Kimberly Beyer-Nelson, MA, CHHC, YTh, SD, RM
Delivered at Suquamish UCC on September 28, 2014
Good morning. What follows is an epic poem of sorts in three parts—I want us today to experience the heart of our tradition, rather than its head...Oh, there will be things to think about for sure, and much that will fly by and leave only its scent. But sometimes Protestant Christians speak in interrogatives –where, when, what, why and how? too much. This will be a chance to just experience, just pray with me, just be with me for twenty minutes or so. I am going to thank you ahead of time for walking beside me, and if this pulpit gets between you and I, then shut your eyes and just enjoy....
I hope you will be able to stay with me today...
no...this will not be the dance of the mind,
where I swing you around and leave you a little confused and breathless
but rather, a heart-language, a whisper ear to ear.
Here is the secret:
All the time we are yearning to sing into each other,
to enter into orchestral relationship.
But I fear that sometimes we become words without melodies
and call this faith.
I want us today to hear the melody of things
before we put lyrics to it all.
That was in a love poem I wrote once,
and if I can’t share the rest,
you know it already, in our shared breath.
On Facebook I saw a random post:
religions are about group consensus--
about what God is and what God wants,
while spirituality is
all about the one-to-one relationship.
I love paradoxes—means there is truth in both.
But I also hear the pain of this divide:
It’s the difference between
knowing the Latin or agreed-upon name
for a perfect, juicy, orange-red-golden peach,
and never biting it because it might
dribble on your new white shirt
and you might swear a little in the public restroom
as you try to rub the stain out
anyone can comment.
So, if I do not quite get “religion” right,
I hope you will choose to laugh with me today instead,
and remember how to wear mud on your nose
peach stains on your clothes
and praise the water and sky and tree
as if the roof had been lifted off this place,
as if your tie and skirt had been loosened
and you can get in touch with something a little wild
You are blushing now-
good, that’s very good
as God once said when he/she/it/they Created. (with a capital C)
When I approach the Bible
or the bones of a text that cooked
in the desert sun until 1945,
I need space around each word.
Like the language of a burning bush commanded
Moses to draw off his shoes
and stand on holy ground,
I need to walk barefoot through such things.
I leave my dictionary,
my Sunday School and crayons behind.
I want the grass to stick up between my toes,
tickling and sometimes
cutting a little, so I hop around one-legged and delighted
even as I bleed.
Do you know this feeling?
Do you feel shy before it,
Good! That’s very, Good.
What if reading the Bible required us
to remember we are, all of us, a Twin?
That once upon a time,
(a time that is always NOW)
you and a man named Jesus
drank the same water and
breathed the same air.
It’s scientifically true,
and there is a poetry in that, too.
This world is the womb,
and you nestle still,
your arms around the Beloved
to the way the cosmos beats like a heart.
What do you say to such a Presence?
No, don’t rush into the words just yet.
(Silence held for ten breaths)
There it is!
Did you catch it?
the discomfort with this skin
that tries to separate
being and becoming in the silence,
a membrane bulging with the way a Service should play out
and the edgy, raw Wanting that actually draws us into this place
What would happen if we just stood and danced for a while,
bowed to each other, palm to palm instead
of watching the barricaded speaker,
balance on her tiptoes behind the podium?
Stop wondering what treats are on the coffee table today!
What if I handed out drums and little whistles
and you all just had to join in,
like jump-rope, picking your spot and WOW!
off you go, leaping.
That’s what prophets do, you know...
can you see Jesus, rolling up his robes
bare feet raising dust as he jumps and laughs?
Little children seldom mess with things like
lines and words and literary correctness
when they howl at the Jokes of the cosmos at play.
Do you hear the melody now?
This is what is demanded of us—
contemplative innerness one moment,
then reaching out for a dance partner the next.
I remember feeling relieved when I read
Jesus went apart for a while,
wandered with ghosts and scorpions
until he was dried inside out,
a little leathery and thirsty—
it made him harder to grab hold of
when the crowd thrust back in.
He could give Living Water then,
because he had wrung it out of himself
into the bowl of his serving hands.
This is not the action of a broken thing,
or an ever bowing and scraping thing,
this is Standing up,
twin-ing the Wild
and the straight pew lines
and the child and the elder
and the lonely and the partnered.
If I told you I saw Jesus in dreams,
just his feet,
when tethered to five plastic tubes,
split open from breastbone to belly button,
would you look away from me then?
until you have laid yourself in the shape of the cross,
bound there with anesthesia and medical tape,
the masked crowd gathered
in my favorite color of faded turquoise,
maybe it wouldn’t make any sense.
Sense is not what I am after anyway—
can you cry with He and I and everyone
who sits perfectly gathered and alone here?
Our teacher wept you know—
“why have you forsaken me?”
That cry was the very door opening,
the Me and You consumed, fiery,
and the light from that blazing forth
is still shining here
if you can let yourself Feel it.
Notice how this all goes,
from laughter to seriousness to tears,
this Christian story
but it’s all a breathing in and a breathing out,
this round of birth to death to rebirth
this ever spiraling liturgical year.
And we can chart it on the calendar,
change the colors in the sanctuary,
sing the right songs at the right time,
break this crumbling loaf of bread and try not to spill the wine,
line up the speakers and singers and musicians
and change out pews for chairs,
and still I will tell you this—
until poetry spills from your imperfect lips,
until you hum in the shower
and lay your hand on your dog’s head,
until you crouch and giggle
then stretch and place palm-to-palm in prayer,
until you rail at the politics and music and TV shows that
no longer make sense to you
until you begin to jump rope and go apart and come back and be willing to die,
to cry “why have you forsaken me?” and
Know the answer will never find you just in words,
this will always be just a building,
the Bible, just a book,
just an instrument of torture.
There, you are flushing now,
different from that beginning blush,
this feeling of the awful, beautiful, creative and destroying
Presence that we twin with.
Maybe now you can say with me
at this point
(Selections from Yeshua’s Yoga )
His students asked him,
“Do you want us to fast?
How shall we pray?
Should we give offerings?
From what food must we abstain?”
Do not do what you hate
because everything here lies open
Nothing hidden remains secret,
for the veil will be stripped away from all
that lies concealed behind it.”
Bind me back to a time
when religion was not
another word for psychology;
when the shaman’s journey
or the Christian Mass
told the story of relationship,
illuminated the ties that bound
life to life to
We work too hard now—
what does life mean?
How does the past haunt today?
Who are all these voices clamoring inside?
why not invite it all in and serve tea?
walk the line between earth and water and sky,
hum a tune from childhood,
not one of us arose from independent nothingness.
Reweave yourself, but intuitively,
in the meal served,
in the hat knitted and passed on,
in the laughter in the grocery check-out line.
If sin is simply that which is “unripe”,
then explode with flavor, with juice,
or if it is time,
with a fearless releasing to earth.
Live interwoven with it all,
and tell me
where you can really fall?
His students said to him,
“Take us to the place where you are
since we are required to seek after it.”
He answered them,
“Whoever has an ear for this
should listen carefully!
Light shines out from the center
of a being of light
and illuminates the whole cosmos.
Whoever fails to become light
is a source of darkness.”
The First Response:
We are not created to be solid,
nor rooted in place like the massive cedar
standing sentinel in my front yard.
The statue fascinates
because it is almost alive,
we see the light moving
in carved pupils.
But we are called to the wave’s way,
to be tidal and restless
and hold mystery under our froth.
We wet the stone,
lick the sand,
carry the whale and the krill with equal ease.
Diving into our own liquid darkness,
see how we shine
even in the dim starlight?
His students said to him,
“Who are you to
such things to us?”
“Do you not realize who I am
from everything I have said to you?
Have you come to be like the Judeans
who either accept the tree
but reject its fruit, or welcome the fruit
and despise the tree?”
The First Response:
If you were to meet
a famous movie star,
who would you really see?
What myriad and fanciful characters would you reference
in your mind,
draping them like veils
over the real human
Now imagine you met
this man called Jesus—
you knew him as
the face of God.
Before you knew he would die
on a cross.
Before the Gospels and letters were written,
crafting your “knowledge” of him,
thousands of veils thrown over his face—
watch carefully the people who flow around you
for we walk elbow to elbow with divinity
“Blessed are the troubled ones.
They have seized
hold of life.”
The First Response:
Our insulation plugs in now,
our faces bathed in harsh light
as the evening falls spring-soft,
white petals drifting by,
like static on an old black and white TV.
We do not see it.
Yet, there are still times when
the winds run high,
and the fir trees nod to one another in agreement,
arms spread out wide,
one chooses to fall
across the black lines,
sparks flying like the memory
of an ancient storyteller’s fire
but blue and silver now,
snapping into the night.
Troubled, our lines of connection
we turn at last to the window
behold more than a hundred feet of woody mortality,
belly laughing in the new grass.
“I am the light
shining upon all things.
I am in the sum of everything,
for everything has come forth from me,
and towards me everything unfolds.
Split a piece of wood,
and there I am.
Pick up a stone
and you will find me there.”
The First Response:
If God is in stone,
and the long, thin finger of the English Ivy,
why take so long
haggle so hard,
about what words mean?
Love is sprinkled liberally
and any explanation is simply
God explaining God to God.
Once you get there,
that place where,
you swim in God,
you will walk out
in sweatshirt and jeans
arrayed like a king or queen.
Simon Peter said to them all,
“Mary should leave us
for women are not
worthy of this Life.”
“Then I myself will lead her,
making her male
if she must becomes
worthy of you males!
I will transform her
into a living spirit
because any woman changed
in this way
will enter the divine Realm.”
The First Response:
That he should end this journey joking,
poking fun, and laughing quietly to himself.
That he should settle down,
Mary’s hand in his own
squeezing it to let her know
for a time
he was there,
that he knew she knew
that they still didn’t know,
and even then have the sense
to tell them one more time,
the divine realm will heat us and mix us
wild atoms thrown into form
the energy of our love
speaking down through the corn fields
and in the eyes of lovers
long after the sun
expands and devours us whole,
the music will flow on
unimpeded and waiting
A blessing and benediction
I once rode like Epona,
down the royal reds of autumn leaves,
chasing wild turkeys until
they actually took to wing.
The trees still shook in these clear moments
before the winds blew harsh and cold,
but the shaking was a laughter, a dance,
a shivering free of color and light
so they could stand naked at last
against the blue skies.
In the riverbed, the water ran,
bright and a little sullen, too,
paradox of shadow and sun,
reaching in dampness for smooth gray stones,
like it was trying to be spacious,
but also knew ice would bind it soon,
a child sent to its bed.
My pony’s eyes, one brown and one blue,
flicked over the trail, ears tipping
in their thicket of wild mane.
He missed very little and I
was not old enough
to make symbols and icons
out of such things.
May we remember the child within us,
recall that nature is the first Bible,
experience the energy of senses firing prior
to the haggled construction of belief,
that tradition and grace are both organic
and that the nature of our faith is quite simple-
Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself-
And as Saint Francis said,
“preach the Gospel always
Amen, gentle people, Amen.