A Poem about the Maundy Thursday Meal
Rev. David H. Rommereim
Tickle the body,
Swish its wine
Then a glance,
And a skirmish
Eye to ear
For the sound
Singing a melody
So that mystery
With the lure
In the desert
Rev. David Rommereim
During Lent, about 24 years ago, a young 3rd grader provided an image about Easter that remains powerful. The Sunday School teacher was talking about Good Friday and Easter. She was using the image of the caterpillar and the butterfly to signify resurrection. She used pictures of a fuzzy crawling caterpillar then a beautiful free flying Monarch butterfly. She asked the kids,"What happens to the caterpillar?" They all cheered, "It becomes a butterfly!" There was wild cheering and excitement, especially when the teacher surprised them with a live butterfly in a small-netted cage. They were going to release it outside after class.
Then a little boy from the corner raised his hand. He waited to be called on in all the excitement. The teacher turned to him and asked, "Yes Tommy, what is it you want to say?" He said, "Ms. Hines, the butterfly doesn't come after the caterpillar. What happens after the caterpillar is a cocoon?"
The image of the cocoon is so pertinent to our faith these days. Here the caterpillar nestles in the chrysalis and becomes transformed. In the chrysalis is a creepy crawling caterpillar becoming changed into a beautiful Monarch. That is the process of living in the cocoon. After the transformation, the butterfly will begin to make its way to that one mountain in Mexico where all Monarchs go after their transformational journey.
I know Resurrection remains the spiritual epicenter of our faith. Yet, the boy's image of the cocoon is vital to living in an age riddled with crisis after crisis, ubiquitous violence, guns, ammunition, global warming, a fuel industry controlling legislation with unprecedented profit, and a wanton disregard for next generations, even a barbaric economy with an unquenchable appetite for profit for the tiny few. The cocoon appears to be right on target.
Jesus' prophetic journey moves toward God's Friday. Then we celebrate the promised Easter. Between Friday and Easter Sunday is the chrysalis of the cocoon. Most of us want to get through the cocoon and into resurrected flight. Yet, that is not how healing works.
The Cocoon and its protective chrysalis is the place God does Her best work. The cocoon, and its chrysalis, is where God recreates damaged goods.
I think our society is damaged goods. Congress is stalemated in empty rhetoric. They remain wealthy and distant from the needs of the hard working people. I believe it would be healing, perhaps transforming, if our society with her hired government, hardworking businesses, together with churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples to enter the cocoon. That is where God does Her best work, creating, recreating, healing and transforming.
We have lived through crisis after crisis.
First, comes our initial work in recovery. Then we organize for continued assistance. Then, what is delayed comes depression. Today I remind you that depression is not a cocoon. Nor is it protected in the chrysalis. Depression needs you to enter the protective chrysalis so that God can use professionals of all sorts to guide you into transformation. The fact that you do not see the need to worship regularly and are caught up in business of hectic lives keeps you from the soul power developed in the chrysalis of God.
The depression comes after we stop cocooning. It sneaks up on us after we have allowed the problems to overwhelm us. Depression tricks you into thinking "nothing can be done to help." Depression tricks you into thinking you are alone, or want to be alone, and separate from your church community. Nevertheless, the Cocoon, and its powerful chrysalis, is a Divine moment. It provides the transforming God Spirit preparing you to fly.
The interesting thing about Monarch Butterfly is that it appears they fly alone... one at a time. However, they move together independently toward one goal. They perhaps could teach us that we are also not alone.
by Rev. David Rommereim
Lent is a time of great spiritual verve. We come to community worship, peek into the Gospel narrative searching for the teachings of Jesus that may make meaning for these challenging days of 2013. We are encouraged to cleanse our hearts and occasionally sing: "renew a right spirit within me," or "caste me not away from Thy presence."
I have called Lent, the Springtime of the Soul so many times, that you are probably bored with hearing the phrase. Nevertheless, every time the crocuses come up from the cold earth I know God is relentless to get through the thick membranes of my habits, assumptions, and willingness to speed by the beauty of God.
Then it happens. Right after the Crocuses rise, I remember Jeremiah the Prophet who is a distant mentor of another prophet, Jesus of Nazareth.
The Book Jeremiah testifies to his 40-year career as an urban prophet of Jerusalem (627~586 b.c.e). His ministry took place during the Babylon Captivity (597 b.c.e.) - the first of many holocausts for the Jews. It is in chapter 1.4-10 that God gives Jerry his job description. Immediately, God asks; "What do you see?" (v.11)
Jeremiah answers, "I see a branch of an almond tree (shaqed). Then Adonai says, "You have seen well, for I am watching (shoqed) over my Word to perform it."
The Almond Tree is the earliest tree to bloom in the Middle East. Before it puts out leaves, it puts forth abundant snowy blossoms. It is a radical invitation to spring. For humankind spring reminds us that God is about death coming alive.
That poetic exchange between Adonai and the young prophet is so powerful for our own day. I hope you are able to hear for yourself the nuance of shaqed and shoqed ~ seeing the blossom and God watching.
That poetry, together with many biblical stories during the season of Lent, reminds me to wake up and see what I am missing. It reminds me that we are consuming God in a devouring manner due to our present culture. The almond trees are suffering. Such a consuming culture becomes occupied with death unaware.
The transition from winter to spring challenges us in the same manner in which Jeremiah was questioned by God. The purpose was that he see the Almond tree blossom (shaqed) so that God may watch (shoqed) the Word performed.
What is the performance of God's Word? It is your story, and our story of death coming alive.
For me, Lent remains a time to recollect and recompose a divine life. Perhaps, because God is watching I will use less energy, lower our church's fossil footprint, walk, listen, watch, and slow down to catch the breeze of God.
Lent begins the time to remember and renew. It happens faithfully, after I set my case before God, speak honestly in my own defense, and "apologize" (to God, self, other, and the earth I have borrowed for these 22,326 days). Until I apologize, I remain outside the shaqed (Almond tree), the shoqed (God's watching), and the blossoms.
Now let me leave you a poem. I wrote it as I work with a Lenten apology to God.
APO ~ LOGOS
Let me take words
Off their pedestal
Peek into the sound
Of the wave
Touch the back
Of the storm
As she twitches
Dirt into waste
Let the pounding
Of solemn regret
To a litmus
Of danger on the morrow
Framing harms way
By a chorus who
Chants of gloom
With time to speak
Against the travails
That takes green
Out of earth
Blue from sky
And whistling lips
From children who
No longer tickle grass
Or speak again
Against the wall
Who see rhythm
Played in the theatre
Of the still birth
Let me smith words
That make bodies
Into beings who
Make new matter
Apology: ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (denoting a formal defense against an accusation): from French apologie, or via late Latin from Greek apologia ~ 'a speech in one's own defense,' from apo 'away' + -logia (see -logy ). 'To speak (logia) away' (apo)
by Rev. David Rommereim
The great American writer James Baldwin wrote about "doing our first works over." That is a great theme for our Lent Experience at Good Shepherd. Through the first few centuries of the Christian movement Lent was a chance to re-train those who left the church due to "bad attitudes" or "bad behavior" or "bad gossip that harmed leaders" or even lethargy. Their faith went sour. Then it was during the Lent Season that the leaders of the church community allowed them to return if they would do some penance.
When the ancient congregations practiced the 50 Days of Lent for those who left the church for some reason or another, the ministers gave direction for those who were mean-spirited to return. They had to "do their first works over." They took the 50 days of Lent (not including Sundays) to practice being less selfish and more communal, less "me, me, me" and more "we, we, we." It worked. People got a chance to reconcile and regain the composure of being part of a lively healing community.
On another level, Dr. Larry Rasmussen, retired Ethicist from Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, used these same words from James Baldwin to turn our hearts toward a sane recovery in moral, ethical, and political integrity. He knows we live in a polarized, mixed up world. The world we are handing down to this new generation is riddled with personal self-interest that takes precedence over the faithful wholeness of community well-being, care for the earth, and hospitality to the sojourner. The fact that our culture is hell-bent on disregarding the wellness of the other, and of the earth, has catastrophic ramifications. This present generation and the next generations are in deep peril.
Lent is time to be honest and to seek to "do our first works over" so that we can recover the integrity, the challenges of being a people of faith, and the power of Jesus' political love that begins with you, and with how you build an honest community.
To be honest here are a few of the issues facing us from moment to moment:
First, "follow the money" and the expansive, unchecked, reckless income from the marginal elite. This is morally reprehensible in a democracy dedicated to the promotion of the general welfare.
Second, remember that 400,000 persons have been deported in the last four years while their families are broken and their children lose their parent(s); our foster care system is under severe stress; is this ethically dangerous to the wellbeing of our families?
Third, You and I have out spent the world in health care costs per capita. Yet, vast millions remain without quality care. Since the Christian Church in Antioch was the first to develop health care systems for all people (Christian, non-Christian, Roman citizens and non-citizens) is the American system ruining the Church's role in healthcare?