Rev. Canon Shay Craig
Easter A: All Things Bright and Beautiful
In 1848, Mrs. Cecil Francis, “Fanny” Alexander,
was the wife of the Archbishop Armagh
and living in a 16th Century home
called Llanwenarth House
in Abergavenny Wales.
She did not, by all accounts,
fulfill the expectations of a clergy spouse of that age.
She rarely had fundraisers for orphans,
she didn’t host tea parties much.
Rather she wandered the lovely
six-acre property at the foot of the Sugarloaf Mountains
that included formal gardens, woods
and a creek.
And inspired by the beauty around her,
who was first and foremost a poet,
wrote some of our favorite hymns
There is a Green Hill Far Away,
Once in Royal David City,
and All Things Bright and Beautiful.
Which we sang today.
One commentary from the 19th Century
Marvels at the fact that Fanny,
Who never went further than her own garden and grounds,
Should know so much about God.
Because for people like us
Who live in the most beautiful state in the Union
God being present in nature
Is just not news.
The creator of everything
Is evident in … everything.
There order and predictability in the Universe
A comforting order
Created out of chaos
You know that the cells of a beehive are in the shape of a hexagon.
But did you know that every snowflake is in the shape of a hexagon?
Where we see disorder
There is a comforting predictability
In God’s created world.
And that order-out-of-chaos
Did you know that
The spiral shapes of sunflowers
follow the Fibonacci series of numbers:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …
And so do whelk sea shells
And spiral staircases…
This comforting, beautiful “Ceation”
Also keep us safe
Fosters our growth
And helps us to thrive
We exhale carbon dioxide,
which trees breathe in
and they exhale oxygen
which we breathe in.
Order out of chaos
Symbiosis and beauty
The Lord God made it all.
And God made us as well
And placed us in the middle of it.
What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason,
how infinite in faculty!
In form and moving how express and admirable!
In action how like an angel,
in apprehension how like a god!
The beauty of the world.
The paragon of animals.
Shakespeare wrote that …
But God gave us Shakespeare.
We are a part of this created order
Made of the same carbon and oxygen
And every living thing
And every celestial body in space.
We are, at a molecular level
An integral part of God’s creation.
And we are created to appreciate it.
Something in us responds to that created beauty.
Something in us recognizes
and leaps up in joy when we encounter it.
That is the presence of God.
That is God the Holy Spirit.
Our scripture says,
You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you
We are part of God’s created universe
But we are more
We are infused with the Spirit of God
We are God’s beloved.
In our Gospel today,
Jesus is speaking to his followers
about what will happen when he is gone.
He says, “You will not be orphaned.”
Jesus performed his ministry
on the earth
for three years.
And we have been following in his footsteps
for two thousand years.
And we are still wondering
“is God still with us?”
“The Messiah is no longer with us, are we orphaned?”
Here Jesus is saying
“look in another place.”
“I am not with you anymore,
So don’t look for evidence that God loves you
Where you did before”
“Look in a new place
Look in another way.”
Jesus says the Holy Spirit abides with us
All around us
The Holy Spirit is in us.
Has God orphaned us?
Or has God woven us into the fabric
Of the elaborate tapestry of Creation
That we can no longer see it?
Can it be that we are not orphaned
The people to whom Jesus is speaking in this text,
they have seen adversity.
They have every right
To be worried that when Jesus goes
They will be alone.
Their history begins with enslavement,
they were refugees,
they were exiled,
their temple was burned,
now they are fugitives from the law.
And God was with them the whole way.
And not just with them,
but around them and in them –
a part of all creation.
And this is true of us as well.
Lately we may well ask where God is
Because he does not appear to be
Where we usually look.
God is with us the whole way.
And not just with us,
but all around us and in us –
a part of all creation.
We simply have to look in a new place
Look in a new way.
God, the creator of all things in heaven and earth
Has not left us orphans
He has made us the central and most beloved part of His Perfect Creation.
In these quiet days,
when the busy noise of our frantic lives
has been stilled.
When the glare of the screens and lights
God is speaking to us.
God is present to us.
And God has designed us in just the right way to be aware
To look in new places
To see with new understanding
In the absence of the incarnate Messiah, are we orphaned?
We have only to open our eyes on a starry night
We have only to listen to children laughing
We have only to breathe deeply in a baker’s kitchen
Or stroke the hair of a loved one
And as for taste… two words: Irish Butter. Go loves us.
Fanny Alexander did not have to go beyond her garden
that she was not orphaned
but a fundamental
central and most beloved
part of the presence of God in Creation.
He gave us eye to see them
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty
Who has made all things well.