Creative God, baptize us with your Holy Spirit. Create in us a new heart, one attuned to your love, one filled with your life, a heart that radiates warmth and generosity. The world is full of suffering. We, too, suffer. Heal us so that we can be your hands of healing for others. Amen.
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-21-20
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us,” writes St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. I chose the Scripture text for the coming Sunday because we’re planning an outdoor pet blessing, safely physically distanced, no congregational singing. This weekend will be our first attempts at in person public events since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown in March.
Saturday we’ll be hosting an outdoor funeral for long time church member Shirley Young. (We had a “private” baptism last Sunday, originally planned for outdoors, but then quickly moved inside because of rain.) Prior to COVID, these would be familiar events and rituals. Now they are more complicated, more demanding, and–on the positive side of the ledger–an opportunity for our church to come together to do the “normal” things we do. Today (Tuesday) a group of us met at the church to set up a large tent to accommodate our funeral guests. It was good to work together on a task, chat, and look each other in the eyes.
Pet blessing is a great opportunity to remember our emotional and spiritual connection to non-human life on this planet. Many of us know the joy of greeting our pets when we wake up in the morning or when we come home from being away for any length of time. We have known sorrow when a pet dies. Or the contentment of snuggling with something furry. We talk to our pets, feed them, mourn them. They are family.
It is important to remember our intimate connection to non-human life for two reasons: 1) our faith, 2) our continued existence as a species on this planet. Caring for creation is an essential expression of our Christian faith. In our text for this Sunday, St. Paul writes that the whole creation “groans” waiting for humanity to get its act together. God created Earth and humanity as one organic whole. When we harm the planet, we’re harming ourselves. Which leads to reason #2: Scientists have been warning for decades about the devastating impacts of climate change. Life on this planet will continue despite anthropogenic climate change. The question is, Will this transformed planet still be habitable for humans? We have a shrinking window to make the changes necessary to minimize the impacts that are already happening. The time for humanity to get its act together is now.
What’s Up with Pastor Todd 4-10-20
The resurrection story in the Gospel of John is famous for its recounting of Mary’s personal encounter with Jesus “in the garden” near the tomb. John is the only gospel that contains this story. It’s vivid in detail, and it inspired the schmaltzy hymn “In the Garden.” For those of you not familiar, it goes like this:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear
falling on my ear
the Son of God discloses.
And he walks with me
And he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
None other has ever known.
The joke in my family was, “Who’s Andy?” (You know “Andy” walks with me. “Andy” talks with me . . .)
You probably love this hymn. A lot of people do. And I’m not immune to schmaltz, but this particular hymn was always a little much for me.
That’s why I’ve chosen to preach on this text this week. I wonder if there’s something vivid and powerful underneath the layers of sentimentality that have been slathered on this particular resurrection scene that can speak to this time of crisis.
If I had to guess, it might have something to do with the garden and gardening itself. John tells us that when Mary encounters Jesus she at first mistakes him for the “gardener.” The image of the garden reminds me of the Biblical Garden of Eden and all that transpired there: creation, disobedience, the curse of Adam and Eve, and the promise of redemption. It also reminds me of the famous pronouncement following creation: “God saw all that God had made, and behold it was very good.”
As coronavirus wreaks havoc across the planet, does “very good” still apply? Had resurrection really happened back when Mary encountered “the gardener” so many centuries ago? More importantly, can it happen now?