Sophia is like the reed (2002)

I was invited to write and give this sermon as part of a Sophia-Mass in the church in Sigtuna, Sweden, by Maria Rönn, the priest officiating. We had been dancing an exquisite Armenian dance, Dou Im Yeghek (‘You, my reed’), during my workshop that weekend, and Maria gave me the theme for the sermon based on that dance. The Sophia-Mass was a very beautiful and touching ceremony and I was glad to be able to contribute to it.

Sophia is like the reed. She is unbreakable; the fiercest winds help her to grow ever stronger. Wisdom knows when to yield, yet cannot be destroyed. Sophia endures, even when invisible; the roots of wisdom flourish underground and quickly send up an abundant crop when conditions are right. Sophia stands tall with pride and dignity, yet is graceful, humbly yielding instead of breaking. Sophia, like the reed, teaches us to release our stubborn rigidity, and to embrace her flexibility and humility, which also enable our survival

Sophia is like the reeds, in the marshes and the wetlands of the world. The wisdom of Sophia can be found everywhere on earth. Where the water of compassion flows, there the wisdom of God flourishes. The cycles of the earth herself can teach us this wisdom: by creating shade, the reeds protect the marshy ground which harbours them; by sheltering birds and animals, the reeds attract fertile compost, to enrich the soil where they grow. This self-sustaining swampy ground is the primordial, creative mud from which all life emerges. Thus wisdom enriches us, shelters us, thrives and spreads, transforming even our compost; over time, like the reeds, it can even change the climate and the landscape of those places where wisdom is allowed to grow.

The reed is hollow, creating space for spirit. Sophia teaches us to empty our minds of will and expectation, to release our image of what we think we want. Wisdom commands us to sweep clean the chambers of our heart so that God may enter.

We are made in the image of Sophia. We are like the reed. We know what it is to feel hollow inside, whether with our human hunger and wanting, or because we are filled with spirit. In our time, however, it is not always easy to recognise the wisdom of the reed in ourselves. While Sophia gives us emptiness, the dominant culture teaches us to take, to consume, to fill ourselves up as full as possible. Sophia teaches us to yield and bend, when the dominant culture teaches us that this is weak and despicable. Through Sophia, we know that we are strong only when we are together, yet the dominant culture tells us that the individual is king, and each should be independent, self-sufficient, needing nobody and taking responsibility for noone.

Thank God that our deepest inner knowing is stronger than the out-of-balance goals of the dominant culture. Thank God that we know in our hearts and our own experience how the collective grows healthier and stronger as each one of us grows in wisdom. May we always know, too, that when the unseen hand of God reaches for us among the throng of reeds, uproots us and cuts us, carves and drills and shaves and shapes us, when we feel the bite of the divine knife, it is only in order to make of us a reed flute, as Rumi said; that the music of our soul, God’s breath in our body, may pour out of our hearts and actions, filling the world with sweetness, giving voice and shape to our longings and our dreams.

For each of us has a vulnerable infant inside, mysteriously abandoned and set adrift alone in the river of life. Like Moses, we are sheltered on this journey by the reeds and rushes of wisdom. Just as even the slenderest of reeds has the power and potential to grow very tall, so even the most seemingly insignificant of us can grow to be a leader of people. All we need are time and shelter, wise companionship, a nurturing ground, and the compassionate blessing of our rightful connection to the cycles of Nature. These are the gifts of the reed; these are the gifts of Sophia.

Sigtuna, Sweden November 2002