Frost’s poem Birches touches some delicate places. After painting the white birch trees, ‘bending left and right across the lines of straighter darker trees,’ he swings down to earth in this delightful dnouement:
“I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.”
My sabbatical helped me get away from earth awhile. I’ve had a respite from week-to-week responsibilities and the need to comment on events that deserve serious attention and reflection.
I’m ready to ‘come back to it and begin over.’ It’s good to get away, it’s good to come home. I’m glad I don’t have to start over completely. I’ve kept my hand in by preaching once a month, meeting with a few folks who wanted to talk, checking in with Barbara, Jan and Jamie, and so forth. But I miss you. World events cry out for a response.
I’ve had the opportunity to read the newspapers more carefully-it seems an indulgence to spend more than an hour with the New York Times, but the above events deserve that kind of in-depth reflection and rumination.
Clearly a kind of religious reformation is needed now, and it seems under way. Religion is being dragged into the new millennium, kicking and screaming. The old tribal mentality doesn’t work the way it did when people lived in relative isolation. A new theology is needed. God, or Allah, is not on the side of those who kill in his name. The old tribal gods threaten the human race. Fanatical fundamentalisms fuel the fires that are raging in hot spots around the world.
The story of the Catholic Church’s sexual misconduct scandal continues to unfold. The notion of a mandatory celibate priesthood clearly violates natural Law (pun intended.) Its catastrophic consequences include the flagrant misuse of power by parish priests. It has blown up in the red faces of the hierarchy. The Catholic Church, and religion in general, is in the midst of a terrible crisis with huge consequences. That genie is clearly out of the bottle.
A necessary reformation is under way. It would be insensitive, unseemly and arrogant for us to say ‘we told you so.’ We’re struggling with our own issues around racism, power and economic justice. It’s a serious and challenging task for all of us. It isn’t easy.
In his conclusion to Birches, Frost summarized it nicely: “Earth’s the right place for love. I don’t know where it’s likely to go better. I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, and climb black branches up a snow white trunk toward heaven till the tree could bear no more but dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
I hope you’re well, and I look forward to seeing you and catching up with you soon.