Good morning, church!
I took this picture of a blooming cherry tree yesterday. It’s of course in front of our church in North Wales. The blooming trees and flowers of the spring season have been a saving grace for me and for many of us, as these beautiful specimens remind us every single day of the vibrancy of creation and the hope of life coming back. One of these days, our community will bloom again! People will gather again! Hey, there will even be community festivals… For now, we get to enjoy only limited human contact, but there is no restriction on enjoying our other creature friends! So, don’t hesitate to send me some pictures from your backyards and neighborhoods. Nature and being in nature has been an important factor in the development of my own faith and the faith of many others. We might as well try to take some time during these quarantine weeks (How much longer???) to connect with our other brothers and sisters (at least that’s what Francis of Assisi called them) out in nature. Francis was an interesting fellow – I am talking about the 13th century original, not our current pope, who is also an interesting fellow. Francis had this child-like relationship with nature. Just read his Canticle of the Sun, which is also set in music in the ELW 835: “Sing, brother sun in splendor bright; sing sister moon and stars of night… sing brother wind with clouds of rain, you grow the gifts of fruit and grain…”
I cannot overstate the importance that nature had in my own faith development. I grew up on the edge of a forest, always near trees and frequently taking walks through those surroundings, no matter the season. I even liked – and this was in hindsight probably a sign of my future calling – walking by myself through the local cemetery with its old trees, shrubs and evergreens. I always felt quite a peace in those surroundings, in the “presence” of death and in the presence of life. In ways I couldn’t possibly put into words, God spoke to me during those walks and wanderings, and it anchored me early on. I recently came across the following description of African-American philosopher, Civil Rights leader and mystic Howard Thurman – he was one of MLK’s teachers – about a tree near his home that grew important to him:
“Eventually I discovered that the oak tree and I had a unique relationship. I could sit, my back against its trunk, and feel the same peace that would come to me in my bed at night. I could reach down into the quiet places of my spirit, take out my bruises and joys, unfold them and talk about them. I could talk aloud to the oak tree and know that I was understood. It too, was part of my reality, like the woods . . . giving me space.” ( From: “With head and heart”, Autobiography of Howard Thurman)
During these unusual days, I continue to enjoy the unusual presence of neighborhood people taking walks, of children playing outside, of people (even at a safe distance) being outdoors. I thought nobody had time for that anymore… Here is another tiny little anecdote that I came across in a radio program many years ago and that stuck with me. The radio host interviewed a person and I forgot the context of the conversation but she asked which pastime activity has been lost over the last decade or so (the program was probably 20 years ago, so go 30 years back…) And the response was not what you think. This person said, “Looking out the window.” People are so busy they don’t pay much attention to their surroundings anymore. Well, this is a time, especially on one of those rainy days that make outdoors activities yucky, to every once in a while look up from your computer screen, see what’s going on out there, and be connected to our “other” brothers and sisters. Give it a try!
Today I will check in again with some of my colleagues in our synod. I am curious to see what kinds of re-opening church scenarios are evolving. Even though it will still b e a number of weeks, we have to gives this very careful thought. At. 4:00 p.m. we will conference with our friends from the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance. Remember, we were scheduled to host homeless families in our church during the month of June. I doubt it will happen in June, but more about that tomorrow.
Please remember our weekly Food Drive, every Friday (tomorrow) from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Someone asked me whether monetary donations for Manna are also acceptable, and of course they are. During these times it may be easier for people to enable them buying food for their clients than you schlepping bags to the church on Fridays. Both is fine, just please clearly mark the purpose of your donation on the check.
For today, I’d like to invite you to pray for another one of our church support groups, People Undergoing Pain (PUP), led by Eve P. and Anita B. The PUP group reflects on another aspect of St. Peter’s church culture that I am very proud of, namely that people who join our church are empowered to lead new ministries. Eve and her daughter Bryn joined some six years ago and Anita maybe two or three years ago. Now they are co-leaders of this important ministry that reaches people in our community who often feel isolated because of the daily pain they endure. Many of the people in this group carry heavy burdens, both physical and emotional pain, often debilitating. Please pray for them today! This is what Eve wrote recently:
“Last night we had another successful Zoom meeting! We had seven of us on the call last night and it lasted about 2.5 hours! I’m going to reach out to people who wanted to be a part of the group but couldn’t before (or stopped coming) because of distance and/or disability. We see that this might be a good possibility to use in addition to the in-person meetings in the future. If you know of anyone who would be interested in ‘virtual pup’ please let me know!”
Thank you for your resiliency, Eve!
Today is the birthday of our friend Lou F. Happy birthday, Lou!
Be blessed and be safe, dear church!
Pastor Andreas Wagner