By Diane Shallue, Caring for Creation Team
0n April 22, 1970, I celebrated the first Earth Day. I was a junior in college, and I remember the passion and focus on cleaning up the environment. That was when I first heard about recycling, the dangers of DDT to eagle eggs, cleaning up the water and improving air quality. Up until that year, I had not thought much about the environment and how I could work to make it better. Growing up in central Minnesota, I never heard talk about recycling or the dangers of pesticides. I lived in an apartment above a creamery and the warehouse portion of the second level was fumigated every month. We never had a spider inside and I never saw an eagle in central Minnesota flying outside.
Has that focus on the environment made a difference in 51 years? I now see eagles flying over my house in Blaine. I hear people talk about limiting use of pesticides and herbicides to benefit birds and bees. A friend from Blaine actually moved into downtown Minneapolis to live along the Mississippi River. But…the environment still needs our stewardship. Pollution of ground water by agricultural chemicals, death of pollinators, build up of plastic trash, and the death of trees in northern Minnesota due to the warming climate are all a concern. The environment still needs us as caretakers.
If you care about the environment, connect with the Caring for Creation Team at CTK, and join their work. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God created the world and called it “good.” Now it is our job to care for that world so that we can continue to call it, “good.”
By Magdalena Wells, Interim Communications Administrator; adapted from Katherine Cusumano's NYT article, "Retraining for Social Interactions"
As a church community, we are bound up in one another and in the transitions that impact our life together. Now that more people are getting vaccinated and the world is starting to “open up,” we will need to navigate this period of transition, discomfort, apprehension, excitement, and hope together as a church. We will hold in tension how many things are true at the same time:
As you read, consider other ways we can support and honor one another.
1. Start Small
Our COVID Response Team and COVID reopening plan wisely account for gradations of activity. Holy Week was a wonderful example of blending in-person and virtual gatherings with choice for members.
You might consider joining a small, in person gathering at church when the time comes. Give yourself the chance to “dip your toe in the water” by finding opportunities to experience the building or outdoor fellowship before diving into the deep end of in-person Sunday morning worship.
2. Understand that it might take more effort
In this transition, the same activities we used to do with ease, like setting up a space for Bible Study or hosting a reception, may require more from us. That “more” could be energy, time, communication, or precautions. Events will involve careful planning and hosts will need to invest participants in expected precautions.
For some in our community, the lockdowns have provided some relief from social anxieties, the pressure to say yes to every request, and the expectation to enjoy the same activities as others. For those, this adjustment will require even more energy.
We ask for your grace with church staff and volunteers when we change modes of worship. For example, when we move to livestreaming in-person worship, the video will be less polished than what we are accustomed to now.
We can take these transitions as an opportunity to seek a “new normal” where each member finds a space, level of engagement, and energy balance that is comfortable and sustainable.
3. Set boundaries
We will need to set, hold, and share communal and individual boundaries. As church leadership, we commit to sharing clear, explicit expectations for things like masking and distancing. Upholding those communal boundaries will require all of our effort. Individuals may have additional boundaries that they choose to set, such as offering touchless greetings at the passing of the peace or not lingering for fellowship after worship. Let’s strive to view one another’s boundary-setting as an act of love, not as rejection or judgment.
4. Be prepared for awkward (even hard) conversations
Holding boundaries and building trust require open, honest communication/ This may feel new and uncomfortable. We may ask questions like: which pre-pandemic practices will we bring back? Which ought we retire or reimagine? What activities still require masking? Are there activities for which we need to require vaccination? How many people can come?
And then there are those smaller, more intimate communications, like expressing if we aren’t ready to receive hugs yet, turning down an invitation, or asking a friend if they are vaccinated.
Let’s approach these big questions and intimate conversations as being in service to a flourishing life together. With this lens, we embrace the messiness and challenge of communication, knowing the fruit it can bear that avoidance or silence never will.
5. Take your time As a community, we will take time and intention in this transition. We urge this approach for individuals and families as well. Based on your unique needs and circumstances, join in-person events on the timeline that works for you. Your pastors will not be “taking attendance” or judging what members decide is the right time for them. Let’s extend this grace to ourselves and to one another.
What do you need in the transition ahead, specific to church? What boundaries will you need to hold? What are you looking forward to with joy? As a community, how might we “start small?” How can we “start small” together?
The Gospel reading for this week is the familiar story of Thomas who says he must, "see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side" in order to believe that Jesus has risen.
We invite you to listen closely to the gospel reading this morning and then encounter dear, familiar "Doubting Thomas" through the fresh lens of poetry. This piece can be found in Guite's 2012 collection, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year.
St. Thomas the Apostle
By Malcolm Guite
“We do not know . . . how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
O doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things:
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after him and find him in the flesh.
Because he loved your awkward counter-point,
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
O place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.
Written by Pastor Peter Hanson
Thine is the glory, risen, conq’uring Son;
Endless is the vict’ry thou o’er death hast won!
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
Thine is the glory, risen, conq’uring Son;
Endless is the vict’ry thou o’er death hast won!
I imagine that we all have our favorite hymns for different seasons of the church year: this is my favorite Easter hymn. In fact, I have often said that it doesn’t quite feel like Easter to me until I’ve sung this hymn. At the same time, I don’t exactly know why; there are other hymns whose melody is as stirring, whose words are as memorable, whose theology is as solid. I’m willing to admit that it has much to do with familiarity—nostalgia, even—for what I believe Easter is.
Last year, many church leaders said that this was “an Easter like none other.” That seems less true this year, as Easter is actually more like last year than like any others prior to that! Once again, we will miss being together in the same place. We will miss shouting out “Christ is risen, indeed, Alleluia” in the echo-y space of the sanctuary. We will miss singing this hymn (and many others), backed up by the organ, the choir, maybe some brass. We will miss greeting one another in person, wishing one another a “Happy Easter.”
Let us not, however, miss the central message of Easter: that Jesus Christ is risen, indeed. That death itself has been defeated and never more holds sway over us. That we have been raised with Christ, given new life to be lived abundantly with and for our neighbors. That the glory belongs not to us, but to Jesus, the risen, conquering one.
“Let the church with gladness hymns of triumph sing, for the Lord now liveth, death has lost its sting.”
Written by Pr. John Schwehn
As we enter Holy Week, God’s Word invites us to engage these sacred stories with our entire self, our whole body. In the liturgies of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, God uses each and every sense to reveal the truth of this awesome mystery: Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Jesus washes your feet. How does that feel on your toes and soles? Jesus offers bread and wine. How do they taste, served your way from dusty and sweaty hands at the end of a long meal?
Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb. What do you smell?
You go with the women to the grave early in the morning, before sunrise, to care for the body. It’s misty in the morning and, as you approach the tomb, you must squint to see through the fog. What do you see?
On Palm Sunday, what do you hear amidst a parade of Hosannas? Besides the shouting and singing, you would hear the hilarious braying of a donkey! And you would hear laughter, the laughter of oppressed people making a mockery of their oppressive ruler with this ridiculous pageantry. Laughter is a subversive tool for those from whom all worldly power has been taken away.
So Jesus comes riding into the city not on a big, beautiful white horse (as Caesar would do), but on a donkey! Kind of funny. But it’s here, in this laughter, that people find hope. They see Jesus as a different kind of king, who comes not in power to hurt but in love to save.
But next, we continue to tune our ears to the sounds that will follow. So many sounds – difficult, horrible sounds – will emerge from Jesus’ body, from the mocking crowds, from the nails. These are the sounds that come when the powerful seek to snuff out those who would seek to mock them, those who would claim to be the Son of God.
Until, finally, at the cross…you would hear silence.
Siblings in Christ, in the holy days that are to come, tune your ears ever more attentively to the boundless grace of God. How it makes its loudest and most hopeful sounds in the hardest moments. How, finally, not even death can stop this grace from returning, singing us home.
God of the silence,
Help us listen to the sounds of your grace. Help us to hear you in the laughter and in the silence, in the joy and in the weeping. Walk with us in our journey to the cross, and sing to us the beautiful songs of your merciful and boundless compassion.