April is the Cruelest Month

The first section of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, The Waste Land, published in 1922, is entitled, “The Burial of the Dead.”

close up photo of purple lilac flowers
Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

That is the title of the funeral service from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer during Eliot’s time as it is the title of the service in The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer today.

The Rite for the Burial of the Dead seems an appropriate place to start under the circumstances in which we are currently living. There are likely going to be lots of funerals in the days and weeks to come. Some for people we know, love, and have lost.

Eliot’s poem then opens with the following lines:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Each of the first three lines of Eliot’s poem starts in darkness and moves to life-giving activity: breeding, mixing, stirring.

By ending each line with a word that brings the reader out of darkness into light, from death into life, Eliot takes the reader into the future—a future that is more abundant than the past.

This April will surely be remembered as one of the cruelest of all time for our country and the world. We are told that we are now in the midst of the darkest hours of the COVID-19 Pandemic here in New York City, with heartbreaking death rates. Even as I write this, unending ambulance sirens pierce through the silence of the traffic-less streets below my window.

And, at the same time, we must hold onto the knowledge that we will come through this moment. As Eliot’s poem shows, darkness will give way to light, death will be vanquished by life. Breeding, mixing, and stirring will prevail. Lilacs will bloom out of dull roots.

This April, as dark and as cruel as life around us may seem, look for the lilacs blooming out of dull roots. They’re there

Spiritual but not Religious

pexels-photo-257037In my experience the declaration that “I’m spiritual but not religious” is often greeted by a collective eye-roll in church circles.   For many of us affiliated with formal church or faith organizations, it can seem a ridiculous thing to say.

What we think we’re hearing is “I’m spiritual but not yet religious.”

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Finding God on the other side of Halloween

PumpkinheadsHeaven1901

Let us stipulate that God seems very far from the commercial extravaganza that now surrounds Halloween.  I am much more likely to find God on the other side of Halloween, on November 1st, when we observe All Saints’ Day.   All Saints’ Day is a day to remember all of the saints who have passed through our lives into the next. Continue reading “Finding God on the other side of Halloween”

Finding God at Elmina Castle

Each time I approach Elmina Castle on the Cape Coast of Ghana, I am struck by the beauty of its setting.  The Castle sits on a bluff looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 9.10.59 PM

 Swaying palms. Breaking waves.  Shimmering white sand on an endless beach.  Blazing saffron sunsets.

However, the beauty is counterfeit.  Evil permeates Elmina.

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The Old City of Jerusalem

Via_dolorosa_JerusalemThe Old City in Jerusalem is chockablock with thin places.

Countless worship and pilgrimage sites for the three Abrahamic faiths are packed within one square kilometer.  

I find it all overwhelming.  For the most part I have not experienced the transcendent power of being in a thin place when I am in the Old City.   

There is one exception to this.

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On the lookout for thin places

IMG_1571Have you ever had the sensation that the barrier between the temporal and the eternal has become porous or indeed disappeared entirely? Then you’ve found a “thin place.”  One of my goals in this blog is to share my experiences of those places with you so that you can be on the lookout as well.

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Hearing God’s Voice on Middle Path

Middle Path runs right through the center of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. The Middle Path, or as Anglicans and Episcopalians call it, the via media, is the path between Roman Catholicism and Puritanism. It is by following the via media that one comes closest to finding the truth. But, can you also find God on Middle Path?

Earlier this summer, over 50 faith leaders from diverse religious traditions gathered in the buildings along Kenyon College’s Middle Path. We came to find the voices we want to use in the public square.

I can’t say whether I found my voice. That is for others to judge. What I do know is that I heard God’s voice.

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