Durability

It is a late-November morning. The dog and I are off for a walk. There are six inches of snow on the ground and the thermometer says it is -17° C. I’m thinking about durability. Last Sunday our congregation celebrated the arrival of four new children. Lest you get the wrong impression about the fecundity of this group: I should make it clear that they didn’t all actually arrive on that day. We hold these celebrations twice a year, each time we catch a sixth-month harvest. What happens on these Sundays is that each child is introduced by a parent. And then either I or my colleague wrap the little one in a blanket made by some of the congregation’s quilters. When I perform this ritual I tuck the infant in one arm and place my other hand on the little one. Then I say something like this:

Welcome into this congregation. We are thankful for you and we rejoice with your family at your presence in this world. May God bless you, may you grow in wisdom, in strength and in right relationship with those around you.

Then my colleague will read a bit of a Psalm in the child’s honor and the parents and the congregation will exchange commitments of care for the children and their families. Each family keeps a blanket. I hope the parents also keep a sense that their community of faith both shares in their happiness and will be supportive when the cute addition wrecks their lives. Continue reading “Durability”

Tilling, Working, Naming (174)

[Genesis 2:15-20; Psalm 8]

What are people for?

Some of you will recognize that question from the title of a little book by a farmer-poet. That’s the first place I can recall seeing the matter put this way. It’s a good way to ask the question, isn’t it? What are people for? The question upends things.

We have recently welcomed several new babies into our congregation. At the same time a number of us have said a final “goodbye” to someone we love. And some of us are going through the torturous process of wondering if it is our turn for such a goodbye. Birth and death are the bookends. But what about the time in between, where we all are, soaked in the bliss, the pain, the boredom. What is that? What are people for?   Continue reading “Tilling, Working, Naming (174)”

To Till and Keep—Sketching an Environmental Ethic

At the church I serve a group of adults has been doing a study on theology and the environment. I’ve been leading other things and have not been able to participate. I wish I could have listened-in somehow. It’s spring here in the lower Ottawa Valley. You would have to make a deliberate decision to avoid thinking about trees and garden plants. The book of Genesis says that God planted a garden with trees that were “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” This time of year that’s not hard to believe. If it’s not true—if it is not the case that in some awesome way a divine mystery has given us plants both beautiful and delicious—then evolution has wrought in us a misdirected instinct. If that transcendent and radically-near event we call ‘God’ has not given us the things of spring, then the beauty we see taking shape, which so readily evokes divine awareness in people of all creeds, has pointed us in the wrong direction. Continue reading “To Till and Keep—Sketching an Environmental Ethic”