From the Prophet Haggai:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Haggai 2:6-7 (NRSV) – December 14, 2013.)
I remember a movie scene, maybe a cartoon? A character is picked up by his ankles and shaken, and all the change in his pockets rattles out and collects on the ground beneath him . . . . That is what first came to mind when I read these verses of Haggai, still going on about rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem immediately after the Babylonian Exile.
Then another memory, a memory of being shaken myself.
I spent many childhood summers with my paternal grandparents in a small town in southeastern Kansas. They had moved there in 1919. My grandfather had purchased five city lots. On one he built there home, a three-bedroom bungalow. On another he built a similar home to rent out for income; eventually, it would be the home of my father’s older brother and his family who lived there during those childhood summers. On a third, Granddad built a large structure which might have been called a barn if it were on a farm or a ranch; we just called it “the garden shed.” That lot also was the location of the chicken coop where my grandmother collected eggs every morning. The remaining two lots were my grandfather’s garden and fruit orchard, where I worked and played with my cousins summer mornings; in the afternoon, we would go to the city swimming pool or to the library or to the movies.
My grandfather was a very good gardener, so there always seemed to be plenty of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, okra, you-name-it for my grandmother to can, make into preserves, cook fresh, blanch and freeze, and so forth. When I think of her, I most often picture her in the kitchen.
Grammy Funston was a small woman. If she was fully five feet tall, I’d be surprised. Because kitchen counters were just a bit too tall for her, she preferred to sit at the kitchen table to do her vegetable and fruit preparation, the peeling, dicing, slicing, sorting, and what-all that is required to cook, preserve, or can garden produce.
Grammy’s kitchen was the way into the house from the garden, the orchard, the play yard, and the work shed: up the back porch steps, into the mudroom, past the stairs to the basement, into and through the kitchen to get to wherever else you might be headed. With all that cooking and canning going on, boiling pots of water on the stove, pans of cooking jams and jellies, stacks of glass mason jar and jelly glasses, it was also a busy and sometimes dangerous place. She didn’t mind people coming and going through her work space, but she had one hard-and-fast rule – no running in the kitchen.
Violate that rule and you would find yourself snagged! For a woman as petite as she was, she was incredibly strong and had a grip like iron. Run past her in that kitchen and her arm would flash out like a bull-whip; her hand would latch on to your upper arm like a vice; and you would find yourself planted right in front of her about to get a stern talking-to. She had a habit of placing her hands on both your upper arms and shaking you as she made her points: “You could get seriously hurt!” SHAKE “Do you understand me?” SHAKE “This is a dangerous place!” SHAKE
“I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations. . . .” I picture God as a grandmother working in her kitchen, making all sorts of good things, and occasionally snagging an unruly creation by the arm, grabbing the world by both shoulders. “This is a dangerous place!” SHAKE “You need to pay attention!” SHAKE “Do you understand me?” SHAKE
It’s the message of Advent, again! “Be alert; I have already told you everything.” (Mark 13:23) SHAKE!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.