Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week following Christ the King Sunday
November 22, 2015
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21, NRSV)
If you were in church today, then you picked up on my modest obsession with “pruning.” While I have a black thumb when it comes to all things lawn or garden related, I’m a mean pruner. I nest in my apple tree for 8-10 hours in the late winter months, usually over a two-day span, to prune the tree in preparation for the spring. Part of the allure is to complete the pruning with as few ladder re-positionings as possible. Part of the allure is the premise that sacrificing some branches, leads to richer life (and apple productivity) for others. So, as I was homiletically wandering around the vineyard the prophet Isaiah describes for us in the early chapters of the book named after him, I found myself thinking about a quote I came across in my reading and research on the text:
The world is not a problem to be solved; it is a living being to which we belong. The world is part of our own self and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. Until we go to the root of our image of separateness, there can be no healing. And the deepest part of our separateness from creation lies in our forgetfulness of its sacred nature, which is also our own sacred nature. –Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, ed., Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
I will confess my limited appreciation for the created world’s connection to me as a creature of God. The biblical role of “steward” has been one I have interpreted as caretaker, not one of mutual belonging. But as I engaged my sermonic themes of death/life, barrenness/vitality, repentance/forgiveness, and grapes/wild grapes … I will admit that I found myself playing around with the “sacred nature” we share with God’s good creation. I couldn’t quite work it into my overall preaching landscape, so as I often say, I “left it on the cutting room floor.”
But you, my friends, are welcome to wrestle with it a bit this week. Many of you are already more connected to the spirit of nature than I am, being gardeners, hikers, animal lovers, and Franciscans at heart. Do you find yourself sharing a common sacred nature with the earth? Are you most at peace with your fingers deep in the loam of the earth? Can you only find real peace when you walk under the night sky, or surround yourself with the rustling prayers of a forest? Is Isaiah’s image of the “vineyard” as a description of God’s people the proper one, exactly because of the intentional yoking of humanity to the earthly creation? I do not know the answers to these question. But some of you might. If so, please consider sharing them with us.
Holy, Triune God, Lover, Love, Beloved: all things live and move and have their being within your relations. You create Day and Night, Sky, Earth and Sea. You make Earth to bring forth plants yielding seed and trees bearing fruit. You set the sun, the moon and the stars in their orbits, and let them measure the passage of time. From the waters and from the earth you bring forth living creatures of unfathomable beauty and variety. And you make us. You make us in your image, with power and responsibility to fulfill the good in all the great web of life. Gather us with all creation into the perfection of your hallowed rest.
~~ ELCA “Prayer with Creation.”