Greetings sisters and brothers. I am thankful to have a few moments to share my story with you – it’s a story that is often overlooked but I have learned to be okay with that – things that were important to me before are seen from a new perspective – one in which the first shall be last…
God of life,
The body has been laid to rest.
The stone is in place.
The garden is silent.
In this time of in between,
I sense a current of anticipation
Lightly vibrating through the earth.
Help me to be watchful
Faithfully waiting for what is to come.
The promise of new life …
Not yet …
But joy will come in the morning!
To All the Little Black Girls With Big Names (Dedicated to Quvenzhane’ Wallis)
God of mercy,
I give you thanks for your child who became a living sacrifice.
I pray for the courage to be present in this day of sadness.
I cannot begin to comprehend the pain and brutality inflicted
on our beloved Jesus.
I think about his final hours in agony,
the grief of those gathered around him at the foot of the cross,
and the fear of those of his friends who had fled.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a reminder of
the most ugly and hateful parts of humanity.
As Jesus took all the world’s sin and pain
into his hands and feet
as the nails were driven into them,
He still interceded
asking for forgiveness
for those who had tormented him.
I ask for your forgiveness
for the ways that I continue to inflict pain
on that which is holy to you.
I pray that in this day of prayer, mourning, and repentance
you might help me to know
how to stand at the foot of the cross
in ways that bring justice and mercy into your world.
Help me to offer a word of hope to those who might despair.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen
Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
John 19:26-27: Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
Matthew 27:46: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
John 19:28: I am thirsty.
John 19:30: It is… finished.
Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
This image is from a window in the Kagawa Memorial Center, Kobe, Japan. Toyohiko Kagawa was a Christian activist who lived and ministered with the poor in Kobe, Japan in the early 1900’s.
As a self-identified tree hugger, one of my favorite hymns is How Great Thou Art!:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
I love being out in nature and enjoying God’s creation.
- Watching the sun rise over the ocean,
- walking barefoot in a field,
- taking in the panoramic view at the top of a mountain,
- listening to the rushing flow of a waterfall,
- tasting the sweetness of a just picked strawberry
… these are awe inspiring to me. In these moments, I wonder how people can doubt there is a God when they experience the divine pleasure that is found in creation.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Garden of Gethsemane. In the place where Jesus is believed to have gone to pray before his arrest, stand olive trees with roots that are more than 2,300 years old. With branches full of olives these trees are grounded in the land and stand as a silent witness to all that has happened and continues to happen in Jerusalem even as they offer a simple presence of grace and peace.
In contrast, in other parts of the Holy Land, I saw entire fields of olive trees that have been cut down by settlers who are trying to drive the Palestinian people off land that legally belongs to Palestinians. Seeing tree after tree cut down to a stump was so disheartening to me and devastating to the people who have now lost their livelihoods.
It breaks my heart how people abuse and destroy God’s creation – killing these living and life sustaining parts of our eco-system as a weapon against others.
And earlier this month, I read a terrifying article about a new climate change report. According to National Geographic,
“The world is not ready for the impacts of climate change, including more extreme weather and the likelihood that populated parts of the planet could be rendered uninhabitable, says the planet’s leading body of climate scientists in a major new UN report.”
The information doesn’t come as a huge surprise but the concreteness and immediacy of what we are doing to the earth is startling. This report will - I hope - serve as a wake-up call.
We as humans have created a situation that not only is destroying God’s creation but also is threatening our own supplies of food and water. Our level of consumption and excess is directly impacting the ability of the earth to regenerate and nourish those who inhabit it.
Having received this report and understanding the implications, as people of faith, we are now responsible for turning it around.
In our work at the United Methodist Committee on Relief, we see the effects of this crisis in the increased number and severity of natural disasters, in the mass migration of people who are in search of food, and in conflicts that rise up among people fighting over limited natural resources.
Many people in the New York City area have experienced (and many still are experiencing) the impact first hand as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy came through our neighborhoods … and while the government’s billion dollar flood walls might add a layer of protection, they do not address the underlying destruction of God’s earth or prevent anymore super storms.
The extent of damage to the world is so enormous it might leave us feeling, in the words of Augustine of Hippo,
“The times are bad! The times are troublesome!”
Thankfully, he doesn’t leave it at that. St. Augustine goes on to remind us,
“But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.”
And while we are well into this season of Lent and perhaps are relieved to see an end in sight for our Lenten disciplines, it might be be wise to interpret this climate change report as a call to repent – not only for 40 days but to examine our very lifestyles for the long term both individually and as a church.
- Instead of just trying to remember to recycle, what it would look like if we reduced the overall amount of waste we produce?
- The question is no longer paper or plastic shopping bags but asking how can we purchase less to put in those reusable canvas bags.
- Let’s not wonder if we can afford to buy organic produce. Why not figure out how to plant a community garden or invest in a community supported agriculture farm share?
As we become more intentional about living simply so that others may simply live, we release our attachment to that which is unnecessary. When we break our habits of coveting more “stuff,” we have an opportunity to deepen relationships with each other and with God.
Taking the focus off “things” helps to clarify what is truly important in our lives. We can begin to reconnect with the earth in new ways, appreciating these amazing resources that are entrusted to our care.
We are a faith community committed to justice. We recognize that we are connected to each other, to God, and to the earth. How can we make significant changes to live simply, share our excess with sisters and brothers, and take concrete and consistent steps to help nurse God’s creation back to good health?
Won’t it be a beautiful day when we are in a position to sing from Isaiah 55:12
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
May it be so. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
A Meditation by Melissa Hinnen, Church of the Village: April 2, 2014