November 13, 2021
Dear friends in Christ,
A few weeks ago I went down to the Cape with my family. The house we rented was right on the bay, and I was fascinated to sit on the deck and watch the change of tides. At high tide, pictured left, the water was dark, and full of movement, waves, and occasional white caps. The beach narrowed to only a path for walking. But at low tide, pictured right, the waters receded, not quite to the horizon, but far enough back that I could no longer hear the waves. Walking out on the sand, I was reminded of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Was this what it looked like? The bottom of the seabed was revealed in its strange beauty. Not flat, but marked by channels of slow, shallow water between the bars of sand. The briny scent of seaweed and fish filled the quiet air as I trod out into the middle of what was only hours before, the deep sea!
I was moved to realize that this “low tide” hidden landscape is here all the time underneath the crashing waves of the nor’easter that blew through midweek; covered twice a day by the return of the high tide, day in, day out, there is this hidden reality underneath, and we occasionally get glimpses of it, and sometimes even get the chance to walk around in it and on it as I did that day, exploring the mystery.
I have thought a lot about “what is underneath,” what is revealed that we do not usually see. What happens to us when we have the opportunity to see the ground underneath our usual reality? This Sunday’s Gospel from Mark is about this “revealing” or “apocalyptic.” Jesus responds to the disciples’ enthusiasm for the “great stones of the temple”, by telling them that the temple will be destroyed. The things we cling to, believing them to be sturdy and salvific, are not the things in which true salvation lies. He reminds us that all the things we see; war, death, pandemic, division, famine--all these things we know to be true in our world are but “birth pangs” for the true reality, the “below the surface” reality of God’s Kingdom. We have a promise from God that true reality is based in love and mercy; that Christ has overcome death once and for all. This landscape underneath our daily pains and worries is always there. How do we catch a glimpse of that, as I did in the low tide at Eastham? When the tide is high and the waters are deep and we feel that we are drowning; how do we trust that the true contours of our lives are in God’s hands?
In the past almost two years, due to the pandemic, many things about our human lives and foibles have been revealed; perhaps not for the first time, but with the clarity of a sea storm. The pervasiveness of racism and inequity, our culture of punishment rather than restoration for those in prison; fear of those we perceive as “other”, fear of facing the real stories people have about our history as a country and as a church; the emergency of the climate in our world. These are difficult and often divisive topics, but when the issues are revealed, the curtains pulled back, we see real challenges lying like broken shells on the sand in low tide. We also see the hope for some quiet, salty air; a chance to listen well, to look for new contours, to walk out farther than we have walked before onto those sands; seeing a new vision of love and mercy, community and justice.
The readings for tomorrow, and the upcoming readings in Advent beginning on Nov. 28 all have this apocalyptic tone. Mark and Luke invite each of us to look for ways to see underneath and beyond what is right in front of us; to perceive with God’s help, the contours of love and hope and mercy at work in God’s promise.
May it be so!