I have noticed a couple ladybugs on the Glenwood labyrinth this last week, but they always seem to fly away or hide under a weed before I can take their picture. Instead, I have included a picture of a thirsty ladybug on the baptismal font at the Bishop’s Ranch. Like the ladybug, I have also been extra thirsty this week. Perhaps this is because the weather is getting warmer and drier or perhaps this is because I have been ruminating on John 4, in which Jesus himself experiences thirst and asks a Samaritan woman for some water. Last Sunday, we explored the gift of listening in the context of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus (in John 3). This Sunday, we will explore the gift of tasting, drinking and quenching one’s thirst in the context of Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman (in John 4). I invite you to consider times in your life when your physical thirst was most powerfully quenched; as well as times when your spiritual thirst felt most satiated. Also, what do you think it is that you most deeply thirst for?
This is a picture of the outdoor prayer labyrinth at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, where I stayed on my birthday for a personal retreat in preparation for Lent, particularly in preparation for our Lenten “dive” into the Gospel of John. I prayed, hiked, wrote, meditated, and read some commentaries on John as well as a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn titled Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. Throughout Lent, we will be focusing mindfully on each of our five senses: hearing, tasting, seeing, smelling and touching. This Sunday, we will focus on the gift of listening as we consider Jesus’s words to Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). As we discussed last Sunday, the most important prayer in all of Judaism is the Shema, which is Hebrew for “Listen!” As I listened to the wind blowing through the trees and the forceful streams gushing, I reflected on the Spirit’s presence in the sometimes gentle and sometimes wild wind and waters. I also remembered that in Hebrew, the word for “Heaven” is shemayim, which is a combination of the words shema (again, “listen”) and mayim, which means “waters.” So according to the Hebrew language, listening to water is heaven! I relished the brief moments at Bishop’s Ranch when I experienced a taste of heaven in the rolling streams and the pouring rains. I hope you also find time to taste heaven in the simple act of listening to the wind blowing and water flowing around you today and throughout this season of Lent.
I am now catching my breath after playing frisbee and hacky sack with the preschoolers on the prayer labyrinth. Before that, we talked about Lent, Easter and Shrove Tuesday. And then we enjoyed a pretty epic pancake toss (as pictured). Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious and also appropriate for this day before Ash Wednesday as we play, party and feast on fatty pancakes. Tomorrow, we enter a long period of prayerful preparation for another day of playing, partying and feasting, a day that happens to be the most important day of the entire liturgical year: the Feast Day of the Resurrection, a.k.a. Easter! Join us tomorrow night at 7 PM as we remember that we are “but dust and to dust we shall return,” and as we begin this holy season of Lent, our prayerful preparation for the Easter Feast.
“Hees jevv-ah hen-ne Sun-nau-neet Hen ne-se-eet va-den-au.” These are the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer in Arapaho, as translated by Episcopal priest and missionary John Roberts, whose feast day is today (Feb 25). As I have walked the prayer labyrinth this week, I have continued to reflect on my time at Standing Rock while praying for the people, land and water of the reservation. I realize how much the language, ceremonies, prayers, and chants of the Lakota Sioux have helped me to appreciate those essential things that I so often take for granted, especially the life-giving elixir that is water. I imagine the Rev. John Roberts also came to a deeper appreciation of creation and the Creator through his extended encounter with the Arapaho and Shoshone in Wyoming. Engagement with other perspectives, languages and voices can help us grow in understanding and help us open our eyes to see that which we might be overlooking. This Sunday is the last Sunday of Epiphany, which is a season all about opening our eyes and “looking around” as we have been singing. The Gospel for this Sunday is about Peter, James and John opening their eyes to see Jesus beaming with radiant glory in what is called the Transfiguration. In order to help us open our eyes to the radiance of this Gospel passage, we will be welcoming an outside voice: the Rev. Vanessa Glass of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Novato. We will be swapping pulpits this Sunday, a practice that Bishop Marc described as “healthy and fun.” Although I absolutely love opening up the Word with you all on Sunday mornings, I also recognize the importance of offering other voices and perspectives, which can help us open our eyes to see the overlooked radiant glory that is often beaming all around us. After Eucharist, the Rev. Vanessa Glass will lead us in a conversation about Redeemer’s Core Values and Future Dreams. After I preach and preside in Novato, I plan to join you for this important conversation, in which I hope you can all participate. May our eyes be opened to see the ways that Redeemer has spread and can continue to spread God’s dazzling radiance on earth. Amen. Or in Arapaho, “Hoi-ee!”
The next full moon Labyrinth walk will be on the second Sunday of Lent March 12th at around 7 PM. I encourage you to attend this beautiful walk under what the Native Americans call the “Full Worm Moon.” As I walked the labyrinth this week, I began to understand why the moon was given this curious name. I was not alone on the labyrinth, but was accompanied by a slithering earthworm, who didn’t seem to mind sharing the sacred space with me. Apparently, during the time of this spring moon, the ground softens and the earthworms reappear inviting the return of robins. As a student of theology, the worm reminded me of something else: believe it or not, it reminded me of the great Protestant theologian Martin Luther. Back in seminary, my classmates and I used to joke that most of Luther’s stomach problems were the result of his “Worm Diet.” This joke only makes sense if one knows that Luther was called by the Roman Catholic Church to recant his heretical teachings at the Diet (assembly) of Worms (a city in Germany pronounced Vorms). However, I also thought of Martin Luther because today (Feb 18) is his feast day and because this year we commemorate the 500th anniversary of his posting of the 95 theses on the Wittenberg door, a courageous act that ignited the Protestant Reformation and changed the world forever. Luther embodied his teachings, especially on faith, which he said is “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a person could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Jesus calls us to embody this same “daring confidence in God’s grace” in his Sermon on the Mount, which we will continue reading this Sunday. And I pray that we grow in this “daring confidence” throughout this upcoming season of Lent as we remind ourselves that we are but dust and to dust we shall return, which is an appropriate image to contemplate during the season of the Worm Moon.