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Live like a cicada: enter and exit singing

by davesandel on May 29th, 2021

Saturday, May 29, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Live like a cicada: enter and exit singing

When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. My heart delighted in her.

Those scribes and priests and elders who dogged Jesus’ every step and searched out his every word for error, oh my goodness, how long gone were they from their own innocent youth? I know it’s also true of me, and all of us who take ourselves more seriously than we do God. Wisdom loses its luster, and without even knowing it most of the time, I take the law into my own hands. That is to say, I observe the law for my own benefit, and not for God’s.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.

Would that I could be a cicada, who enters and exits singing. We won’t see many of Brood X this year in either Texas or Illinois (unless you live in Danville). But if you’re a Hoosier or a north Kentuckian, or a Pennsylvania Dutchman, you’re in for a musical treat.

Listen to Lawrence Downes tell it … It’s been seventeen years …

Let humans slog along in human time, piling up the milestones this year’s graduating class of cicadas missed: the first iPhone and first Black president; the two new popes; the hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger landing his damaged jet on the Hudson; the IRA laying down its arms and countless others taking them up; Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio. When this year’s cicadas were juvenile and grublike, Mark Zuckerberg was a Harvard undergraduate. (Facebook, the swarm he unleashed, has not yet run its course.) Plague-mongers including Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were toppled while the cicadas waited; others still rage or fester. Some afflictions have flared and subsided, like Zika and Ebola and “High School Musical.”

Jesus spoke strongly back at his criticizers, ignoring the potential threat to his person and his ministry. He just kept healing and raising people from the dead, feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread. He preached sermons and told stories, that taught everyone who listened about the Kingdom of God, rather than the kingdoms we have substituted for it.

And even those critics acknowledged his mastery.

By what authority do you do these things?

Oh, yes, he did “things” all right. He amazed even those scrounging scribes and bitter elders, those pathetic priests who did not want to be amazed at all.

The law of the Lord is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb.

But Jesus did not address the cicadas, who were perhaps singing in the background. Jesus did insist we live our lives with joy, as children of God. He showed us how to turn away from the knowledge-of-good-and-evil tree and even how to shed its leaves as unnecessary self-protection.

So now I think we should not let the year go by without imagining how Jesus might use the cicadas to teach us. Live like the cicadas? Sure! Tell it, Mr. Downes:

What the emotionally submerged human dreams of, the cicada literally does, digging upward into the warmth of late spring, sprouting wings and spending the rest of its life buzzing, bouncing, bopping and blithely bugging out. What a way to go: climbing into trees and falling out of them, drunk on love and sunshine, making a racket using just your drum-tight abdomen, bumping nether parts with someone you’ve just met and clinging to them for dear, dear life, using every second of the time you have left, which is about six weeks. Cicadas seize the joy that other insects forgo. Not for them the digging of tunnels, building of hives and mounds, cutting of leaves and rolling of dung. No commuting from nest to rotting corpse and back. No stinging, no biting, no sucking blood. No warfare. No anything, really, except making the most of the brilliant days between the darkness. As the 17th-century Japanese haiku master Basho wrote:

The cry of the cicada

gives us no sign

that presently it will die.

Sure, I think Jesus might have said just that sort of thing. Maybe he did. Like them, Jesus our Savior entered and exited singing. And don’t forget, all the books in all the world could not contain everything he said and did.

(Sirach 51, Psalm 19, Colossians 3, Mark 11)

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