May 15 2015

Ponderings From Denver

CO Rocky Mountain high country 046This week I have been in Denver, Colorado, for the Festival of Homiletics. It’s been a great week and I’ve had the chance to hear many wonderful speakers. It has been interesting to hear how many of them made mention of Christianity’s need to reconnect with the earth and to be better stewards of the environment.   It was wonderful to hear John Philip Newell speak once again at the event.  His writings and prayers have helped deepen my spirituality and connected it more to the earth. Other speakers, like Brian McClaren, indicated that the future health of the church will be determined, in part, by our willingness to take the sacredness of the earth more seriously. Speaker after speaker called us to honor God’s Creation.

CO Rocky Mountain NP tundra 003Wednesday I attended John Philip Newell’s workshop on “The Rebirthing of God.” It was held in a Lutheran Church and I was impressed with the way the pulpit area was decorated with rocks and plants.  At the end of the session Philip asked us to meditate on the Psalmist’s words, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” (Ps. 96:6)  The stones gathered around the altar aided the meditation. Yesterday morning I attended a worship service held in a Methodist Church that gave careful attention to nature. We were invited to spend some time in silence at the beginning of the service. While we all remained quiet the recorded sounds of a bird singing were played. We then sang a song I had never heard before that deeply moved me.

The song we sang is called “Touch the Earth Lightly” and was written by Shirley Erena Murray. Here are the words to three of the verses: “Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care; gifts of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear.  Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet.  Health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete. God of all living, God of all loving, God of the seedling, the snow, and the sun, teach us, deflect us, Christ reconnect us, using us gently, and making us one.”

CO Aspen aspens v 065At still yet another session in the festival there was an inter-faith dialogue between John Philip Newell, a rabbi and a Muslim.  All three mentioned how their faith tradition honored and valued Creation. It was clear that recognizing the sacredness of the earth and caring for it is something that could draw groups which are quite different together. Considering the conflict we see in the world it would seem that this would be a good area for us to focus on. I truly believe that we must find ways to move beyond our differences and find common ground that will unite us. The earth can literally be that common ground.

More than ever I am convinced of the value of “seeing Creation” as an important link to God.  It can help enhance our worship of the “Maker of heaven and earth,” draw us closer to other Christians as well as those of other faith traditions, and it can also serve as a needed incentive to take better care of this good earth. By focusing on God’s “other Book,” as well as the Scriptures, perhaps we can all experience a “rebirthing of God,” as well as a closer connection with both nature and those around us.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures shown here on previous trips to Colorado.)


Feb 23 2014

Through the Eyes of Love

_DSC0672In the book, Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation, you will find a prayer penned by Brian McLaren.  I’ve been reading Brian’s books for a number of years and have had a chance to hear him speak a couple of times.  I know he shares with me a common love for God and nature so I was excited to discover this prayer recorded in Holy Ground.  The prayer is too long to include in its entirety here but I do want to share the final portion of it with you:

_DSC1522“We thank you, God,  for speaking to our world through Jesus.  He told us that,  just as you care for every sparrow, you care for us.  He reminded us that you give the wildflowers their natural beauty and you wish to clothe us with beauty in a similar way.  He taught us that wisdom is hidden in the growth of the smallest seed, in the turning of seasons, in every corner of your amazing creation.  He taught us to see every creature as beloved by you, God our Creator, and he called us to live with your love pulsing in our hearts.  So let us learn to see and love this good Earth as Jesus did, and to care for it and enjoy it and rejoice in it, so that the Earth may indeed be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”

I like the way Brian summarizes Jesus’ teachings in this prayer but there is something else here that caught my attention.  It is found in his last petition where he prays that we might “see and love this good Earth as Jesus did.”  Needless to say we talk a lot on this site about seeing Creation and also about loving it but I’m not sure I’ve ever given much thought to how Jesus actually saw and loved it.  Obviously, as Brian makes clear, Jesus saw Creation as a source of God’s revelation, but how did the world look to Jesus through his own eyes?

_DSC0408I suspect that Jesus saw far more than we tend to.  I imagine, for example, that he noticed the small and “ordinary” things of nature that we often pass right by without a second glance.  I can picture Jesus taking the time to soak in the beauty that surrounded him and meditating on what he saw.  No doubt Jesus looked at the flora and fauna, the geography and geology, about him with an understanding like no one else who has ever lived.  Ultimately, however, it’s hard for me to imagine just how Jesus looked at the world.  Here’s why…

_DSC0752In the Prologue to John’s Gospel we are told both that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” and that “through him all things were made.” (1:14, 1:3)  It is impossible for me to comprehend the Word (God) becoming flesh; to try to grasp what it was like for the Creator to live in and look at the Creation is equally impossible.  I would imagine, however, that Jesus looked upon His own handiwork with great delight.  What he had created “in the beginning” as “good” was still good.  Perhaps the joy he felt in making all things was renewed and experienced again as he looked upon it all through human eyes.  The one thing I believe I can say with certainty is that Jesus saw the world he had created through the eyes of love.

I doubt that it is fully possible for us to see the earth as Jesus did but I know that if I could I would be even more grateful for it than I am now and would not be able to look at anything without wonder and awe.  It would be love at first sight, and second sight, and third sight…  As Brian McClaren prayed, I think I would also “care for it and enjoy it and rejoice in it” in ways I’ve not yet done.  For that reason I intend to make Brian’s prayer my own and encourage you to do the same.

–Chuck

(I took the four images above recently at a county park near my home.)