Benediction Online

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Why not become entirely green?

Los Osos is a pretty dry place most of the time. For much of the year those of us with yards need to water regularly to keep them beautiful and our plants healthy. But here and there are unexpected places of dampness and greenery where springs rise up and creeks flow. There’s a riparian section like that down past the library and the Catholic church. Suddenly you go from sand and chaparral to dense willows and greenery. The water provides an environment where different plants flourish and different birds live, the willows are a better habitat for small mammals who in turn sustain the coyotes.

That is the image from today’s psalm. We can be like trees planted by the waterside who provide shelter and sustenance for others. We do that when our roots go deep into the soil and the water that is provided by God’s word. For me, God’s word is not an instruction book, not is it a set of laws; God’s word is that which sustains and nourishes our souls. God’s word can be found in nature, in poetry, in film, in relationship, in prayer and in stillness. God’s word speaks to us of hope and courage; of gentleness and holding; of the overcoming of suffering; of love which cares and repairs; of the Spirit which is in and through all things that inspires and leads us when we choose to surrender to it.
There is a story from the desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century which I love to tell.  The younger brother goes to an older one and says, “Brother, I have sat in my cell and I have said my prayers and I have fasted and done all that I should. What else is there?” and the elder brother lifts up his hands, and as he does so flames shoot from the ends of his fingers and he says, “Why not become entirely fire?” A friend dreamt a different ending: as the monk raises his hands, leaves shoot from the ends of his fingers and he says, “Why not become entirely green?” Why not become entirely green?

When we dwell in the places that feed our souls we become green. Our inner selves become verdant and sprout leaves as our roots go firmly down into the nourishment of God’s word. One way to do this is to “go among trees and sit still.” As we sit still, the parts of ourselves that are scared and the parts that scare us gradually make themselves known and we can become friends. The more that we befriend ourselves, the more we gather and nurture the broken, wary parts, the more we are able to drink deeply of God’s word and to sing our songs, which like the songs of the orcas and the humpback whales are unique and special and healing.

Sometimes we cannot sit still. Whether in our cells or among trees, stillness is frightening because what we are afraid of is too frightening and threatens to overwhelm. Then it is time to sit with a trusted friend. I spent many years in therapy when to sit still alone was frightening. When I could not find the good soil and the water to put my roots into. I had to heal before I could find and drink from God’s word for myself. Faith community allows us to put our roots down together, like the redwoods which have surprisingly shallow roots but which intertwine and even fuse together with the roots of other redwood tress thus creating a strong matrix of roots.

The reason to drink deeply of God is not just so that we may thrive, but that our thriving may in turn feed others. Like the mustard in Jesus’ parable which provides shelter for birds, so our greening provides shelter and sustenance of others who may as yet not be able to tame the things of which they are afraid. My greening supports your greening and your greening inspires mine.

Why not become entirely green?


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