We started the sermon series Rise Up this past weekend, and certainly the song by Andra Day is a grounding piece of that. I hope you’ll tap into the Youtube video that heads the blog and listen as she talks about what the song is about for her in writing and performing it. As great as she is, I would also encourage you to listen to our own Newell Bowman, who did it as a cover live at 9:15 and 10:45 services last weekend– you’ll find it at the end of the sermon on our website. I think you don’t have to listen to the sermon to get to the song, but…
There’s something about Andra Day and the song and Newell’s voice and the song and the season of Lent and the song. Maybe it’s because this season is the most down to earth *snort* (you know, the whole “from dust you have come and to dust you shall return”). That earthiness is really about the risk of taking the masks off and being reminded that perfection in the eyes of the world or our peers or some physical standard of beauty is not what our creative God was or is really all about with us. In fact, trying to hold ourselves to some external standard is often a hiding place that keeps us from having to risk what a deeper purpose or meaning might look like in our lives. Think about it this way: if we weren’t using the energy we use to convince ourselves about being thinner or younger or older or taller or smaller or smarter or wiser or more focused or more relevant or more accomplished or… what might we use that time and energy to do or to be?
Andra Day says at the beginning of the video that we are all brothers and sisters and that we are really one body working together and that one piece is not better than another and that if you are struggling I will lift you up… Finally, I’ll “rise up” for you. Hmmm, I’m not certain she would say this or even make this connection, but to this disciple of Jesus, that sounds a whole lot like how we seek to be in community as people of faith. And it may even sound a whole lot like the Jesus we follow. Which may mean we Jesus followers don’t have an exclusive hold on the idea that working together as one body and lifting each other up in the times of struggle and believing that “rising up” as Jesus did for us is both a miracle and a calling, a spirit that moves in and beyond our specific understanding.
Our Lenten study this year is a book called “Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution” by Diana Butler Bass. Much of this writing intertwines our spiritual nature as created by God with the natural environment, also created by God, much of which we take for granted. It’s intriguing to reflect on the invitation to experience God’s presence in more areas of life and the world than we might have imagined. We started our class right off with an invitation to risk vulnerability.
It’s a worthy question for all of us, perhaps most particularly during this season of our faith: What grounds us? When life gets complex and chaotic and the ground beneath our feet personally, professionally, politically and maybe even spiritually feels less than steady, what grounds us? Is it a place, a person, a memory, an activity, a book, a way of being, a choice? Is it wiggling your toes in sand, digging your hands in dirt to plant vegetables? Is it sitting by a stream or a lake, or staying up looking at the constellations and the seeming infinity of the night sky? Is it getting lost in a conversation that moves you beyond the limits of the todays toward the possibilities of all the tomorrows? More than likely it’s a combination of things and it looks different at different times. It may do us, and the world around us, well to acknowledge and name what grounds us and spend some time there, most particularly during this time of year.
In order to rise up, we need solid ground on which to stand, I think. To rise up as one body, we must see what makes us more alike than different. To rise up for the sake of another, we need a strength that comes from a commitment to love. To rise up through hate and destruction we need a courage that sometimes we don’t just stand there, we do something, AND, sometimes we don’t just do something, we stand there. To rise up for a future filled with hope, we need the depth that comes in “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (Romans 5:3-4, NRSV).
It’s an earthy time of year, a time to reconnect with the ground beneath our feet, to get grounded (no dad, not like in high school) *snort* but to connect with what steadies and strengthens us for the days we live and the days we live toward. And from that grounding perhaps we rise up for one another, for the world, maybe even for ourselves and as Andra and Newell would sing: “And we can moooooooooooove mountains…”