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The Sunrise – A Holy Week Musing

Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet whose poetry is mindful of our natural world, particularly the animals and flowers, trees and ponds, the grass and the sky. Her poetry is both simple and complex - and always profound.

I would like to share one of her works entitled simply Sunrise.


You can die for it-- an idea, or the world. People have done so, brilliantly, letting their small bodies be bound to the stake, creating an unforgettable fury of light. But this morning, climbing the familiar hills in the familiar fabric of dawn, I thought of China, and India and Europe, and I thought how the sun blazes for everyone just so joyfully as it rises under the lashes of my own eyes, and I thought I am so many! What is my name? What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us? Call it whatever you want, it is happiness, it is another one of the ways to enter fire.

The poem reminds me so much of the life of Jesus and the Easter Story. Because the response to the story of Christ and our call as followers of Jesus seems to go between these two extremes, don’t they?

In one way we have a righteous fire and anger at the way the world is. We know we are called to fight injustice and prejudices and evil.

But we experience a warming fire of comfort and joy because of the grace we find in Jesus Christ. And like a campfire we recognize that we are called to invite others to experience this comforting warmth. And to also be ever grateful for the gift of life and the joy that our life in Christ brings us.

The difficulty is figuring out how and when to let the passionate fire for justice burn brightest and when to share the warming glow of happiness with the world.

The answer is not easy, is it? Often our life seemingly calls us to do both at the same time.

I’ve known faithful Christians so overwhelmed with fighting injustice that they never see the beauty of the sunset or the majesty of the night sky.

And I have seen some folks whose “Pollyannish” worldview keeps them from ever seeing the need to fight injustice, as they are sure it will all be alright in the sweet by and by.

And then there are those that are so unsure about the call of the Gospel that they become lukewarm to the faith – basically becoming pew potatoes or choosing to worship at St. Mattress.

The key to discovering our calling in the daily situations we face is taking time for study and prayer. To practice listening for God’s call and to seek discernment on what we might do to help build the kingdom of God.

I think Mary Oliver said it well in the poem when she says:

“What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us?

During not only the business of this Holy Week but also beyond, as we are slowly emerging from the pandemic and are being told we need to make up for what I am already hearing referred to “lost time,” I want to encourage us all to slow down and breathe. I pray we will take time to listen for God and find how the flame we have been given from the Holy Spirit should be used. To discover how God would have us work to proclaim the good news of the gospel. And as we discern and get to work may we remember that we are not alone in any of this work - that you and I are part of the many we call the church, and more importantly we walk with our Lord who was crucified, died, buried and then conquered death through the power of the resurrection, so that we might indeed live as an Easter people in all we do.

Alleluia Amen.

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