A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Brotherhood

“A mystic band of brotherhood makes all men one.” — Essays, Goethe’s Works by Thomas Carlyle

The dictionary defines brotherhood as a bond between brothers. As a female, I would suggest that it’s a bond between humans, a kind of kinship, fellowship, and union. Scripture (1 Peter 2:17) says, “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King.” But in today’s world, where the focus seems to be more on the self and becoming all that one can be, where denigration is rampant, even in elementary school bullying, I think it’s appropriate to stop and ponder if we’ve lost track of what God is calling us to do and be.

 Speaking of brotherhood, I’m willing to wager that most, if not all, do not know who Saints Crispin and his brother, Crispinian, are. They are venerated in The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches. Their feast day is approaching on the 25th of October. Because they lived in the 3rd century, many details of their lives have been lost. 

 Some say the brothers were born of a noble Roman family. Others say they lived in Canterbury. Both accounts have them preaching Christianity and giving aid to the poor and that they are the patron saints of shoemakers, curriers, tanners, and leather workers. Their legendary sainthood dates to the 8th century. One version has them fleeing Rome to Soisson, France, because of their faith, for having made many Christian converts. They supported themselves by shoemaking and gave aid to the poor. Their success attracted attention and they were tortured and thrown into a river with millstones around their necks. They survived but were beheaded in 285. Their feast day was an occasion of solemn processions as well as merrymaking in which the guilds of shoemakers took the chief part.

Another version of their lives has them in England, again the brothers were shoemakers who preached Christianity. The day acquired additional significance on the day of the battle of Agincourt, October 25 in 1415, an event noted in around 1600 in Shakespeare’s Henry V, to rally English forces outnumbered by the French, saying the fewer the men, the greater share of honor. The speech was used again during WWII to raise British spirits. The speech goes on to say, “From this day to the ending of the world, we in it shall be remembered; we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

 Yes, birth does make some brothers/sisters kindred spirits. However, what really makes us all one is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Like Crispin and Crispinian, we are called to offer our aid to others who need it, to proclaim the Good News, and to love. Last Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune carried an article which stated that “Researchers say being nice to others can change the brain and behavior of genes.” Being nice, kind, and loving not only makes you healthier, but brings change in new and abundant life. No matter the century, the call is not mystic, but sacred. Not only October 25th, but all days, Honor The King, Love others and you will be One. 

 To God be the glory! Amen.

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Beginnings and Endings

The Christian Church has roots, its beginnings, in the Jewish faith. On the 30th of September, I had the privilege of joining the Tikkun Olam (defined as acts of kindness to repair the world) congregation here at St. Ann’s for one of their High Holy Day services, Rosh Hashanah, translated as the head of the year, or The Jewish New Year. The New Year was welcomed and celebrated and served as time set aside for reflecting upon the past year. No matter what one’s faith, or lack thereof, beginnings and endings are often bitter-sweet, and are a constant part of life.

 During the service, the shofar, a hollowed ram’s horn, was blown. This action was prescribed in The Torah to “raise a noise,” as well as now attempting to awaken us from our slumber, to remember the ways in which we have gone astray, and to be alert that our judgement day is coming. One of the speakers likened the sound of the horn to a baby crying in need. Newborns aren’t the only needy. There isn’t one of us who could not use the help of a friend, and the saving redemption of Jesus, who died, ended his life, to save us all, that we might have a new beginning in eternal life.

 This meditation is taken from the Rosh Hashanah Service; each person enters the service with a different need.

“Some hearts are full of gratitude and joy;

They are overflowing with the happiness of love and the joy of life;

They are eager to confront the day, to make the world more fair;

They are recovering from illness or have escaped misfortune,

And we rejoice with them.

 “Some hearts ache with sorrow;

Disappointments weigh heavily upon them, and they have tasted despair; families have been broken;

loved ones lie on a bed of pain;

death has taken those whom they cherished. 

May our presence and sympathy bring them comfort.

 “Some hearts are embittered;

They have sought answers in vain;

 have had their ideals mocked and betrayed;

life has lost its meaning and value.

May the knowledge that we too are searching, restore their hope that there is something to find.

  “Some spirits hunger;

They long for friendship; they crave understanding;

 they yearn for warmth.

May we in our common need gain strength from one another;

 sharing our joys, lightening each other’s burdens, and praying for the welfare of our community.”

 The combination of this meditation, a universal one which finds a place for us all, and an article from the July 21st New York Times which had a quotation by Martin Prechtel from his book, The Smell of Rain on Dust, inspired this Pondering. He wrote, “Grief is praise because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”  Grief is centered not in pain, but in love.

 Yes, we’ve had goodness and joy. However, we’ve not just had an unusual amount of rainfall recently, but we’ve also had storms of violence, nature, and national dissent producing in many sadness and grief. Might we see this in a more positive way, that we’re honoring what we miss, and become more willing to make changes, to Begin again to make the world more fair. May we remember that not only rain on dust brings new life, but our End in Jesus and love do so abundantly.

 To God be the Glory!  Amen.

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Story

“First there was nothing. Then there was everything.” — The Overstory, by Richard Powers

On Sunday, September 15th, The Chicago Tribune had a column by Mary Schmich. It was entitled, “6 great books to read right now.” One of the books listed was The Overstory.  Schmich referred to writer Ann Patchett who said, The Overstory, is “…the best novel ever written about trees, and really one of the best novels, period.” It was a book I had recently read and the inspiration for this Pondering. I commend it to you.

 Powers begins his book with the above quote, referring to trees. I’ve taken it a step further and suggest that it also describes a story. All stories begin with a germ of potential, a seed inspiration, whether it be a classic like Romeo and Juliet, Powers’ The Overstory, TV series, even you and me. In the beginning, for us there is not much of anything. We are birthed tiny, fragile, with nothing; no teeth, no clothes, no history but an egg and a sperm that has become an egg, a possibility with life and the Creator’s touch. At first, our story is simple, nothing but feelings and sounds, and responses from an autonomic nervous system that shape the story which is slow to evolve. Day after day things begin to change and develop. Ever so slowly, the story starts to take shape. This, our individual story, will resemble no other. Nothing becomes something and creation continues, weaving itself into and around our world, forming something/someone unlike anything/one else, and we begin branching ourselves into the world about us.

 The familiar phrase “Once upon a time” is the way many books for children begin. It’s a code for a person to settle in and begin to be enchanted, to be taken to new places, see things not yet known, understand life in a new way. We each began “Once upon a time.”

Once upon a time becomes our enchanting time. It is through stories that we learn, grow, laugh, even understand ourselves and the world we live in better, and ever become more developed stories ourselves. Powers’ book is about trees, about their history of more than 4 billion years, their essential nature to us and the air we breathe, their bewitching power, about more than I can fit in a Pondering article. He reminds us that there’s as much below ground in their roots in the earth as above, that their Overstory is our story too. Not once upon a time, but we are rooted “In the beginning when God created the heaven and earth, out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant in the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9). Powers reminds us that a tree is intimately connected with creation, and that it was part of a tree, the cross, which held our Savior, Jesus, for his death, readying him for resurrection.

 Powers continues his opening with the words, then, “the air is raining messages.” Powers book is about trees and their connection with you and me, about their raining messages; not just leaves, nuts, fruit, breezes, sounds, shade, and homes for living creatures. As we grow, I think Powers is right, suddenly we are aware that everything/stories are everywhere and each one of us can be a messenger too.

 May I remind you that as each tree begins from a tiny seed, like the mustard seed story in the Bible, and grows to majestic heights, we, too, have been created as children of God, as first almost nothing, and then filled with everything we need, gifts that we are given for the opportunity to rain down upon others, scattering those gifts as profusely as leaves and nuts. From nothing at first, we have everything. We are given the gift of life, here and in eternity.

 To God be the glory.  Amen.         

 

A pondering from the Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Joy

“…joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:6)

Psalm 30 tells us that joy comes in the morning. The French have a term, joie de vivre, which translates to the joy of life. When does joy come, or how is it experienced for you? How would you define joy? The Dictionary defines Joy as a very glad feeling, happiness, or delight. Is that all there is to it?

This afternoon, while we were eating lunch, we spotted a tan doe and her fawn ambling through our back yard, pausing to sniff plants and blades of grass, halting to inhale and savor each fragrance. It delighted us. Then, our daughter, who is in Rome with some friends, sent us a picture of The Pope standing with her and her friends outside The Vatican. At first, we were incredulous, we then realized they had photoshopped The Pope into the picture. We laughed and were so happy that they were having fun. Finally, I was speaking with a friend who called while I was writing this. I told her what I was doing, contemplating joy, and she, as a fan, responded that joy is having “da Bears” win Thursday night. Are these examples of what the Bible is referring to?

To help us learn, as Christians, we hold and look to The Bible as foundational to our faith and also the most joyous book in sacred literature. There are countless references to joy in both the Old Testament and New Testament. OT writers first saw joy in the natural world. To them, both the heavens and the earth were joyful. Joy moved to music and dancing, like the women who danced for David, and joy was found in worshipping. God became “the exceeding joy” (Ps 43:4). And we were called to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing” (Ps 100:1).

As Episcopalians, we sing countless hymns which include the word joy. Think of the Christmas carol which begins, “Joy to the world, our Savior is come…” (Hymn 100), or the familiar hymn which begins, “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flowers before thee, praising thee, their sun above” (Hymn 376). These hymns reflect joy which is God created and centered.

Theologian Kathleen Norris suggests that the landscape in which we live and move tells, mediates, much about life, about who we are called to be. May I suggest that we also are mediators, interpreting God’s love, presence and joy as we live our lifes. Kathleen Norris’ perspective was validated by a book I just finished reading. It’s called Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. It’s a story about a group of Amish people in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

One of the boys in the story told about something he learned in grade school. It’s called J-O-Y, an acronym. It’s supposed to make Plain children remember that J -Jesus is first, O- others come next, and Y- you are last. It seems to me that if one lives by this acronym, one not only mediates God’s love, but sees and feels it as well. I believe Psalm 30:6, that joy comes in the morning, as each day we are given the opportunity to see the world about us and rejoice in its wonder producing joy. I also believe that each day we are given the opportunity to be mediators of God’s joy in the way we live, putting Jesus first, thinking about others next, and following up with ourselves. If we could live that way, Joy would abound abundantly and each moment we and others would experience joie de vivre, our hearts would unfold like flowers before God, praising God our sun above.

To God be the glory!

Amen.