August 7th Newsletter
Greetings from Waco, Texas! I’m glad to be home.
For those who are new to our community, I’ve been on sabbatical this summer, travelling to Acadia (Maine) and Olympic (Washington) National Parks and with a DaySpring group on pilgrimage to Italy. As you would imagine, it’s been an amazing experience in beautiful places. That’s what I was looking for this summer . . .to be slow and quiet in beautiful places to study and reflect on God’s creation and our place in it. We certainly do live in a beautiful country in a beautiful world. If you’ve been to those Parks you know what I’m talking about. I hope everyone gets an opportunity.
The world is indeed beautiful. The Psalmist (113) was inspired to prayer from the world’s beauty, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” I had that psalm in mind all summer from Acadia’s first sunrise in the US to Olympic’s last sunset in the US, from beginning to end, the name of the Lord is to be praised for ’the Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!” On my last hike in Olympic last Friday, Dad and I set out on a trail we had all to ourselves. Hiking about a mile under the towering Douglas Fir and Western Hemlocks, we climbed to a peak on the trail, a saddle. As we crossed over the small saddle to the other side deeper in the woods, the forest grew totally silent. The stream and road back at the parking lot were lost behind us. The wind was still; so were birds. All was still. I paused there as long as I could to take in the gift of the quiet and thank God from the roots of the trees to the crowns in their overstory, the name of the Lord is to be praised. That was one of the highlights of the summer for me, that moment.
The world is beautiful.
It is also broken.
One of the gifts and disciplines of sabbatical time is stepping away from the fire hydrant of the daily news and roaring political debates, but one can only go so far from the news, especially when it is so tragic. Oh, how our hearts break for our brothers and sisters in El Paso, Dayton, and all the other places where life is mercilessly destroyed. We continue to hold them in our prayers as they bury the dead and comfort one another. May our leaders have wisdom and courage to do what is needful to curb these violent tragedies. May we all be part of the healing of the wounds in our communities. Christians have a particular role and responsibility in this. We serve the Prince of Peace, he who died by a cruel death that we may have life.
Our witness in all things is to and through Him who makes us his body. May we Christians live into our calling, praying and working as peacemakers in the beauty and brokenness of the world. Earlier this summer I received happy news that I won a scholarship award to help support my ongoing Doctor of Ministry studies. The scholarship was based on writing an essay to the prompt, “What can leaders do to create a sense of civility in our culture?” My response was basically that a ’sense of civility’ can be a pretty thin patina on a cauldron of anger. It isn’t really enough. What we need more than a ‘sense' of civility is trust in one another to pray together, reason together, talk together, and work together toward a world that glorifies God. We’ll never do this perfectly or be in perfect harmony with everyone all the time-that’s the fruit of God's gift of the mind and the freedom here to have and express our own convictions-so that’s where trust in one another makes all the difference. It seems to me that the church is perfectly placed to be this kind of community and to embody this hope for the world.
The same psalmist (113) lost for a time in ecstasy in God’s good creation turns soon to God’s compassionate provision, “God raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needs from the ash heap . . .God gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” Fascinating--for the psalmist, attention to the rhythms in creation (The sun coursing across the sky) raises consciousness of the broken places in the world (the poor and oppressed). From day one, I prayed this psalm all through the summer, moving deeper in my prayer as I went along into resonance between God’s creation, God’s compassion, and God’s desire that we live compassionately and justly with all of Creation. DaySpring, it seems to me, with our open windows, contemplative spirit, and compassionate heart is the kind of community needed for this way of living. Some would call it a Franciscan heart, after St. Francis of Assisi, whose lived with childlike wonder in the forests and fields of Assisi and with Christ-like compassion for the brokenness all around him in the same places. Franciscans call it kinship with all creation. We are all family. Kneeling at St. Francis’ tomb again this summer, I was overcome with gratitude for his life and for each of ours, renewed in my own desire to try to follow his steps toward Christ. Maybe you don’t need a Francis to follow Jesus well, but I think I do. I need people like him to give me hope.
I’m glad to be back. I genuinely am. It’s been fun to see some of you around town the last few days. I look forward to seeing more of you over the next few weeks. I’m especially grateful to Madi Harner who is preaching this Sunday. Way to go, Madi! I’ll be here with you as we worship this week and will be in the pulpit starting August 18th. Meanwhile, I want to know how your summer has been. What’s stirring in your heart? What burdens are you carrying? I care for you and others around here do as well. We care deeply for you.
I have been, and will remain, in prayer for you, my brothers and sisters.
For more news and information, click HERE to view the August 7th Newsletter.