A few weeks ago two of the trees in the backyard of the rectory had to be cut down, they were in such poor health that it was just a matter of time before the fell over, taking the rectory and garage with them. Still, they were giant trees that offered a lot of shade over the house and yard, and they were home to many squirrels and birds. One squirrel use to taunt my dogs and yell at them, as if to say, this yard is mine!
But now, with the trees gone, the yard seems barren. The ferns and ivy along the garage are drying up because of too much sun, which is not a tragedy - it was too overgrown anyway. The lawn is rutted from accommodating the heavy trucks and cranes that cut the trees down and turned them into the wood chips. Eventually the grass will come back, especially because Dan is leveling the ruts, spreading out grass seed, and watering it.
Most curious and amusing is how the animals have adapted. The other morning I saw one of the squirrels rolling around and around in the dirt used to filled the hole where a tree trunk was removed. I imagine this was the squirrel who use to live in that tree, now come to love the dirt and relish in the remains of its former home. After a bit of rolling around it bounced off toward the labyrinth and whatever tree it found to make a new home.
Birds are having a literal field day with the dried grass, plucking it feverishly, and dunking the brittle mouthfuls in the bird bath before flying off to build a new nest in one of the other trees. Amazingly, the yard and the animals that live there, including Dan and I and our dogs, are all adapting to the changed landscape.
I think that’s how God created us and the world - to be adaptive in order to survive and grow. When there is so much reactivity and fear being manifested in the world today, when violence is prevalent and tragedy a daily occurrence, we are challenged to adapt, grow, follow Jesus and in as creative a way as possible, striving to be God’s love in the world. No doubt there are challenges one encounters when one follows Jesus, when one brings forth God’s love in the world. Challenges of resistance from one’s self or others, like the Samaritans. Like the people in the Gospel we too can be stopped by the challenges and pressures we feel in our own lives, the many cares and concerns that we have, the fears that could stop us cold, the risk that feels too great, or even the apathy that can rise up from trying for so long that one is worn out or has given up.
I’m particularly tired of hearing that the church is dying. First of all, I don’t believe it. What I do think is that church as it was in the 1950’s is dying. What is rising up however are smaller church communities that survive because they are clear about their purpose. The church is about lives that are transformed and people who are loved. The church is about spreading God’s love and compassion into the world. The church is about offering people a means by which to find their purpose in life, to help people live meaningful lives, because they participate in what God is doing in the world. Like Elisha seeing God at work in Elijah’s rising up in a chariot of fire, God’s action in the world is visible when one knows how to recognize it. Foxes have holes and birds have nests, because, instead of regressing to conflict and angst, these creatures are able to adapt when the world as they know it changes.
Our purpose at Christ Church, at this time in our lives, is to feed people. From the community garden to the labyrinth to the exterior plaza; from the food pantry to Blessings in a Backpack, from the Liberia SCHOOL project to our Christian Formation and the many people we have and are mentoring into the priesthood, from martial arts to dance and music, these are just a few of the ways we feed people in mind, body, and spirit, following Jesus along the way, and being God’s hands and heart in the world.
a reflection on the readings for Proper 8C: 2 Kings: 1-2, 6-14 and Luke 9:51-62