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Chop Wood, Carry Water

April 25, 2018

“Practice resurrection.”
– Wendell Berry 
“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”


One of my favorite proverbs comes from our Buddhist siblings in the Zen tradition: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I wonder if this is what resurrection is like? 


A couple of Sundays ago, our Gospel proclaimed an intimate story of resurrected Jesus standing among his disciples again. “Look at my hands and feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.” (Luke 24:39). Quite impossibly and perhaps unimaginably, resurrection is beyond neither our sight nor our touch. It is literally at hand, if we only foster the perception to witness it. We do not have to be different, more “perfect, spiritual, [fill-in-the-blank]” people. God beholds us – and loves us, as we currently are (including all the parts we’d like to hide!) just as Jesus beheld and loved his friends “while in their joy… disbelieving and still wondering” (29:41).


Jesus assures His friends after His resurrection, ‘It’s still me, the body you know.’ We do not have to fill our time with loftier tasks or higher thoughts. We do not have to abandon or detest ourselves, others, or our world (violent and wounded as we can be) in longing for some more perfect form. Perhaps a modern, Christian version of “chop wood, carry water” might be: before resurrection, pay bills, brush teeth. After resurrection, pay bills, brush teeth.


What a relief! What a challenge. It is hard work to live in the present while becoming all that we hope.


I have enjoyed our Stewardship work together these past almost-three years in a deep part because it is a very concrete way that we chop wood and carry water together. Directly after His invitation to “touch me and see” as Jesus waits for His companions to catch up emotionally with His big news, He asks the ultimate friend question: ‘Got anything to eat?’ Our physical needs matter. They deserve our attention and care. Having a clean, warm, and well-lit church in which to gather and welcome others is important. Sharing in bread, wine, bagels, pizza, and other food is significant. Our physical and spiritual needs are interwoven. Our God is incarnate.


This is why one of the times in which I feel most connected during our communal worship is the collection of gifts. The money that we offer up to God to care for our community represents numerous facets of how we inhabit our time. Each of us brings our loves and struggles: our client meetings, scheduling, child caring, paper grading, volunteering, saving, and so much more. We have the chance to offer up all of this – even retroactively. Everything we are and do right now can be a living prayer of resurrection. Praise the Lord!


With thanks for you and our shared life,

Hailey Robison
Assistant Director of Stewardship


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