Year B; Feast of Francis of Assisi, 10.7.2018
Last Wednesday, my sisters and I took the last seasonal boat tour of Muscongus Bay from New Harbor. It had been a beautiful, sunny day and we were looking forward to viewing water fowl and fall foliage as the sun slowly sank on the water.
Just at the opening of New Harbor was something the captain called the Muscongus Bay Shelf. He said, “It’s high tide and you can see the waves breaking over the shelf. This is when the seals like to gather and swim.” Then he went on to teach us about the varieties of seals in the area: gray seals and harbor seals. Then, in an instant, something like 7 or 8 seals emerged at “10 o’clock,” that is, on the ship’s starboard. We sort of chased after them and discovered that seals were everywhere! My “landlubber” sisters and I were overjoyed to see such a spectacle of swimming seals!
I couldn’t help but imagine God giving us seals socializing in the sea that day as a gift. And there were other gifts, too! Loons getting ready to find fresh water to swim in, eiders paddling around the islands, a cormorant or two standing partly majestically, partly comically – with their “arms” out “air-drying” themselves!
Annie Dillard, nature-observer and Pulitzer-prize winner wrote about God’s creation in her book, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.”
“The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, or millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an abandoned energy sprung from an unfathomable font. What is going on here? The point of the dragonfly’s terrible lip, the giant water bug, birdsong or the beautiful dazzle and flash of sunlighted minnows, is not that it all fits together like clockwork – for it doesn’t, particularly, not even inside the goldfish bowl – but that it all flows so freely wild, like the creek, that it all surges in such a free fringed tangle. Freedom is the world’s water and weather, the world’s nourishment freely given, its soul and sap: and the creator loves pizzazz.” “The creator loves pizzazz!”
In honor of our celebration of Francis of Assisi today, I share these stories of the glories of God’s creation. They are here and now. They are to be cherished. God’s creation is to be prized and well cared for. How vulnerable this created freedom is! Our pristine, unguarded shores fall into the hands of developers. “Let’s build our expensive, exclusive shorefront villages here; how about a resort with a golf course and a gate there? Look at how abundant the fishing is here! Let’s set no limits and let the corporations determine prices!”
Francis is the patron saint of the environment. But he is much more than that. He is the patron saint of God’s entire creation. You could say that he was in love with Creator God, and that love caused him to love and honor all things God created.
I love the image of his tradition that he preached to birds in the trees. “Hi little, darling wrens. Do you know how much God loves you? Beautiful cardinal in your bright red, male and muted red female hues! God breathes life into you and gives you the song of springtime.”
He brought the hungry wolf food and pacified him so that he would be a friend of the villagers. He called the sun his brother and the moon his sister. And, following the teaching that Jesus gave to the rich young man, Francis renounced his riches, stripped himself bare and gave all he had to the poor. He was so in love with God and anything God created that he took the infectious leper’s face into his hands and kissed his forehead. People thought he had lost his mind.
But he was the real deal. He lived his gospel life with such authenticity and integrity that he attracted many men and women to live in the monastic communities he founded.
The gospel passage for the day of celebrating Francis is from Matthew’s chapter 11. Sometimes our St Paul’s Vestry reads this passage during Compline at the close of Vestry. It is one of the selected readings for Compline. My heart rate slows immediately when I hear, “Come to me, all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
While my heart rate reduces when I hear these words, I know that my worries and anxieties, my disappointments, sorrows, losses and things that weigh heavy on me do not magically disappear. Following Jesus does not give us a “magic” way of life that guarantees an easy road. But it does reveal the way of God’s love. One theologian describes God’s love as a song, “When we remember the love of God, when we know our burden is to love God and love one another, then the burden becomes a song.”
Maybe it is possible to be so in love with God that all else that follows is love and care – of people – of the environment – of creatures…even our enemies! The act of bringing forth our creatures today is to acknowledge God’ love of the entire creation. To celebrate the freedom that God gave this creation and the obvious love of “pizzazz” the Creator has for it all.
Today, we bring our creatures to be blessed and acknowledged for the love we have for them. Today, we delight to commit ourselves to being good stewards of the environment. A blessing of a cat may be extended to a blessing and a promise to a sustainable way of life. A blessing of a dog gives us the opportunity to renew our promise to “…cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation.”
Now, imagine how you will begin today. Many of us have already incorporated sustainable practices into our lives. Perhaps there might be one more thing to commit to. As I distribute these cards, I invite you to write a commitment or two. By making a commitment, my hope is that each of us will be infected with the love of pizzazz our Creator has for us all!
In Celebration of St. Francis, 2018
St. Paul’s, Brunswick, Maine
Today, I commit to “cherishing the wondrous works of God, and protecting
the beauty and integrity of all creation” by __________________________.
Today, I ask God to help me love others as God love me. I commit to praying for _______________ who is difficult to pray for.