R is for Repair… and Miss Rumphius

As Sarah mentioned in her February 18 sermon, there’s a Hebrew phrase – tikkun olam – that lingers behind our Lenten worship theme of the Art of Repair.

Listen to how the Jewish folklorist Howard Schwartz summarizes the Kabbalistic myth which gave us this phrase. “At the beginning of time, God’s presence filled the universe. When God decided to bring the world into being, to make room for creation, He contracted Himself by drawing in His breath, forming a dark mass. Then God said, Let there be light (Gen. 1:3) and ten holy vessels came forth, each filled with primordial light.

“God sent forth the ten vessels like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of light. But the vessels—too fragile to contain such powerful Divine light—broke open, scattering the holy sparks everywhere. Had these vessels arrived intact, the world would have been perfect. Instead, God created people to seek out and gather the hidden sparks, wherever we can find them. Once this task is completed, the broken vessels will be restored and the world will be repaired.”

According to the myth, our work as human beings is to find and gather these mysterious, elusive sparks of light. That is tikkun olam.

When I think of tikkun olam, I think of our Care Committee, showing up on doorsteps, delivering meals and cards to people who are struggling.

When I think of tikkun olam, I think of the twelve (and counting!) of you who have already applied to serve as mentors for Partakers College Behind Bars.

When I think of tikkun olam, I think of our youth group, already planning to gather clothes for their next visit to City Reach in Boston.

When I think of tikkun olam, I think of those volunteers working behind the scenes to tidy up a cluttered space in one of our buildings, or improve our AV system and setup, or offer delicious treats on a Sunday morning.

And…when I think of tikkun olam, I think of Miss Rumphius! You remember the children’s story. Miss Rumphius sends off for as many lupine seeds as she can acquire and begins scattering them all over her community—along cliffside roads, near buildings in town, along stone walls, and in hollows between hills. People who see her think she’s crazy, but the following spring, her beautiful vision becomes clear.

We can all do something to repair the world, or to make our home on earth more beautiful. We’re inspired to be in this work together with you.

Peace,

Nate (and Kit)

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