Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Strand in the Web of Creation

A reflection on John 3:1-17 for the Season of Creation 1A

When I was a little girl I lived in a neighborhood on the side of the mountains that rim the southern section of Salt Lake City. Our driveway angled sharply down, providing a great place to skateboard. And from the street I had a fabulous view of the city and valley below. For me it was most spectacular at night, with thousands of bright sparkling lights. I remember that Petula Clark’s song, “Downtown,” was a hit on the radio.

Another of my favorite memories of living there was the apricot tree in the backyard. Now, I know that apricot trees are not very large, but as a little girl it was a big tree for me. I loved to climb up in the branches, high enough that I could see beyond the garages to the city in the valley below. And then I’d settle in on a good branch, remove the book from my pocket and enjoy fresh apricots while reading. These memories are rich in imagery, of the amazing beauty of God’s creation – even now they fill my senses with the sights, sounds, and tastes of those days.

It reminds me of a poem that Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, published in her book, “Thirst”

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."


A few years later we moved to a small town in Wisconsin. It was the time when kids ran outdoors on a summer morning to ride bikes, play hop-scotch, or make up games to occupy time. We’d head home hot and hungry for lunch only to return to the outdoors until dinner. In that backyard my dad built a fabulous tree-house in the branches of a giant oak – providing my brothers and I with hours of play. And then, on the edge of our property was a small wood land area, remnants of what might have been a larger forest, or maybe just a random growth of trees. This wooded area afforded the neighborhood kids a natural play ground, building forts and other games of make believe, inviting us into our imaginations daily. My favorite game in these woods was to pretend that I was Sacajawea, an Indian maiden, and I’d try to walk undetected, silently, leaving no broken twigs or crushed grasses. Of course I was completely unable to do this, but I loved to try.
The poet and author Wendell Berry wrote a poem about this idea:

I part the out-thrusting branches
And come in beneath
The blessed and the blessing trees
Though I am silent
There is singing around me
Though I am dark
There is vision around me
Though I am heavy
There is flight around me

We begin, today, our five week series called, Season of Creation. This liturgical season falls in the middle of Ordinary Time, which begins after Pentecost and lasts until Advent. Created by an ecumenical group in Australia, this season offers us an opportunity every fall to spend some time reflecting on the world around us and our role in creation.

Environmental theologians suggest that God’s household is the whole planet: it is composed of human beings living in interdependent relations with all other life-forms and earth processes.

A theology of environmentally focused worship acknowledges that the earth is God’s home, the place where God enters into relationship with all creation. Our scripture supports this concept.

As I said in my presentation last week: A theology of the environment is a sacramental theology. Sacrament means an outward and visible expression of an inward and invisible grace. Holy Communion, which we share every Sunday around this table, is a sacrament – the bread and wine are outward expressions of an invisible grace, of God’s profound love for us and all creation.

The world is sacramental because it is an expression of God’s self. The world is also incarnational. In the prologue of the Gospel of John we hear that the Word of God, which was with God before creation, is expressed into the world in human flesh, in Jesus – this makes the world a sacramental incarnational reality. As our Gospel this morning reminds us, our role in creation to assist God in bringing forth the kingdom of God. Jesus shows us how to do this.
Acknowledging this in our worship for the Season of Creation provides us with an opportunity to embrace what incarnation means; how – being born of the Spirit - we are invited by God to partner with God in caring for God’s home.

Chief Seattle, a member of Suquamish tribe in the Pugent Sound region near Seattle,WA, known for a famous speech he gave in 1854 on the condition of humanity and nature, offers this:

Teach your children
What we have taught our children –
That the earth is our mother.
Whatever befalls the earth
Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
If men spit upon the ground,
They spit upon themselves.

This we know
the earth does not belong to us,
we belong to the earth.
This we know
All things are connected
Like the blood which unites one family
All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth
Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
We did not weave the web of life,
We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web,
We do to ourselves.

1 comment:

Purple said...

The poetry you've selected is so rich with images and sacramental language.

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