This is going to be a quick little post, for what it’s worth. I wanted to share the poem with which I began my Reformation sermon on Wednesday:
Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night, by Mary Oliver
He presses his cheek against mine,
And makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I’m awake, or nearly awake
He turns upside down, his four paws in the air
And his eyes dark and fervent.
“Tell me you love me,” he says.
“Tell me again.”
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
He gets to ask it.
I get to tell.
The point of the sermon was the role stories play in our relationships–how they act like thread, weaving us together over time and deepening our connections. Seen in this way, Reformation is one glorious story that the church continually asks God to tell–the story of God’s great redeeming love for the whole world that is given to us freely and extravagantly, with no strings attached. That’s the sermon in a nutshell!
What I love about this poem, though–and Mary Oliver’s poetry in general–is that she notices and celebrates the broader context of human relationality, incorporating the relationships we have with the natural world and the creatures in it. Humans are fundamentally relational [the best way of understanding the imago Dei, I think], but we are not just related to other human beings. Instead, we are deeply and profoundly related to the mountains and rivers, the birds and the squirrels, and, of course, the animals who are a part of our families [like my little Henry!]. We take some of the color out of the elaborate, rich tapestry that is human existence when we fail to see all of those other relationships that also have their constituting role in our lives. Mary Oliver brings those relationships from the background into the foreground, in a way that is both subtle and profound, and helps me to see the world–and myself–in new ways. I love poetry for that.