Saturday, October 01, 2011
A funeral sermon from last week.
Earlier this week I sat with ----- and ----- looking at pictures they had of various times in ---- ----- life. you’ll see some of them later in the hall: pictures, as a girl and a women, young, aging, older; as a girl, a bride, a mother, with family and friends, here and ‘round Victoria, around the world, enjoyment, exploration, tasting life. There was one picture that really touched me, I think taken in Queensland. She is reaching out, standing on a narrow platform above a large pool, reaching out with a fish in her hand, as a large dolphin rises to take the fish from her. She looked both scared and delighted, willing to risk a little, to explore, to stretch out to meet something new. And it takes a certain kind of faith and style to do that kind of stretch - plus some nerve and more than a little faith and trust: that you won’t fall in, get knocked off balanced, and even if you do, you will live through it.
And that reminded me of two moments in my own life, one a bit of a shock, the second, a wonderful breakthrough. The first was when I was a teenager and my own mother arranged a family gathering to see world on the shores of San Francisco Bay we went to see the performing fish, dolphins and whales, and my mother was happy to see that there were seats available in the first second and third rows facing the water. She led us down there quickly, and I wondered why, in a busy arena so full of people, those rows were conspicuously empty.
The show was good: with seals and porpoises, magnificent mammals, rushing around in circles, jumping out of the water to fly through hoops of fire, leaping to catch balls and batons and delighted to catch the fish thrown out to them as rewards for their actions. Then a whale came out, circled the pool three times, moved to the center, leapt up higher than you could believe, and came back with a thundering sound and a great wave came up and soaked us and the first three rows of seats with salt water and it was wonderful!
Because it reminded me of something I had forgotten until that day and have always remembered since. When my mother and father and older brother and I took a summer vacation Sacramento to Carmel, California. I was about eight or nine years old, loves the water, loved diving off a little diving board, maybe 3 feet above the water, at the tennis club where we swim every summer, and I was excited to see that we were going to swim a larger pool on the edge of the ocean with a great big dying board. Just like I had seen on television, just like I had always wanted to try.
Except when I started climbing the ladder and realizing that I was going higher and higher than I had ever gone before and the board was narrow and the water seemed far below and the wind was coming on the ocean and I would’ve turned around if I had been able to accept there were other kids on the ladder and my big brother was watching too. So I didn’t turn around that good morning but I took a deep breath and went forward with a big jump and bounced higher than I ever had and went farther and hit the water with a bang and it tasted of salt and I went deep and touched the bottom and rose up and took a breath and life was bigger than it ever had been before. You couldn’t get me off the diving board for the rest of our stay in Carmel.
If the church makes sense, it does by providing food, for the mind, for the body, for the soul, for that risky journey, that tall climb, the reaching out, the jumping off, into new dimensions, into new ways of living, into something you can’t believe, can only dive into, by a blind leap of faith.
“in my father’s house there are many rooms... I am the way the truth and the life... love never fails... For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
---- ----- was part of this church, she was sprinkled in the water in baptism, she was renewed in prayer and worship and community, and every week Fr. ----- took her the meal that faithful people share, and she would reach out for the Eucharist, bread of heaven, cup of salvation, food for solace, food for community. A meal made for faithful traveling. And now she’s made the jump, and now she knows, even as she is known, and for this, the journey and the arriving, we give thanks.