Tag Archives: garden

These trees are prayers

In this morning’s email, Richard Rohr shares a poem by Rabindranath Tagore:

Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.
I asked the tree, “Tell me about God”;
then it blossomed.

Rohr continues: “Now look around you, wherever you are, and find something of beauty. Sit in spacious silence, observing without words or judgment. Let this beauty teach you the mystery of Incarnation, of God’s indwelling presence in all creation.”

St. Mary the Virgin

Today is one of the feasts on the church calendar centering on the “mystery of Incarnation,” on God becoming human and sharing our lives in the person of Jesus.

His mother, Mary, plays a central role in this mystery. Her “yes” to God makes room for all sorts of blossoming.
2015-08-15 08.17.13Like Hannah, who sings that “the barren has borne seven” and the needy are raised up from the ash heap (1 Samuel 2:5-8), Mary sings of God lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things (Luke 1:52-53).

Something new is bearing fruit in the world just as it is in her womb.

And in Jesus’ first sign, the miracle at the wedding in Cana, it’s Mary who puts the fruit of her womb on the spot and urges him to provide the fruit of the vine, overflowing amounts of wine for the feast, good wine that gladdens the heart.

Blossoming in place

Like many who pray the Daily Office, I have a favorite place to pray, a place that gladdens my heart.

From my chair on our porch I look out on our backyard, a Japanese garden with a screen of trees in the ravine behind it.

2015-08-15 06.37.59Looking at the trees in my garden, I “ponder these things in my heart” like Mary.

What trees bear witness to your prayers?

What place helps your heart to blossom? How does the place where you pray help bring Jesus to life again in you?

Advertisements

Scope of belief and scale of revelation

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father: all creation worships you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide. (BCP 95)

As I sit on my patio saying Morning Prayer I am thinking about the scope of belief and the scale of revelation.

Creation

“All creation worships you” we say in the Te Deum laudamus, the ancient canticle of praise.

The scope of our belief is not just the seemingly endless universe spanning 14 billion light-years, but the power of God himself, the “Father, of majesty unbounded” — that is, beyond all our measuring and all our perception.

And yet the scale of revelation is that even the chirping of the birds on this misty morning speaks to me of the nature of creation, of its goodness.

Church

“Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you.”

At our Deacons’ Council meeting yesterday, we spoke with Bishop Matt Gunter about the Diocese of Fond du Lac joining in a companion relationship with another diocese in the Anglican Communion.

He shared his experience with the Diocese of Renk in South Sudan, and others on the council spoke of mission trips to Guadalajara, Mexico or to Lima, Peru.

The bishop of our neighboring Diocese of Eau Claire, one of the smallest in the Episcopal Church, is visiting their companion Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, one of the largest in the Anglican Communion.

Our belonging to that worldwide Church is mediated to us, brought to scale, through relationships with people in our own parishes or in the places we visit.

We participate in that worldwide acclamation by joining others around the altar for Communion on Sundays and praying the Offices as fellow-Christians do in every time zone around the globe.

The Church is brought to human scale by people in a parish and pages in a book. They are the signs to me that I belong.

Daily Office Basics

 

Human Scale

But these small-scale revelations draw me back out into consideration of a mystery.

Like the people around me, who show me God in their faces, and like the book that contains the words of the Scriptures and the prayers of the Church — like these, God comes to us in human scale.

“The Father, of majesty unbounded” is known to us in the person of Jesus, his “true and only Son, worthy of all worship.”

The mystery that we call the Incarnation is all about scope and scale.

In a specific person who lived in a specific place at a specific time, the God who is beyond all knowing chose to reveal something of himself to us.

And in that revelation, our notions of scope and scale are turned upside down and we begin to see ourselves as God sees us.

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26).

Listen to the chirping of birds in the garden, to the witness of the people around you, to the words of the prayers and the Scriptures.

For those who have ears to hear, that human scale reveals a love of limitless scope.

 

The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22:1-5)

Bible as Canon

The Bible as canon, according to John Dally of Bexley Seabury, provides a narrative arc offering salvation by helping us understand our place in the universe.

My notes from the first of three sessions of Fr. Dally’s “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible” are reproduced below.

The canonical story is organized into four parts: the creation of the world, the creation of Israel, the creation of the Church, and the end of the world.

The story begins in perfection, moves through imperfection, and ends in perfection.

Creation of the World

The creation of the world is characterized by intimacy, purpose, and naming.

The Lord God formed human beings and breathed life into us, invited us to name every other living creature, and walked in the garden with us at the time of the evening breeze (Gen. 3:8).

However, sin enters the story when Adam and Eve eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We were under the illusion of need, the illusion that the garden and the intimacy and the purpose were not enough.

Humankind is “cursed” by having to leave the garden and earn the knowledge that we stole.

Creation of Israel

Following the catastrophe of the Exile into Babylon, the people of Israel looked back over their history and came to understand their origins in the Exodus from Egypt.

During the Exodus, God freed the Hebrews from slavery and made them a chosen people in special relationship with him. God gave them the Law to guide them in that relationship.

Over time, the people of Israel came to desire a kingdom and anointed first Saul, then David, then Solomon as their kings.

The Temple — built eventually by King Solomon — grew in importance as evidence of God’s presence and as the focus of religious practice.

The simple relationship of covenant with God was not enough. Israel labored under the illusion of need and created a Kingdom and a Temple.

Creation of the Church

Jesus came in opposition to both the Temple and the Kingdom, and the catastrophe of the Cross revealed the depth of their violence.

Jesus spoke of living in direct relationship with God, praying in secret (intimacy with God), and giving away the knowledge that the kingdom of God is at hand.

The Temple fails to bring knowledge of God, and its hierarchy exploits the poor. Likewise, the Kingdom of the world (in Jesus’ time, the Roman Empire) rules through military might and exploitative power.

As the Church becomes linked with the Roman Empire under Constantine, Temple and Kingdom become one. The Church continues to obscure the believer’s direct relationship with God and to exploit the poor.

End of the World

The story begins in a garden, but it ends in a city.

The Kingdom and the Temple (which were never God’s idea) are taken up into “the holy city, the new Jerusalem,” but John says that “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22).

In the center of the city are the river and the tree of life, just like in the garden … only this time, “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

The perfect creation of the Garden is restored to perfection in the City, and humans are reconciled to God.

“The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”

2013-10-12 16.14.55-2