It all happened before I got there --while I was still out at the cemetery with the other burial. There would be no undoing it without making a scene.
And, I was not surprised when at the funeral the invited "speakers" got up and spoke conversion speeches and testimonials. Frantic readings from the bible. It went on for more than an hour... and we hadn't even yet closed the coffin --which is the apex of the funeral at most protestant funerals here.
So, when we closed the coffin, and then I read from the gospel and began to speak, I felt the stirring and confusion in the congregation... --what, we weren't done? I spoke... about the Tradition beyond scripture --of the outward and visible signs --about lighting the sacred fire after days of no fires, no food --of water --of sharing bread and wine, gifts of the earth and the cosmic Christ who holds all things in being --of not praying TO Christ but THROUGH Christ --of 400 years of Christian worship and life before the "bible" came to be.
Earth. Fire. Water. And Christ, and Christ alone is the Word of God... not scripture (which until the most recent prayer book, always had just a small-case 'w')... and that Word lives and breathes and dwells among us. There is no 'God out there' --God is with us. Among us.
Christ is that Word. That breath of God.
Earth. Fire. Water. Air.
--and that the elder we were going to bury was hid with Christ in God. Among us.
Afterwards, as we were eating, one of the kids came running up to me. 'Do you remember me?' she asked, tilting her head, her eyes watching some distant prize beyond me. 'Of course I remember you,' I said. And then she began with her questions. Do the animals really speak Lakota? Would I teach her to sing in Lakota? Did I know that God was going to judge us and send us to heaven or hell?
I knew her mother... so, I said, yes, the animals really do speak Lakota. And we went in the church and sat down. I pulled out a hymnal and began to sing 'Silent Night' in Lakota. Her eyes got really big. I helped her sing it. And then I told her that all the animals speak on Christmas Eve --right out loud while we are at church or after we had gone to bed. It was because they were there to see Jesus born --they were the first creatures to know him. I loved telling her that. She swallowed it whole.
To top it off, I asked her if God was every where. She said yes, of course. 'So,' I said, 'You say there is absolutely no place, ever, at all, that is without God?' She nodded, strenuously. 'Do you know what that means?' I asked. She looked at me... she was ready to grab whatever answer I gave. 'It means that if God is every where, God is even in hell... and that even in hell, God will be with us and help us out. So, don't worry about hell any more.'
She looked at me... and I could see a whole new horizon opening inside her.
Later, at the graveside, I spoke with the mother. I told her what I had said. She was thrilled. Delighted. 'At last,' she said. 'At last we have a response. I keep telling her that faith is like a flower, not like a scary nightmare. Will you baptize her, next Easter?'
'Of course,' I said. Of course.
At prayer this morning (From Isaiah 10)
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth,
so as not to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain?
For all this his anger has not turned away;
his hand is stretched out still.
Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood, by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)
God chose to be our mother in all things *In living flesh and blood. Because we cannot love something that is not flesh and blood --any more than God can be absent from any where or any place...
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother’s care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.
(Is it alright to say I hate fundamentalism... ?)
Off I go.