It has been the recent death of Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary that has caused me to reflect on the impact that music from this time has had on my life. I have reflected on how the lyrics of many of the folk songs of the days when PPM were at the top of the charts played a key role in helping me develop my theology of a compassionate God who desires justice for all. The questions that were asked as they sang Blowin in the Wind were the questions I passionately asked myself.
Of course this was also a time when it was acceptable to incorporate statements of Christian faith in music. On their albums they offered songs such as Kumbaya and Jesus Met the Woman at the Well. As they continued singing and writing into 1986 the song “No Easy Walk to Freedom” was released. This song reminded us that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela did not take an easy road but walked a journey with faith and belief in freedom understanding that there is…No easy walk to freedom, No easy walk to freedom,Keep on walkin and we shall be free .
That’s how we’re gonna make history
I have had the pleasure recently of being introduced to a singer by the name of Carrie Newcomer. Carrie songs are simple lyrics and music in a mid-western folk style. Her music reflects a Quaker theology of life and speaks deeply to my soul and my relationship with God. She sings of life experiences in a deeply spiritual way.
I often chuckle when I listen to her song simply titled ‘Silver” in which she sings of a part of lifes’ journey
“Will you love me when I go Silver will you love me if I babble, let me win some times at Scrabble will you love me if I drive below posted speeds will you wake me up if I fall asleep in church
There is no way of knowing but I will promise you once again
I will be with you and we’ll be the best of friends”
For Carrie, each day is a holy day, as she sings, “holy as a day is spent holy is the dish and drain the soap and sink, the cup and plate holy is the busy street, and the check out girl counting change, and the hands that shook my hands today. Flooding sheets, like folding hands, to pray as only laundry can I’m letting go of all my fears, for summer came and summer went
as holy as a day is spent Redemption every where I look, in the shade of unexpected grace as holy as a day is spent.
I suspect most of us here today can go back in our mind to music
which played an important part in our life journey.
Just as we have these cultural icons that we remember from our past which helped shape who we are today, so the church has icons that are remembered and today we remember such a person in St Francis of Assisi. As I was doing research on the life of St. Francis it came to me that in many ways we have done this Saint a disservice. When we primarily remember Francis for his love of animals. The reality is that his theology and love was for all creation to be valued and worthy of God’s love.
There is a story in his legend of how when he first began to feel
a call from God to solitude and prayer he met a leper on the streets and though at first repulsed by this person he was soon drawn to compassion and went to the leper and embraced him
and gave him all his money.
Francis was a true steward of all of God’s creation. He used his money to help the poor, and he truly embraced the scripture directive when Jesus tells the rich man to give away all his possessions and follow him and his ways.
Another of the greatest gifts that Francis gave to the church
and to the world was the bringing together of monks to form the
Order of St. F. Today, along with the Order of the Sisters of St. Clare
of Assisi, the OSF still continues to reflect the original passion
of St. F caring for the poor and the needy. This is what the Catholic Conservation Centre says of St. Francis, “Francis called for simplicity of life, poverty, and humility before God. He worked to care for the poor, and one of his first actions after his conversion was to care for lepers. Thousands were drawn to his sincerity, piety, and joy. In all his actions, Francis sought to follow fully and literally the way of life demonstrated by Christ in the Gospels. His respect and appreciation for creation was so profound because it always led him to the Creator. Though never ordained, Francis’ impact on religious life since his times has been enormous. Probably no saint has affected so many in so many different ways as the gentle Saint of Assisi who, born to wealth, devoted his life to poverty, concern for the poor and the sick, and so delighted in God’s works as revealed in nature.”
As I learned more about Francis, I could not help but think of those around us today who reflect a similar compassion for all of God’s creation. I found myself being drawn to the likes of Jean Vanier who developed the l’arche Society which Trudi and a few others in our parish work closely with. I think of the writings of Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr. Closer to home I am reminded of the work of Judy Graves and Matthew Johnson working in Vancouver with the homeless on the Downtown Eastside. I think of the community that is served by the work of the Union Gospel Mission and Covenant House. In our local community the work of the Hope for Freedom Society especially focused for us in the Cold Wet Weather Mat program.
The reading from Job this morning speaks of a conflict which exists in each of us. Perhaps not on a daily basis, although I will admit it does in me. For we live in the conflict of a culture that is shaped by a sense of entitlement not responsibility for God’s gifts in creation and our lives. The conflict of living in a world of contradictions where few have much and many have little.
This wrestling with these contradictions has been in the forefront of my mind as of late.
I have found myself being invited into sacred moments with people who are struggling with issues in their personal lives. Often the discussions at work are with younger parents who want to make a good home for their children, they are conflicted with what society is telling them that they need to live a happy life. I had the privilege of listening to Mike Yankoski about how he lived homeless for six months. His book Under the Overpass, challenges our cultural and Christian norms about how we respond to people in need
Sometimes it is illness that calls us up short and causes us to look at the question of good and evil. We live in a culture which says unconditionally, if you do this, this and this everything will be perfect in your life. Yet, when this, this and this doesn’t work
it can be a real shock to find out that one is truly human and vulnerable after all, yet still filled with God’s grace.
I believe that St. Francis too struggled with this conflict between good and evil. He struggled because he grew up in a home environment of entitlement and abundance with inequalities all around him
This is the time of year when we are reminded of the homeless around us that will be in need of warm dry shelter and food. This is the time of year when we are reminded that all we have is God’s and we give of ourselves to God in time, talent, and treasure.
This is the time of year when our thoughts will begin to turn to Christmas. A time when need to remember that it is not what we receive but what we give of ourselves to others
that makes our life in Christ full and rich.
The reading this morning from Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.
I believe Francis is a reflection of God’s glory and is truly a brother of Christ.
So we too, are to strive to be a reflection of God’s glory and to truly be brothers and sisters of Christ As St. Francis was mindful, we too remember that all of God’s creation is to be blessed.
I finish with these words of Carrie Newcomer
Holy is the place I stand
To give whatever small good I can
The empty page, the open book
Redemption everywhere I look
Unknowingly we slow our pace
In the shade of unexpected grace
With grateful smiles and sad lament
As holy as a day is spent