A pondering from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Hunger

“Because of body’s hunger are we born,

And by contriving hunger are we fed;

Because of hunger is our work well done,

As so are songs well sung, and things well said.”

Sehnsucht by Anna Wickham

God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Nearly as omnipresent is hunger. A newborn of any species arrives with an almost clean slate. Just about everything must be learned; sounds, thinking, muscle control, smells, the list is exhaustive. Hunger is a major exception. Anyone who has been around a newborn knows that the first expression of hunger is rooting for a food source. If it is not found, the distress/cry follows. The dictionary defines hunger as a desire, a yearning, a craving, a longing, a wanting, usually for or after something. 

 Because we recently went to NC to visit my Mother, and had two cancelled flights, we found ourselves in a hotel room one morning waiting for a next day afternoon flight. We did something we rarely do, turned on the TV. We found a nature program which was focused on The King of the Jungle, lions. We learned many things about the species, but the thing which has stuck in my mind is that a hungry lion, after a kill, can consume 60 pounds of meat in one sitting. I can’t even imagine a stomach large enough to contain 60 pounds, let alone a digestive system that could manage 60 pounds at one time. The image is one of satiation. The King of the Jungle was laid out flat.

The program made me think about hunger in general. Of course, we all hunger for food. However, as the quotation above suggests, we hunger for all sorts of other things, like success, fame, money, power, and love. In order to live, we must eat. In order to be fulfilled, love is essential. Without love, species die. (“...hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them” Ps 107:5). Without love, I am nothing (I Cor. 13:2).

As Christian people, we are blessed to have love as the cornerstone of our beliefs. We are in Eastertide, the season of the year that we focus on the sacrifice of Jesus because of his unquenched love for each one of us and the promise of eternal life. Like food which we need daily, we need to be reminded of love again and again. 

 Paul tells us, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:10-14). And finally, we are reminded about The King/God/sacrificial loving Lamb of all things, not laid out flat, but Resurrected. “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:16-17). Love reigns.

 To God be the glory. Alleluia! Amen.

A pondering from The Rev. Lynn White, Priest Associate

Celebrate

We have an acquaintance by the name of Jennifer Gunn. Jennifer is the principle piccolo soloist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, no small achievement. There are few works written for any lengthy major piccolo solos. However, Conductor Riccardo Muti found one and invited her to play it. Jennifer has been practicing and working toward the debut for almost a year.

A friend of hers planned a soiree in honor of Jennifer for her friends and family following the first performance. Most regrettably, dare I say, crushingly like a punch to the solar plexus, days before her debut, the Symphony went on strike. The concert was cancelled.

Friends and family had flown into town for the concert and were invited to a soiree to celebrate with her. Potpourri favors had been created as small gifts for each guest in order to sweeten the memory of the event. I felt as if the wind had been taken out of Jennifer’s sails, hardly a time to celebrate. Then our hostess was inspired. She made tags for each favor which read,

          Celebrate!

      -No Matter What-

So, people gathered and laughed with their tears and planned for another celebratory gathering next year. All was not lost. Now there would be two parties instead of one.

While “Celebrate! No Matter What” are not words of scripture, they could be. We have just relived Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. We walked each painful step with him, reliving the crowds, rehearing Jesus warning us what was about to happen, seeing in our mind’s eyes the waving of palms on Palm Sunday, feeling the humiliation and angst of being betrayed by a friend, imagining the pain of being nailed to a cross, understanding the emptiness Jesus’ death caused. However, now we know Easter has happened and new life, both Jesus’ and ours has been given. We have the gift of hope. Even in the darkest of hours, we are called to celebrate for we are loved and what lies ahead of us is unimaginable goodness.

         Celebrate

    -No Matter What-

        Jesus Lives!

To God be the glory. Alleluia! 

Amen.

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.