The church gives us two tracks of study during Ordinary Time, to help congregations experience together the Biblical narrative of our common story.This year we read the David cycle. (By the way, I’ve enjoyed and recommend the first season of NBC’s Kingswhich I watch on hulu.com: a modern telling of the story of David, Saul, Samuel, Jonathan, and Michel.) But in personal devotion and preparation for Sunday I love to pray the alternate texts chosen to flesh out the Gospel reading, and I'll be referencing these on the website this summer.
This week the "stilling of the storm" on the sea of Galilee is juxtaposed with the beginning of Job 38: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?.. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and door, and said, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed"?
The writer of Job 38-41 puts human beings in their place.For ten verses God compares humans unfavorably with the hippo wallowing in the covert of the reeds under the lotus plants. (39:15-24) The glory of the human being is somewhat lower than the crocodile’s goodly frame, coat of mail, terrible teeth, his sneezings, his breath, his underparts. A full chapter (41:1-34) devotes a humorous cartoon-like sarcasm to a picture of human weapons and affairs against the majestic reptile.
The collection of meditation prompts this week evoke the humily humans experience in the presence of nature.
healed ere we are aware
No amount of word-making will ever make a single soul to know these mountains.As well seek to warm the naked and frost bitten by lectures on caloric and pictures of flame.One day’s exposure to mountains is better than carloads of books.See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographer’s plates.No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.All that is required is exposure, and purity of material.The pure in heart shall see God! …Come to the woods, for here is rest. … The galling harness of civilization drops off, and we are healed ere we are aware. –John Muir
But if you wish to know how these things come about,
ask grace not instruction,
desire not understanding,
the groaning of prayer not diligent reading,
the Spouse not the teacher,
God not man,
darkness not clarity,
not light but the fire
that totally inflames and carries us into God
by ecstatic unctions and burning affections. – Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey Into God
The goal is not to read a book; the goal is to read the story taking place all around us.
-Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme
When the Morning Stars Sang Together, William Blake, 1820
Collect for Proper 7
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus stills the storm, Gospel Book of Echternach, 11th century miniature
nor can foot feel, being shod
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed.Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur
Creation of Animals, Master Bertram, 1383
Originating power brought forth a universe.All the energy that would ever exist in the entire course of time erupted as a single quantum – a singular gift – existence.If in the future, stars would blaze and lizards would blink in their light, these actions would be powered by the same numinous energy that flared forth at the dawn of time.
There was no place in the universe that was separate from the originating power of the universe.Each thing of the universe had its very roots in this realm.Even space-time itself was a tossing, churning, foaming out of the originating reality, instant by instant.Each of the sextillion particles that foamed into existence had its root in this quantum vacuum, this originating reality.
The birth of the universe was not an event in time.Time begins simultaneously with the birth of existence.The realm or power that brings forth the universe is not itself an event in time, nor a position in space, but is rather the very matrix out of which the conditions arise that enable temporal events to occur in space.Though the originating power gave birth to the universe fifteen billion years ago, this realm of power is not simply located there at that point of time, but is rather a condition of every moment of the universe, past, present, and to come.
– Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, The Universe Story
The Last Word
Thou mastering me
God! Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland (first verse)