Sunday, May 26, 2019

2019.05.26 Rogations

The tender seed finds the stirring of life deep within itself - and what is deepest in the seed reaches out to what is deepest in life . . . "
~ Howard Thurman, from Meditations of the Heart

Many of us are used to thinking of God as up there, then coming down to be in and with us before leaving again. It feels, metaphorically, as if divinity hits a home run, then dashes in to touch home base —for a brief moment only— before disappearing into clouds of fame and glory. This spatial metaphor fits with our penchant for divine transcendence, but it’s not very grounded and it creates an image of divinity that borders on condescension. No wonder so many of us don’t feel at home with God.

Jesus spoke frequently about seeds and planting seeds, waiting for seeds to grow, and sowing seeds along paths. He would sometimes bend down and scoop up soil or seeds, and he frequently bent to listen to the words of children. He was fully earthed, even earthy I suspect.

On Rogation days we let God come down to earth. Rogation comes from the Latin root rogare, meaning simply to ask. On Rogation days, Christians ask the soil to nurture seeds we plant, that they may bear fruit and feed us. We also ask that God nurture spiritual seeds implanted in our flesh, that we will grow strong and faithful and plant ourselves solidly on earth to practice the way of love just as Jesus the seed-planter did.

Some of the most delightful seeds I know come from the mouths of young children. If you listen for seeds of wisdom you’ll find them in the mouths of young children.

Here’s a story about Jack. Jack is six. He is a child who asks multitudes of questions about everything that pops into his mind. Jack asks about God. His curious mind is open and fresh. What is God?

Enter Grandma. She reads Jack a book called What Is God? by Etan Boritzer.
The book is brilliantly illustrated. It explores every aspect of Jack’s question, a question people the world over ask and wonder about all the time. There are no answers, but Jack is not alone in his wondering.

Jack’s Grandpa tells Jack about a book he wrote about Tim. Who is Tim? Tim is a large pink stuffed chimpanzee that belonged to Jack’s Daddy, Michael. Jack is all ears. Tim went everywhere with Michael, but when Michael slept Tim had wild, scary adventures. Grandpa shows Jack a book he wrote about Tim’s escapades.

Where is Tim now?  Grandma and Grandpa explain to Jack that when they come to California to visit Jack they leave Tim back east. Jack bursts into tears.  “How could you leave Tim all alone?"

A discussion ensues about what is real and what is make-believe. Tim is not real. Tim is just a toy.  Jack listens to all the explaining, then firmly asserts: “The tooth fairy is real.” Grandma and Grandpa nod. Jack had that week lost his first tooth. He knows the tooth fairy is real. Jack is ready to go to bed now—almost. “Wait, let’s read What Is God? It’s a beautiful book,” Jack says. And so they do.

Like Jack, we all go through awakenings many times over. How many comings-of-age are there?  How many home-bases do we seek and touch? How many wondering questions are too many? There’s nothing silly or childish about such questions. They pop up, especially when someone dies, or is missing, like Tim. Where is he? Will we see him again? Is there a heaven? What is God?  Such questions have no answers and we shouldn’t try to answer them.

Just let the imaginary bump into the real. Let them co-exist, complement one another. We need cold hard facts and the creative imagination of unknowing. In the same way we need the God hidden intimately in seeds and the God bursting with glory rising.

Tim is alive. So is God.