Maybe it is because of the warmth of the sun and the generosity of the days that are at the longest they will be all year long. Maybe it is because the sparrow carries on in the good work of building a nest despite my early morning, coffee-in-hand presence on the front porch. Maybe it is because the long afternoon shadows turn a certain oak lined section of the Arboretum into a magnificent sanctuary that not even those great European cathedrals can fully emulate. Who knows what it is, but I am finding myself particularly grateful for these glimpses of beauty. For I am convinced that, if there still is beauty, then there is still hope. And with all that has been going on in the world lately, I could use a little hope.
Summer reading has taken me into the pages of Richard Rohr’s new book on Saint Francis and has reintroduced me to the man who lived his life at the intersection of beauty and hope. Rohr calls Francis a mystic in that Francis “knew that if you can accept that the finite manifests the infinite, and that the physical is the doorway to the spiritual (which is the foundational principal we call “incarnation”), then all you need is right here and right now – in this world. This is the way to that! Heaven includes earth. Time opens you up to the timeless, space opens you up to spacelessness, if you only take them for the clear doorways that they are. There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments – and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence. It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it. You really cannot get any better or more simple than that, in terms of a spiritual vision.” 1
Summer plans and travels may mean that many of us will not venture through the doorways of our church at all this summer. Many of us may not come into the sanctuary of our beloved community again until we do so in September, when we gather again for another Spirit filled program year. But if St. Francis was onto something, which I believe he truly was, then wherever the summer takes us, we can be assured that we will not be bereft of sacred space. For the world is the dwelling place of God and every flash of beauty a divine invitation for encounter.
And so I invite you this summer to keep an eye out and a heart open for the “clear doorways” that are waiting for you. Keep an eye out and a heart open for those moments when you may feel time open to the timeless and space open to the spacelessness. And when you do, will you tell us about it? Will you take a moment to send me an email with permission to share your “clear doorway” moment with our beloved community in an upcoming e-blast?
As a closing note, while we tend to think of St. Francis as one who was particularly attuned to the in-breaking of God through the beauty of creation, Rohr reminds us in his book that St. Francis was also no stranger to all that was broken in the world. St. Francis was no stranger to suffering. As much as he was drawn to the beauty of creation, he too was drawn to the those who were poor, ill, suffering in mind, body or spirit for it was there that he also experienced most profoundly the presence of God. Fully and freely entering into the brokenness of himself and the world, Rohr writes that Francis “lost all fear of suffering; all need for power, prestige, and possessions; and all need for [his] small self to be important, and [he] came out the other side knowing something essential – who [he] really was in God and thus who [he] really was.”
So may our summers be filled with “clear doorways,” be they places of beauty or brokenness, and when we come out the other side, when we regather in the fall, may we do so also knowing something essential about who we really are in God and thus who we really are — and may that bring us hope.
Peace to you ~~~ Pastor Stacy
1 Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. Richard Rohr. (Franciscan Media: Cincinnati, OH. 2014)