Monday, November 4, 2019


In Christ we have . . . been destined according to the purpose
            of him who accomplishes all things . . .

This year's Poet laureate is Native American, Joy Harjo.
Her poem, Songline of Dawn, begins:
            We are ascending through the dawn
            the sky, blushed with the fever of attraction.
            . . . Protect (the children), oh . . .  scarlet light
            who loves us fiercely despite our acts of stupidity,
                        our utter failings. . . 

     My spirit . . . harbors the story of how these beloveds
                        appeared to fail
            then climbed into the stars . . . .

Harjo does three things in these few lines.
First, she shows us our destiny
            that is not fulfilled not in this world 
            but in the dawn of God.
We are designed, not to kneel forever,
not to crawl forever, not to blunder forever,
but to fly into the sky, 
      blushed with the fever of attraction.
Our hope leads into the heart of our Alpha and Omega.
St. Gregory of Nyssa described eternity
            as our journey deeper and deeper 
into the Beauty of God forever.

Second, Harjo tells us the basis 
for that transcendently beautiful hope.
Our hope rests on who God is.
She calls God  the scarlet light
who loves us fiercely despite our acts of stupidity,
                        our utter failings. . . 
God takes pleasure in his people, our Psalm says.
For the love of God is broader 
            than the measure of the mind, our hymn says,  
           which is an eloquent way of saying,
            There’s no accounting for taste.
 Our only hope is a God who is that kind of love
because we humans are a bit of a mess.

Benedictine nun and wise woman, 
Joan Chittister, says,
Humanity is a mixture of blunders.
That’s what makes it so charming. . .
Because none of us is complete,
     Sr. Joan says, we all need each other.
Bishop Tutu said, Humanity is not tidy.

As evidence of our untidy, wrong-headed, ineptitude, 
just recall some canonized saints. 
St. Jerome was a misogynist, a dreadful theologian, 
and a questionable translator.
But, to be fair, it is said he once removed a thorn form the paw of lion.

St. Pelagia was an exotic dancer
            with the stage name of Pearl.
After her conversion, she changed her name 
             to its male form, Pelagius,
             took up cross dressing, 
             and lived in Jerusalem as a monk.
After a decade in Nevada, I don’t get exercised 
               about either version of Pelagia,
               but a lot of people who would applaud one
                        would not applaud the other,
                        and some good Church folks
                        would cluck disapprovingly at both. 

St. Calistus began life as a slave.
After his emancipation, 
        he launched a highly successful career 
        as a professional thief.
Later he was elected Pope, 
and ordered that penitent sinners, including murderers, 
       were welcome in the Church.

The 10th Century monk, St. Odo of Cluny, 
            was disabled by severe headaches, 
            but nonetheless instituted important reforms –    
            not the least of which was requiring monks 
             to wash their underwear every Saturday.
When we celebrate the  Communion of All Saints.
this is motley crew is the best we have to offer.
It turns out we do not sanctify ourselves 
             by moral heroism. 
God sanctifies us by loving us,
and what God sanctifies is our fallible humanity. 
God carves the rotten wood. God rides the lame horse,
Martin Luther said.

Pastor, Bill Miller, tells the story of Alma Quigley,
            a poor white girl who lived in a shotgun shack
            near Wheeling, West Virginia.
Alma went to school in ragged skirts 
and threadbare blouses.
The boys mocked her cruelly and called her names.

Then one day, Colin Masterson, 
            the handsomest, most athletic, 
            in every way the coolest boy
            in school asked her to the prom.
After that, the taunts and cat calls stopped.
Alma’s story is just a hint
 of what God does by  loving us fiercely 
in our untidy, wrong-headed, ineptitude.

This brings us to Joy Harjo’s 3rd point.
How do we regard each other?
How do we regard our brothers and sisters,
       in their manifest and bothersome
          crankiness, squirreliness, even sinfulness?

Thomas Merton was puzzled by the motley crew
            of canonized saints, until the truth dawned.
Merton said,
       The saints are not (saints) . . .
because their sanctity makes them admirable. . . 
            but because their (sanctity) makes it possible
            for them to admire everyone else.

This isn’t easy.
Part of human frailty is our blindness
            to each other’s beauty.
Nonetheless, by God’s grace, we have the capacity 
to see Beauty in the unlikeliest of places
if we just look for it.
We have the capacity to find unlikely beauty
precisely because our destiny is to fly through the dawn
            the sky, blushed with the fever of attraction 
                        deeper and deeper into God.

We begin that flight into God when we look
            at each other through God’s eyes,
            when we remember that God has invited 
            all of us to the prom. 
Paul said, If God is for us
who can be against us?
And God is for (all of) us.

So I close with a simple spiritual exercise
for living into this truth.
When a brother or sister in Christ annoys us,
            sins in our eyes, breaks the rules we live by,
            do two things.

First, remember they are -- 
            as Harjo calls them, these beloveds
                                    (who) appeared to fail
        (but are equally destined to climb) into the stars . . . .

Then take a second look, a closer look.
Find something to admire,
            no matter how small.
Paul says If anything is excellent or praiseworthy,
            think about these things.
Instead of finding fault, 
find something to value in your fellow mortal.
Just appreciate that small thing.
Then bless them for it.

Small intentional acts of appreciation
open our hearts to let God’s love slip in.
That’s how the flight takes off.