Scripture lessons: Malachi 3:1-4; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
We’ve all known wilderness, be it actual or metaphorical. In the two stories I’m sharing in this poem, it’s both. When you’re lost, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the safe path will be made known to you. I think Advent offers an opportunity to reflect on the times we’ve known wilderness, the times hope has been hard to come by. It’s a time to acknowledge our fears and doubts, whether we’ve already crossed to safety or are still in the thick of a desolate place.
Wilderness in Two Parts
by Kathryn Smith
In my family, the story is legend:
A child of four wanders from the campsite,
certain she knows her way. Sometime later
a family friend follows a muddy trail
of small bootprints, finds the child sitting
on a log, scoops her up and carries her
to safety. I remember being lost
more than I remember being found.
You were right to stay put, they told me.
But I didn’t—not at first. Not until I’d wandered
what seemed hours in a wilderness
too vast to be knowable. Not until fear
stunned me motionless. I gave up hope,
sat down on a mossy log, and lifted
my face to a sliver of sky just visible
through the evergreen canopy
in something like prayer.
At nineteen, I was desperate as a seed
splitting open to unfurl itself, shocked
by the oxygen and sudden light. My only chance
against loneliness was to start again, to seek
the deepest of lakes, unfamiliar mountains close
as my own breath. I chose a trail
obliterated by snow, crusted and fragile.
Breaking through to my shins and heading, generally,
in the right direction, I decided anything resembling
my destination was good enough. That’s how I learned
there’s no safe pathway. When I reached the jagged ravine
and the log beam spanning it, I simply kept
walking, and my boots refused to let me slip.
The short parable about the fig tree in Sunday’s Gospel lesson (Luke 21:25-36) grabbed my attention. I started reading about figs and learned some fascinating stuff, which, though far removed from the parable Jesus tells, provides an interesting metaphor for beginnings and endings. I was thinking, too, about the apocalyptic images that show up in the Gospel the first week of Advent — distress among nations, people fainting from fear — frightening stuff. But these dark signs point toward something hopeful: the coming of the kingdom of God. Sometimes we have to look deeper into the ruin of things to see the possibility of new beginnings.
On Transformation (With Figs)
by Kathryn Smith
Wasps stream from the fig in an endless
ribbon. The insects hatched in the fruit’s hidden
garden, hundreds of tiny flowers lining the fig’s
inner wall. It’s a realm accessible through one
small passageway, wasp-sized, and only
the wasp knows it. Once they’ve emerged,
they can’t turn back. Each wasp will find
another fruit to enter, a place to lay her eggs.
She knows which tree is hers, each species
of wasp drawn, intrinsically, to its own species of tree.
A symbiosis 80 million years in the making
looks like infestation, the fruit a ruin,
the tree past hope. But it’s how things survive.
It’s how the wasp perpetuates her species. It’s how
she pollinates each tiny fig flower, spreading
the microscopic code the fruit needs to set seed,
the tree’s next incarnation, and how the fig, once the wasps
depart, swells and ripens into sweet food for something else.
Kathryn Smith is a member of Salem Congregation. She’s a poet, a gardener, a chicken-keeper, and an observer of the world around her. Most people call her Kat.
Hello Friends. Here we are giving this blog thing a whirl. If I have directed you to this site, it means I really value your taste. I’m hoping to create a web presence for Salem that is simple, beautiful, and informative. Please comment to this post to give us feedback.
Beyond comments on how this blog looks and feels to you, do any of you have suggestions on how best to use a blog for a church body? I am eager to invite members and other friends of Salem to write posts and tell stories here. Have any of you seen that work well?
Thanks in advance for your wisdom,