Written by Fr Bryce Sangster
This is a strange and different time. And another example of this came to mind as I start to write this message for the VOICE. Usually this is the only time I write my message as a full text, but since this time of not having services I have been writing my sermons in full every week. So, this feels like another sermon, yet it is more than that because there will be months, probably close to Christmas or at least Thanksgiving before I write another VOICE submission.
This being said, here is a story I heard and on which I did some research. It has been said that it is a Cherokee story, but there are some who say it is a story fabricated by Billy Graham, and he said falsely that it came from first the Inuit then the Cherokee. The idea was that it was a way of expressing the idea of original sin, a European concept not First Nations. But my take on it is different, so firstly, here is the story……
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. ”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
You might have heard the story ends like this: The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
In the Cherokee world, however, the story ends this way: the old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win” and the story goes on: “You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.
“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side.”
“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing. How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”
The story I heard ended with, the one you feed, and I thought about how we think about life, or to quote another cliché, is the glass half full or is the glass half empty?
There are a lot of emotions and words mentioned for both wolves, but when I heard the story, the words that came to mind are: peace and joy and fear and doubt. That at certain times in our lives it is easy and tempting to feed the black wolf, and find it hard to see peace and joy in our lives. In other words what do we say to ourselves at time like this? What is that little voice in our head saying? How do we feel when we are about to get up in the morning? Do we get up looking forward or regretting the day ahead?
The Gospel, the good news, helps us find peace and joy and supports us through the challenges of our lives, our relationship with God in Christ has gotten us this far.
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
What comes to mind are the last verses. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That Jesus gives us the opportunity to find rest for our souls. And that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but it is still a burden. So. we can in Christ both have a burden that is easier, and we can find rest as well. (Psalm 23: 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *and leads me beside still waters. 3 He revives my soul *and guides me along right pathways for his name’s sake.)
One idea how the burden is easy is that we have the support of God in Christ in prayer and support for one another, as difficult is the latter at this time.
Others have said as we move forward, and I have mentioned in sermons, that it is darkest before the dawn. The isolation, and the closing was hard enough, but we were all in this together, now that we move to re-open gradually, and with certain rules and protocols, the divisions and differences of opinion will occur, and already have when this is being discussed. The whole spectrum of ideas from, the rules from the Diocese are much too restrictive, and unnecessary, to wait until a vaccine, and others somewhere in between. As we navigate this new reality, let us realize choices will have to be made, are they the ones you would make? Maybe not, but hopefully we can still be unified in community coming together even with our differences. At the Sunday Zoom service coffee time, I was bringing in a sense bad news, and the comment, from Romans 10:5-15“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
That maybe, my feet were not so beautiful. But we ended the discussion with someone saying, we can focus on the bad news, all the rules and that we are just having Morning Prayer and not communion until we see how things are unfolding, but at least we can gather in church together and worship together in person.
In this imperfect world, we will have both joys and sorrows, and hopes and doubts, and I remember a discussion from a while ago in which the comment was made, God is no good to me if I cannot express my anger with God. Hopefully we give God a chance to answer our anger or whatever feeling of doubt or concern we feel, but we can come to God with all of who we are, and what we feel, the good and the bad, and that is what Jesus is saying to us in Matthew: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Blessings to one and all,
Photo source: pexels.com