Sunday, June 2, 2024

The Connection of Gardening With The Cosmos

 "With what can we compare the Realm of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs and puts forth large branches so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."  -- Mark 4:30

It's Springtime, and summer is approaching quickly. Gardens are getting planted or already are. I don't know about you, but every packet of seeds I open surprises me and amazes me with how small the seeds are.  However many billion years it has been since the startup of Project Creation, quantum particles, atoms, and molecules have been generated by the formation of stars and galaxies.  Those particles have traveled untold light years to coalesce on Planet Earth and form themselves into larger molecules that humans have come to call DNA - the blueprint for life.  Looking at a seed, the most amazing part is the DNA molecules packed into those seeds determine what the plant will be.  There is very little difference in size or weight between the seed of a Sequoia tree and a common beet --yet tiny differences in the DNA create all the different plants and their characteristics. The entire encyclopedia of fauna covering Planet Earth is present because of tiny seeds. Viewed even more broadly, all reproductive cells contain this myriad of physical properties we see in every form of life.

The act of gardening connects us through seeds, to the food they supply, and to the life that we possess for however long we have on Earth. We are all being fed by elements of stardust. Is that not a humbling realization?  Many people, a couple of weeks ago, marveled at the Northern Lights brought about by magnetic storms arising from sunspots,  Yet just as amazing is every seed that has ever taken root.  

So, how is this a parable for the Realm of God?  The Realm of God is grounded in diversity.  In all forms of life, enriching and expanding to interact and fill the Earth with good and beautiful things. It is rooted in the primordial birth of the universe, which I believe was (and is) the outpouring of God's love.  That may be too large to get one's head around, but then God incarnated in the form of Jesus to give us the tangible how-to manual on how to behave with one another.  Let's take that to heart. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Cruelty Meets Holy Saturday - Reflection Meets Politics VI

 And the silence of the dawn arose after "It is finished."

For years, Holy Saturday felt weird to me. There was all the intensity of the prior week's ministrations—meals, solemn readings, funeral-esk music, sanctuary stripping, communion—and then this dead space of Holy Saturday. In my childhood church experience, the only thing that happened on Holy Saturday was my mother did her routine flower arranging for Easter morning and placed it on the altar at church for the next morning's anticipated celebration.   In my kid's understanding, Holy Saturday was a boring letdown.  My mom said that was the way it was supposed to feel.

"This is how it is supposed to feel"—when conscience and faith need to be consulted on the unfolding events in which one is involved. Holy Saturday is a pause. In one's conscience, what is happening? World events, even local events, can have disturbing impacts on our emotional life flow.  It is somewhat easy to push them aside with the brain's self-protection of, "It can't happen to me."  It feels as though that is our only means of coping. But the blows to one's sense of safety and protection feel the punch just the same.

  • A friend's cancer diagnosis or fatal heart attack.  
  • A mom and three children's lives are snuffed out by the flash of a teen's car speeding over 100 mph in a 40.
  • An innocent random woman minding her own business driving to work is hit & killed by a bullet from a shooter in the woods. 
  • A bridge collapses, and six construction workers are gone.
  • Miniscule parachute drops are falling to feed thousands of starving Palestinians ironically while the intentional counteraction of killing them continues its relentless climb toward a million dead.
  • The earth's "carrying capacity" is well beyond sustainable, yet voracious consumption of her resources continues, while in the halls of power, stuffed shirts quibble about the significance and validity of individual data points.

It is overwhelming to absorb all of the "it is finished" happenings.  We need a daily "Holy Saturday" to find a pause button and soak in the redeeming and calming silence—a day apart from the torrent—to reconnect with the Holy. 

Jesus' closing discourses were all about this life circumstance. Terror, destruction, and the end of life are not time-limited. They have always been and are a part of human existence—wars and rumors of wars, death, hatred, persecution—"yet not a hair of your head will perish.  By your endurance you will gain your lives" (Luke 21:18)  . Some Pollyanna language is put in Jesus' mouth, but Jesus' life example was not rooted in Pollyanna. Rather, he was pragmatic and hands-on.  As we endure and hold tight to faith in eternal existence, "the former will pass away, and all things will become new." (Rev 21)

We have Holy Saturday(s) to bathe in silent reflection on how our very DNA is entwined with the eternal love of God.  In love, we were born.  By love, we live. Through love, we return.  Regardless of the horrors of daily "crucifixions," we cannot succumb to the oceans of tears. We continue the mission to serve with kindness and empathy.  We arise again day after day, even after being beaten down, to walk the Good Road, to be living witnesses to the Eternal Love that cannot be extinguished.  Ever. 


Monday, March 18, 2024

Reflection on Faith and Politics - V -What Do You Want?

At the end of Chapter 10 in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is passing through Jericho when a blind man, Bartimaeus, yells out to him.  Bartimaeus causes such a ruckus that, in spite of the crowd trying to hush him up, Jesus turns and asks him, "What do you want from me?" 

Indeed, what do the masses of people clamoring to claim the Christian faith want from him today?  Many people claim to follow him yet hold a stubborn, obtuse belief in their own privileged position with Jesus.  They claim special rights for themselves as though Jesus commissioned them, in particular, to gather in only their own close friends and family -- that they determine what act Jesus will perform for the downcast - the hungry, the immigrant, the poor.  They are no different than the crowd then - scolding the needy and pushing them to the back of the line.  Perhaps this selfish grasping to hold Jesus only to themselves is why there are so many different churches across the United States landscape?  Perhaps the social toxicity of white privilege bought worldly political power so they could demand that Jesus bless them in their blindness rather than heal them? 

Greed, fear, and hardness of heart are not acts of Jesus. Greed and self-protection are not bedrocks of the Christian faith. They do not permit lovingkindness to thrive or other virtues to lift a society's care for the infinite number of ways trouble and hardship can strike any one of us without warning. In fact, the hardness of heart and the clutching pearls of privilege fuel desperation, which in turn leads to responses of violence, crime, and war.  There is no better example of this escalation in war and violence than the Hamas v. Israeli conflict. Healing this kind of human blindness will take far more than the retreat into silos of vengeful self-justification or hiding in hopes it won't breach our doors.

What we all want is a true pathway to peace and healing of all ills—social, physical, and emotional.  We won't get there if we are the noisy crowd shoving the needy to the rear or only watching out for Number 1.  Jesus' response to need was to notice it and do what he could to help.  This should be the faith model we could all adopt, remembering that frequently, all another person needs is a smile and to be seen.