A pondering from The Rev. Lynn White

Eating          

“One must eat to live, and not live to eat.”

Tartuffe, by Jean Baptiste Moliere

One of the things that binds Scripture together is the constant theme of food and eating. In this way, Scripture is prescience. In order to live, all beings must eat. We’re even created with taste buds to help our enjoyment and appreciation

In America, fast food eating is prevalent. When we pass the McDonald’s restaurant on route 47, there is always a line at the drive-through, no matter the time. The idea of families gathering at tables and sharing their stories, hopes and dreams seems to be faltering. Would that we might return to the Jewish idea of the table being the family altar, holy and sacred.

In the March 16th edition of The Economist Magazine, there was an article about “Dinner diplomacy.” Its thesis was that sharing food together leads to more successful negotiations, I might add closeness. The focus of the article was the February summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump and how they were presented individual plates of shrimp cocktail, grilled sirloin, and chocolate lava cake as one is served in most restaurants. At first glance, it sounds delicious.

Psychologists believe that a meal together is a first step towards improving relations. It sounds as if they were off to a good start. However, more recent work suggests that a more positive outcome might have come from a family style, serving food from a central platter. Eating similar food leads people to feel closer to one another, but then the psychologists wondered if the way in which food was served could lead people to become more aware of other’s needs and drive them to become more cooperative. They set up experiments and concluded that this was the case. Serving food from a central platter might help world diplomacy, as well as improve awareness of others. 

I thought about this and reflected about Bible stories. Book after Book includes situations connected with eating. We are invited to chew on the reality that food can be the reward, the temptation, or the substance which gives life. Whether it was Abraham inviting the stranger/angels to eat with him, the Israelites sharing manna in the desert, the feeding of the 5000, the killing of the fatted calf for the Prodigal Son, or the Last Supper, when food was shared, it drew people together.

God was omniscient. Food is basic. Taking this a step further, might I suggest that eating to live in the spiritual sense means not only sustenance for the body, but sustenance for the soul. Each time we gather for Eucharist, we eat from a common plate and drink from a common cup. Each time we commune together, we are given the opportunity to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8) By celebrating the Eucharist, we become one body, one spirit. We eat to live as Christ’s body and become more whole in the process. Swallow Jesus’ promise. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35)

To God be the glory!

Amen.

A pondering from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Trees          

“Zacchaeus he

Did climb the tree

Our Lord to see.”

The New England Primer

Anonymous

St. Ann’s, like many Christian churches, has a steeple which helps identify both the building and our religion. It’s not just Christian churches which have upward spires. Mosques have minarets. Today, these structures are symbols for reaching for the heavens and God. In fact, these pieces of architecture were borrowed from ancient fertility rites, using the obelisk, upright spires, towers and pillars as phallic symbols transformed to be a symbol of our own.

I’d like to suggest that there is another symbol which predates any manmade piece of architecture. It is the tree. Trees are wonderous gifts from God and come in all shapes and sizes all over the world and which have a commonality of growing upright toward the sky, reaching for the heavens. They serve as living ladders and teaching aids to inform us about life and God. 

We learn in Luke 19: 2-10 that short, rich Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, a sinner, was curious about Jesus and, so, ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to get a better vantage point to see the man about whom he had heard. Jesus noted him and called to Zacchaeus by name to come down from the tree, and then invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. Surprised, probably shocked, and humbled, Zacchaeus renounced his sinfulness and vowed to give to the poor. In response, Jesus stated that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’s home that very day. The sycamore tree made the encounter possible.

I wonder if you are familiar with another kind of tree, the Bristlecone Pine tree. They grow in the Great Basin National Park in adverse growing conditions, cold temperatures and high winds. They are the longest-living tree, some thousands of years old. I learned that the pine cone they produce is tightly sealed with resin. When the cone falls to the forest floor, it remains in that sealed condition for years, perhaps centuries, until there is a forest fire which can melt the resin and then release the seeds within. This is the way that the Bristlecone Pine tree reproduces itself. In the same way, we also go through fire-like experiences in our lives; a sickness, a loss of job, a death, but in the end these experiences offer new and changed life for us.

During this season of Lent, we are especially aware of the days leading up to the crucifixion, when Jesus was nailed to parts of a tree, the cross. That tree was part of Jesus giving us eternal life. Trees are life giving. Whether it be by the sap that feeds us, the leaves which offer shade, the wood which provides shelter and ladders, and the metaphor they offer in providing a new vantage point. Stop. Today take some time and look up at a tree. Be ready for an encounter. Make it part of your Lenten Rule. See and hear our Lord speaking to you and be ready for the fire within.

To God be the glory.

Amen.

A reflection from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Highways and Deserts

“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make

straight in the desert a highway for our God’.” (Isa. 40:3)

Speaking of deserts, I wonder if you saw the article in the February 15th edition of The Chicago Tribune, or heard some of the recent newscasts about the Garfield Park Conservatory’s agave plant? In case you did not, the stories focused on this sandy desert plant which is sometimes referred to as the American century plant, as it is so long-lived. The plant takes its time growing, both upward and outward, but mostly sitting and waiting for the fullness of time, waiting to produce its grand finale, a towering stalk that will flower and turn to seed. Towering is perhaps an understatement as the stalk can grow to up to 30 feet tall, seemingly reaching for the heavens. They’re even discussing enlarging the conservatory roof as the plant seems to be outgrowing its height. Finally, having done what it was created to do, the plant will start to die.

Water, warmth, and light are basic to the agave plant’s health. They thirst for all three. Without them, the plant will die. In Genesis 1:1-2 both water and light are the first parts of creation, necessary to not only the agave plant, but life itself. Plants are created to turn toward the light. Without enough light, water, and the right temperature, growth is not only stunted, but may cause death.

Christians are somewhat like the agave plant. We, too, need light. Of course, we need sunlight to accomplish our tasks, see what’s ahead of us, and make us happy. But more than that, we need the Light of Christ to understand who we are and what and who we are created to be. Like the agave plant, if we turn toward that Light, we become more whole, healthy, and can flower.

We also need water. As a matter of fact, human bodies range from 50-75% water. We begin in birth waters. It is through water we are refreshed, renewed, and reborn. Water is a constant theme throughout Scripture; The Flood, The Red Sea, The River Jordan, The Sea of Galilee, and the water which was changed into wine are only a few examples of water which help us understand who we are, give us life, and help us turn and go in the direction we are called.

We also need warmth. If it’s too cold, we can freeze. If it’s too hot, we can burn up. Like Goldilocks, we need just the right temperature. However, more than the right temperature, we need the warmth of love, especially the everlasting deep love of God.

Do you hear the voice? Lent is a time set aside for us to listen more intentionally to God’s call, to attempt to turn toward the Light of Christ, a time for us to thirst for a greater presence of Christ in our lives, a time to hunger for the deep relationship with Christ’s love, time for us each to build our own highway to Christ. If we attempt to do these things, if we are rooted in Christ, we shall not only flower, but sow the seeds of Christ wherever we are planted and build our highway straight to our God.

To God be the glory! Amen.

A reflection from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Direct

The word, direct, is borrowed from a Latin word meaning to set straight or guide. We use directions/guides in all facets of our being. Cooks follow directions in recipes, teachers guide their students in learning, Conductors direct orchestras, Doctors direct patients to take medicine, and on and on. Without some direction, we are lost.

When I was young, we had to stop by a gas station for directions or purchase road maps to get directions to new places. Today, I don’t think gas stations even carry road maps any more. In today’s world, people rely on new technology called a GPS, or Global Positioning System. Miraculously, a GPS can tell an individual how to navigate to and from just about any place in the world, simply by asking and following the directions.

I’m going to take a leap of faith here and suggest that GPS might also be an acronym for another meaning. What if it also stood for God’s Positioning System? Not new technology, God’s direction/guidance was given to us from the beginning of creation by a God who not only loves us but is here to show us The Way. The past two Sundays we’ve heard Gospel readings from Luke and Jesus’ Sermon on the level place, or plain, sometimes referred to as The Beatitudes. (Lk. 6:17-38) The Beatitudes are our road map for both how God acts and how we are to act/live. Not gas station gas nor road maps, but the God given power that moves and directs us is love! 

At last July’s 79th Convention of The Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry put forth The Way of Love as the Rule of Christ’s Life.  Bishop Curry had seven components in his directive: Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest, and Turn. More important than getting from point A to B, making the perfect cake, or playing in perfect harmony, is learning the way to follow Jesus, in being guided ever closer to God, in being directed/guided to new life. The most important direction is this: Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn. 14:6)

As we approach the beginning of Lent on the 6th of March, might we use these guide lines for a holier Lent? Each day of the weeks of Lent, might I suggest that we focus on one of these seven words and use it to guide you ever closer to, and become more one with, Jesus. Not lost, you are found.

To God be the glory! Amen