I don’t know about you, but as we here in Ontario face the third wave of this devastating pandemic, the moments when I’m able to safely get out into CREATION become more and more precious. So, this morning, I went out in the brisk spring air hoping to forget about all the bad news which keeps flashing across our screens. So, let me try to give you a brief glimpse of my morning walk. Indulge me as I take you just down the road from my living-room to the shores of Lake Simcoe, where the wind is blowing, and the spring rain is gently falling.
. . . see the video . . .
As I walked along the lakeshore this morning, I was reminded of another lakeshore far, far, away, where the wind was just as fierce, and the rain was even more intense as I walked by this other lakeshore. Listening to the gentle waves of Lake Simcoe, I was transported back in time, through the decades and on that distant shore I could still see my twenty-year-old self, my Australian traveling companion, two Swiss women, an American, a German, a Bahamian, and a Japanese guy.
We were a strange lot, gathered together by chance, as each of us backpacked our way through Europe in search of adventure. “By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.” We’d met on the train to Fort William and together, we headed out on foot to the youth hostel on the shores of Loch Lomond. Now, I’m sure it has changed a great deal since we trudged along on a cold, ever so cold August day in 1976. Back then there was only a single cart lane leading to the youth hostel. We didn’t see any people along the way, and we weren’t sure we were going in the right direction. Most of us were caught up in our own thoughts, or too tired from our travels, to make conversation. But not Japanese Guy, who simply wouldn’t shut up.
He was positively annoying. There we were on “yon bonnie banks” leaning into the beauty which surrounded us, longing to be swept away by the majesty of it all, and this guy couldn’t keep his mouth shut long enough for us to escape into the wonder of our surroundings. I kept hoping that he’d “tak’ the high road” so I could tak’ the low road” and we’d “never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.” But alas, we were stuck with each other.
I tried lagging behind the others, humming softly to myself. But Japanese Guy, he saw this as some sort of invitation to hang back for a one-on-one conversation. His questions didn’t let up. He wanted to know: Where was I from? How long I’d been backpacking? Why did I choose Scotland? Was Scotland what I thought it would be? Did I imagine it would be so cold in August? On and on went his questions. My abrupt answers didn’t manage to clue him into the fact that I didn’t feel like talking.
When even my rude, unfriendly behaviour could not silence Japanese Guy, I ran to catch up with our companions, so that they too could share in the burden of unwelcome conversation. When we finally arrived at the hostel, we all spent the evening avoiding Japanese Guy.
The next morning, we were reunited over breakfast and it turned out that we all had the same plan to climb Ben Lomond. For those of you who dinnie kin, a Ben is what the Scots call a mountain. Ben Lomond is just under a 1,000 meters high with about a dozen kilometers of trails to the summit. We were young and the Hostel Manager assured us that we could get to the top in about five hours, have enough time for a quick lunch, and then hike back down to the hostel in time for dinner.
Part of me thought, “Oh great a dozen hours with Japanese Guy,” who we’d only just begun calling by his real name, “Ichiro.” We’d been on the trail for about an hour when Ichiro asked me about my name. “Is it correct that in English “dawn” can mean beginning or first.” I quite pedantically agreed that as the sun is the first thing to come up in the morning, I suppose you could translate “dawn” as beginning or first. “Were you named “Dawn” because you were the first?” Yes, I was indeed the first-born of my family.” “Then we are going to be good friends” Ichiro declared with a big grin on his face. I had to ask why? “Well because “Ichiro” also means first-born. We two are first-borns. We two are twins.” And so, it began. Hours and hours of a tough climb, filled with conversation with my new friend Ichiro. As we ascended closer to the heavens, Ichiro’s questions became less annoying and more intriguing.
I don’t know how he got us there, but somewhere upon the slopes of Ben Lomond, we got onto the topic of religion. Ichiro is a Buddhist who is fascinated by Christianity, and I am a Christian who is fascinated by Buddhism. Ichiro’s questions inspired my questions and my questions inspired Ichiro’s questions and as he told me stories about the Gautama the Buddha, I told him stories about Jesus the Christ. By the time, we got to the top of Ben Lomond we were exhausted both physically and mentally. All of us just collapsed where we were and quietly marveled at the beauty of the sky. Surveying the clouds as they floated so closely by, I quickly fell asleep. I was awakened by a hunger in my belly. It seems that my travelling companions had also been napping. One by one we were all awakened by a hunger born of our efforts. We hadn’t planned it, but as we explored the contents of our day-packs we discovered that between us we had the makings of a feast, which we laid out on a blanket and just as we were about to tuck in, Ichiro asked if we would like to give thanks. A heartfelt grace was offered for everything from the beauty of our surroundings to the pain in our calves, which somehow were supposed to get us back down the Ben. And then our American friend, Joe, began to sing. You guessed it, Joe just couldn’t help himself: O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road. And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye, But me and my true love will never meet again, On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomand.” As we sang, I noticed that we all began to fill up with tears. Tears of joy, and tears of recognition. “For me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”
Looking back on those young people, I continue to be touched by a moment in time which will never come again. I can so clearly remember Ichiro gobbling up the bread we broke together, just like he gobbled up every answer to every question that he asked. I can still taste the various breads we broke up there on the mountain. It was a communion the likes of which makes your heart sing. And sing we did. It was a communion which even in these strange COVID times, when we are bereft of one another’s company; a communion which continues to nourish me.
“After sitting down with them to eat, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus, who immediately vanished from their sight.”
After sitting down with them to eat, we said the blessing and we broke the bread. In the breaking of the bread with Japanese Guy, my twin brother Ichiro was revealed. Ichiro a Buddhist who is fascinated by Christianity who taught me that Gautama the Buddha, like Jesus the Christ, taught his followers about compassion and peace, urging us not to be afraid and insisting that we are all ONE.
In the breaking of bread, two first-borns, recognized ONEness. It was a moment in time which will not come again. But it is also a moment which continues to nourish and sustain me. It is a moment in time that is sacred and eternal, for we are ONE. Like the Buddha, Christ points beyond self to the ONE.
Separated. Isolated. Filled with longing. Hungry for one another. Wondering when the joy of one another’s company shall once again nourish us… It is so easy to fall into despair… And yet, if we take the time, to breathe, to reflect, to remember, to reconnect, to reach out the Earth in all her beauty in all her wonder, our MOTHER, the SACRED EARTH breathes with us, and moves us to the places and to the people who have fed us with the kind of nourishment which lasts a lifetime, feeding us again, and again, and again, as the wonders of CREATION works resurrection in us!
For LOVE, the LOVE which is DIVINE, rises again, and again, and again, in us, with us, and through us. May we all know the peace that being ONE reveals. Moments in time which vanish oh so quickly, only to return again, and again, to raise us up. ‘Twas then that we parted, in yon shady glen, On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond, Where in purple hue, the hieland hills we view, And the moon coming out in the gloaming. O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road, And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye, But me and my true love will never meet again, On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”
Moments in time. May all the blessings of your SACRED moments in time, nourish, ground and sustain you, as we journey through the coming days, weeks, and months as we do our best to move toward that grand and glorious day, when the pleasures of being ONE can be lived and breathed together, as we once again feast in the pleasures of ONE-another’s company. Now there’s a resurrection which will make us sing and even dance with joy! But for now, dear ONEs, may we all know the peace which being ONE reveals. Let CREATION stir resurrection in you. May you feast on your SACRED moments. May that peace nourish, ground and sustain you so that even from the confines of our isolation we can find the strength, courage and compassion to reach out to ONE-another and be LOVE in the world.
CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD the Order of Service