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In Praise of the Earth

There are those who see God most clearly in creation. Their eyes breathe in the Divine glory and know that everything good comes from the Father of Lights. Francis of Assisi saw God as the Master Artist, visible in all that He made. Francis’ first biographer, Thomas of Celano, wrote:

“Saint Francis praised the Artist in every one of his works; whatever he found in things made, he referred to their Maker. He rejoiced in all the works of the Lord’s hands, and with joyful vision saw into the reason and cause that gave them life. In beautiful things he came to know Beauty itself. To him all things were good. They cried out to him, ‘He who made us is infinitely good.” By tracing His footprints in things, Francis followed the Beloved wherever He led. He made from created things, a ladder to His throne.”

In the Genesis creation poem it is abundantly clear that humanity has been given the privilege to steward, or care for the earth. Of all people, those who trust the Scriptures should be the first to embrace a theology of ecology, restoration, healing and care.

While I have not fact-checked this next statement, it seems to makes sense to me. That, with the global shut-down brought about by the COVID19 crisis, there has resulted a new healing of the earth. There has been a dissipation of large amounts of air pollution, clearing of water pollution, and wildlife returning to their habitats. While I am not sure of the statistics around this, it makes sense that as we are not able to consume as we have been consuming, there are many positive natural results. Something we should all consider post-COVID.

For Earth Day 2020 I offer you the following blessing penned by John O’Donohue in his book, “To Bless The Space Between Us.” meditate on it and then go for a walk in the wonder of God’s creation.

“Let us bless,
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
the growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
Four our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,

The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

Doxology in the Darkness

Meditations on Good Friday, Stanislaus Rapotec
04 Oct 1913 – 18 Nov 1997

Good Friday, which remembers the crucifixion of Jesus, has been given a number of titles over the centuries. Some construe “Good Friday” evolved from a mistranslation of the German phrase “God’s Friday” or “Guttes Freitag.” 1290 is the earliest known use of “Goude Friday” found in a South English dictionary.

It has been called Holy Friday, Great Friday, Mourning Friday, Silent Friday, and even Long Friday.

Good Friday is good because it is so bad.

On Good Friday foundations were shaken, hopes were crushed, and the inconceivable became reality. Good Friday pulls the vaporous veil of life aside and reveals things often don’t go the way we want. Incongruence is the norm. The daily bits and pieces of living have been turned upside down.

It’s called “Good” because Jesus absorbed all the bad, dark, injustice, evil and sin of the past, present, and future into His own body, nailing it all to the cross so that we could be forgiven and freed.

It’s called “Holy” because the love demonstrated by Jesus at this moment causes a holy hush to blanket the world; we remove our shoes entering holy space. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

It’s called “Mourning” because our hearts break when confronted with the brutality that accosted Love. The emptiness we feel in the immediate aftermath of so great a tragedy bores deeper and deeper into our soul.

It’s called “Long” because Jesus’ friends didn’t know Resurrection Sunday would actually happen. They entered the silence of a long Friday night…a long Saturday…and a long Saturday night of despair and devastation. They cried out the opening word of Lamentations, “Echah” which means “How?”

How could this have happened?
How could you allow this God?
How will I ever find joy again?

But this is the journey of Good Friday. This is the journey of life. We must learn to sing songs in the night. We must learn to trust God has something better beyond the dark night. Brennan Manning said it this way:

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

I am still learning this lesson, the lesson of whispering a doxology in darkness. In some moments I am surprisingly able, yet in other charcoal moments, the darkness overwhelms me… until I remember.

There is nothing about Good Friday that seems right, and that is the point.

On Good Friday, God dealt death, darkness, and devastation so fierce a blow that the upturned tables of life started to turn right side up.

The dominion of death was changed from a finality to a fermata.

The darkness of injustice was pierced with the Light of Love.

The dungeon of sin was given the keys to freedom.

We live in the “now and not yet” period where Love has pierced the darkness bringing about the capacity for heaven to invade earth. However, heaven and earth will not be united into the Oneness of God’s presence until Jesus returns again (Maranatha).

So, in the meantime, through faith, trust, and love, we push back the darkness as we learn to whisper doxologies in the dark.

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
~Psalms 30:5

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Interestingly, on the first Passover (Exodus 12), the Hebrew people were commanded to sequester themselves in their homes so that the 10th and final plague (death of the firstborn) would pass-over their homes and spare the the life of their first born sons. This would happen as long as the blood of an unblemished lamb was applied to the door lintel and mantle…The blood would be the sign of deliverance from the plague of the Death Angel.

The Apostle Paul taps into this narrative in 1 Corinthians 5:7 when he states:

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Passover is a memory of deliverance…

Passover is a reminder that God hears the cries of His people…

Passover invites into the Exodus drama, a movement from slavery to freedom…
from sin to righteousness…from fear to faith…

The Ma Nishtanah,” Why is this night different from all the other nights?” is answered with the ‘Four Questions’

* On all other nights we do not dip vegetables even once, on this night, we dip twice?
* On all other nights we eat both chametz and matzah, on this night, we eat only matzah?
* On all other nights we eat many vegetables, on this night, maror (bitter herbs)?
* On all other nights some eat and drink sitting with others reclining, but on this night, we are all reclining?

With the four questions asked, the food prepared, and the wine ready, we enter into the memory of the Exodus story; not as history, but in solidarity as the familiar story unfolds through symbol, smell, taste and Scripture.

This year I think should ask, “Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?”
Well, Passover 2020 is different from other Passovers because “it is similar” to the very first one in that we are quarantined in our homes because of a plague (Corona Virus)

Perhaps this Passover is a good time to remember that God is a God of deliverance. A God who hears our cries. A God who is involved with and stands in solidarity with His people. A God who provides the way to freedom and forgiveness. A God who gives us Torah (His Word) so that we can live in such a way that justice, beauty and shalom fill the land.

This is a good Passover to practice and sing  Dayenu…

Dayenu  means “it would have been sufficient” and is a song of gratitude sung toward the end of the seder when the story of the Exodus is retold.

In each stanza, we recall another kindness that G‑d performed for our ancestors and proclaim that it alone would have been reason for celebration.

The following are the fifteen “goodnesses”

If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הוֹצִיאָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם וְלֹא עָשָׂה בָהֶם שְׁפָטִים דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ עָשָׂה בָהֶם שְׁפָטִים וְלֹא עָשָׂה בֵאלֹהֵיהֶם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ עָשָׂה בֵאלֹהֵיהֶם וְלֹא הָרַג אֶת בְּכוֹרֵיהֶם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had smitten their first-born, and had not given us their wealth Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הָרַג אֶת בְּכוֹרֵיהֶם וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת מָמוֹנָם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת מָמוֹנָם וְלֹא קָרַע לָנוּ אֶת הַיָּם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ קָרַע לָנוּ אֶת הַיָּם וְלֹא הֶעֱבִירָנוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ בֶּחָרָבָה דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הֶעֱבִירָנוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ בֶּחָרָבָה וְלֹא שִׁקַּע צָרֵינוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ שִׁקַּע צָרֵינוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ וְלֹא סִפֵּק צָרְכֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ סִפֵּק צָרְכֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה וְלֹא הֶאֱכִילָנוּ אֶת הַמָּן דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הֶאֱכִילָנוּ אֶת הַמָּן וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת וְלֹא קֵרְבָנוּ לִפְנֵי הַר סִינַי דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ קֵרְבָנוּ לִפְנֵי הַר סִינַי וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה וְלֹא הִכְנִיסָנוּ לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Beit Habechirah (Chosen House; the Beit Hamikdash) Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הִכְנִיסָנוּ לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא בָנָה לָנוּ אֶת בֵּית הַבְּחִירָה דַּיֵּנוּ
from chabad.org

Dayenu helps me remember that God is good even when things are not going my way or the way I planned.

Dayenu helps me remember that God has given me so much, even if He hasn’t given me that ‘one thing’ that is making me bitter or resentful because I don’t have it.

Dayenu helps me remember that God has given me all that I need to find joy, peace, and love in this life. There is nothing I lack…It’s already in me!

This Passover May you know that God sees you, hears your cries, knows your struggle, and sits in the quarantine with you and will lead you out in due time.

This too shall pass.