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April 20th

For Today’s lent Blog I welcome this guest blogger. 

Editors’ Note: This year Holy Week coincides with Earth Day and the one-year anniversary of the horrible oil spill that claimed the lives of 11 men and dumped almost 5 million tons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. What does Jesus’ resurrection teach us about God’s creation and our part in it? In this issue of Faith and Justice Connection, we look at the church’s role in caring for God’s creation.

We wish you a blessed Holy Week.

A reflection on Earth Day and Easter

by Matthew Sleeth

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it… --Psalm 24:1

It is fitting that this year Earth Day falls on Good Friday and that, three days later, the greatest dawn since the beginning of time is celebrated. To those who claim that the earth and the life on it are disposable -- or that God cares only about altar calls and has no time for the call of whales -- Easter Sunday reminds us of something quite different.

God is the author of all life. It pleased God to take the form of humanity and to dwell among us. Christ came to pay a ransom and redeem us. He reminded us that his Father notices every time a sparrow falls from the sky. He is that kind of a God -- no less.

In the fullness of time, God will choose to sound the last trumpet. A theology that says we should force God’s hand by wanton greed or negligence seems dangerous at best. Easter marks the day when all creation held its breath to see the firstborn, the new Adam, the Messiah.

This Easter, let us renew our commitment to love our neighbors with extravagance and to care for this gift of God’s, called the earth. Let us remember that Mary did not mistake Christ for a soldier or even a rabbi on Easter morning, but rather a gardener.

Matthew Sleeth, MD, is author of Serve God, Save the Planet and co-editor of The Green Bible. He is co-founder of the faith-based educational nonprofit, Blessed Earth.


 

April 19th

We are already deep into Holy Week and as Pastor I am thinking about death and resurrection.  In God’s garden these are realities that we face also.  Yesterday Amy and I snipped off some of the little tomato seedlings in order to allow one plant to grow stronger.  We chose by size and leaf quality.  In our gardens we pull weeds, thin out plants that grow too thickly, we kill slugs, slap mosquitoes and do not always stop to think about death. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…”  He was speaking realistically, if you plant a grain of wheat, it dies and becomes something new.  He was also talking about his life and death.  Unless he died, so that he could rise again, death would not be overcome! 

In my gloomiest of moments, I remember that death is a part of life.  Acceptance of what cannot be avoided means that we can put our energies into things where we can make a difference.  It would be nice to not ever have to decide which tomato plant is strongest, but we do so that one plant can grow and give us many, many cherry tomatoes, feeding our bodies and enriching our souls. 

What are those things that we must give up on?  Where can we move forward with renewed strength and determination?  These are questions for us as individuals and as a community of faith.  Easter promises us new life in the face of death!  Easter gives us hope for God’s presence with us, always!  First comes Good Friday, but Easter follows!  Always!

April 16th

This morning I took some time to re-read all of the Lenten blogs from Ash Wednesday on.  Mostly I was trying not to be repetitive by any of my comments that will continue through Holy Week.  I was not surprised to find a number of references to rain and cold.  This has not been a warm spring, but rather one that has challenged my enjoyment of being outside.

 I am reminded of the journals of Lewis and Clark, those intrepid Northwest explorers who came overland from Saint Louis to the Astoria area.  They wintered over in a little fort that has since rotted away (this is the Northwest) but has been rebuilt so that we can imagine what it was like to be here in primitive times.  From reading the journals I imagine their winter was as cold and damp as our spring this year.  We of course have warm water-proof jackets and warm houses in which to sip hot tea as we watch the rain fall. 

If you are brave enough to venture out on a rainy Saturday in April, let me encourage you to go buy the Interfaith Family Shelter’s native Plant sale at the Lion’s Club every Saturday in April.  They will teach you which native plants you already have in your yard and have pictures of noxious weeds so you can rid your yard of those.  They also have plants to buy, with the proceeds going to the Family Shelter.  Even on a rainy Saturday, my heart was warmed and I came home with lots of plant info and a lovely pot for my front porch. 

The blog continues one more week, but the garden will keep growing all summer long!  Blessings on your rainy days!

April 14th

How do we ever explain away the presence of those destroying pests in our gardens?  I am feeling particularly guilty this spring over my anger at the furry, cute, totally annoying squirrels who have come into my yard this spring to destroy my lovely daffodil bulbs.  I say destroy because usually they do not even eat the bulbs, but they leave them lying all around the pots from which they have taken them.  They have dug up newly planted bulbs from the ground and in pots, and now that some of the bulbs have come up the squirrels have even have dug up whole flowering plants.  What is a loving, caring gardener to do?

As I prepare to plant my vegetable seeds, I really do not want to just be “feeding squirrels!”

This is only one of the pests that bug gardeners!  What are some of yours?  Moles, weeds, variety of bugs, slugs?  As a “green” gardener I hate the thought of pesticides and herbicides.  Pulling weeds and using weed barriers are better ideas.   I don’t want to ever kill a squirrel and most of the year I enjoy watching them run around my yard—their clowning around always makes me smile. 

What would God say?  In the beginning all creation was good—that had to include the pests as well as those useful plants and animals.  How does God define useful?  I do believe that all of creation is essential to the whole.  We need all things to be part of the circle of life and death and rebirth. 

Maybe I worry too much.  I still have lots of lovely daffodils.  I can put a screen over my little lettuces and radishes.  God has blessed us with abundance—now I need to learn to share!  Even with the pesky squirrels!

April 13th

There in God’s Garden stands the Tree of Wisdom. . .this is the first line of that beautiful hymn that we have been singing all during Lent.  In this hymn the tree of course is Jesus, our source of wisdom, our source of love, our font of grace and forgiveness.  There are trees all through the Bible—so often we think of the tree of Calvary not as Jesus, but as the tree on which he was hung.  And really that piece of wood also started life as a tiny tree from a seed either deliberately or randomly planted.

The Cross is the tree that centers much of our Lenten worship.  As we get closer to Good Friday, we remember that the cross is empty—Jesus was on the cross for a brief time only.  The empty cross speaks to us of resurrection and hope, while at the same time reminding us that in all of our sorrows we have a Savior and a Friend who also knows pain and sorrow, abandonment and despair. 

At Trinity Lutheran Church one of our trees has burst into beautiful bloom.  The magnolia is full of huge, pink blossoms.  It stands outside our front door to welcome us in and it offers a place to sit by the cross and meditate on the multiple meanings of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus did not stay safely in heaven; he came to our messy, life-filled and death-filled world to live with us, to love us, and to lead us home.  Amen.

April 12th

This morning’s sunrise was worthy of any Easter that I can remember.  The glow started early—at my house it was an iridescent orange moving to yellow.  The mountains were outlined by the light and a new day began!  Later the snow on the mountains lit up. 

I was reminded of those beautiful Easter mornings in South Dakota, when we would wake up early to go to a sunrise service.  They did not happen every year—maybe it depended on the weather, the date of Easter, the current pastor—I was a child and all I know is that the sunrise has always inspired awe in me.  This year Easter is late in the calendar year and so even with daylight savings time the sunrise will be very early. 

On Easter morning, I will be up and I will be thankful for the gift of sunrise and the growing rays of light that it brings to God’s Garden.  In our wet northwest, it is sometimes hard to believe we would ever need to be sheltered from the rays of the sun—other than perhaps our sunglasses and maybe a hat.

Our plants need all the sun they can get!  Especially in gardens like mine which are surrounded by big trees and a high fence.  In mark’s Gospel Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow and he does not know how.” Mark 4:21.  We might think we know how seeds grow because we are a scientific people, but for me much of growth is still a mystery, held in God’s hand, powered by God’s love.  The sun is part of that mystery—I know photosynthesis and all those scientific theories.  But it is still a mystery and we still give thanks to God who gives the growth.

April 10th

Okay, I finally gave up and came in out of the rain.  It was not cold, but I kept getting wetter and wetter.  I transplanted some raspberries to a new spot in the garden.  I hope they get enough sun!  I also transplanted some perennial flowers and replanted the “chair” planter that I won last year at Trinity’s spring choir and bell concert.  The fuchsia starts are not very big, but eventually they will grow up.

I pulled weeds again in the resurrected garden spot—they just keep coming back!  Hopefully that means the vegetables will also grow well in that spot.  I have not planted any seeds directly in the ground yet, because the squirrels would think they were food for them.  Dave will build me some sort of protection until the plants get big enough to survive. 

The perennials have started coming back to life and almost all the bulbs are blooming—I am still waiting for the tulips, but the rest are all blooming.  It gives me hope to know that the winter cold did not kill them and that with light and heat they will come back to life.  Kind of like Lazarus coming out of the grave in this morning’s Gospel.  God demonstrated God’s power over death and that gives me hope as we move closer and closer to Good Friday. 

Sometime this week, we will move the palm plants to church for Palm Sunday.  They have grown a lot this year.  God’s garden is full of life!  God’s abundant love and tender care is Good News for us all!

April 7th

Growing in faith—this morning I was at Washington Oaks, a retirement home, where I led a Bible study with an amazing group of women all over 85 years young.  We have been studying the letters of Paul to the Corinthians and we talked about planting seeds of faith.  Most of them had been Sunday School teachers at one time or another and many of them remembered who planted those first seeds of faith in them.  Mothers and grandmothers were often those mentioned as having been the one who first told them of God’s love. 

In Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy, he writes:  “That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice and now to you!”  (The Message)   Whether we think of our faith as planted or handed down, it is a gift not only from God, but also from the one who shared it with you.  We are always to be in the business of nurturing the faith of one another—we do that by prayer and by being available to listen. 

Trinity Lutheran Church has a giving garden that is being planted with vegetables to share with those who are hungry.  This is a new way to share with those who come to our Trinity Aid Bank.  But, Trinity Lutheran Church has long been a place where seeds of faith are being planted—we have so many gifts to share with a hungry world.  Not just vegetables but hope, patience, grace, and trust in the God who loves us and who never abandons us. 

Garden workers—thanks for passing on the faith to everyone you meet!  Thanks for your prayers on behalf of the hungry and the grieving, thanks for your care of our children and youth, thanks for joining in worship and fellowship with all who come to this Place of Grace.  Thanks for giving God’s grace away, every day!  Amen!

April 6th

This morning I went to the Bible for some “growing” inspiration.  It was snowing at my house this morning and I need to think about something other than the weather!

So I have gone to two of my favorites:

Galatians 6:9 “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”

2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” (NRSV)

Both of these verses remind us that our lives have a purpose way beyond complaining about the weather.  We are called to lives of doing good—each of us can make a difference in the life of someone else today.  Even a smile to a sad looking fellow shopper can make a difference.  You may never know what the harvest even looks like.  St Paul does a good job of reminding us that we may plant seeds, but that God is the one who gives the growth. 

We can grow weary of doing good, especially if the world seems to grow more callous and needy day by day.  Let us help each other find the signs of God’s grace and mercy among us.  I want to thank all of you who do good by bringing food to the Trinity Aid Bank.  You need to know that the vast majority of people whom we help are thankful and appreciative.  At the end of the month, there are always some who come in apologizing for their need, but who go out with thankful hearts.  We help those who are homeless, but we also help those whose other resources are gone before the end of the month.

As food prices seem to be rising, so will the need of our neighbors.  Thank you for not growing weary in well-doing!  To God be the glory! Amen.

 

April 4th

Well, in case anyone noticed, I have missed a couple of days of blogging.  But there is some news from the garden.  My rhubarb is up and growing bigger every day!  This is a gift from those who lived in this house before us.  In fact last spring, when we had just been there a couple of months, the rhubarb was like a wonderful, fresh housewarming present.  It got made into rhubarb sauce and rhubarb crunch. 

This year, I have been anticipating its return.  There are many more stalks this year, probably because I have been weeding around it and have added some worm castings as fertilizer.  There will be even more this year to enjoy.

Like the rhubarb, God’s love is always with us, even when we do not know it.  When we take time to read God’s words to us we can know God’s presence.  Creation is often a second “book” of God’s love for us.  Sitting in my garden or pulling weeds in the sunshine, I feel God with me in the air, in the ground, in the flowers and in the songs of birds. 

Thanks be to God for springtime and for the harvest of spring gifts—like my rhubarb!  A gift from the gardener who planted it and a gift from our loving Creator.  Amen.

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