Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Easter 4 B - Apr 26, 2015

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Will Owen, n/OHC
Easter 4 B – Sunday, April 26, 2015

Acts 4:5-12
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

God is Love is God
We live in a world filled with noise, both internal and external. Traffic, street corner preachers, and cell phone beeps and lights have become so common that we don’t even notice them. Media and advertising bombard our eyes and our psyches with pornographic images and subtle messages that we’re not good-looking enough, smart enough, rich enough. The voices of our culture and history telling us that white is right and black is criminal. We still hear those taunts from childhood bullies ringing in our ears: Hey fattie! Are you gay? Can you afford that, welfare FREAK!? And the voices, subtler still, perhaps of our parents, our exes, our old teachers telling us we’re lazy and will never amount to anything, too fat, too queer, too dumb, too too too too too much. A cacophony of insult, shame, and fear bearing down on us every moment, driving us to do more, work harder, buy more stuff.

Surrounded as we are by this relentless noise, it's no wonder we often hear God’s voice as an echo of the world’s and our own bigoted, hateful screech. God’s voice is that of a chiding parent, vengeful judge, or jealous spouse, a never-ending purgation, stripping us to the bone like carbolic acid on tender flesh, eating, picking, nagging us raw and bleeding. The truth, of course, is that life often does flay us and bring us to our knees. But while God’s voice does sometimes call to us in judgment, it does so, even then, as a lullaby or love song. It is our own voices and those of our society and the hurt people that fill it that come like a wolf in the night to drive us away from the sheepfold and into the outer darkness. But God’s voice is that of the Beloved, a siren cry calling us home from our self-imposed exile.

Like a lullaby, the voice of the Beloved coaxes us into a sleep that is really an awaking. W.H. Auden describes this process in his poem “Lullaby”:
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms til break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
As we fall asleep to the voices of the world and awaken to that of the Beloved, we find that dreaming is the real reality. All we thought we knew is turned upside down and seem ridiculous. Judgment is really love. The hatred, shame, grief, and guilt that fill our lives are not barriers to God’s loving us: they are gateways. And the barren earth of our broken hearts is the fertile ground of paradise.

This voice of the Beloved does strip us, but like a lover would, softly, tenderly, urgently unbuttoning and slipping off the second skin of our personas, softening our calloused hearts with sweet, whispering sighs, coaxing us back to life until we stand naked and unashamed, like Eve and Adam first waking, filled with the breath of God. The voice of the Beloved caresses our skin like a lover’s breath, warm and insistent, stirring our desire and anticipation, and soothing our shyness. This is the meaning of that wonderful verse from Psalm 29: The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe, and strips the forest bare. We are the oak trees; we are the forest. As this voice moves deeper and deeper onto, into, and under our skin, it takes us to the raw, throbbing aliveness at the center of our being, the bloody, beating heart that is at once our heart and Christ’s. This is the place where our desire for God and God’s desire for us meet, and from this place flows our truest life.

In this deepest place we know that the Beloved has always been with us, curled up next to us in our mother’s womb and still here now, beckoning us: Come home, come home, come home. Lay your sleeping head, my love, here on my chest. Listen to the thud of my heart, tapping out the drum beat of new life. Come home.

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