I preached at First United Methodist Church in Rockwall, Texas yesterday. After the three services, one of the members asked me if I would like some vegetables from their community garden. He held out a box brimming with onions, red, yellow and white. “I got tired of looking at the big expanse of lawn behind the church that wasn’t doing anybody any good. So now we have a community garden and quite a harvest.”
A good question for our spiritual lives is What are we harvesting each day?
“For lack of attention,” writes the English mystic Evelyn Underhill, “a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.” (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life (New York: Scribner, 1996, 52.)
Macrina Wiederkehr is a Catholic nun, a member of Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. In her book A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary (HarperSanFrancisco: 1990),she uses the metaphor of harvesting crumbs for our spiritual lives. It expresses the habit of looking for the sacred in the ordinary that is what I mean by the phrase “knack for noticing. “
There is a yearning deep in the human heart- so deep it is an ache within. An ache for God! … The ache in our heart needs to be fed… Crumbs are those small things that the world would toss aside, seeing little value in them. However, to the one who lives under the eye of God, they are far from valueless…Everything in life can be nourishing. Everything can bless us, but we’ve got to be there for the blessing to occur. Being present with quality is a decision we are invited to make each day…(Wiederkehr, xii-xiii)
“Due to the reality of our terribly distracted, cluttered, and noisy existence, the decision for real presence is not easy. If we can make this decision and live it, it will be a kind of salvation for us. It can save us from many kinds of death: the death of apathy, ..selfishness..meaninglesness. There is nothing so healing in all the world as real presence. Our real presence can feed the ache for God in others.” (xiii)
Macrina Wiederkehr invites her readers to see the holy in the ordinary, to harvest angels out of the crumbs. She believes we live in a world of theophanies. “Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around us. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.” She says that it’s time to harvest
- a spider web, wearing the morning’s dew
- a mistake, reflected upon and learned from
- reconciliation after a quarrel
- an autumn tree letting go of her leaves
- a spring tree putting leaves on again
- a wound, embraced and understood (xiv)
I’m making French onion soup tonight. What are you going to harvest today?