Holy Spirit, Vashon, The Rev. Evan G Clendenin, January 8, 2023
I went for several walks around the land where my parents live this past week. Among this things I noticed was how slowly things seems to change in the forest. Yes, there are definitely some trees that my dad, or I, mostly my dad, had planted which are 4 times the size they once were. But the red maples still look like they did ten years ago. The deer still seem to follow usual deer thoroughfares. The bee trees are maybe a little more rotted out. The scars from where skid trails cut deeply into the wet earth during some poorly done logging are still scars, without much new growth. But I felt okay with this all in a way that other times I wouldn’t have. Let things be I heard. Let things be…well, wouldn’t it be a great project to get all this relict fencing and wire removed…or really fun to reforest that field…okay, sure… but let things be, mostly let things be. What does this land need, want? What beauty and blessing of God is already here, that you might miss if you are set on changing it, in this present moment? Up pipes the raven, the pileated woodpecker.
Letting things be is not the way of be-ing that is caught or taught in much of American life. Speaking in general terms, we taught to take charge, show leadership, to make our voice heard, to man up, and to resist. Well at least if you watch fox news, msnbc or I-5 bumper stickers, that’s what the data would indicate. Episcopalians, Lutherans, mainline xty, we tend to be part of this culture of activ-ism, of being, as the saying goes, ‘change agents.’ Now there may be other pockets religiously, culturally, that practice a different way of working and be-ing. I’d like to learn about and from them. I’ve been more in contact in my life with quakers and anabaptists. Not to idealize them, but something I appreciate in them, and see in the scripture today, is what in German would be called gelassenheit. ‘Submission’, or ‘yielding’, or ‘letting things be.’ I’m not in charge, we’re not in charge. Let things be. Put down your arms, your defenses. Wait and see what way opens before you. Leave the dead tree for the woodpecker. Don’t break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. Don’t be so ready to make your voice heard in the street, courageously and quietly take the path, at times, of least resistance. Let things be. See what God is doing to bring about life and peace, shalom, fullness of being. Take your cues from what God is already doing. They you will see the way the water runs. Then you can find the harmonies in your mixed-up set of intentions with the clarifying purpose of God. Then you can set a course, and you will have faith and trust to press on when challenges do arise, when the situation really does call for resistance, or defense, or potent shout in public.
The root is in letting things be. And this attitude we see in Jesus. If a church says it wants to follow the way of Jesus the Anointed one, then we do well to take upon us his easy yoke and light burden, and let things be. We can see this in the memory of his baptism by his cousin John. Jesus approaches John, along with all the others, for this ritual, this simple act of entering the water, and coming out new. Like all these other human beings longing for something, they know not quite what, something like purification, simplification, light, life, integrity, forgiveness, peace, surrender, like all these other human beings who place themselves into the arms of another to be dipped down into water flowing along with such power in its course, Jesus places himself in John’s arms. John is flummoxed, how could that be. Jesus says it is right that I should do this to fulfill the way of all righteousness. I’m one of you after all, longing for something, someone. So let me fall into your arms, and I’ll let you fall into mine, fall into this water that will teach us how to let things be as God made them.
So for each of us, and for this congregation, I pray that this attitude we see in Jesus might shape how we look for the course before us. Let things be, really look, and to borrow a phrase I learned years ago, look for where the way opens. I encourage you as a congregation to cultivate this attitude as you emerge from the years of greater covid risk and venture out more in mission. What is God already doing, planting, blessing, in and among and around you? Seeing this, you can release what you have held onto but is no more, and what is, you can let