Being Part of It All

At our last Church Board meeting, we were talking about how to shorten this service so that we could flow right into the Annual Meeting and include our Zoom folks before those of us here in the building go downstairs to have lunch together. The proposal was to skip the sermon, or at least have it be very short. So here we go: short. Well, shorter.


During the children’s time a few minutes ago we looked at our hands and bodies as being part of nature. We are embodied: soul and physical body together in this time and this space. We take this for granted, but once in a while we have a moment where we just stand back in awe. You can hear it in Psalm 8, which Cora just read:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them? (verses 3-4)


Every time I look at the stars and try to wrap my head around how vast this universe is, I think of these verses. It’s so humbling: we are a tiny atom in the vast sea of creation, a blink in the long saga of time.


This week astronaut William Anders died. He’s the fellow who took the photo in 1968 of the Earth rising from the point of view of the moon. And humans could see for the first time how small our planet was in the big scheme of things, how fragile, and how beautiful, how precious. The first Earth Day followed about two years later, because it was clear that we weren’t taking good enough care of this planet. Which is the next part of Psalm 8:

You have given [human beings] dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under their feet,

all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (verses 6-8)

Where this psalm says “dominion,” read that as responsibility, or stewardship. Just as our bodies are a gift, so too, this planet is a gift. It is our only home. It provides everything we need to live. We are a part of it, and it is a part of us.


But we are less likely to take good care of it if we don’t feel connected to it. In her book Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred, Victoria Loorz talks about holding church outside under an oak tree, or by a creek, or in other natural settings. The sermon part of the service is less about talking and more about making intentional time to listen to the nature all around us. People are invited to wander off and find someplace that beckons to them. They sit there for 45 minutes, quietly connecting with nature.


Mary Oliver writes that praying can come from contemplating not just the blue iris but also weeds, or a few small stones. She says prayer can be “the doorway / into thanks, and a silence in which / another voice may speak.” [Mary Oliver, “Praying,” in Thirst (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 37.]


So here’s your homework this week. Go sit outside someplace and just be. Notice. Listen. Breathe. Watch. Pay attention to what is happening around you, and what is happening within you. And then share that with someone else. I am giving myself the same assignment. Send me a note telling me what happened. Or post it on Facebook and tell your friends. Our sermon in church is short, but you get to practice the sermon in nature this week. Amen.

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