The gospel is John 15 - the Vine and the Branches. I'm seeing images of how we are connected through our relationships in the One who is Incarnate Love.
The psalm is the 23rd - King James Version, of course - which has influenced a great deal of the music we've chosen.
The first reading is taken from Learning To Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. It was one of the last books Gail was reading and she talked about it with me at great length.
When I picked up her book to look through it, she had underscored this particular passage, so we felt it important to include.
I am haunted by it and the memory of our conversations about courage and hope. Here it is. Tell me what strikes you about it. And, thanks for your prayers.
There’s a well-known Zen parable about the man who was crossing a field when he saw a tiger charging at him. The man ran, but the tiger gained on him, chasing him toward the edge of a cliff. When he reached the edge, the man had no choice but to leap. He had one chance to save himself: a scrubby branch growing out of the side of the cliff about halfway down. He grabbed the branch and hung on. Looking down, what did he see on the ground below? Another tiger.
Then the man saw that a few feet off to his left a small plant grew out of the cliff, and from it there hung one ripe strawberry. Letting go with one hand he found that he could stretch his arm out just far enough to pluck the berry with is fingertips and bring it to his lips.
How sweet it tasted!
I suppose I could stop here and wrap this all up with a neat moral . . . but . . . I’m writing . . .to say that life is not a problem to be solved. . . .at it’s deepest levels life is not a problem but a mystery.
. . .And, what does a mystery ask of us? Only that we be in its presence, that we fully, consciously, hand ourselves over.
That is all, and that is everything. We can participate in mystery only by letting go of solutions. This letting go is the first lesson of falling, and the hardest.
I offer my stories not as illustrations of a problem but as entrances into the mystery of falling.
* If spiritual growth is what you seek, don’t ask for more strawberries, ask for more tigers.
* The threat of tigers, the leap from the cliff, are what give the strawberries its savor. They cannot be avoided, and the strawberry can’t be enjoyed without them. No tigers, no sweetness.
* In falling we somehow gain what means most. In falling we are given back our lives even as we lose them.