Strawberry Jam

 

A Confession (1985) by Czeslaw Milosz

My Lord, I loved strawberry jam

And the dark sweetness of a woman’s body.

Also well-chilled vodka, herring in olive oil,

Scents, of cinnamon, of cloves.

So what kind of prophet am I? Why should the spirit

Have visited such a man?

Nothing like stating the obvious: creation came to be not by accident, but by intention.

Read Gen. 1:31. It does not say that God saw everything that God had made and said “oops”, or “Oh no!” Rather it reads: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (NRSV)

We seem to forget that the bible begins with Gen. 1 and not with Gen. 3. The overarching biblical plot is not that of an angry God whose desire is to curse and to destroy, who must be appeased, but of a creative God of blessing, whose intention is that all life should flourish.

Thomas Merton wrote somewhere that the cow grazing in a field under a tree praises God perfectly, by simply being there.

The material world, this embodied life is not a mistake. It s a gift. It is not meant to be endured and suffered, but to be lived, to be celebrated.The spiritual life is not an escape from this life, but a deeper embrace of it.

That’s why I so love Czeslaw Milosz’s A Confession. Maybe only a person who loves the taste of strawberry jam can be a prophet.

Maybe only the person who shares God’s love for this created world will be moved enough to protest our violence, our readiness to destroy and kill, our careless abuse of the earth.

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Someone to Learn From

Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelisch...

Image via Wikipedia

While doing one of my favorite things (drinking coffee and skimming through books at Barnes and Noble) I came across a marvelous quote by Bishop Desmond Tutu. During this period in which many quite ignorant and intolerant speeches are being made that distort the essence of Christianity, it is refreshing to come across someone whose words reflect its beauty. I share his words with you:

“Any authentic Christian spirituality is utterly subversive to any system that would treat a man or woman as anything less than a child of God. It has nothing to do with ideology or politics. Every praying Christian, every person who has an encounter with God, must have a passionate concern for his or her brother and sister, his or her neighbor. To treat anyone of these as if he or she were less than a child of God is to deny the validity of one’s spiritual experience

Our love of God is tested and proved by our love for our neighbor.”

(Desmond Tutu, The Words of Desmond Tutu, New Market Press, N.Y., 2007. 26, 29.)

Christian theology makes a number of bold assertions about the nature of things. Christian  theology contends that the entire cosmos is created, loved and sustained by God. It contends that each and every human being is created in the image of God and that there is no human being anywhere who is not created in the image of God. It argues that there is no place where the Spirit of God is not present.

Bishop Tutu is absolutely correct to assert that “Christian spirituality is utterly subversive to any system that would treat anyone as less than a child of God!” Christian theology would argue that there are real differences between religious systems and not every system is healthy or true. But no one exists apart from God, and no one is to be treated as if he or she were any less than a sacred person created and loved by God.

As someone else has said, how can we say we love God, and then be quick to do harm to that which God creates and loves?

I have seen and heard such ugly distortions of Christian spirituality plastered in public places that it makes me want to choke. I pray that these are recognized as the ideological distortions that they are. May better voices, such as those of Bishop Tutu prevail.

(If you would like to see and listen to Bishop Tutu, click on the link located in the right column of this page. )

On a Hot July Afternoon

I am so glad that God decided to create watermelons. Very few things are quite as sweet and refreshing on these hot July afternoons. And raspberries, and strawberries, and blueberries. All texture , color, fragrance, and flavor. And I am so grateful to whoever it was that invented ice cream.

As I dip my spoon into this dish of berry-covered ice cream, I thank you.

I thank you for the earth that nourished the seed, and the rain and sun without which the crops could not grow.  I thank you for the beauty and gift of creation. In your wisdom you created things that are not only functional, but are also delightful.

I thank you for the farmers who tended the young plants. I thank you for the field workers who labored on long long days to harvest the fruit. I thank you for the truckers who transported the produce to the markets, and for the shopkeepers and store managers who placed it on the selves. It is because of their labor that I am able to hold this in my hands.

As I raise this spoon to my lips, I thank you Lord for all of this. It is good. Indeed, it is very good. Amen

Thinking about the Gulf of Mexico

I was a seminary student during the Valdez spill. One of my teachers at that time said that watching images of sea gulls drenched in oil struggling to fly reminded her of Rom. 8: 22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning until now.” According to scripture, creation itself groans waiting for redemption. Our very human ability to get things wrong, to misuse and abuse things placed in our care, either intentionally or by inattention, causes pain and struggle even for the earth. I am reminded of the same as I watch oil pour out of a broken pipeline into the waters of Gulf of Mexico, and large plumes and swathes of oil drift into coastal waterways.

Our relationship to creation is a spiritual issue. The first three chapters of Genesis make that very clear. God calls into being a beautiful and diverse sanctuary, alive, vulnerable, interdependent. God creates the human being, “adam,” which is related to the word “adamah.” Adamah means earth. “Adam” means earth creature. To be human is to be an earth creature, a person created from the earth. The human being (male and female) are created in the image of God, and are given dominion within creation. Dominion here is not domination, but responsibility as caretakers who embody God’s love and care for all creation.

In Genesis 2:15 God plants the man in the center of the garden with the responsibility to (in Hebrew) abad and shamar. The first word means to work, nurture, sustain and husband. The second means to safeguard, preserve, care for, and protect. (see James Davidson Hunter To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, Oxford Press. 2010, p.3.) The clear biblical understanding is that we are God’s gardeners, stewards of God’s creation. The earth is our home, and we are its caretakers. Care of the earth is one of the ways that we honor our creator.

Sin is about living in harmful ways and about breaking or violating our relationships. We have a way of breaking and distorting our relationship with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with the earth. We groan together, and so does the earth, waiting for redemption. And we struggle together as we do our best to live into our redemption.

There are no easy answers to the issues before us in the Gulf of Mexico. But with God’s help we can look at what we have done, and seek better ways to live well in all of our relationships, including our relationship with creation. Ecology is a spiritual issue and care of the earth a God given responsibility.

I do like what Pope Benedict XVI said in a homily for world peace on January 1, 2010: “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.”        Pastor Bill