Three people were searching for the water of life, hoping to drink from it and live forever. The first was a warrior: he reckoned the water of life would be very mighty – a torrent or a rapid – so he went in full armor with all his weapons, believing he could force the water to yield to him.
The second was a sorceress: she reckoned the water of life would be very magical – perhaps a whirlpool or a geyser, something she would need to manipulate with spells – so she went in her long star-spangled robe, hoping to outwit the water.
The third was a trader (like on Wall Street): he reckoned the water of life would be very costly – a fountain of pearl-drops or diamonds, perhaps – so he loaded his clothes and briefcase with money, hoping to be able to buy the water.
When the travelers reached their destination, they found they had all been quite wrong about the water of life. It wasn’t a torrent to be intimidated by force. It wasn’t a whirlpool to be charmed by spells. And it wasn’t a fountain of pearl-drops or diamonds to be bought.
It was a tiny, sparkling spring; its benefits were absolutely free – but of course, you had to kneel to drink from it.
This caused the seekers great anxiety. The warrior couldn’t bend because of his full armour. The sorceress had on a long dress and if it became soiled it would lose its magic. The trader was loaded with money and if he did no more than incline his head, the coins would fall out.
All three of them dressed up, and the three could not lower themselves to drink from the spring of the water of life. There was only one solution!
The warrior laid aside his armor; the sorceress laid aside her magic robe; the trader laid aside the clothes he had stuffed with money. And then each of them – naked – could kneel to drink from the water of life and receive its sweet, cool, startling benefits. (Story by Kate Compston)
We have all witnessed one of the most contentious and divisive elections ever. This past week has been a very difficult one for many people. On November 9th, people in this country woke up either elated or troubled and sad. I would dare say that everyone is glad this is all over. However, some fear of what is to come because of the ugliness of this campaign – the things said, the images used, dangerous ideologies reinforced and given voice. I am one of those who is afraid – in fact I am in pain – but the problem is, that I do not know who else is in pain. I am hoping that the pain is what will eventually bring us together again.
Then right in the midst of the elation and anger and pain and sadness, we hear of wars and insurrections, and told not to be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Jesus tells us that "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” These readings could not have come at a better time! I think the lectionary was rigged!
It so happens that this particular section of Luke’s gospel (21:5-19) rests on four different thoughts and because the Jews regarded time as being in two ages - the present age and the age to come - the day of the Lord was right in the middle. The present age was all about bad and evil and of a time incapable of being cured! It was all about destruction, gloom and doom. The age to come was about the golden age of God and Jewish supremacy. The day of the Lord was that age when the Lord would return and exact punishment on all evildoers.
This present age of ours, is becoming uglier and uglier and it shouldn’t be so. Our nation is probably more divided than ever before. Unfortunately, racism, sexism, and homophobia have all shown their ugly heads. Some people feel we are doomed to fail; on the brink of a great recession and on the precipice of a global war! We are divided racially and economically. Already there have been demonstrations and ugly, ungodly behavior – such as taunting and bullying innocent people – who because of their race, religion, who they love – are victims of the mean, vicious language of this past campaign. It is not right when a child goes to school and is told that he or she is being deported and a wall built. It isn’t right! In place of moving ahead, we have turned back and our present age is in turmoil.
And so I am afraid and in pain! A fear and pain of what I see in our land. I would much rather be admiring the gems adorning the temple rather than facing the real issues or hearing Jesus tell me that nation shall rise against nation and that eventually the temple will fall.
I just want to rush us through this present age of ours so that we can enter into that age to come where "the moon is in the seventh hour, Jupiter aligns with Mars; where we see peace guiding the planets and love steering the stars!" Wouldn’t you? (By the way, I was only 9 years old when I first heard that song by Fifth Dimension)
But this is not the age of Aquarius, is it? This is our present age! This past week I certainly did not see "harmony and understanding; sympathy and trust abounding"!
So while this present age is marred by confusion, ugliness, divisions, could it be that the age to come is just around the corner? Are we going to be okay? Will we survive? Will it only get uglier? Will the divide that separates us only grow wider? Is there really going to be a wall? Unfortunately, the only wall that exists now is the one around the hearts of many, who really have more commonalities with others than differences.
We all ultimately want the same thing: Freedom, peace, human rights. We want to be able to live in our country that many of us believe to be great right now. My former rector – now bishop of Olympia – Greg Rickel, in his statement on the election reminded us of Abraham Lincoln’s last inaugural address in 1861 (While this country was in a civil war). Bishop Rickel reminded us of what President Lincoln said in that address when he quoted: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” The “better angels of our nature.”
Indeed, we can do better! Indeed, we all now need to look deep into our hearts and recognize those “better angels of our nature.” The age to come should focus on two things: reconciliation and stripping away those attitudes that keep us from drinking from the water of life together. We all need to remove the armour, the long dress and the business suit filled with money and come together as one, reconciled human family. We have to shed all of the negative images brought about by the hurtful rhetoric used; we have to approach each other naked! Yes, naked…in order to see beyond our hate, our fears of others, our bigotry, and all that is hurting this country right now – and drink together from the water of life, because after all we want the same things: freedom, human rights, the ability to make a decent wage, equality for all and so forth.
I want to believe that we will get there – but it will be challenging. In the meantime, there is no room for bullying and division! There is no room for building walls or manipulating people’s lives through fear. There is no room for taking people’s rights away or denying the basic human rights for all people!
The horrible things that have been happening after the election is not acceptable! Part of my pain comes from my fear: I am afraid for Doug and me and other couples such as us. I am afraid for transgender people and small kids being bullied on the playground and told that their families are going to be deported or their value is less because they are different. I’m afraid of people’s rights being taken away from them.
I’m afraid of the racism that only seems to be growing stronger and the hateful rhetoric born out of extreme ideologies. I’m afraid and I just don’t know who else is afraid, but I suspect that it’s vastly more people than those who didn’t get their candidate elected.
We have to approach each other naked of our egos, pride, hatred, suspicions of those we don’t know – so that we can see the “Better angels of our nature.” They are there! They are there!
The age to come needs to involve everyone collectively. It has to happen on all sides – not just a few – EVERYONE who lives in this country: whether middle America, the deep south, the east or west coast! The age to come needs to show the world, the “Better angels of our nature.”
I end on this short story – and I have shared it before – but you are going to hear it again.
A rabbi once asked his students how they could tell when night had ended and day was on its way back.
“Is it when you can see an animal in the distance, and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?”
“No,” answered the rabbi.
“Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance, and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?”
“Well then,” the students demanded, “when is it?”
“It is when you look on the face of another human being, and see that he or she is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot do that, then no matter what time it is, it is still night.”
Perhaps that is what we all need to do? To put aside our anger, our fear, our bias and egos and approach each other naked and free of all that hinders us, in full light – recognizing the better angels in the true nature of each other.
May it be so.