(We have produced a video weaving these words with image and sound, here)
A Reading: Richard Rohr, from “The Universal Christ” (pg. 146-148, 167)
God does not need or want suffering – neither in Jesus nor in us …
The Divine Mind transforms all human suffering by identifying completely with the human predicament and standing in full solidarity with it from beginning to end. This is the real meaning of the crucifixion. The cross is not just a singular event.
Once I know that all suffering is both our suffering and God’s suffering, I can better endure and trust the desolations and disappointments that come my way … If I can recognize that all suffering and crucifixion (divine, planetary, human, animal) is “one body” and will one day be transmuted into the “one body” of cosmic resurrection, I can at least live without going crazy or being permanently depressed.
Jesus the Christ, in his crucifixion and resurrection, “recapitulated all things in himself, everything in heaven and everything on earth” (Ephesians 1:10)… Jesus agreed to carry the mystery of universal suffering. He allowed it to change him (“Resurrection”) and, it is to be hoped, us, so that we would be freed from the endless cycle of projecting our pain elsewhere or remaining trapped inside of it.
This is the fully resurrected life, the only way to be, happy, free, loving, and therefore Saved.
It is really good to be gathered together again, on this good earth, in this fresh air, under the light of heaven.
I think at our best we’ve been shepherds for each other through this past year – I hope – looking out for who’s struggling, who may be getting lost.
I hope we’ve been leaning on each other, relying on one another, taking turns leaning and being leaned on, being weak and being strong, being vulnerable and being inviolable, being shepherded and being shepherd.
But I also hope that through it all we all have known that it isn’t just up to us, it can’t be just up to us, us as individuals or us all together. Going it alone, even going it alone together, will always become just too much to bear.
We all must rely on a Power much greater than any human power, much greater than any power in creation.
We help shepherd each other, yes, but we all need the Good Shepherd who shepherds all Creation. We all need the Holy One who can guide us through the valleys of the shadow of death, and lead us to still waters and restore our souls.
We lean on one another, yes, but we all need to lean on the One Who can bear all suffering, who can carry all Creation from desolation to resurrection. We all ultimately need, you could say, to lean on the Cross.
We help to shelter each other, yes, and to nourish one another, but we all need the Tree of all Life rooted in the Ground of all Being, the source and sustenance of our very beings. It is the Tree of Life that give us shade and rest and fruit.
So, I invite us to be guided by those good words of Psalm 23, which I offer in the poetic translation of the New Zealand Anglican Book of Worship, rather than our familiar “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” – just so we can hear and receive these words in a fresh way for a new day:
Dear God, you sustain me and feed me: like a shepherd you guide me.
You lead me to an oasis of green, to lie down by restful waters.
You refresh my soul for the journey, and guide me along trusted roads.
The God of justice is your name. Though I must enter the darkness of death, I will fear no evil.
For you are with me, your rod and staff comfort me.
You prepare a table before my very eyes, in the presence of those who trouble me.
You anoint my head with oil, and you fill my cup to the brim.
Your loving kindness and mercy will meet me every day of my life, and I will dwell in the house of my God for ever.