Yesterday a small hawk perched on a branch outside my window with a hapless robin clutched in its talons. The robin was rigid; immobilized most likely by agony and terror. I, too, was immobilized, considering and rejecting a dozen plans to come to the little creature’s aid. Just before it was carried off – sickeningly upside down – I had admitted to myself that there was nothing I could do. And I asked myself then who was I, anyway, to choose the life of the prey over that of the predator who had found such a wondrous meal. It was a terrible and beautiful creature, that hawk.
I had been awake in the middle of the night earlier, worrying about my church, which must in the next year or so both find a new rector and decide whether or not to move to a new location. All those comfortable human things we count on for our stability are being yanked away from us. But in their place we have an amazing opportunity – to be a different kind of church, a 21st Century presence witnessing to God.
Later in the day our daughter called to say to Rosean, over and over, “Mom, I love you.” It turned out that, at the scene of an accident, there had been a car that looked just like ours, and it had been crushed like a pop can. Our daughter had driven around the block three times before she was certain that the driver was neither Rosean nor me.
Change and death wait in every next moment. Nothing is immune from the hazards of the world. But still I think how it would be to look up into the eyes of the savage force piercing my flesh and bringing my death. Maybe it would not so much annul me as complete me. It would make of my life a finished work. There would be some glory in that.
Jesus in today’s reading from John’s Gospel prays, “Glorify me.” He wants, in God’s presence, the glory he had in God’s presence before the world existed. Eternal life is all mixed up with this. He has given eternal life to all whom God has given him, he says. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
John presents the life of Jesus whole and finished. Christ is glorified; he shines as brilliantly as the sun. If we attend well to the story, eternal life slaps us like the stick of the Zen master. We know the only true God. Oh! Eternal life! We know Jesus Christ. Oh!
In prayer I sink below that voice in me that calls me “Laurie” and that charts with grief and wonder, regret and applause, the course of my life. Here I find a breath that cups me – and another heartbeat besides my own, a timeless one. Oh! Eternal life!
And then, “Risk!” says the voice of Christ within me. “What do you have to lose?” Knowing our hearts squeezed in the talons of the hawk, what indeed do any of us ever have to lose? We are ash and dust, brief flares in the span of creation. But God holds us close in all the moments of our lives. This is eternal life, our true stability. This is our true security and our peace.