Wednesday, March 6, 2013

St. Stephen's Crane Celebration

Traditionally the Fourth Sunday in Lent has been a time to remember that the discipline and somber tone of Lent is in preparation for the joy of Easter. We call it Rose Sunday or Refreshment Sunday. A little over halfway through Lent, it’s a time to look through Lent to Easter. Once again this year, what has become an annual crane migration celebration at St. Stephen’s in Grand Island falls very appropriately on Rose Sunday.

A couple of days of predicted warmer weather before the weekend should bring more of the Sandhill cranes into our area by the weekend. St. Stephen’s worship on March 10 at 8:00 and 10:30 is planned to help us celebrate the wonder of the cranes’ return and to reflect on the spiritual meaning of this and other wonders as we prepare for Easter.

Sunday’s Gospel text (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) is the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable, the repentant prodigal son returns home, where his father welcomes him warmly and extravagantly simply because this is his long-lost son and he has come home. The parable illustrates God’s unconditional love for all of God’s children; simply because we are God’s children, God loves us and rejoices when we return to God.

The parent-child relationship is deeper and stronger than any circumstances or conditions that strain that relationship. The prodigal son’s father cares very much about this young man who has strayed, but has no special concern for other young men who bear no relationship to him. We care most for those with whom we have an established relationship. Going out and becoming acquainted with the world around us, including the birds migrating through the Platte valley in the spring, establishes a relationship between us and the land, water, plants, birds, and other animals in our ecosystem. As we spend more time outdoors, that relationship grows, and our care for the environment deepens. Since all of this is God’s creation, strengthening our relationship with the natural world around us also strengthens our relationship with God.

Weather permitting, the St. Stephen’s Green Team invites you to join them on Saturday evening, March 9, at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center (just south of the I-80 Alda interchange) at 5:00 for a guided footbridge tour to view the cranes on the Platte River at sunset. The tour is open and accessible to everyone ages 12 and up. People are free to leave the tour at any time, but cannot go back to the bridge once they have left. Cost is $15 plus tax. These tours fill up on weekends, so reservations should be made as soon as possible by calling 308-382-1820.  We will begin gathering at 4:00 for a short evening prayer service at the nature center, either outdoors on the patio area behind the building or indoors in their conference room.