives building shelters or walls or cathedrals or corporations.
We can't go back to the womb and so we thicken the walls around us with
whatever we have in hand. We allow for an artist's glimpse of glory.
We haul in the timbers or stone or weapons or cruelty.
All that we build is vulnerable.
We are vulnerable sanctuaries and vessels for love.
That is how every generation is judged by another.
The choices we make with the love from which we were made.
Did we hide? Or did we live?
I wish I knew what my dog thought about me.
I wish I could live my days with the confidence of my bird.
I wish that there was a more responsible way to deal with the world than shut the news off.
I wish I would stop thinking that I am a sum total of everything and everyone I have encountered and not delightfully unique.
I wish Easter would happen more often.
I wish that alot.
I wish it we were not hitting "play again" on the ancient story like being caught in a "Groundhog Day" movie living the same day over and over again.
I wish we were not looking for a savior AGAIN.
I wish we were living our Easter life with passion, compassion, justice, and joy.
I wish we were not standing on the road looking for someone else to do the heavy lifting of love.
I wish we were not so insecure about our place in the world that we make fools of ourselves trying.
I wish this holy week was a call to arms...the kind of arms that stretch out and live before they die before they rise again.
I wish Easter was a way of life.
I wish the women who went to the tomb in the early morning heard laughter.
I wish the laughter that can be heard is mine, and my dog's and my bird's....even if the laughter is at me.
"According to the GREAT theologian (fill in the blank)." It was the name-dropping phrase of some seminary colleagues. I cannot recall the phrase ever used by a female colleague. It was an example of male-puffery of the species. Take, for example, fiddler crabs. The male fiddler has one small claw and one large claw for fighting with other males and waving at the girls for attention. The females have two small claws. For eating, they say. I would like to think they also use them for gesturing to the boys with the accompanying "Blah, blah, blah." in whatever language crabs speak. But back to the "Great Theologians." What came after the phrase was the name of some male theologian. Great was debatable. The phrase was used more often than not by a seminarian to show how much he knew to classmates and professors like waving the bigger claw. I got used to it. Then I started to make fun of it. I would use the phrase "According to the GREAT theologian...." and insert a quote from a Dolly Parton song. The fact of the matter is there were few female voices, theologians, thinkers, poets whose work was lifted up and quoted during my seminal years as a student and a pastor. I used my claws for eating, for nurturing myself as best I could and offered the holy food I found to the folks to whom I served. Now I am listening more to my own female voice and I am listening more intentionally for others. I am finding treasures like this one according to the GREAT THEOLOGIAN, Anna Kamienska. (Well, just because my claw is small doesn't mean I can't wave it. )
Anna Kamienska (1920–1986)
Those Who Carry
Those who carry pianos
to the tenth floor wardrobes and coffins
an old man with a bundle of wood limps beyond the horizon
a woman with a hump of nettles
a madwoman pushing a pram
full of vodka bottles
they will all be lifted
like a gull's feather like a dry leaf
like an eggshell a scrap of newspaper
Blessed are those who carry
for they shall be lifted.
I am learning. I am learning that I am both light and dark. I knew that. I believed that. I wasn't living into that. I was still the girl saying, "BUT if I tried really hard, I could be light all the time." I kept trying. It didn't work. I worked at keeping the light from being extinguished and believed the darkness was the whole truth. But I did not let them talk to each other. I read a bit of advice this morning. Sometimes it takes just nudging the door open. The light and the dark have a space for conversation. Sometimes what the darkness needs especially is what the light claims constantly: attention. The darkness is messy at asking for attention. It blurts. It pouts. It sulks. It judges and critiques. Critique is too polite a word for what it does. It hammers. It plots against the light. Sometimes it takes just nudging the door open and inviting a conversation in the space between for light and dark to learn from one another. It won't solve all the problems. It gives the day more possibilities. We are complex and mysterious beings even and especially to ourselves. Sometimes when I nudge the door open, I discover holy space.
Metaphors...metaphors....everywhere a metaphor.....though retired from the Sunday pulpit, my head still sees my world in terms of metaphors. I see something and the little preacher still lurking in the folds of my brain goes "That could be a sermon illustration!" But perhaps, this ever-present vision of metaphors is not the leftovers of my occupation after all. Perhaps it is a way that the Spirit who loves and guides us communicates. The Spirit is not limited by ink on a page, or digital print on a screen, or dreams or visions. The Spirit uses everything to open a window of conversation with us when we are ready and willing. I have been having a push-pull battle with a couple of squirrels at my bird-feeder. Yes, I know there are squirrel-thwarting devices available. I have come to terms with the fact that my bird feeder is there for me. I want the birds to come to me. I like to watch them. Squirrels eat too much of my seed. The operative word is MY seed. I have chosen to like birds and NOT like squirrels because of their behavior. Both creatures are created equally, purposefully, beautifully and yet, I have determined that I want the birds close because their behavior is more civilized. Less piggish. I am caught up in a metaphor that breathes the truth. It is teaching me that I am easily capable of making decisions about a group of creatures based on what I choose to value and their importance to me. Damn. I hate it when creation teaches me something about myself. Did it have to be a squirrel?