This year we mark Earth Day as an observance that spans three days – April 20-22. So, it is more appropriately “Earth Days.” Given that a day is measured as one rotation of the earth, there are really 365 “Earth Days” each year. Perhaps if we thought about it that way, if we took time each day to note our dependence upon this spinning sphere that holds life as we know it, the earth would be in less trouble.
In the first three months of 2021, 126 mass shootings took place leaving 148 dead and 485 wounded. Last week, in a surreal incident, another black man was shot to death just ten miles from where the George Floyd Murder Trial is taking place. The best response available? “Oops. Thought it was a Taser.” Violence. Death. Fear. These are the perverse “values” of our society."
At a recent staff meeting we were discussing the progression of vaccination across the country. A number of staff members shared conversations with people who had said, in effect, “I’m not getting the vaccine. Jesus will protect me.” I was reminded of an old story.
These days we pass through a temperature check point at the dentist office, we pass through a TSA check when we board a plane, and some of us try to pass by the sweets in the grocery store because they are so tempting. One thing I will not pass is away. I hear people talk about the death of a loved one as that person having “passed away” or just dropping the word “away” and saying, “Uncle Joe passed.” This seems to be getting more common. I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with such euphonism.
Love can mean lots of things. We can love our cars, love chocolate, love our favorite sports team, and even love pizza. I think we all know that each of these is a trivial kind of love – more of a preference or attachment to a pleasure. We also know that when we say we love our family, love our spouse, love our children, we mean something deeper. I would not sacrifice much for a slice of meat-lovers pizza. I would, however, sacrifice much for my loved ones. That gets closer to the kind of love we talk about in relation to the love Christ shows us on the cross.
Well, I’m not sure any of us would say that we expected – or even welcome – the passing of a one-year anniversary for the pandemic. And yet… On the other hand… Looking at it from another angle… There is call for thanking God for the last twelve months. Despite the upheaval, the change, the challenge, the constantly moving reality that has been pandemic-patterned lives, we have been the Church for all 365 days of the last year. In frustration, I’ve heard folks say, “But we’re not doing anything,” probably referring to gathering for worship. Nothing could be less true. Here is a brief look at what I give thanks for this day (sorry, the list is long).
Is it too early to start talking about how much I’m looking forward to spring? This is my first time spending the winter outside of the tiny area of Ohio with which I’m completely familiar. The area is probably similar in a lot of ways to the winter here in central Iowa. I know that throughout March, the snow can come down so thick, heavy, and fast that a person is left wondering why the weather forecast was so wrong. That happens in Ohio. I know that the roads can become coated with a sheet of pure, slick, unrelenting ice in mid-April. That certainly happens in Ohio. And I know that even in early May, a winter storm can roll in with such severity that it closes schools, because that has happened in Ohio… and weirdly, that happens often.
Sheryl Crow sings, “A Change Will Do You Good.” I like Sheryl Crow and will likely be listening to her a lot next week when I take a few days off. We were supposed to go to Santa Fe with friends to enjoy the mountains, landscape, city, and the green and red chile. We booked the time so I could rest a bit before Pastor Pam goes on sabbatical from April 5 – July 5. (I obviously won’t be leaving town then!) Due to the pandemic, New Mexico would rather we stay away. Lately, our lives have made us a bit more cautious as well. So, vacation will be a staycation where I work in the basement and cook New Mexican Cuisine. It is a change. But the change will do us good.
The paradox of religious faith today is that the church has, on the one hand, never been as irrelevant as it is today. On the other hand, the faith of the church has never been more essential. In a world that becomes ever more secularized and so, less religious, the role that faith played in the world has been abandoned. To me, it means that love has become scarce just when it is most needed.