Verse – How and Why?

Some say “God has a
plan for you.” But I say,
“There is no plan. There is
no meaning we find;
only the meaning we make.”

But how do 12 Bald Eagles circle
overhead during simultaneous
memorial services for the slain
children of Red Lake – six over
Red Lake; six over Saint Paul?

Why does the Egret wading in
the pond suddenly stop its fishing
and fly across to the window on
the other side where a mother
grieves her daughter’s death?

Are you and I the only makers
of meaning or is there Another
outside or inside of nature,
a Meaning-Maker inside, between
and among everything that is?

– Gordon C. Stewart, November 22, 2014

 

 

 

Reading my own obituary!

It’s startling when you see your own name on the obituary page!

But there it is, right there, posted on the internet.

Published in the The Argus on 10 May 13

STEWART Gordon On 3rd May 2013, Gordon aged 86 years. Resident of Sussex Heights sadly missed by family and friends. Funeral Service at Hove Cemetery on Wednesday, 22nd May at 10.00 a.m. (Graveside service) Flowers or if desired donations for the Martlets Hospice may be sent to S.E Skinner and Sons, 145 Lewes Road, Brighton, BN2 3LG Tel. 01273 607446.

Condolences to the family of the older Gordon in Sussex Heights this Wednesday. Some day it will be this Gordon Stewart…with the middle initial ‘C’ on the obituary page, but I won’t be reading it. For Gordon’s family and for all who will eventually stands at the grave, this lovely graveside prayer from The Book of Common Prayer offers consolation and call us to live our days with meaning, thanksgiving, and hope:

O Lord, support us all the day long
until the shadows lengthen, and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.

Then, in Your mercy, grant us a safe lodging
and peace at the last.

The Blue Bomb and the Fire Bombs

The ’40 Ford convertible

Ron and Mr. Cool in the Blue Bomb

Was a bomb,“The BLUE bomb,”

We called it.

Meant for cruising

With the guys,

Ron at the helm,

Mr. Cool beside.

She purred like a kitten

Except when she’d

Claw and hiss with

Cranky old age.

“Get out and push!

She’ll start if we roll her

Down the hill

And pop the clutch!”

The Blue Bomb was

before the Fire Bombs

That would soon drop…

On Vietnam.

Ron and I were best friends from the time we played for the “Big A’s” in Little League. Ron was a pitcher; I was his catcher. In high school Ron dreamed of being an astronaut. As an Air Force pilot he flew 200 bombing missions over North Vietnam while Mr. Cool was in the streets back home protesting the napalm fire bombs killing peasants and destroying peasant villages in Vietnam.

Back in the States, returning Vietnam veterans began to enroll at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where I served as a campus minister. At the anti-war rallies the veterans were seen as serial killers, the enemy. They were persona non grata, the new lepers, shunned and hated. “Leper, go home!”

The phone rang at 2:00 a.m. It was the bartender from the campus pub just up the street. “I have a guy here who’s hysterical. He can’t stop crying. He says he hasn’t slept in three weeks. I’m afraid he’s having a breakdown. I have to close the bar; I don’t know what to do. Can I bring him by the house?”

The inconsolable man at the bar was a Vietnam War veteran who’d been part of the My Lai Massacre. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was sitting in our living room. “No, it is impossible. It is impossible to convey the life-situation of any given epoch of one’s existence – that which makes its truth, its meaning – it’s subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream…alone….”  The sleepless vet was dreaming of what he had lived – alone and horrified – suffering flashbacks to the mother and the two children he had shot, lying in the trench. He cried. He talked. There was no meaning to it – no redemption, no going back, no undoing what he had done. No way back to clean hands. “Out, out, damn spot!”

One result of that night was an organizing effort of the anti-war campus ministers and the 300 vets of “The Vets House” (the campus leper colony). The vets went out to tell their varied stories to people in area churches, VARIED stories told by drafted veterans who were as conflicted among themselves about the war as the American public itself.

The vets taught me to remember something I’m embarrassed to say I had forgotten: that no one has clean hands, and that the job in life is not to have clean hands. It’s to get help with washing them, to seek forgiveness, when truth and meaning have been slaughtered. The great human gift – a divine gift – is not to be righteous; it’s to be loving.  I had confused the call of the gospel with being on the right side of almost everything.

Ron and Mr. Cool used to cruise the world in Ron’s “Blue Bomb” – the pitcher and the catcher who had each other’s backs through high school and college. It took years of awkward silence before our different understandings of love of country yielded to the old unbreakable bonds of friendship. The two kids in the Blue Bomb remind me of a deeper kinship that no hell – no heart of darkness – can break.

God above God

A visit to Tillich Park in New Harmony, Indiana, inspired these lyrics. Unfortunately, the blog editing continues to erase the stanza divisions. Each stanza is four lines.

God above God, Source of all Be-ing,

You Whose Name is above all our names:

Help us to kneel; Break down our fences;

Shine through the dark clouds religion has made.

Source of all life, Ground of all Be-ing,

God of the a-corn, the seed and the rain –

Send now your grace, seasons and har-vest,

Circle of life that our hearts have disdained.

Mother of nat-ions, Father of pe-oples,

Known as Allah, Adonai, El-o-him ~

Known, yet not known, Be-yond all perception

But for your grace in all cultures revealed

God of the cross, Life to the pla-net,

You Whom we cross with our gods and our ways –

Raise us to life, breathe now Your Spirit,

Restore us to life as the kin to all Life.

God above God, Source of all Be-ing,

You Whose Name is above all our names:

Help us to kneel; Break down our fences;

Dispel the dark clouds our religions have made.

– Gordon C. Stewart, November 4, 2005

Sung to tune “Dexter”  4.5.7 D with Refrain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYmXDCTbdak

“God above God” is the language of Paul Tillich for whom God is not a being among others – an object of finitude – but the Ground of Being Itself, the Ground that remains when all of our concepts and idea collapse.

The source of this affirmation of meaning within meaninglessness, of certitude within doubt, is not the God of traditional theism but the “God above God,” the power of being, which works through those who have no name for it, not even the name God.

PAUL TILLICH, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, VOL. 2, P.12

“Man and nature belong together in their created glory – in their tragedy and in their salvation.” – Paul Tillich monument, Tillich Park, New Harmony, Indiana.