OF TIDES AND RHYTHMS
Hebrew Scripture: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
Psalm: Psalm 119: 1-8
Life is a gift from our God who is the author of all, the source from whom all things come and the Lord to whom all the world and its resources belong. Life is a gift and all that we have is a gift from our Creator God.
Life is about receiving and giving … receiving and giving ... receiving and giving in endless succession. It is about blessing and being blessed, being blessed and blessing others- being filled up and emptying out ... being filled up and emptying out over and over again. It is about loving and being loved, being loved and loving others. Serving and being served, being served and serving It is about the rhythm of life that must be honored or life itself ceases.
The farmers turn the soil folding in last season’s growth to be this year‘s nutrients. That which has received gives; that which has given receives. Being blessed and blessing others. Receiving and giving ... :filling up and emptying out ... life’s
rhythms: nature and life are full of examples. The tide flows and brings life-giving nutrients from the deepest part of the ocean to the marshes and rivers, the coves and the streams ... the tide ebbs and carries the gifts of the mountains and the orchards, the fields and the forests to refresh the depths.
The new-born child responds to the cool air and the doctor~ slap by lifting the shoulders and filling the lungs with oxygen, the gift of every green plant on earth. So begins the transaction that will continue as long as the child lives. The child receives oxygen, the gifts of the plants and trees, in order to be able to drop the shoulders and empty the lungs and give forth the carbon dioxide which will give breath to God’s green children.
Receiving and giving – Blessed and blessing, filling up and emptying out ... life‘s rhythms: such are basic to the way in which God has put this world together. Receiving and giving …:filling up and emptying out ... life’s rhythms: the law is unalterable, the rhythms must be honored or life itself ceases.
Nature is replete with examples of this receiving and giving rhythm, but also has examples of receiving without giving. Without exception these examples are ominous.
The Dead Sea: from the Jordan River receives fresh, clear, mineral rich waters – waters which are filled with life. Yet the Dead Sea, because it has no outlet, poisons itself with those very riches. Located in the depths of the rift, the heat of the sun evaporates the water, and leaves the richness of minerals in such profusion that the lake is capable of supporting no life. To receive without giving is death… to receive and give is to live.
Black holes: these celestial attractors are so powerful that they draw to themselves all that is in their sway – planets, stars, even light itself — but they are lifeless consumers, imploding within themselves and rendering themselves perpetually unsatisfied, because the volume of that which they swallow makes them ever more incapable of giving forth anything.
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To receive without giving is death ... to receive and give is to live.
Our scripture lesson from the Hebrew book of law , Deuteronomy, carries this idea of receiving and giving and its rhythms into the realm of all life. “ See I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him and holding fast to him, for that means life to you …”
It is about following the ways of God, seeking love and justice and giving receiving. It is true that we are blessed by God, guided by God’s commands and by walking in love that we fulfill the commands and ordinances and in that way we have life. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Receiving to give, and giving to receive ... these are the life rhythms of creation. Having emptiness filled, and sharing the fullness which one receives: these are the rhythms of our faith.
Equally could we say, It is about giving and receiving ... blessing and being blessed … giving and receiving ... in endless succession. It is about being emptied out to be filled up again ... blessing to be blessed again ... being emptied out to be filled up over and over again. It is about the rhythm of life that must be honored if life is to be enjoyed by all creation.
There is a story that tells of the way. The writer states
Ballad of o Desert Pete 1
I was travelin’ West of Buckskin on my way to a cattle run, ‘cross a little cactus desert under a hard bargaining sun. Thirsty down to my toenails, I stopped to rest me on a stump, but I tell you I just couldn’t believe it when I saw that water pump.
I took it to be a mirage at first. It’ll fool a thirsty man. Then I saw a note stuck in a bakin’ powder can. This pump is old, the note began, but she works. So give’eri a try. I put a new sucker washer in ‘er. You may find the leather dry.
You’ve got to prime the pump. You must have faith and believe. You’ve got to give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive.
Drink all the water you can hold. Wash your face to your feet. Leave the bottle full for others.Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.
Yeah, you‘ll have to prime the pump, work that handle like there’s a fire. Under the
rock you’ll find some water left there in a bitter’s jar. Now there’s just enough to prime it with, so don’t you go drinkin’ first. Just pour it in and pump like mad and, buddy, you‘ll quench your thirst.
Well, I found the jar, and I tell you, nothin’ was ever prettier to my eye and I was tempted strong to drink it because that pump looked mighty dry, but the note went on, Have faith, my friend,there’s water down below. You’ve got to give to really get. I’m the one who ought to know.
So I poured in the jar and started pumpin’ and I heard a beautiful sound of water bubblin’ ‘n’ splashin’ up out of that hole in the ground. Then I took off my shoes and drunk my fill of that cold refreshin’ treat. Then I thanked the Lord, and I thanked the pump, and I thanked old Desert Pete.
For almost 2000 years people of faith have gathered to worship of God, trusting
God, believing God and you and I have been fed and watered and nurtured by their faith,
their sacrifice, their commitment- their gifts of time, treasure and talents. For several hundred years , people have gathered here for worship. We have drawn from the well and in fact sometimes we have even taken more out than we have given in- We have been blessed so that we might be a blessing! But often we have held tight to the blessings and in so doing missed a greater blessing yet to come.
Life is about giving and receiving, receiving and giving, giving and receiving, ebbing and flowing, flowing and ebbing, being blessed and blessing others... blessing and being blessed. Loving and being loved. Being loved and loving. Serving and being served, being served and serving again.
Everything is of God. All belongs to God yet we have often acted as if it was ours to take, to do, and not replenish. For us who seek to follow Jesus the way is clear. All that occurred before the resurrection was Jesus‘ time of giving to the disciples, to others and to you and to me.. All that comes after the resurrection is to be for us to give to him, to others, to seek peace and justice and for us to live life Jesus’ way.
In the true spiritual life, it is true, we rise by sinking, we live by dying, we conquer by surrendering, we learn by becoming a fool, we get filled by being emptied, we become strong by perfect helplessness, we save by losing, we are made rich by our poverty, we rule over others by being servants to them, we make others rich by having nothing, we shine by giving up our brilliancy, we fight by keeping still, we triumph by being subdued, we promote ourselves by by blessing others, we win a crown by bearing a cross. We are blessed as we bless others. As we choose life and hold fast to God’s commands, life is ours now and for all time.
0 God help us always to be ones who give in your name, trusting your ways. Amen
A sermon shared at Chilmark Community Church, Chilmark, November 13, 2011 by the Rev. David Christensen