by The Rev. Craig Lemming, Associate Rector
Artwork: The Prophet Isaiah by Marc Chagall
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He hath anointed me to
preach the gospel to the poor;
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to preach deliverance to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;
to give unto them that mourn
a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness;
That they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud,
and as the garden causeth the
things that are sown in it to spring forth;
So the Lord God will cause
righteousness and praise to
spring forth before all the nations.
– Isaiah 61 vv. 1–3, 11
These seven sublime minutes shuffled through my “dog-walk soundtrack” during yesterday’s stroll with Penelope. Elgar’s setting of Isaiah’s words intersected perfectly with the sermons that trees, shrubs, flowers, birds, and neighbors were preaching mellifluously yesterday afternoon. The lump in my throat – brought on by the astonishing beauty of Elgar’s setting of the words “For as the earth bringeth forth her bud” – prompted me to share this video on social media with the words, “This reminded me why we exist today.”
Why did I do that? Perhaps the answer confirms what Dr. Mark McInroy teaches in the culmination of his superb four-part series on The Beauty of God. Beauty converts and inspires us to be evangelists. My impulse to share the ecstatic encounter I had with God in witnessing the marriage of Creation, Isaiah’s words, and Elgar’s music ignited a holy desire for others to experience this revelation of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness with me, regardless of whether they “liked” it or not.
In his recent article that went viral, Julio Vincent Gambuto warns us that marketers are already working hard to “gaslight” the very real, painful, and revelatory truths we are experiencing in this COVID-19 crisis. By manipulating our traumatized hearts and minds into believing that what we are seeing, feeling, and grieving didn’t really happen, media campaigns will strategically coax us back into overworking, underthinking, and overspending our way back into feeling “normal” again. Gambuto writes, “Business and government are about to band together to knock us unconscious again.”
George Orwell’s spine-chilling words from his novel 1984 come to mind:
“But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its own nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.”
So, what does the sharing of my numinous Creation-Isaiah-Elgar experience have to do with the comprehensive gaslighting campaign that is on the dystopian horizon?
Stay conscious. Preserve the sacred memories of what is actually happening right now. Share the encounters that you are having with beauty that are helping you to fully embrace the very real grief, pain, and suffering that you and others are feeling by creatively memorializing those experiences as an evangelist of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
Share words, your own words, or the language of writers who preach Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in the face of lies, ugliness, and sin. Record the sacred stories that you and others will turn back to five, ten, or a hundred years from now to remember the realities we are actually experiencing today. Share art, films, photographs, recipes, music, and tell others why they are sustaining, challenging, affirming, comforting, or inspiring you to persevere through this global catastrophe. As MacArthur genius Ocean Vuong asks in his recent reflections with Krista Tippett on Noah’s Ark: “when the apocalypse comes, what will you put into the vessel for the future?”
Yesterday’s Creation-Isaiah-Elgar revelation reminded me that just as the earth brings forth her buds, as creatures of clay, sweat, and starlight we too are gardens causing the things that are sown in us to spring forth for generations hence. Isaiah’s words recorded 700 years before the birth of Jesus and Elgar’s setting of those words to music 2,600 years later preached new life to me yesterday in 2020. Each of us can sow good news, healing, liberation, enlightenment, forgiveness, and consolation today, so that God’s Beauty, Truth, and Goodness shall continue to spring forth for all nations eternally.
Be who you are. Be truthful, beautiful, and good.