|Making cabbage strudel|
This sermon was inspired by reading sermon notes by Kathryn Matthews (Huey), who posted them for this very day; and a recorded sermon by Richard Rohr.
Alice Walker, 21st century "Wake up and smell the possibility."
I wonder if the disciples would have been less shocked if the spirit of Jesus would have returned in the bodily form of a bird. Soar on the wings of a vulture or mingled with the masses as a pigeon.
Nearly twenty years ago I was birdwatching before heading to a middle school in Urbana Illinois. It was a haven of migrating birds who traveling over corn and soybean fields found a place of respite, a place to refuel.
My hope that spring was to identify 100 species by the school year’s end. Migration would be over. Mosquitoes would be furious. The weather steamy. I would rather not outside. I remember seeing the 100th bird. I remember getting into the school filled with joy to have seen so much beauty, and then I found a note in my mailbox to call Margaret, who tells me my grandmother had died.
I took a flight home with a book in hand. I turned the page to a new chapter and there was a poem by Emily Dickinson. It was short. It was about the souls of the dead returning to us in the bodies of birds. I thought about the 100th bird. My already strong connection to birds grew.
Today we read two passages written by Luke. Rich Rohr highlights : “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” from the books of Acts. What Rohr makes these points: The forgiveness echoes Christ from the cross; the spiritual truth that when we do evil, it is done in ignorance, and that if we were fully conscious we would never do wrong. How often do we wish some wisdom from God had flowed into our brain faster than words flowed out of our mouths? Richard Rohr talks about a spirit that could lead to such forgiveness and connects it to what Luke wrote in today’s Gospel.
Jesus is at least in two places at once. He is walking on a road. He has appeared in a locked room, we get to hear the locked room story. The disciples know a spirit that is everywhere and just pops up to say “Hi.” Rohr’s translation of “peace be with you.” A spirit that will dine with us and will reflect on scripture with us.
But what Rohr and many other focus on is the physical aspect of the resurrection. As Stephen Cooper puts it, "To insist on the reality of the resurrected body is to demand that we accept our present reality as the place where transformations of ultimate significance take place." Christ is not a spirit only, but is flesh that we may not recognize. God is not just the one who creates, but is also the one that resides in creation. Jesus asks the disciples to touch his hands. Hands that fed the hungry, cured the ill, and chased evil spirits.
I think of hands. Barbara Taylor Brown does as well, ”Not our pretty faces and not our sincere eyes but our hands and feet – what we have done with them and where we have gone with them.” Hands make us human and when we are conscious they do amazingly lovely acts. Imagine for a moment hands that have loved you.
I make strudel. Often with help. For decades my grandmother made strudel, with no help. When I moved back to Pennsylvania, I felt a desire to learn how to make strudel. I have a photos of that day. My Mom Mom’s hands were old and would never touch strudel dough again. Not long after teaching me the art of strudel, a stroke would prevent that from happening and also prevent me from ever making strudel for her. My parents have one request of me before they move to NC. My dad wants strudel. Can I do anything more loving than to use my hands to stretch a ball of dough to be paper thin?
And then there are crows. Do you love them? Hate them? Fear them? Consider them wise? They are like us in many ways. John Marzluff’s work at the University of Washington has proven that crows can recognize human faces, remember the face of one who has annoyed them, and then teach other crows including their young to fear that human. (video where I discovered his work and much more about crows) The author Lyanda Lynn Haupt knows this and experienced angry crows when she took an injured fledgling into her home to splint a broken leg. A day later she returned the crow to its parents. Then something happened. The crows have gone out of their way to both provide long term care for their grown child and to daily come with their child to visit her. The crows know she cared. How? She has named her Charlotte.
She writes, “I cannot help thinking that some communication has taken place, that is somehow clear to the crows that my grievous offense was accomplished in good faith. We all experience such times—— don't we? —— when our guarded separateness breaks down.”
God returns to be part of creation and the disciples respond with fear, their guarded separateness needs to be broken. Then they feed Jesus. Ms Haupt believes that no other wild animal has so much contact with humans as the crow. Can we see Jesus in the hands of others? Can we see Jesus in the flight of a crow. Is it an unconscionable act to attack a crow? Is the crow announcing to all creation that we are against it? A young girl has taken to feeding the crows of her neighborhood. The crows have taken to bringing her beautiful objects. Are we cursed to have been followed by crows? Have we been blessed? Has God sent us a wild creature to help us to remember we live on a planet filled with the creation?
Was it all coincidence 20 years ago or did my grandmother visit me in a small patch of woods in the midst of a university town surrounded by farms? We need a community to share our moments “when our guarded separateness breaks down.” Maybe it is our doubts of what we experience more than the faith in what we believe, which brings us here on Sunday mornings.
"When author Madeleine L'Engle was asked, 'Do you believe in God without any doubts?' she replied, 'I believe in God with all my doubts.’"