OK – so it is the middle of the night — my eyes are dry and my spouse is going through a period of problematic breathing (snoring?); so I decided to read my email and come upon today’s first reading for mass. It’s Exodus 3 and it contains the following:
“But,” said Moses to God, “when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”
I used to pass a sign at a church that misquoted this by saying “I AM WHO I AM” – That gave me pause, because it seems to miss the point. “I AM WHO I AM” seems to imply a being that is smug and uninterested. I read that and get the picture of a God who says – “Just deal with it” and sits there doing his own thing. I AM is the “not a name” reference to God as the foundation of the universe. I AM refuses to fit into that box that we so often want to shove God into. I AM is not God captured in a consecrated host for communion but God beyond all names, present in everything and every moment. I AM is the source of our being.
When this reading comes around in the cycle, I am called back to one of my favorite literary genre’s: fantasy/science fiction. In fantasy, one often discovers wizards who will never reveal their true names because to know a wizard’s true/real name gives power over him/her. And so it is with me – with all of us, I dare say: we try our best to give God a proper name so that we have some control. This way we hope to have God do our bidding instead of the other way around.
And so, at 3 am, I sit with joy at the realization that I AM is more than I can ever grasp. I can rest in the understanding that this is “a good thing.” I think I’ll find my eyedrops and head back to bed secure in the knowledge that I AM is always present to me, if I listen. (And, that is easier as the snoring has ceased);
I wish I had recorded the homily Saturday night — I keep trying to review it and remember the wonder of the words. The feast of Corpus Christi – the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. A reflection on just what that means.
As I attempt to comprehend another “body” that I belong to comes to mind…
I am an Auburn grad. I left and came back to work at the University 24 years ago. One could see Auburn as the buildings, the grounds, the town. That’s not what the word means to me. It’s more than the physical plant. We are a body: those of us who are a part of “Auburn” share a piece of our lives with each other and with the whole. On TV, you see football (or baseball or maybe swimming). But that’s not quite it.
My mother used to observe that just saying the word “Auburn” would evoke a faraway look – that there was something special about the place.
We worked and/or studied together. We shared ourselves. We travel all over the world and when we see the telltale signs ( a ball cap or a logo on a t-shirt or a car tag) most of us look at each other and say “War Eagle!” We represent the school in all manner of things and we identify with it. We follow our sports teams. We represent the school in our work, our research and in our trying to convince new, young recruits to join us. We even have a creed. Look around the campus on a Saturday afternoon in the fall and you see folks gathered for tailgating – just to be in the same space with each other (there are far more tailgaters than game attendees – and that’s a lot of folks.)
And how does this relate to Corpus Christi? The Body of Christ is so much more than just the human who walked the earth – more than his bones and muscles and blood. That man is the linchpin, but he commanded us to “take and eat” – to join in this Life. One would never expect a University community to be willing to do anything it took, including death, to show its love for us. But he did. When we celebrate this Body and Blood, we remember that we are a part of his body, that we are his body for all the world to see. We are many parts. We have different gifts. We are a part of his body. Each of us important. We come to the table: caucasian, african, asian, latino (and any combination),wealthy, poor, healthy and infirm, academically gifted and not so great at school and we stand as equals. We know that he is with us and we join him. One can only hope that when we see each other in the world, and see the telltale signs, that we too are called to greet each other with “Peace!” and we are called to show this to the world so as to encourage new recruits to join us.
This morning’s second reading reminds me of the past week:
Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
It seems that I was called to be encouragement this week. I was called to step outside my own little world, which is often difficult for me to make myself do. I have a fantastic interior landscape and often forget to come out and actually act on what I think and feel and know. But this past week I actually picked up the cell phone and called my friends. I shared with them, I listened, I offered prayers. And, they returned the favor. The Spirit moved all over this land.
This is Trinity Sunday. I remember struggling with the Trinity when I was in class to “join the church” as a young teen. “Joining the church” would be Presbyterian of the 1960’s for Confirmation, as best I can tell. One went through classes and then became a member who could go to communion. In my case, as I was not baptized as an infant I was also baptized as a part of the process.
Even then, I wrestled with a lot of the theological concepts presented to us. I remember the teacher using the image of 3 candles placed so that they burned with one flame. Not such a bad image for the Trinity. My understanding has changed from those 3 candles to one much more alive and personal: The Trinity is God as community. That is a much more personal and alive understanding to me. I can see glimpses of that Trinity in action when I have coffee with my group sisters on Wednesday morning, or when I call my friend down in Monroe County and we share. The Spirit is both the driving force and the resulting force of those communal interactions — the result of communication with each other.
It seems to me that as I journey, if I listen, I find the life and love behind those abstract ideas I was taught as a child. They were rather impersonal then, but over the journey, they have taken on form and life.
As an 8th grader (not long after I joined the church), I had a couple as Sunday School teachers, who had an impact on me that they will probably never know. It was the first time I had a sense of Sunday School teachers who were teaching from the heart, teaching from a deep, personal belief, teaching from a place of faith. I’m not saying that other’s weren’t, but I didn’t pick up on it if it was there. I knew that they were different somehow and that this faith was somehow more real in them than I had even been aware of. I can’t explain how in words, but somehow God was able to get through to me, just a little bit by their example. The Spirit was at work, calling to me, and for a moment, I could hear Her and try to follow a couple of steps.
And, somehow, that is a glimpse of the Trinity.
I was a bit taken aback the other day when one of my coworkers was reading the early reports of the devastation from the cyclone that hit Myanmar and remarked – “He’s really cleaning things out over there.” This young man is a Christian. Our conversation often wanders into the realm of church, community and our faith. But, I was so taken aback by that attitude I could barely respond. This attitude that when disaster occurs that God is somehow cleaning out an evil people or punishing people for being bad is pervasive at times. I heard similar remarks from people when the tsunami hit the shores of the Indian Ocean.
I wish I’d had the presence to ask him a few more questions. There’s Facebook group formed around anger at the actions and words of Westbrook Baptist Church, who proclaimed that the all to recent murder of a coed on our campus was the just punishment for the unholiness of college campuses. When disaster hits close to home, the sentiment is certainly not that we are evil and we are being punished.
My own morbid fascination with this latest disaster has caused me to ask myself some questions. As I watch aid groups trying to get in and help, I see the government of Myanmar either not responding, or trying to handle it all alone. I see them refusing to let aid workers from the US enter the country. I head the media observe that the US has been an outspoken critic of the Myanmar government and opine that this is probably the reason they are refusing to let people from the US in. I wonder at how many times, in my own life I refuse help with disaster (not on this scale, of course) because I don’t like the person who is offering help. I think of the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who likely wanted help, but might have been very dismayed at the prospect of that help being offered by a Samaritan. He probably would have preferred help from his own people – those who passed him by – instead of from a despised Samaritan.
I believe that nature is nature and disasters will happen. I know that hurricanes/typhoons are a physical force that transfer heat from the equator to the poles and keep the world functioning. I tend to think of the earth – even the universe, as a creature of sorts. Just as a human body has mechanisms to maintain body temperature and fight off infections, the mechanisms in place to keep this planet functioning are going to have to work to keep the proper balance.
Scripture observes that rain for the fields falls on both the good and the evil. The sun shines on both the good and the evil. And cyclones, tsunamis and hurricanes hit land inhabited by both the good and the evil. We are called to love and care for each other and not make that love and care dependent on whether we perceive the recipient of that care as good and deserving.
If there is anything I can do to help ease the pain and suffering of those remaining after this disaster, I pray that I am open to see it and willing to do it.
Yesterday I found myself writing on paper, not on the website. Some things simply do not belong here. They are too specific, too personal. As I wrote, I found my thoughts took real shape. They became more focused. I would write a sentence and read it back to myself. Sometimes I found that it didn’t ring true, so I would scratch it out (I write in ink). Sometimes, though, the words on the page surprised me. I couldn’t mark them out because they were too true. Hard truth sometimes. Comforting truth sometimes. Things revealed to me by the act of writing words. Things revealed by reading the words I wrote.
I also found that as I put certain painful things into words and into full sentences they became much less painful. In many cases, as I constructed the sentences, I found that what I was talking about seemed to gain a life of its own and could be set free. I could let go of it.
I’m not trained in theology, but the use of The Word to reference Jesus is obviously no mere coincidence. Jesus is a lot like my written words. God’s Love spelled out in a person – The Word. I’d bet Jesus didn’t understand the whole story until it was all written down as His life. Our pastor thinks that Jesus only finally had full understanding himself at the Resurrection. The story all written out can finally be understood.
Words are powerful. The Word is the most powerful.