Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Outdoor Holy Cow

I continue to feel like a shaggy witless beast where worship is concerned. I'm happy out here in the pasture, and not in a church. Previous posts describe where this comes from:

Church of the Great Outdoors

Episcopal Schism? - Gifts of Finest Wheat

Recently I have commented on the blog of a friend who has become something of a pastor to me - her posts seem to be good for me - they get me thinking and praising. Here are two of my comments. Links below are to her posts.

"Children are too bold in their love to be unworthy or humble." I love that line.

That's why sometimes, when I'm the most confused or hurt about something, my prayer takes the form of just standing beside Him and reaching up with my little hand to put it in His. I don't see Him in these prayers, I just put my hand in and try to stand still. I have to do it over and over again, because I'm not good at standing still. But I don't think about whether God is grossed out about all the mud on my legs, the way my clothes haven't been changed and are full of grass stains, the way my little hand is wet and clammy, or the way the other hand's thumb is probably in my mouth. He doesn't care and I'm too busy just needing Him to give it much thought. That's the best I can do much of the time.

Or, to shift to my current metaphor, I'm just munching grass over here in my shaggy coat, rain or shine, trying to take it all in and not fret so much. He doesn't withhold the rain or the sunshine because I'm just a stupid cow or even if I'm a wicked cow. He's just good and I just love being here with Him. And once in a while I hear a voice like yours and it makes me look up and pause in my chewing. It definitely seems to be where I belong at the moment.


(about Isaiah's calling in the Book of Isaiah, where he sees the Lord in the temple, and the angel touches his lips with the burning coal... - for the full text see Isaiah 6, verses 1-8)

This story from Isaiah is possibly my favorite in all of scripture. It reaches me in every sense and is more compelling than nearly everything else. It's some kind of personal message, I think - as if the scriptures were some huge scroll unrolled before all of mankind and we all stand with our noses close to one section, and this is where I'm standing, where I was planted, like a tree.

And I can't help but wonder all sorts of things - hundreds of things - these are just the ones on top right now. (It's like a big jar of cinnamon and sugar I'm shaking up to mix for buttered toast, and different grains and swirls of rich red-brown come up on top with each shake and turn. Here is today's spice.)

1. Is this angel, the one with the tongs, Gabriel? How like God, somehow, to let a being finish a work, like an artist, allowed to see it through. Here annointing (such a strong and strange annointing!) this prophet who would speak the words Gabriel would later invoke when greeting the Virgin. This kind of spiritual mobius is so like God it gives me tingles.
2. What does it mean that the hem of God's robes FILLED the temple? I picture this somehow being about existence - how it's all God's robes. What an incredible garment!
3. And yet God can't be "in" the temple, really - or contained in some way. It's just one of many ways it's obvious that a human can't comprehend what is REALLY going on.
4. Seraphs, fire, coals, smoke... yow! Gorgeous! Scary!
5. Gabriel also tells Zacharias that he "stands before the Lord" - present tense? Always? Like right now while he's talking to Zacharias in what seems to be another place? Like in that vision of Isaiah's? Angels - not temporal or spacial like we are... Everywhere/All-now? Sometimes I think wisdom is the removal of our notions, learning to suspend what we think after we realize it can't be correct. Standing naked of ideas like a little child.

And that last gets to some of your much more difficult thoughts in this post - about stripping away our notions that come from the culture, the nation myth, the idea of rights, our concepts of gender and sexuality and duality and labels... we will never know a hundredth part of the incorrect notions we hold without question. But the act of mentally disrobing, taking off these wrong and harmful ideas, is a walk with grace. You are doing it more directly and fearlessly than many. Maybe this stripping is the only way, since Eden and our "knowledge of good and evil," that we can still walk with God in the cool of the evening. We hide in our notions - ashamed because we are naked. We can't help ourselves. He calls us out to walk with Him - we can do it in the Eucharist, and in countless other ways, but it's harder now than it was.

Some day I hope we can stand before God naked. Shamelessly, comfortably, joyfully human. Purged of our sin as if by a hot coal, to say, "Here I am Lord - send me!"



Some_myrrh said...

I love the cow photo! I was thinking about your most recent comment, how even though you think of yourself as one of a species of a sort of enlightened cattle, your ideas don't bear resemblance to golden calf worship. Perhaps that counts for something?

Steve Emery said...

You could well be right. Holy cows not sacred ones. A cow worshiping instead of worshiping a cow. More to chew on.

Steve Emery said...

He is an oxen at Williamsburg, VA - a big, sweet natured guy named Gage, who weighs almost a ton. He stood patiently with his yoke partner, Emmett, while their owner and master spoke to the crowd about their work and the place of oxen in an American community in the 1700s. When I saw his face I knew him, and I felt I could use his face as a self-portrait of sorts. I'm actually shaggier than he is (my top knot gets in my eyes), and my coat leans a bit more towards red. I've thought about painting my self portrait, and I may yet do that.

An oxen, we were told at Williamsburg, is any beast bred and trained to carry a burden.

That would be all of us, even if most of us don't look like Gage.