Friday, August 20, 2010

Apples and Manna

Donella H. Meadows was the founder of the Sustainability Institute and an important voice in environmental science.  Today for the first time I read something she had written.  The circumstances under which I read a brief but beautifully constructed reflection from Donella Meadows perhaps serve to illustrate the interconnectedness of all things that she described.

This afternoon I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours on my own at the St. Benedict Center north of Schuyler. The spiritual directors commissioned in the Diocese of Nebraska gathered here today to check in with one another and then attend a retreat here this weekend.  The St. Benedict Center is set in a beautiful spot, and paths and the land around the retreat center are maintained in a way that makes it inviting and easy to get out and spend time outdoors.

I set out with my camera after lunch today to see what I could see. The orchard is a favorite place for me to walk; the change of seasons seems highlighted by the seasonal changes in the fruit trees. Today the trees were full of apples. They looked so good that I eventually picked one to eat, aware that I hadn’t done such a thing since childhood. It was one of the best apples I’ve ever eaten – fragrant, crisp, juicy, and sweet. Sitting on the grass savoring the apple, I felt a strong connection to everything around me and, through that, to God.

When I had finished my walk and returned to my room to rest a bit before the spiritual directors’ meeting, I picked up Earth Gospel, the book of daily prayers I’ve mentioned before in this blog. The midday reflection was this from Donella H. Meadows:

This fresh apple, still cold and crisp from the morning dew, is not-me only until I eat it. When I eat, I eat the soil that nourished the apple. When I drink, the waters of the earth become me. With every breath I take in I draw in not-me and make it me. With every breath out I exhale me into not-me.

If the air and the waters and the soils are poisoned, I am poisoned. Only if I believe the fiction of the lines more than the truth of the lineless planet, will I poison the earth, which is myself.

Today’s Gospel reading for the Daily Office was John 6:27-40. Jesus compares the manna in the wilderness to the bread of life, “the true bread from heaven”.  The apple itself fed my body; the experience of eating that apple fresh from the tree and then coming back to discover this piece of writing fed my entire being.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Interpreting the Signs

The Gospel lesson for today is Luke 12:49-56. It ends with these words:

54 He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Jesus was speaking about the signs of what was happening spiritually, signs that were there for the seeing but that people either could not or would not piece together. But God gives us all sorts of signs, all sorts of evidence of what is happening in every aspect of our lives. We can learn a lot if we open our eyes and ears to the signs around us and allow ourselves to see the realities -- the beauty and joy and the pain and sadness -- of our world.

This morning’s Gospel lesson along with our Epistle reading from Hebrews about the “great cloud of witnesses” tells us that Christ’s words weren’t meant to lull us into disengagement with the world around us, but rather to strengthen us to go out into the world in Christ’s name. Allowing ourselves to look and listen and see the signs around us is a necessary part of discipleship.

When I sit down at my computer to do online text study or make notes on the lessons during the week, I see news headlines. Throughout the past week, there were daily headlines about a pattern of extreme weather events that follow the predictions of climate scientists, I wondered about our inability or refusal as a society to piece together the evidence and do what we need to do to lessen the extent and effects of climate change.

Keeping in mind Jesus’ admonition to pay attention to the signs of our times, I'm sharing a list of some of the headlines I noticed this week:
(Added at 2:12 CDT)  Here's an additional headline fresh this afternoon from the Associated Press: "UN chief: Never seen anything like Pakistan floods".