Sunday November 15, 2015 Pentecost XXV – Proper 28
Texts Daniel 12:1-3, Mark 13:24-32
Do You Hear What Hear?
A sermon preached by Rev. Judy Dahl (MCC) at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA.
I offer these words to God and to us, God’s people.
Once upon a time, there was a Mother mouse with 5 offspring… All scurrying about in the kitchen looking for cheese, when suddenly Mother Mouse, sees the cat ready to pounce… Mother mouse rears up on h hind legs and begins to bark… The cat turns tail… Runs off… Then Mother Mouse turns to her offspring and says, “Now children, you see the importance of learning a second language.”
Ah, the importance of learning a second language. Listening to the texts from the lectionary today, I am struck by the importance for us to listen and then hear these ancient lessons and how that will requires us to understand the language of metaphor, mystery, and the language of the Mystics.
As we know these texts are written eons apart, with Daniel written somewhere between the 6th and 2nd century BCE And Mark probably around the destruction of the Temple, sometime during or slightly after the 1st century AD. This persistent thought of when and how this life, as we know it, must or will end is an ancient theme.
Scholarship tells us it is highly unlikely Jesus of Nazareth ever spoke about eschatological concerns in the way Mark has him speak, rather, as was common to his rabbinic role, he spoke in metaphor.
So, how are we to understand these words, now, today? Take for example, in Mark, Jesus lists some pretty terrible atrocities… And Mark has Jesus say, “before this generation passes away…” We know, that generation is long gone, so what could this mean for our generation?
Daniel, a student of mystical thought, “everyone whose name is found written in the book, … The book of life, where our lives are written in time…
Most sacred texts use metaphor liberally… These texts are no different. To listen to these words with 1st century ears is a danger we cannot entertain. What if, in this generation, in our time now, 2015, we hear these words as an awakening to our stewardship of the planet. We are hearing these words everywhere…The infrastructure of our life on earth is crumbling. Some pretty dreadful realities are coming to pass. Science tells us we may be on a course that is irreversible. Such an inconvenient truth.
Can we listen deeply or do we just bark into the wall of all we are afraid of? And then, words of hope rumble through the text, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens… And those who lead… Like the stars forever and ever.”
One of the newer discoveries in this century , from our generation, has come through the knowledge of star gazers… I read a fascinating article about the “nursery in the cosmos.” Apparently, there is a place in the wide expanse of this celestial universe where new stars continue to be born. From the cosmic nebula dubbed, NGC 3603 viewed through a giant telescope in the Atacam desert of Chile… There is a window on the universe that shows us how creation in the heavens continues.
But we don’t know everything from our minds only. Yes, some knowledge comes through this cerebral channel… But there are things we learn from star gazing… We can get a big chest full of wonder looking into a starry sky. We can feel a legion of tenderness holding a puppy… The mystery unfolds before us, morning after morning, in the first light. Evening after evening with the setting sun. It all depends on how we listen… And what we hear.
An elderly couple were traveling across the Atlantic on their first flight to Europe. They were enjoying the luxury of business class when the pilot came over the loud speaker above, “well, ladies and gentlemen, You may have noticed a slightly quieter flight in the past few minutes, one of our engines has failed, but no worries, we are equipped with four powerful engines, we are now cruising safely on three. The couple patted each other’s hands… All is well. About an hour later, the captain again came over the speaker, “well ladies and gentlemen, we have lost a second engine. Fortunately we are cruising safely with two powerful engines. The couple patted each other’s hands and sighed back to a less restful nap. In another hour, again the Captain, using the voice only an airline pilot with difficult news can muster came over the speaker and said, ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately we have lost a third engine. I feel confidant we will land safely just shy of our scheduled arrival. I will keep you posted.
The woman looked at her husband and said, “honestly dear, if this continues, we could be up here all night.”
Hope springs eternal… How we listen, and what we hear…
Last month, at the Parliament of World Religions, in SLC, I found myself in the midst of thousands of people… 10 K people from 80 countries, representing hundreds of different religions, sects, schools of thought, philosophies. A human sea of color, costumes, my take away… In effect… When I listen deeply to hear the song was the same… Some of the lyrics were different… But the music of our hearts grew out of a universal melody…
It was clear to me, in that crush of humanity, Everyone’s name was written on the book… Everyone, without exception was welcome at the table… Everyone… A phrase used again and again… Was… “Our common home”, from the encyclical Laudatory Si of Pope Francis.
In grand settings like the Parliament, I have often experienced admits like-minded people, a book many people are reading, is spoken of. The book I heard referenced most often in SLC was Making All Things New: A New Catholicity, Cosmology and Consciousness, by Ilia Delio OSF. Of course I got he book immediately and read…”We’re reaching a fork in the road; two paths are diverging on planet earth, and the one we choose will make all the difference for the life of the planet. Shall we continue our medieval religious practices in a medieval paradigm and mechanistic culture and undergo extinction? Or shall we wake up to this dynamic, evolutionary universe and the rise of consciousness toward an integral wholeness?”
This is the paradigm shift that is being asked of our generation. In the end of our time here on earth. Not a focus on fear, doomsday, the sky is falling…
But to notice the birth of new stars and shine like the brightness of the heavens….. Like the stars for ever and ever.
“Catholicity does not mean, according to Ilia, that everyone should be Catholic, rather, to be Catholic (small c) is to be aware of belonging to the whole, including the galaxies, the star, the animals, plants and all of human life.”
It is said that a great Zen teacher asked a student to sit by a stream until he heard all the water had to teach.
After days of bending his mind around the scene, a small monkey happened by, and, in one seeming bound of joy, danced and splashed about in the stream.
The student wept and returned to his teacher, who scolded him lovingly, ” the monkey heard, you just listened.”
Do you hear what I hear? Our second language is nit the spoken word, it is not Spanish, English,French, Catholic , Buddhist, Islam. The second language of our generation is learning how to hear, how to listen deeply…
This language can help us remain hopeful- even if we are “up here all night.”
To trust the mysteries of life… At both ends of the life spectrum and to reverence all of life, every creature… And like the Mystics, to listen to the river, and then hear deeply from the river how to dance.