Rev. Karen  Dickey

Thanksgiving 
Text: Genesis 1: 1- 2:3

What if we heard the first chapter of Genesis not in terms of origins but intentions … not a description of how it all began but God’s intentions from the beginning? What if we heard the first chapter of Genesis as a love song?

For the sake of beginning somewhere, let’s go to that phrase that runs like a current, or in musical terms, an ‘ostinato --this repeated melody that won’t go away, that keeps popping up as if to say, “remember me! listen to me!” It makes its debut early on in the poem by the fourth verse … “and God saw that the light was good.”  Seven times we hear this affirmation “God saw that it was good” and finally on the 6th day we hear, “God saw all that God had made, and behold it was very good.”

Here’s what I never noticed before: that “it was good” has always stood out, but that God saw that it was good … I missed that part and the power it holds. It’s not that the goodness is simply a given … it’s that we are being given to see the goodness God sees through God’s eyes … that we might love what God loves.

Many would argue that the root of the ecological crisis is our failure to perceive what is good, and how closely perception is linked to action. What’s that phrase when we overlook and carry on, failing to do the right thing? … we “turn a blind eye.” Perception is linked to action.  It’s not that we need new measures to decide what is good … we need new eyes to see again what we may have lost sight of.

This morning I want to offer the description 3 people’s experiences of seeing the world through God’s eyes … that our eyes might be opened to seeing afresh.

* * * *
“Winter is my favorite growing season,” writes Fred Bahnson in his Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith. [1]  “Anyone can toss down a few seeds in June and get a crop, but it takes a disciplined hope to garden in the dark of December. And what rewards. After several frosts, plant starches become sugars. Carrots attain the sweet crunch of apples, and kale loses all hint of bitterness. Turnips become so sugary you can eat them raw.

Mid-morning on the first Sunday in Advent, I stood beside the red-roofed barn and looked out at Anathoth Community Garden [in North Carolina]. Down the hill the greenhouse was shedding its frost in the first light. … But the sight that always drew my eye was the wide expanse of the field itself, a wave-and-trough succession of raised vegetable beds lying dark and still in the low winter light, pregnant with life waiting to be born. Soon I would need to drive a mile down the road to the little Methodist church where my wife and sons would be arriving for the morning service, but first I needed to come here, to this five-acre piece of land that had come to feel like an extension of my own body.

I walked downhill to the greenhouse, a Gothic arch structure where we grew most of our winter crops and started all our seed. This was my favorite of winter places, my sanctuary; I could lose myself in here for hours. What a thrill I received each morning as I entered this congregation of plants, lit as if from within by the low winter sun. The world outside the greenhouse was nineteen degrees cold; dry and lifeless. Once I stepped across the wooden threshold, the temperature rose to a balmy forty, lush and humid and alive with the earthy aroma of plants seeking light. The soil here was deeper than in the rest of the garden, the color and consistency of chocolate sponge cake. Even on the coldest of winter days, black organic matter in the soil absorbed the sun’s heat and slowly released it at night, keeping the plants alive. The beds, each four feet wide and thirty feet long, were double-dug. … With such deep beds, roots have better access to water and minerals deep in the ground.

I spent much of my time at Anathoth preparing and working and thinking about the soil. There is an entire ecosystem in a handful of soil: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms. Through their breeding and dying such creatures vivify the world. This pattern of relationships I find a captivating mystery; I love plants, but I am most attracted to the fervent and secret work that goes on beneath the surface. Soil is not dirt. It is a living organism, or rather a collection of organisms, and it must be fed. Soil both craves life and wants to produce more life, even a hundredfold.

One day I slid my hand into one of the greenhouse beds. I gently pushed down and kept pushing until my arm vanished and my shoulder touched the soil’s surface. It had seemed then as if I could keep burrowing downward, until my entire body was swallowed by the warm, dark earth. Soil is a portal to another world.

The garden is our oldest metaphor. In Genesis God creates the first Adam from the adamah, and tells him to “till and keep” it, the fertile soil on which all life depends. Human from humus. That’s our first clue as to the inextricable bond we share with the soil." 

It’s time, time, time. It’s time, time, time. It’s time, time, time that you loved. It’s time, time, time. [from Tom Waits’ song, “Time”]

And then listen to this from Thomas Merton …
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world … The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream.  . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud.  . . . I have the immense joy of being [hu]man, a member of a race in which God . . . became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now [that] I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. . . . Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. [2]

It’s time, time, time. It’s time, time, time. It’s time, time, time that you loved. It’s time, time, time.

And last of all -- for now-- Mary Oliver writes about Peonies

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open.

Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever? [3]

It’s time, time, time. It’s time, time, time. It’s time, time, time that you loved.  It's time, time, time.

How do we go about seeing the world through God’s eyes?  Mary Jo Leddy offers us this …

Be.
Still. My Soul
Attend. Attend.
Do not snatch and grab
Do not grab and run
Do not flip
to the next channel
of the Universe.
Attend. Attend.
To what flows
in the midst of flux
To what fires and
is not consumed
to what stays and satisfies.

Be attentive
to the graciousness
the glory and the goodness
that is here
that is now
ever new. [4]

[1] Fred Bahnson, an except from the Prologue of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, posted on www.faithandleadership.com, August 12, 2013

[2]Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Double Day Religion, New York, 1966

[3]Mary Oliver, “Peonies,” from New and Selected Poems - Volume One, Beacon Press, Boston, 1992

[4]Mary Jo Leddy, Radical Gratitude, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2002, p. 13