Do you groan? I wonder what the source and content of your groaning is? What is the groaning of your deepest inner yearning? Or the groaning of cringe as you live, listen, and experience the variety of people, ideas, views and culture around you? What is your groaning?
Sometimes I groan about things that are really superficial and irrelevant. I get tired or anxious or caught up in the stress of life and little things seem to annoy me and become larger than necessary. I can’t let them pass by and I groan! I groaned the other day when I was watching Josh play soccer and one of his team was shoved in the back by an opposition player but the ref chose to let it go. I groaned out loud (possibly it was more than a groan!!??)! I also groaned when passes went astray or goals were missed. I groan when some of our leaders open their mouths to change feet in public. I groan when I hear propaganda that seems to be swallowed by a naïve public, the typical propaganda that surrounds the environment, war and conflict, people of other cultures, Aboriginal Australia…
This groaning grows in intensity at various levels of disbelief or despair that I feel when confronted by issues I can’t believe or change. There are things that cause deep and painful groaning that I cannot contain. This is a desperate groaning filled with an aching longing and hopelessness that I cannot assuage. It is a deep groaning that often fails to find expression in appropriate words – there are none. When I sit before deep pain that is unjust and uncontainable I feel the rise of a groaning within that is too deep for words. It sits there and bubbles up in undifferentiated forms that are filled with images and thoughts. Here words simply do not come close to holding the reality and clumsily skirt around edges as they try to give some form or structure.
It is in these moments that the form of prayer is the offering of images or feelings or of simply sitting in the Presence of Mystery and Life and giving up the overwhelming feelings. The Spirit, says Paul, gathers these feelings and holds them profoundly before the Presence of Love. The Spirit groans in prayers more deeply expressed than our souls, minds and tongues can utter. These longings, this groaning is held in the Heart of God with a profound gentleness and reverence.
Does this change anything? In the world, perhaps not, well certainly not always. The ugly, evil acts continue to roll along and perpetrators aren’t always found or dealt with. It can feel deeply pathetic and useless. Injustice and evil prevail and all we have is our deep inner groaning, expressing the desperate pain or sadness that pervades our being.
I wonder, though, whether there isn’t a change in the world – certainly in me. When my deep groaning is embraced into Grace and held at the Heart of Love, isn’t there an intimate knowing of my life, my hopes, my fears? Isn’t there an intimate knowing of all that I am and of the deep pain of life that I feel in my being. Isn’t this feeling connected to the pain in the One who holds everything in gentle grace? I ponder the words of Paul in Romans 8 (one of the readings for this Sunday – Season of Creation). He says that all creation groans with eager longing for its redemption, its emergence into new life. The weight of futility is heavy and creation yearns for deliverance and salvation, healing and peace. So do we!!
The created order awaits emergence from the long spell of dry and lifeless struggle. It is like the world of winter bleakness and cold, of leafless trees and hibernating animals, that emerges in Spring to new life in the warming sun and longer days. There is emergence from the place of longing into the hoped-for fulfilment of new life.
The in-built cycles and seasons of nature offer images and metaphors for the world finding new fulfilment and hope in emerging new life – redemption, healing, salvation are other words used for this restorative process. There is a natural equilibrium, a homeostasis that brings balance and stability to life and systems. When this balance is pushed too far, we find ourselves groaning, more and more deeply, yearning for restoration of our hope. The earth is being pushed too far and we feel it in our bones.
The earth needs to breathe and find rest under the weight of human occupation and development. It groans and as it does, so do we! We groan deeply and longingly as we find ourselves alienated from creation and feel the weight of homeostasis out of balance. We feel the crisis in our bones, even if not in our conscious minds. There is heaviness to our being, to life in our small world. Distractions keep this gnawing heaviness beyond our conscious recognition for only so long.
Creation groans, even as we do, for redemption, for release, for life in all its rich hope and promise. The calling of nature invites us into relationship with the earth and its creatures. The Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) traditions invite us into relationship with the world as stewards and carers, gardeners in the garden of the world to maintain its integrity and beauty. God invites us to own our calling as co-creators in this new, emerging world, the evolving world where there are critical issues, deep groaning and longing hope.
As co-creators we work in the power of the Spirit of God, in co-operation with each other and in deep concern, care and connection with the earth itself to bring healing and life for all people. These few weeks of the Seasons of Creation remind us that life is communally lived and we need one another. In place of suspicion and condemnation there needs to be developed, a trust and relational experience through conversation, listening and sharing food. In our church at the moment are a few paintings that portray a chalice. This is a metaphor for Grace in our midst, of hospitality, sharing, of a cup that holds our pain and offers new wine of God’s Kingdom. As I looked at it today it seemed that this chalice was the vessel that reached out to hold my groaning, along with the groaning of the world and draw it into the Divine Heart to be shared back in celebratory wine of God’s Love.
I thought of the other passages that will be read this week, especially the one that speaks of the provision of quail and manna to those in the wilderness. There was enough to sustain the people for each day, a generous abundance of love and grace, a chalice filled to the brim with transformed groaning and new wine!