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Seeing, Believing, Living

Seeing, Believing, Living-John 20: 19 & 24-31

April 19, 2020-2nd Sunday of Easter

I think Heather and I have been like most people in the last few weeks, alternately cursing and giving thanks for technology.  Tuesday mornings are a time of gratitude for us as we host our weekly Parkminster Connects ZOOM gatherings. We usually start with a reading and some questions to get the conversation flowing.  This week we asked, “When it all feels like too much, where do you retreat for renewal?” A common response invoked the power of nature and how the constancy of the seasons is a comfort in uncertain times, the healing power of fresh air and a walk.  The late Roman Catholic priest and environmentalist Father Thomas Berry was someone well acquainted with this kind of relationship with nature. He shares an experience that he says helped him understand the sacred forces at work in creation,   

When I was about ten years old I saw a meadow and I saw it first in spring time — in early May. How wonderful this is to live in the universe where there’s a sun in the heavens; where there’s so many wonderful creatures of Earth; where the song of the birds and the butterflies and the cicada in the evening.  What is all this? Obviously, it’s not a collection of objects to be used. Obviously, it’s a world to be venerated…A good economy is what makes that meadow survive. Good politics protects that meadow. A good religion is what enabled me to understand the deep mystery in the meadow.”

On this Sunday before Earth day on Wednesday, I wonder if this pandemic will help us to see these truths more clearly.  I wonder if the clear waters of Venice, a smog free Los Angeles, previously unseen visions of the Himalayas from Indian cities will help us to see the terrible price we and the earth have been paying for our fossil fuel dependent, consumerist lifestyles.  If we needed to see in order to believe well now there’s no excuse.

That was Jesus’ message to Thomas, if you needed to see in order to believe well now you have no excuse.  Touch my wounds, he says. It’s in the revealing of the wounds that Jesus is known and Thomas responds the only way he can, in humility and faith; “My Lord and My God.” It is the most powerful and complete confession of Jesus’ divine nature anywhere in John’s Gospel.  

Maybe we’d gotten so used to the earth’s woundedness that we simply didn’t see it anymore, the smog and the dirty water.  The effects of the climate crisis were getting harder to ignore but many were trying. But the pandemic by virtue of revealing the way the earth heals when we pause our activity has exposed our complicity as a human species in a death promoting economy.  

But, this does not depress me.  It is a source of hope that now that we’ve seen with our own eyes both the wounds of the earth and the healing of those wounds we might live differently, we might seek ways that allow us to live in harmony with creation.  It won’t be easy. A recent article sought to warn us about what is to come from the forces that shortsightedly benefit from the previous state of affairs.  

Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again….In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it…The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong…I urge you to be well aware of what is coming…What happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound…At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped…And because it is rarer than rare, it has brought to light all of the beautiful and painful truths of how we live… (There will be an) all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake….But you did. You are not crazy, my friends…From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the (bs) and to only bring back…what makes our lives richer…

This brings me back to our faith story and the bit that John adds at the end of the exchange between Jesus and Thomas, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  The purpose of seeing and believing, the purpose of coming face to face with truth in matters of faith, economy, ecology, justice or otherwise is to live more fully, more completely. What Jesus shows us above all else is that the fullness of life comes to us in right relationship with the Holy Mystery, with ourselves, with each other, with creation. Which is all the same thing, for the basis of living in right relationship is to acknowledge and live with the understanding of our interconnectedness.  If this pandemic has made anything plain it is that.  

Now we know, now there is no excuse.  We see clearly and honestly what we’re doing and have done to our planet but we also see even more clearly what God is doing in our midst.  The tomb has been opened, he lives, we have touched the wounds and experienced the healing, new life awaits.