Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Everything is Holy Now

Recently I attended an online memorial service for a spiritual friend who died in January. Her name was Fran Bennett. She was a transgender woman who was influential in my spiritual life. I spoke with her at length ten years ago during a spiritual crisis in my life that bloomed into spiritual awakening. At that time she was still presenting as male and had recently left a Trappist monastery where she had been a monk known as Brother Francis. 

At her memorial service the song “Holy Now” by Peter Mayer was played. If you haven’t heard it, you can listen to it here. The song is from his 1999 album Million Year Mind. Fran loved the song and often sang it at her retreats. It echoes the spiritual awakening she experienced in 2010 while taking the Eucharist. The first stanza says:

When I was a boy, each week

On Sunday, we would go to church

And pay attention to the priest.

He would read the holy word

And consecrate the holy bread

And everyone would kneel and bow.

Today the only difference is

Everything is holy now.

Everything, everything,

Everything is holy now.

That song came to mind this week while I was walking the beach here in Florida. The upcoming Palm Sunday celebration was on my mind. I love Holy Week. I love Maundy Thursday communion. I love Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This year we will not be in New Hampshire to celebrate the holy days with our church. So I was rehearsing the events of Palm Sunday in my mind as I did a walking meditation on the beach with my friends, the egrets and sandpipers.

I recalled the words of Jesus as he descended the Mount of Olives on a donkey. The Pharisees were complaining that Jesus’ followers were praising God for him. His critics told Jesus to command his disciples to stop. His response was that even if the people kept silent, the stones of the road would take up the chorus of praise. That is when I heard the grains of sand on the beach singing the praises of God. The psalm sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”

I am reading a book entitled Bewilderment by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Powers. The main character is an astrobiologist. He tries to explain to his nine-year-old son how many planets there are in the universe capable of sustaining life. First he calculates the number of stars:

“Multiply every grain of sand on Earth by the number of trees. One hundred octillion.” I made him say twenty-nine zeros. Fifteen zeros in, his laughter turned to groans. “If you were an ancient astronomer, using Roman numerals, you couldn’t have written the number down. Not even in your whole lifetime.” How many have planets? That number was changing fast. “Most probably have at least one. Many have several. The Milky Way alone might have nine billion Earth-like planets in their stars’ habitable zones.”

There are more earths than the number of grains of sand in all the beaches of earth. How many billions of different types of creatures exist on all these planets? All are praising God! Every bird I see is praising God. Every child playing in the sand is part of the Kingdom of God. Every creature in the ocean, on the ocean, and on the beach is sacred. Every elderly couple walking the beach is an expression of the Divine. Everyone is holy.

Last week the Florida legislature passed – and the governor signed - the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It implies that LGBTQ people are somehow less acceptable than other humans. It says that children need to be protected from knowing about their existence. Florida lawmakers are now making plans to strip Disney World of its tax advantages because Disney opposes this bill.

Everyone is holy. My transgender friend Fran was – and is – holy. My friend David was my roommate in college and a groomsman in my wedding. He was gay, a seminary-educated ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, a lifelong friend, and one of the best people I have known. He ended his earthly life twenty years ago because the anti-gay hate of our culture was more than his sensitive soul could bear.

Everyone is holy. Everything is holy. Sometimes it takes a moment for our human minds to remember what the soul always knows. Every day is Palm Sunday. Every day is Easter. Every day is holy now. All we need to do is abide in the now, and this is clearly seen. I finish this post with the final stanza of Peter Mayer’s song, which could be the soundtrack of my life.

This morning, outside I stood

And saw a little red-winged bird

Shining like a burning bush

Singing like a scripture verse.

It made me want to bow my head,

I remember when church let out,

How things have changed since then,

Everything is holy now.

It used to be a world half-there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

Cause everything is holy now. 

1 comment:

Ellen Orr said...

Thank you for these lovely thoughts that prepare me for the coming, glorious Easter season. This will be printed and read many times. Ellen Orr, Bradenton, Florida