Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Sunrise

The sun rose bright orange this Easter morning over a pasture glittering with heavy frost. Myself and one other person were there to watch...unless you count the numberless chorus of birds--cardinals, robins, meadowlarks, mockingbirds shouting jubilant Easter greetings from the trees and fields--and the two Border Collies making the most of this unusual early morning romp in the pasture. They are puzzled by our sitting there, ignoring them...but both of them are known to truly enjoy listening to people singing, and they stop pestering us for attention fairly quickly.

I always feel like I'm cheating by inviting folks to come for the service a mere 20 minutes before sunrise. By then, the day is surprisingly light.

The real magic happens in darkness, a couple hours earlier, when I'm still awake working meditatively on the various logistics and other details of the occasions. I clean the kitchen and prepare the house for guests, knowing that quite possibly no one will show up on such a cold morning, despite the best of intentions. That's ok; the real guest of honor will be Christ, and then, of course, me. I make dough for hot cross buns to pop in the oven as soon as the service is over and we return to the house for breakfast (scrambled eggs with local bacon and fresh green onions, and the hot, light, perfect buns). I review the order of service (silent meditation interspersed with Taize chants and scripture readings). I carry extra chairs and blankets out to the site (a circular area at the junction of several rotational grazing paddocks in the middle of the pasture). The frozen leaves literally break like potato chips as I step on them, walking out to the pasture. As I move about slowly yet constantly, I realize that the cold is really not that awful. Of course, Carhartts influence my experience significantly.

There is a particular moment that I realize I've been hearing the first robin's morning song for several minutes now. There is the first deep orange glow in the eastern sky that I realize isn't the night sky brightness of the phosphorus factory nearby. There is the rooster crowing with a very slightly different cry than his sleepy night-time voice.

One of my preparations is to take the legs off the Weber kettle barbeque grill (rescued last summer from someone's trash pile) to make a safe, portable "fire pit". I place it on a much larger piece of metal, to make sure not to set fire to the dry residue of last year's weeds on the pasture. I lay a fire in it, ready for a match when we return for the actual service. With the temperature somewhere in the high teens or low 20's (at some point you just don't want to know), a "bonfire" is an essential item for sitting out there half an hour.

I realized I hadn't selected scriptures for the service yet, and the one about Peter huddled around the fire in the courtyard, denying Christ 3 times before the rooster crowed, seemed just perfect.

How often we deny--not only Christ or whatever sort of Power-Greater-Than-Ourselves we acknowledge, but other essentials: leaving the door open & thus letting the dog escape; leaving the leaky hydrant on so the pump runs all day; those sorts of things. They are always mysteries that had nothing to do with us.

We deny other essentials: our own courage, dignity, and worth; that of others; our inability to control just about anything outside our own skins; our real, abiding love for someone we're angry at (or hurt enough by) to "hate"; the reality of our inability to "do it all by ourselves". We deny our denial.

The sad thing is, other than this verse of scripture, there usually isn't anyone around to awaken in us the awareness of our denial or tell us what to do with it. We not only deny our own denial, we tend to deny others', and they, ours...or at least politely let it pass. Or, if we mention it, we do so out of meanness...which lets the receiver deny the validity of the criticism.

When we are aware of our denial, then we must accept it. It's hard and humbling to admit that we aren't perfect, that we've had our head in the sand about a lot of things. Humble doesn't get a lot of good press these days...but the farm is teaching me that it's highly underrated. I'm getting much better at humble...pride is so easily bruised, and humble seems infinitely resilient.

Then how do we act on that awareness and acceptance of our denial of things dear to us? Peter went out and wept. Sometimes I need to do that, too...just weep at my inability to do the very things I insisted I could, so, do...the three-year-old in me is alive and well and throwing temper tantrums! At one time, that was the end of sitting there weeping and wringing my hands at my obvious failures in apparently simple tasks. But now something moves me beyond, far beyond, to the next I can ask God for help in doing better the next time, and at the same time understand that what happened this time is part of His work in my life. Sometimes the outcome is clearly God saying, "Yes, I know you wanted ____ but my answer to your prayers is this instead." Sometimes it's not worrying about "What did God have in mind with this?" or "Why would a loving God let THAT happen?" but rather resting secure and confident in the knowledge that whatever I'm going through, God is there with me right in the middle of it.

He will not deny me the way Peter denied Christ.

It's probably in my best interest (ego aside) not to deny Him.

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