Sunday, April 22, 2007

join in the celebration....

Two friends have sent me email reminders to join in the celebration of Earth Day weekend. One of these friends informed me that Lowe’s Hardware is having a special on energy efficient lights. My other friend shared that he was leading music Saturday night at All Saints Episcopal Church, because the congregants love Earth Day. He shared the lyrics of the old hymn, "Morning Has Broken," that Cat Stevens made popular years ago. He said, “The song still moves me, so I wanted to share it with you to experience anew this Earth Day.

Every year, with the coming of spring, my wife and I are faced with the perennial task of yard maintenance. This work consists of clearing fallen branches and pinecones from beneath our Monterey Pines, trimming the lawns, and the assiduous weed control. Pulling the intruders from the soil by hand, or hacking down the first assault with my “weed-whacker” is a job I have learned to enjoy. Of course, the power tool is effective on the higher weeds, but the new growth quickly reclaims our one acre property, in spite of the new bark we put down to bring the land to submission. The insidious growth of weeds in our vegetable and flowerbeds, grass and rose garden is difficult to stay ahead of in an earth safe way.

Poets and prophets have used flowers and weeds as metaphor in their sayings. They often ponder the difference between the two. Clearly, some analogies have reference to people, as does Jesus’ parable of “the wheat and the tares.” Jesus often uses weeds as instructive metaphors in many of his teachings. In the parable of the sower, he spoke about the “good seed” being “choked by the weeds” (Matthew 13:7). I recently read a contemporary story of "the wheat and the tares” in which “an enemy did this” (Matthew 13:28). Apparently, a disgruntled worker introduced the jimson weed to North America by scattering the seeds in the fields of a farmer who had fired him from his job.

I commented to my Mom the other day saying; the Gravenstein orchard across the road was infested with mistletoe. She told me that Luther Burbank had imported European Mistletoe into California in the 1900s. I read somewhere that since that time, it has spread to 24 tree species, including the willow, alder, poplar, elm, mountain ash, crabapple, pear and the Gravenstein apple. In fact, one of Burbank’s experimental gardens is a five-minute walk from my house. I doubt Luther Burbank meant to cause harm, as the disgruntled worker seeking revenge did, but the plant has proven to be harmful to trees where the infestations are thick.

In consideration of the earth, people, flowers and weeds I agree with the poet, Luci Shaw when she says, “How drab our world would seem without fields and mountainsides carpeted with wildflowers in spring––multicolored lupines, Indian paintbrush, Texas bluebonnets, California poppies, trilliums, snowdrops and buttercups, bunchberries, forget-me-nots, edelweiss. All of them, and many others, grow spontaneously, filling the air with fragrance and color. And they’re all weeds, every one of them….”

In her book, “The Crime of Living Cautiously, Luci Shaw quotes from a Richard Wilbur poem, “Two voices in a Meadow,” In About a Milkweed Pod:

Anonymous as cherubs
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my burst pod.

What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Practice resurrection....

"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"
(Collected Poems: 1957-1982 by Wendell Berry)

So, friends, every day do something,
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing....
Love someone who does not deserve it....
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias...
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered the facts....
Practice resurrection.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

In spite of the Evangelical emphasis on “personal evangelism,” “personal salvation,” and the need for a “personal relationship” with Jesus, much of the modern church experience has been depersonalized. In the face of the “God is dead” claims and the increasing secularization of culture, Evangelicals fearing that the authority of scripture and the influence of the church were quickly loosing ground, reduced Christianity to a “battle for the mind.”

Christian apologetics focused on the truth claims in scripture, believing that a logical appeal to those outside of faith was all that was necessary. Every thoughtful Christian had read Josh McDowell’s, Evidence that demands a Verdict, in an effort to honor the Apostle Peter’s admonition to “Always be prepared to give an answer…” The now infamous “Lord, lunatic or liar “ appeal was often delivered while ignoring the second part of Peter’s admonition, concerning, “gentleness and respect.”

The accusation that Evangelical Christians are more concerned about “thinking right, rather than living rightly” is evidenced in the many unchanged lives of believers. Ronald Sider’s question, “Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world?” should be obvious. We have to often insisted in presenting the truth claims about Christ, while giving spare attention to the call, “ your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

The modern understanding of what it means to “believe” or have “faith” in something or someone has clouded the true meaning of what it is to be Christian. In scripture “believing” concerns more than a mere “mental assent” that something is true. As my Pastor, today quoted from the book of James, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that –– and shudder.” Meaning that saying you believe something is true is not enough. Believing cannot be separated from what we do.

From what we can know about the first century followers of Jesus, the description “Christian” was mostly recorded as a derogatory designation. The idea of a “personal relationship” with Jesus may have been implied, but was not referred to in the New Testament. “Confessing that “Jesus is Lord” or believing in the “Lordship of Christ" was the preferred requirement for followers of the Way. This was a political statement and cost many their lives.

The Gospel of Mark gives us three imperatives as an invitation into the Jesus way. “Repent,’ requires a decision to leave one way of life for another. It commands a change of mind or heart that results in a change of direction. The second imperative, ‘Believe,’ requires a personal, trusting, relational involvement in this comprehensive reordering of reality. And the third imperative, ‘Follow,’ gets us moving obediently in a way of life that is visible and audible in Jesus, a way of speaking and thinking, imagining and praying, that is congruent with the present, immediate (“at hand”) kingdom realities” (Peterson, 21-22).

Eugene Peterson points out that of all the “I am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John, one is most often quoted, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” He says it is also the “most frequently dismissed.” Although Evangelical Christians have been quick to affirm that Jesus is the truth, we have mostly set aside the fact that Jesus is the way. Without “Way” and “Truth” operating together we never realize Jesus “the Life.”

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me" (John 14-23-24).