The Place of Humans

Two weeks ago, I was high in the mountains of Switzerland. In the valleys below, flowers were blooming, trees were leafing out, and birds were singing — a glorious, gentle spring was in full swing. Life was easy. Where I was, though, all was bleak. Sheer walls of rock rose a thousand feet above me. Snow and ice covered the land and gusts of wind up to 50 mph knocked me off my feet. Ahead, I watched a small line of ski mountaineers, heads down, trudging into the storm. Puny human creatures, dwarfed and diminished by the wild, raw, fierce landscape around them.

I love being in such wild places in part because they help me remember how puny I am, how puny all human creatures are. Such places — mountains, wild forests, deserts, vast plains — are reminders that, despite all our obsessions, conceits, and capabilities, we are not the center of all existence. There is Much Bigger Existence all around us, though we are not aware of it most of the time.

What happens, I wonder, when we lose sight of this? When we forget where we fit in the world? When we forget about the other forms of Existence, Being, Beauty, Power that also inhabit the world? When we forget that we are puny?

Last week, we celebrated Earth Day at Church of the Woods. We sang. We restored a gravel bank with new soil and seedlings, we transplanted some day lilies into the sunlight. We mourned the myriad harms that we puny people manage to inflict upon this beautiful Earth that we are privileged to inhabit. We celebrated the gifts of light, of life, of love.

There is a paradox here, of course. As individual creatures of flesh and bone, we are puny, vulnerable, fragile. Together, we have enormous power — power to destroy so much of what seems to dwarf us. How do we handle this vast power? What are the responsibilities that come with such power? How do we put limits on our own capabilities? Where do we draw the line?

What would it mean for humans to willingly relinquish some of our power, to accept the mantle of puniness, in order that other forms of Existence — other forms of life and love — have room to live? Can we reign ourselves in voluntarily? Or must we wait till Much Bigger Existence reminds us, once again, that we remain, despite it all, puny?

 

— Steve Blackmer


Earth Day at Church of the Woods

We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon of Earth Day activities: tree planting, water meditations, signing, picnicking and being in good company with each other and with this beautiful planet!

Enjoy some photos below:

DSC_0063

DSC_0069

DSC_0072 Water meditations

DSC_0073 Vernal pool at Church of the Woods

DSC_0082

DSC_0086

DSC_0087

DSC_0090Getting a look at the tiny living creatures in the water

DSC_0093 Let the planting begin!

DSC_0095Transplanting Day Lilies

DSC_0099 Transplanting white pines and hemlocks

DSC_0112

DSC_0113

DSC_0116

DSC_0119The altar after services


Goldfinch Resurrection

I was away a few days last week and when I came back to New Hampshire, the male goldfinches had started to turn color. Perching in the sugar maple between zips to the feeder, their newly golden forms flashed like living, breathing photons.

They are glorious little creatures, bright and shiny, full of new life — each one a perfect sign of spring, of Easter, of resurrection.

And then it snowed. The temperature dropped to 12 degrees. Ponds froze up again. Winter returned. The finches’ gold again muted as courtships were shelved. Spring stopped.

It was so fitting that just as the cold blast arrived, we came to the story of doubting Thomas who declares that he won’t believe in Jesus’s resurrection unless he can see the marks of the nails in his hands and put his fingers in the wound. “If my senses can’t verify it,” he suggests, “I won’t believe it.”

If we read the text closely, though, there is no indication that Thomas actually touches Jesus. Jesus appears in a closed room, unconstrained by walls and doors. He is simply there. And, somehow, Thomas knows himself to be in that presence.

This has led me to consider several questions for reflection in this post-resurrection season.

Where do we (you) encounter the presence of Christ (which we know is within and around all things)?

How can we know we are in that presence?

How can we become more aware of being in that presence?

What happens to us when we are in that presence?

What happens to the world around us when we are in that presence?

Like goldfinches in the spring, being in the presence of Christ fills us with light. I pray that in that light we, too, may be beacons of love, hope, and caritas.


— Rev. Steve Blackmer

 


The Magic of Maple Syrup

We love our maple syrup here in New England — and all of the processes that go along with it! There are only three places in the world where maple syrup is produced: Canada, the Northeast, and the Upper Midwest. From Minnesota, Emily writes about “the magic of maple syruping” and whether “it will be something that future generations will also be able to enjoy.”

You can read her full piece, ‘Maple Syrup and Climate Change: Not So Sweet?,’ HERE.