Incarnation

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Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson

The recent rain has left everything clean and fresh and made for a number of days perfect for sitting inside and reading.  I just finished Louise Erdrich’s latest novel The Round House, and I highly recommend it.  Erdrich often writes about Native America experience, and this one is no different.  It takes place in the northern plains – in the Dakotas and is wonderfully evocative of place.  Erdrich is sensitive to the clash of cultures and of the compromises people make, and don’t make, in attempting to live lives of dignity and honor.

It is commonly held that Native Peoples have a deeper understanding of the physical world, and do not make such a sharp distinction between the material and the spiritual.  This may be true – I am sure there is great diversity in beliefs among just about every group – but it is what I have come to believe, that whatever the spiritual is, it is embedded in the world, not separate from it.

I think of this nearly every Sunday when we sing ‘Spirit of Life.’  It is a visual song, and being sung, it is physical as well.  The movements we use with it are meant to embody the words too, becoming a kinesthetic prayer.  It is not, by the way, signing, as in American Sign Language, and should not be confused as such, but a way to let the words of the song be expressed in our bodies, like dance perhaps.

If we could experience the holy in the world, in our bodies, we could care for it more, and be even more linked one with another, and with the creation.  Our ‘theme’ this month is incarnation, the spirit in the world, the sacredness we find in the material, so go outside and look, and look and see.

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One Response to Incarnation

  1. Late the other night I saw a homeless man outside the Ralph’s around the corner, and he seemed headed for the art museum bushes for the night. But he was smiling, really beaming up into the cold, lively, windy, starry sky. He said it reminded him of looking up there for Santa Claus when he was a kid; he said it reminded him of a cartoon from his childhood, of “the beautiful Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket sky.” Then he said “I still think Santa and maybe even God is up there, but if not them, there’s definitely SOMETHING up there, and I can feel it moving around inside me! And tonight I get to sleep underneath all of that!” I felt like I should’ve been taking notes, and while I’m not sure what the Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket sky thing was, I could see he was feeling it. Then I was, too.

    He said that later that night he was going to go up there, pointing at one particular star. He asked me for a dollar; I gave him five, for the trip up. We said Merry Christmas, etc., then went our separate ways.

    A cop might have seen this scene and seen a possible incarceration. I saw an incarnation, maybe.

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