Tag Archives: environment

cherry_blossom

A Fundamental Fact (or Two) of the Universe

I stood beneath my neighbor’s beautiful cherry blossom tree as a breeze lilted through its thick thatched petals of pink, dislodging some of them so we were playing a scene from the moment when the Buddha awakened and petals snowed from the sky.  You have no doubt your own moments of Spring Awakening as you have navigated down streets with trees blooming in a riot of pink and white and green.  Our cars are coated by pollen.  When we stop long enough–and sometimes a few seconds is all it takes–within the cycle of renewal and a season of life, we come to our senses and a vivid truth confronts us:  none of this had to be; we do not control these seasons tightly winded and released to play their music box songs to us again and again.  The fact that the universe renews itself is a fundament fact that we must ponder.  Only the most cynical or arrogant among us dismiss this as though it just happens and it is no big deal. Oh, yes, it is. Indeed.  That you are part of this is nothing short of a miracle.

Another fact of the universe counters the truth of renewal. Calvin would call it the depravity of human beings. I’ve no issue with his calling it this.  But suffice it to say that if renewal is a constant then the human inclination to pollute, ruin and even destroy life is a fundamental fact that must be taken into consideration too. Something went wrong.  The Russian poet and Soviet exile,  Joseph Brodsky, talked about an “anthropological backslide” having occurred to which he immediately connected the idea of sin. And sin he said is not such a hard word to define. It simply means, he said, that “man is dangerous.”  I’m not sure you have noticed but the current President has appointed persons to head departments who actually hate those departments and have been and are dedicated to ruining them. Whether it be the oversight of our environment or the nurturing of diplomacy, the appointees have held these very departments in contempt. We are being treated to a vivid depiction of cynical and Orwellian government.

What to do?  let go into the mystery, as Van Morrison sings.  Pause and consider the vast sums of order and precision, the fine-tuned universe beyond you and within you.  And then get yourself to a sacred space and in gratitude, worship and commune.  Get to a place where truth-telling is still considered possible and necessary.

~ See you Sunday

police_christ

Christ: A Stranger in the United States

Christ is always coming toward us as a stranger.  Soon, we’ll read post-resurrection texts and included in those will be a  passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus stands upon the shore, peering out to the lake where his disciples –soon to be apostles—are fishing as some kind of cathartic exercise in response to despair.  They will see a figure on the shore but he is shrouded by fog and distance, unrecognizable until that distance is closed by their urgent race to the shore. They leave their boats again to run to him because while they cannot see him, they can hear him.

John’s Gospel begins by saying that Christ came into the world and the world, though made by him, did not know him.  He came as a stranger. He was perceived as a stranger both by his own family and neighbors and the Romans who killed him.  Christ is always coming toward us as a stranger.

That truth is likely why we end up with the admonishment from scripture to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” since you might unaware end up entertaining angels …or the Christ. Certainly we see this in the famous story in Luke’s Gospel about two disciples on the road to Emmaus who have no idea that the person journeying with them is the Risen Christ. He remained a stranger to them for their entire journey until at table, he blessed bread and then their eyes were opened. That is, they recognized him.

Once you are recognized or known, you are a stranger no longer.  This should be the point, or at least a point, in any religious response to the world and its residents:  close the distance, recognize one another as brothers and sisters.  The stranger who arrives in your midst may be the Christ coming toward you.  You should treat him or her as such.  Yet the early Church lived as strangers in the world—perhaps this is why the Gospels depict Jesus as a stranger and why the scriptures encourage kindness toward the stranger.  Hebrews 11 says that these people of faith “confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth..”  That word “foreigner” gets variously translated as “alien” and “exile.” But it has the sense of illegal aliens, persons who arrived in a foreign country and sojourned there.

Many Christians –not all of course—feel especially alienated in the United States at this moment in history.  The Senate is about to have its remaining leg of bipartisanship removed by a man who single-handedly obstructed the Constitution and stole a Supreme Court seat; the Attorney General is about to roll back civil rights by obstructing reform of police departments across the country, this despite the fact that extrajudicial killings of African-Americans is a travesty in this nation and Gov Scott of Florida is reprising the role of Pontius Pilate with a vengeance; laws to protect the water and air are being rolled back despite the facts of and danger of climate change and a renewed effort to deny healthcare to the elderly and poor and sick is under way.  For Christians who believe in the Prince of Peace, who extol justice and protection of the stranger and immigrants, who believe the bible teaches stewardship of the earth and “creation care,” who know that the stranger Christ was brought into line by the police and soldiers of Pilate, this is madness that resembles the horrifying world of early Christianity.  Christ is a stranger in the United States.

My encouragement to you as we move toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week is to recall what Jesus told his disciples, “In the world you have tribulation but take courage.  I have overcome the world.”  This Sunday, close the distance and cross the threshold of recognition so that we may no longer be strangers to one another and so in the coming days, we might work together to shelter as many as we can from the coming storm.  ~ See you Sunday.