Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homily by Jim Lauder, ARCWP

Theme: Most High God in Everything
Subject: We can make God possible in All
Title: “Scared to Death”
St. Iris Faith Community
Sunday October 26, 2014
(October 09, 2014)

                Friends, Matthew’s Jesus said, “ you must love the Most High God with all your heart” (v37) soul and mind.  This passage invites to me discern this Most High God, and the story I am about to share provided me with some insights.  Insights derived by experiencing loss.

                 The other day, I took my dog girls on our usual meditative walk along Dallas road.  Departing from garbage can 14, I walked my usual route.  The skies were clear and it was a beautiful serene evening.  The Olympic Peninsula Mountains fairly visible, and the Port Angeles shores a little shrouded with mist.  Soon, I noticed a crowd gathered at the edge of the path; all eyes fixed on something swimming out into the ocean strait towards Port Angeles.  “ What is it?” I asked.  “It’s big buck that just got chased by dogs.”  Sure enough, I could see the tall antlers and an unmistakable V shaped wake made by the deer on the calm sea.  I stood and watched in horror, as the deer swam towards Port Angeles.
                I thought, “Oh my God how is this possible?  He can’t make it that far in the cold water; he has to turn back!”  But the deer kept swimming and swimming further out until he was barely visible.  In my heart, I begged him to turn around, and for a time, it looked like he might as he started to parallel the shore, but soon after, it was apparent he had changed directions.  Feeling helpless, I continued my walk and caught up with another dog walker.  He knew what had happened and said, “ he’ll survive, it’s survivor of the fittest, and deer can swim from island to island.”  “I hope so”, I said.  I kept walking and kept watching the deer swim further ashore, and then I prayed,  “Oh God please help this deer.”
But the poor and confused animal was still swimming for what seemed an eternity. 

                I said to the dog walker, “I wonder if there is anyone I could call,” and he said, “its no use calling anyone, if you call CRD they will tell ya, call the city, and then they will tell ya, call the Coast Guard, there’s no point,” he said.  His words caused me deeper despair, and so I walked ahead of him to be with my thoughts and escape his negative attitude that I didn’t want to hear.  I felt guilty for not doing anything but pray for the poor deer.  At this point, I couldn’t stand walking any further and turned around.  My peaceful and meditative walk was ruined. 
                Along the path, a couple of the original onlookers were still looking for the deer, but it was so hard to tell where he might have been.  We looked for any sign, and collectively, we refused to give up looking.  But not a sign.  We knew in our hearts that he had drowned.

                This sad incident disturbs me and raises all kinds of questions.  How do we pray?  To a God in the sky who can save this exhausted creature who is so scared and swimming to a certain death?  Why didn’t I call 9-11, and ignore the Darwin theory dog walker’s complacent and hopeless advice? 

Why are so many people willing to stand by and watch a creature swim to its death and not do anything to help?  How sad, that I am one of the onlookers who did nothing to stop this tragedy.

                My prayer to a God who could somehow save the deer was perhaps a desperate plea, and a wish for magic, an old theology that is all about a controlling God in the sky, theism at it finest.  A prayer to this God to deliver magic to save the deer was dashed, and I face the realities of evolution, the cycle of death and life, and the forces of nature.
                I am also reminded of Sister Joan Chittister who speaks of an evolutionary God, a God that evolves in us by the choices we make to enliven God in our world.  The God of the possible; the possible up to us.   The term, Loving Presence also comes to mind as a word to describe an enlivened God.  A God of compassion with us on the banks of the shore, as we watched one of our creatures sink before our eyes.  My meditative walks along Dallas forever changed when I look to the sea.  I will never forget my glorious deer that was scared to death.
                I think we all swim in icy waters from time to time, feeling frightened of life.  I often look for a safe haven on a distant shore, and I want to run away from what frightens me.  By not calling 9-11, I was in effect, swimming away from the frightening image developing before my very eyes.  This image brought to mind a poem by Henry Van Dyke I sometimes read at funerals.  It is
is about immortality.  He wrote.
I am standing upon the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.  Then someone at my side says, "There she goes!"
Gone where?  Gone from my sight ... that is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.  Her diminished size is in me, not in her.  And just at the moment when someone at my side says,  "There she goes! 
There are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"    
                How ironic that I would be standing on the seashore and be watching a majestic animal swimming to save its life, but only to a certain death?   It’s a haunting image.
                However the gift for me, is knowing that the deer’s spirit is etched into my soul and is immortal.  A gift that forces me to discern the kind of God image I wish to actualize in my life.  And, every time I walk on Dallas Road, I can pray and thank the deer for the gifts he has given me.  I can “love this Most High God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind.” (V 37)  Amen.  

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