Posts Tagged life

Resurrection, for us and the planet: Just add water – Rev. Susan Sparks

This sermon in recognition of Earth Day was preached on Easter Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City. April 21, 2017 Baptist News Global

It was in the wee hours of Easter morning 1971 that I crawled out of bed in my Road Runner pajamas and tip-toed into the living room to see what treasures the Easter bunny might have left. I could see the basket from the hallway; there was the usual chocolate rabbit, some plastic eggs, a few marshmallow peeps and … could it be? Yes, nestled among the rabbit and the eggs was a box complete with a tiny aquarium, food, magic powder, and ready to hatch Sea-Monkeys.

Anyone who lived through the 1970s knows this ridiculous toy. It was almost as dumb as the Pet Rock, but not quite, since it actually did something. Sea-Monkeys were marketed as pets, but were in reality freeze-dried brine shrimp that would miraculously come to life if you would, as the package said, “Just add water.”

Ecstatic, I ran into the kitchen, took my little packet of magic powder, poured it into some water, and in a few minutes, the water began to transform. The little dried specs got bigger and bigger, and then finally started swimming around. It was literally resurrection. Just add water!

Goofy as the 1970s Sea-Monkeys were, I decided that image was appropriate for Easter, especially Easter 2017, because our resurrection — creation’s resurrection — turns on whether we just add water.

This idea first came to me in March when I attended a multi-day conference at Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street where they talked about the existential crisis we faced on this planet over water. But it fully solidified while I was preparing for Good Friday and I was reading the passion story from the Gospel of John.

As you probably remember in the story, Jesus utters two phrases before he dies on the cross. The last one we all know: “It is finished.” But the one before that is one we don’t always focus on and it’s only told in the Gospel of John. The moment before Jesus gives up his spirit, he says these three words: “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).

The obvious assumption is that this was a request to quench a burning physical thirst as Jesus had been on the cross for hours. However, I believe there was a deeper meaning. For in that moment, Jesus thirsted not only for literal water, but for living water — for God. Jesus’ story is our story, too.

Like Christ, we are thirsty. Some of us are thirsty for literal water, but all of us are thirsty for living water. And our survival — our resurrection — depends on quenching that thirst.

Sadly, some of that thirst is literal. Most of us have no idea what it truly means to say, “I am thirsty,” in a literal sense, but over 700 million brothers and sisters on this planet sure do. On this planet, over 700 million people lack access to safe water and more than two billion do not have adequate sanitation, including 210 million citizens in the United States.

And it’s not only the lack of clean water, it’s the lack of water in general. In two generations, scientists are predicting that most of the then nine billion people on Earth will live with severe pressure on fresh water.

And for anyone listening who thinks global warming is “fake news,” let me share this. Within the last year, NASA satellites have been able to use gravitational measurements to calculate that more than half of Earth’s 37 largest aquifers, our underground water supply, is being depleted.

Those aquifers, which take thousands of years to fill, supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. The satellites showed that 21 of the world’s largest aquifers from India and China to France and the United States have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water is being taken out than replaced — tapped for everything from mining to gas exploration to — irrigation. As one of the senior NASA scientists put it, “We’re running out of water.”

Yet, even with these terrifying scientific findings, none of us seems to really care, especially here in our privileged Western world. Oh, sure, we’ll read about it, maybe even watch a water documentary on Nat Geo, all the while sipping our Evian water, our dishwashers humming happily in the background.

America is one of the worst abusers of water, from our giant waterparks and carwashes, to the precious water being guzzled by our perfectly manicured lawns, to our desert oases where we drain the life blood from our water tables so that things like the Fountains of Bellagio can continue.

We would be wise to remember the words of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

If we would stop for one moment and listen, we would hear our brothers and sisters crying, “I am thirsty.”

If we would stop for one moment and listen, we would hear our Earth crying, “I am thirsty.”

And then, and only then, might we realize that our resurrection — our survival — depends on quenching that thirst.

But as I said earlier, there are two kinds of thirst. Some of us thirst for literal water, but all of us thirst — emotionally, psychologically, spiritually — for living water. And that thirst comes in many forms.

Some of us thirst for meaning and direction because our dreams have dried up.

Some of us thirst for mercy, a place of forgiveness, a second chance.

Some of us thirst for love.

Some of us are thirsty for health, for an end to chronic pain or disease.

Some of us are thirsty for justice, for an end to hatred and bigotry, for righteousness to roll down like a mighty stream.

Many thirst for confidence in our government leaders.

Most of us are thirsty for peace, for a world where we once again feel safe, a world where we don’t wonder, every time we get on the subway, if our neighbor with the large backpack is carrying a bomb.

We are all thirsty. All of creation. Some thirst for literal water, and all of us for living water. And the message this Easter 2017 is that resurrection is possible. We just add water.

But what does that mean in real terms?

There is a sign over the doorway of the chapel run by Mother Teresa, and that sign has four words: “I thirst, I quench.” It was her belief that when we offer a cup of water to those in need, we are also offering water to Jesus on that cross. We are quenching his thirst.

Remember Jesus’ own words in Matthew: “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. What you did for least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:35, 40).

In quenching Jesus’ thirst, we quench our own. It is in serving him that we are healed. It is in following him to the tomb that we are brought to life by the angels.

Jesus says in John, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. … Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). When we quench Jesus’ thirst, we heal ourselves because we are connecting with the living water of God.

We are facing existential threats to our planet. We are witnesses to life and death issues with our global brothers and sisters. And we face a crisis of meaning and hope in our own lives.

And that is exactly where Jesus was on Good Friday: an existential crisis, a life and death moment, a crisis of meaning and hope. But that was not the end of his story, nor is it the end of ours. For on Easter, his thirst was quenched, and the living waters rushed back in. And so it can be for us as well.

We have the power to resurrect this planet.

We have the power to heal the suffering and resurrect the lives of many of our global brothers and sisters.

We have the power to resurrect our own hearts.

And here’s how we’re going to do it.

Starting tomorrow morning, when you wake up, I want you to do two things:

First, drink a glass of water. Why? Because we must start our day by quenching our thirst for literal water and for living water.

We all know that literal water hydrates our bodies, bringing us strength and stamina and health.

But that glass of water is also a connection to living water. As in Genesis, the spirit of God still hovers over the waters. Water is the source of life; it was God’s first creation; 65 percent of the human body is water, 72 percent of the Earth’s surface is water, and in its image is the face of the Holy. Drinking a glass of water is the ultimate prayer, for by doing so, we are taking in literal and living water.

Then, the second item for the day: find a way to quench someone else’s thirst.

If you see someone thirsty for literal water, give them a drink. Donate or work with an organization that fights to provide access to clean water. Strive to cut down your own use of water to help quench the thirst of the Earth.

Or if you find someone is thirsty for living water, then quench their thirst as Christ would — quench it with love, with mercy, with compassion, with justice and hospitality, patience, fairness, forgiveness, and humility.

As the old saying goes, “We are healed to help others. We are blessed to be a blessing. And we are saved in order to serve.”

A few weeks ago, a bit of rain fell in Death Valley — one of the hottest, driest places on Earth, water being a rarity. But sure enough, a bit of rain came and fell on the dry, lifeless valley of death. And suddenly that desert exploded in wildflowers with brilliant colors and blossoms of all imaginable types. It was life exploding out of death.

As followers of a risen Christ, we too have that gift of a second chance, we too have the power to heal, to mend, to pour life back into a lifeless planet, to pour love back into a loveless world, and to quench our deep thirst for living water. Through Christ, we have the power of resurrection. All we have to do … is just add water.

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The Shiny Side Up – Rev. Susan Sparks

Hi y’all, welcome to the Shiny Side Up! This is the fifth week in our nine-part series on change:

The real you
Risk
Us versus the world
Shake it up
Too late? Never

Letting go
Earned respect.
A break. Take it
Possibilities

It’s a classic excuse: “it’s too late.”  It comes clothed in many versions: I’m too old, the opportunity has past, I’m just not up to it, I don’t want to learn something new, people would think I’m crazy, I’m scared.

We’ve all done it.

But here’s the truth of the matter: to refuse an opportunity saying “it’s too late” is a choice. You can chase your dreams at any age, at any time.  For example, F.X. Toole made his literary debut at 70 years old, his first novel being the basis for the movie Million Dollar Baby.

Many of us tend to think that we can’t change, saying things like “chasing this dream doesn’t make sense at my age,” or “I’ve already started down one road, I don’t want to have to start over again.”

No one said the path to your dream would be a straight line. Look at my road: trial lawyer to standup comedian and Baptist minister. In fact, one of the things I’ve learned as a performer and comedian is that the ending of your act is the most important part. Even if you bombed in the beginning of the set, if you give them your best material at the end, that’s what they will remember.

In life it’s the same thing. Even if you messed up in the beginning, or made choices you regret, or let opportunities pass you by, it’s not too late. If you give the world your best stuff at the end, that’s what they’ll remember.

Below you will find videos, my blog and a press piece that offer additional inspiration. Until next week when we talk about Letting go, keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down! –Susan

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The Unexpected – The Daily Cup – St Alban’s Church

 
By Anonymous on Aug 04, 2016 11:38 am

Last Friday night, I received a call that none of us want to get. An ambulance driver was calling me to tell me that my friend and neighbor had been in a very serious car accident. They suggested I come to the hospital. The accident could easily have been a fatal one for her.

As I drove to the hospital to be with her, I thought how precious, and yet how fragile, our lives are. And how unexpected events can end our lives as we know them. Events like car accidents, unanticipated and life-threatening illnesses, and wars that destroy people’s lives as they knew them; all these events can alter our lives and the lives of those around us.   My heart ached for my friend, but I also rejoiced in her survival, just as my heart went out to the refugees who shared their story with us on Sunday.

My friend today told me that she feels more alive now that she has in a very long time. She is grateful for the people in her life that that bring her joy. She’s focusing now on a “new normal” that is less focused on day to day worries and tasks–and more focused the people around her and on the positive aspects of her life that light up her life and the lives of those around her.

We heard on Sunday about the devastations of war that leave countries, cultures, and human lives changed forever. But we also heard the optimism of survival and intentionally going forward with courage and making new beginnings. In the refugee story and my friend’s story, I hear gratefulness for life and for communities of kindness and sharing.

One of my favorite books and a source for daily prayers is Celtic Benedictions by J. Philip Newell. The Thursday prayers include the following:

The vitality of God be mine this day

the vitality of the God of life.

The passion of Christ be mine this day

the passion of the Christ of love.

The wakefulness of the Spirit be mine this day

the wakefulness of the Spirit of justice.

The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be mine

that I may be fully alive this day

the vitality and passion and wakefulness of

that I may be fully alive.

That we all may be fully alive to love and to life.    Que así sea.  (That it might be so.)

 

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Too Little Time by Matthew Hanisian

The Daily Cup

A daily cup of good news from the St. Alban’s Cafe.

← A Healing Place

Too Little Time

Posted on February 22, 2013 by matthewhanisian

Last week, on Valentine’s Day morning, at around 1:00 a.m. my best friend’s mother died.  I had been to see her mother earlier that night to pray and simply be present.  I received the call around 1:20 a.m. and by 1:45 a.m. was with my best friend and her father.  Her mother now lay at rest in a bed, the struggled breathing I had heard only hours before now gone, her body at peace.

Although the death was not unexpected, she had lived to be almost 90, there had been a rapid decline–only a week earlier she had been alive and in reasonably good physical health.  It was a true blessing to be there in that dimly lighted room; to be quiet, reverent…to anoint the body with holy oil, to pray together the Litany at the Time of Death (BCP 462) and to pray for her eternal soul.

Since then there have been dozens of cards and letters, flowers, well-wishers, visitors and phone calls.  The outpouring of love upon the family has come from around the globe, some from people who haven’t been in contact for years and years but felt compelled to, “tell you how much you and your mother mean to me.”

There is a blessing that crept into my mind on Monday and hasn’t departed.  It is taken from the words of the poet Henri-Frédéric Amiel:

“Remember that life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be quick to be kind, make haste to love, and may the blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always.”

Life is short.  And, in the end, I wonder if we will have said to all of those who have been special in our lives, or kind to us, or who have taught us, or even loved us, that they are important to us…that they “mean so much” to us?  My guess is that we probably will not have said those things to even a fraction of the number of people who have had an impact on our lives in a positive way.  Why is it that we allow that to happen?  How much time does it take to write a quick note or letter, or even email, to someone to tell them that you are thinking about them and that they are special to you in some way?

“Life is short and we have too little time,” my brothers and sisters.  Take a moment and tell someone that is special to you that they ARE.  In doing so you are spreading this wonderful blessing and touching the life of another.

In Blessing and Peace,

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