Creation Time, Pentecost, Year C
Readings: (Deuteronomy 26:1–11); Psalm 100; Philippians 4:4–9; John 6:25–35
Alice Munro won the Nobel prize for literature this week. Her stories explore the stable and unstable parts of ordinary people, their dreams and fears, often hidden from others, and sometimes from themselves.
Two scientists got the Nobel prize for physics this week for discovering a particle, a boson: Peter Higgs from Scotland and Francois Englert from Belgium. Bosons are named in honour of Satyendra Nath Bose, a quantum physicist from Calcutta, who described their behaviour a hundred years ago. Fifty years ago, Higgs, Englert and four others theorized that there had to be something, something heavy by quantum standards and very hard to detect, that gave other particles mass, a field, an attribute of apparently empty space that is sort of sticky. Last year, at a giant circular particle accelerator right on the French-Swiss border, the Higgs particle showed up. At last. Thank goodness. If it weren’t for this force field, we wouldn’t be here. Nothing would. You’ll be excited to know that the Higgs particle is a boson with no spin, electric charge, or color charge, whatever those things are. It is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately after it is formed in a high energy collision. Something very unstable makes everything else stable, allowing for both solar systems and short stories.
At Thanksgiving it’s good to go back to basics. We’re not just grateful that we got cranberries on sale, or that we found a fantastic new recipe for stuffing, but for our very existence in a large, baffling universe. It is wondrous to think of the age and complexity of the universe. And even more wondrous to think what came before the universe we know, what else exists besides this one, and the fantastic gift of it all. Writers help us recognize and name our gratitude, wonder and every other kind of feeling. Thanksgiving is filled with aromas, sights, tastes—an occasion to go deep into the wonder.
If you’re willing, I’d like you to go on a guided meditation that might help put us in touch with all creation, and lead us into renewed gratitude for daily gifts at this harvest time of year.
This meditation is inspired by the First Nations spirituality of giving thanks. Gratitude was woven into every aspect of First Nations life and faith. Not only at harvest time, but every day, in every small act of hunting or gathering, native people acknowledged and gave thanks to the Creator for each simple gift.
Then, as now, this daily practice of appreciation goes hand in hand with enjoying life. And with being close to God. If we slow down and become fully aware of our daily gifts—not just the feast, but, say, a single apple—we live deeper in God’s grace.
I invite you now into a short meditation on the gifts of Creation. I’ll guide you with my voice through this meditation. If you haven’t done something like this before, please give it a try, and let me know about your experience at the end of our service.
Guided mediation: Enjoying Daily Gifts
First, just relax. . . settling fully into your body. Lay your hands on your lap, and let your shoulders down. . . Close your eyes. . . and allow your attention to gather in your breath… Feel your breath coming in and going out, gently by itself, deep within your body. No force, no strain. . . Simply allow yourself to rest back, and be carried on the gentle rhythm of your breath.
From this calm, centered place, imagine yourself walking into a freshly mowed apple orchard in early spring. Feel a soft, warm wind blowing against your face. As you walk, you find yourself particularly drawn to one old apple tree, standing in the full sunlight, its branches just beginning to wake up from winter with new growth and new leaves.
You settle back against its trunk, where you are held without effort in a place of safety and peace, rooted like the tree to the rich soil beneath you. Feel yourself falling into the orchard’s warm embrace. Breathe holy love deeply into your heart. Draw God’s strength up from the fertile ground below you. Rest here.
As time unfolds, you see buds begin to form on the branches sheltering you, buds that gradually open into a cloud of delicate, white flowers. Hear the bees buzzing between the flowers, dancing in a pulse of life all around you, pollinating each white flower, feeding off the sweet nectar. Listen. Wait.
Summer comes, and the flower petals fall around you in a shower of white. Summer sun and rain swell the flowers’ fertile ovaries into a new shape. See the innermost part grow into a seed core. See the outer wall transform into miraculous molecules, full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, a fruit whose flesh is crisp, juicy, and sweet—expanding with Divine energy.
Feel your heart swell as this apple grows larger before your eyes, day by day. See it ripen in color as well as size, changing from light green to marvelous red. The old tree’s branches begin to bend under the weight of its luscious fruit. Many seasons of growth have led to this one, precious harvest.
Now the air cools, and the fall wind begins to stir your hair. Reach up, and pick just one, sweet apple. Soon many people will enter your quiet orchard to gather its bounty. Imagine their hands gently taking all the apples from the tree’s branches and placing them into crates. Imagine other hands carrying these heavy crates from orchard, to tractor, to truck, to market for other hands to select, taste, and enjoy.
You hold just one sweet apple—a beautiful gift from the orchard’s air, sun, soil, and water; a miraculous gift from an old tree and its friendly bees; a perfect gift from a loving God. Allow your mind to enter into its seed core and feel its energy of new life. Energy in perfect harmony with every one of God’s creations.
Now take a deep breath . . . Begin to bring your awareness back to this room. Become aware of your physical surroundings. Move or stretch as you need to . . . and when you’re ready, open your eyes.
Daily gifts are all around us. They feed us, shelter us, excite us, soothe us. We remember Jesus’ words about bread and hunger and true life. We think of Paul’s affectionate remarks to his friends in Philippi who had treated him so well. “…beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:7-9)
I’ll end with these similar thoughts from an early North American sermon from pioneer times about caring, respect and sharing. We’ll thank God, thank goodness this day, and allow this same spirit to be with us.
Please be gentle with yourself and others.
We are all children of chance,
and none can say why some fields blossom
while others lay brown beneath the harvest sun.
Take hope that your season will come.
Share the joy of those whose season is at hand.
Care for those around you.
Look past your differences.
Their dreams are no less than yours,
their choices in life no more easily made.
Give in any way you can.
Give in every way you can.
Give whatever you possess.
Give from your heart.
To give is to love.
To withhold is to wither.
Care less for the size of your harvest
than for how it is shared,
and your life will have meaning
and your heart will have peace.[Anonymous 17th-Century Sermon]