Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Holy Ground

What's a good children's message for Ascension Sunday? I've always had a hard time figuring out a down-to-earth, child-friendly way to talk about this story and its importance. I finally decided to consider the image of Jesus' feet, the last thing the apostles saw as he went up to heaven. I cut out construction paper footprints in various colors to give out to children, so they could remember Jesus' footprint here on earth, and our footprints as we walk his way.

After church my husband and I were on the road again -- a Memorial Day road trip of a different sort. We stopped for the evening in Mankato, just about half-way to our final destination. We walked through some prairie grasses, the vast prairies that some have called "oceans of grass." We stopped as well at the historical site called Traverse des Sioux, a Minnesota River crossing that also became the site of a famous (or should I say infamous) treaty signed by the Dakota.

On Monday morning we got up and drove and drove, until we finally reached our destination, which seemed like the middle of nowhere. We were at the Jeffers Petroglyphs, and while I say we were in the middle of nowhere, I am also fully aware that we were not many miles away from the farm where my mother grew up, and where I stayed many times as a child. Yet, here I was, while the wind blew fiercely, gazing at faint markings made in hard rocks from between 500 to 7,000 years ago. There were thunderbirds and turtles and buffalo and human hands, and other designs too soft to recognize, but that might come into sharper focus when the sun was setting.

The native elders call this a holy place; individuals come here for vision quests. I ask our guide whether the ancient markings were made by ancestors to the Dakota who live nearby now. "Well, they kind of think we're all related," she replied.

Later on, we traveled to the church where some of my husband's ancestors are buried. The cemetary right alongside St. Albion Church was dotted with flowers and with flags; that morning there had probably been a service in memory of those who had given their lives in time of war. I remembered how in the small communities where I served everyone came out for funerals, bearing casseroles; I remembered how the Easter sunrise (led by youth) was the largest service of the year. Everyone wanted to come out and support the youth of the congregation.

We are all related.

Today, I sat with a family in the hospital, as they prayed together and remembered a mother and grandmother. They remembered that she went to a jazz concert this winter and clapped so hard she bruised her hands. They remembered how she talked to people everywhere -- at the grocery store, on airplanes. She loved to be connected, to hear stories, to know people.

We are all related.

So please, take a construction paper footprint, and remember that you are walking on holy ground, the ground that our savior walked, as he broke bread and fed people, as he told stories and healed broken hearts, as he walked this earth and as he died and as he lived again.

He ascended into heaven, but his footprint is etched into our lives as petroglyphs etched in hard rock, fiercely, forever. Sometimes, though, the images show up more clearly at sundown.

We are all related.


6 comments:

CJWille said...

Did you notice the Holy Spirit bend the grass like waves over water? I always grasp for what is Spirit and often come to the conclusion is that which blows between us and forms that community....

Diane said...

what a beautiful image, CJ...

Barbara B. said...

Another thought-provoking post, Diane!
It sounds like you had a good road trip...

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I love your footprint idea. At our church, the window of the Ascension shows Jesus' footprints left behind after he rose.

I also love your petroglyph imagery.

Juniper said...

Lovely, Diane! Glad to hear how this played out..

Diana said...

I really love this.
-Mrs. M