Reflection by Rev. Will Sparks
This week we celebrated Earth Day and this day we gather in praise of the Maker of this earth, and all that sustains life. We dig our fingers into the soil as an act of praise to the one in whose elegant, beautiful balance life itself is nurtured, held and healed.
It is hard to describe the setting from which these reflections arise. Some of you may have heard of the men’s breakfast group that gathers for breakfast at the Eighties Diner every Wednesday morning at 7:30. Just a group of Highlands men who get together to stay connected and solve the problems of the world, support one another, and support the ministry of Highlands. Well over the last number of years that group has gone up to Pete and Tanis’ lodge for a few days. It is a deeply spiritual retreat involving fasting and prayer….
You may have noticed that some of the regular men are not here this morning for fear that I will quote them in this sermon which was written, as I was saying, in the idyllic setting of Pete and Tanis’ Quesnel Lake Lodge just outside of Likely.
Not to worry. Their presence as delightful as it was, was accompanied by the silence of the place, the call of the loon at night, the wild mating geese on the island, the warm sun in the afternoon and the night sky ablaze with stars that looked so close and bright that you could reach out and touch them. The sound of the chickadees in the trees, the smell of the fresh air. The earth is waking up for another season. Pause and feel part of the creation- a spiritual practice for Earth day. Feel the healing, restoring power that lies ready to bring forth life, to heal. It is that power to heal I want to talk about.
In a far less idyllic setting some years ago, I was a student working as a street and community based minister at what was then called the Open Door in downtown Victoria. We were the living room for the homeless population living under the Johnson Street bridge and in Beacon Hill park and all over our provincial capital. And I will never forget Irvin, a regular at the open door. Irvin was in his late 30s, looked about 60, had lived rough for a long time, had his fair share of demons, most significant being alcohol. I visited Irvin when he was tucked away in an SRO one time, barely hanging on. He had open sores that were not healing because his body was too busy struggling with the toxic levels of alcohol in his system.
Irvin disappeared one day and two weeks later we heard that he’d ended up in detox. I went to visit him there. Took him a bag of tobacco and some papers. One addiction at a time I figure. Well Irvin got treatment. I saw him 3 weeks later, and I almost didn’t recognize him. His eyes were clear. His skin was almost completely healed. He ended up getting work painting houses, and he was a great worker, quality painter. I lost track of him, but I will always remember how quickly, and miraculously his body healed, when given the chance. It was built into his system to recover, to heal. After all that abuse, his body still knew what to do. There is something of resurrection in that.
I am reminded of Irvin on this Earth Sunday just a week after Easter because of the astounding healing, restorative power woven into the creation- built right into us. And it is not just the human body, but it’s the collective body.
Those disciples, followers of the recently executed Jesus of Nazareth, they were tucked away behind locked doors, traumatized, fearful, immobilized, broken. And their world shattered. Lost. It was their dark wood.
And that morning a couple of days later, some among them, particularly the women had gone to the tomb only to find it empty. Some had even claimed to have seen him. But for the disciples, the ghastly events just churned within them. They had all the signs of trauma. They were jumpy, afraid, didn’t want to go out. They just cloistered themselves behind locked doors. A dark place for sure.
And into this dark place they had an experience of the divine, alive. Jesus appeared behind closed doors, and spoke peace to them. And then he breathed on them, receive the spirit of hope. And in that breath was the life, the hope, the courage they need to rise from their trauma, rise from their fear and come back to life themselves. That dark place was the place from which a new life germinated. Before long, they, as a body, emerged with a kind of courage, a kind of hope, a depth of healing that was stunning. The body of followers of Jesus, given the chance, has within it the capacity to heal, to come back to life. There is something of resurrection in that.
As I said at the beginning, the men’s breakfast group was up at Pete and Tanis’ lodge over the last few days. Well nearly 5 years ago, the Mount Polley mine tailings pond gave way and dumped its 4 square km of tailings water containing elevated levels of selenium, arsenic and other metals into Polley lake which then washed out Hazeltine creek and into Quesnel Lake and down the Cariboo River. A local state of emergency was declared and there were all kinds of concern about the fish, the water, and the health of the lake.
Now, I am far from an expert on this topic, and by all accounts, it has been a piece of work to get Imperial Metals to, as we say in our creed, “live with respect” in this part of the creation. However, in talking with local folks, that part of creation has an incredible capacity to bounce back. The water has cleared. Nobody knows the full and long term impacts to the fish and generally to the ecological balance in that part of Quesnel Lake, but it would appear that “the body” has an amazing capacity to heal, given the chance.
It is important to take a sober look at the abuse the body of this earth is taking at the hands of humans. And we need to heed the voices of Gretta Thunberg and thousands of scientists warning us about the necessity to make change for the sake of future generations. And, these warning have the capacity to immobilize when they are not put in tandem with the incredible capacity of the body to heal itself when given the chance. Hope lies in the capacity of the body to heal. There are plenty of stories of environmental disaster out there that can have us cowering behind locked doors of denial or despair. But there are also many stories of the earth’s capacity to heal and of people rising and emerging from behind these closed doors and giving the earth a chance to heal.
So friends pause today, and feel part of the creation. Find a way, a place to connect with the creation. Make that an every day spiritual practice. Feel the healing, restoring power that lies ready to bring forth life, to heal brokenness. It is there. God has woven it into the very fabric. Give yourself, the community of earth, the body of the world a chance. There is something of resurrection in it. Amen.
SEEDING BEAUTY – By Anna-Lisa Jones
When we think of beauty – when the poets write of beauty and the wonder of god’s handiwork – flowers are often referenced.
When we sit and stare in wonder of a flower’s beauty, it’s easy to forget that it was deep in the dirt…that it came from a dark place – that it was once a dull gray seed – as we only want to believe that the beauty ever was.
When we think of wholesomeness – when we think of our quest for higher levels of health – we think of how pure – how “organic” the food is that we place in our bodies…yet pay no mind to the quality of the soil from which it came…we think not of the depth of the soil’s nutrients, only whether or not the soil was fed insect-killing substances.
In the same way, we think of people – if we see a person who “looks” like a good person – and we know their family…we ascribe goodness – “organic-ness” to their character…we don’t think that person has been through the dark woods – “how could they with parents like that?” We don’t think that person is struggling with a drug addiction or mental illness – that that person is unable to find themselves out of the darkest of woods….within his/her mind.
So – what happens then – is there “shock” in finding out that the fruit of the parents’ labor is not wholesome? Is a person “good or bad” …like a piece of fruit… is he or she – is it – organic or not….? We are all organic and are subject to everything on the journey that life takes us…we “stay” organic – we stay wholesome – as it’s the “whole” of the experience of life that’s created who we are…
We are to be chosen – bruises and all – chosen to love. We are to be taken in by the people – by the world around us – as purely who we are – organic…born from the dark womb – the dark wood – the dark….it is in loving all that we are – in loving each other – that we “become” wholesome…we are the product of the fruit – we are nourished by the fruit that we have taken in – we become “dis-eased” by the bruises that have been levied – but if we are “chosen to love”…if we love freely – blind to the bruises – we are all beautiful and wholesome – and one.
Seeds of beauty are thoughts – it’s the very way we look at people – if we saw them as reflections of gods creation and not as labels born of this world, how much more beautiful would we think they are? What seed has been planted– and how do we feed it? Do we deny it the light it needs, the refreshment of water – spirit? What of its unique character – its genus – can we be open to observing – to seeing how we can best nourish the highest level of beauty for that plant…that person? How do we feed the foundation for its growth – how do we tend our soil?
The irony lies that in tending the dirt we bring forth beauty…I believe that in understanding where the darkness lies, we can bring light where it’s needed most. When we understand what really feeds that person’s soul, then we can come into alignment with our purpose as a human race – to serve one another through compassion – through grace – through forgiveness – to help nurture each other to become the fullness of our potential – of all we were gifted to become. We can then rise from the soil – from the foundation of where we stand. The question is – who is “seeding beauty – and how?” The question is – Are you allowing beauty to sleep – or are you waking it -with love -from its dark slumber – into life…?
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