Pastors’ Corner

Diving into Gratitude

Dear People of Bethlehem,

I find myself in a place to give thanks to God for all that has been and all that is yet to be.  I remember as a child standing at the very edge of the diving board.  My toes curled over the board, my arms poised above my head, too afraid to dive in, but too uncomfortable to stand there cold and wet, with the scratchy board under my feet and my heart in my throat.  There was nothing to do but take to the water.  The space in between was never meant to last.  It feels like its time to take to the water.  To enter into tomorrow’s blessing, whatever it may be.  There is some apprehension to be sure, but this space was never meant to last. 

And I am grateful.  For what has been and for the lessons along the road.  And more grateful still for the anticipation, the newness in the air.  It is time for God’s new thing, and we are blessed to be a part of it — together.  It is time to plant something, and I can feel it rising among us.  It seems we are always running after the Spirit, because she has wings, and we do not. 

But beloved of God, we have an unsurpassed gift in one another, and that is the gathered community.  It is our greatest gift and our deepest asset.  We cannot do this alone.  Individual spirituality is an important gift, but it is the community we desperately need now.  And that, the pandemic has taught us.  We must come together and tell the old, old story and sing together our deepest songs.  We each bring our own wisdom, compassion and courage and we need each other if we are to live into God’s new and unfolding grace.  And so we come together bearing our individual stories, for the sake of all that we might learn in each other’s company.  Together we sing the songs of this new day and together we have the gifts and strength for all that lies ahead. Together, we serve and bless this world.  If you have not come to church in a while, I invite you, for the grace you will find here and the grace you will offer us.  If you are with us each Sunday, God bless you for the gift you give us.  The swimming pool of my childhood was never as joyous as when it was full of too many kids, all drenched together.  In the waters of baptism, we are drenched together in grace.  And that is how God meant it to be.  All are welcome!

Your sister in Christ,
Pastor Laura

Nature’s Community

Springtime Greetings Dear People of Bethlehem,

Like most people, I tend to associate spring with nature – budding flowers, new stems shooting up from previously snow-covered plots (my Midwestern roots still clearly have an influence), and the glorious green of new growth.  I recently learned something interesting about plant behavior, specifically about how trees communicate with one another.  I wanted to be precise in my retelling of this, so I turned to Google to make sure I got my facts straight.  And wouldn’t you know, I heard it on an episode of Ted Lasso, a show I have previously written about in this newsletter.  Someday I’ll have to thank the writers of that show for all of the theological fodder they have provided me.  But I digress …

The show references the work of Professor Suzanne Simard who studies forestry at the University of British Columbia.  Her groundbreaking work (pun semi-intended) has shown that forests operate as social communities.  Previously it was thought that it was an “every plant for themself” kind of situation.  If you didn’t get enough sunlight, or enough water, or enough nutrients, well, that was just too bad, and you probably weren’t gonna make it.  Instead, she has shown that trees actually communicate with each other, and work collaboratively as well.  They are linked to neighboring trees through an underground network of fungi that resemble the neural pathways of the brain.  They are able to share resources with one another, warn each other about danger (forest fires, pest infestations, etc.), and even help nurture young seedlings.  In short, they can do everything that a human community should do.

Now, I say “should” because sadly, that’s not always how human communities operate.  Oftentimes our society lauds values like “look out for number one,” and “only the strong survive.”  Some people try to justify that model saying it’s just a law of nature.  But with these trees we see a different law of nature.  A law that promotes cooperation, collaboration, and mutual care as the highest priorities.  These are lessons that we hear from Jesus each and every Sunday, and especially as we move into the sacred time of Holy Week.  A time when we will be given a new commandment to love our neighbors as Jesus has loved us.  A time when Jesus will do his best to prepare his followers to carry on his work once he’s gone – work that will take a community to achieve.  A community of believers, united both by common mission and the power of the Holy Spirit, that will become Christ’s body here on earth.  So as new life is springing up all around us, look to the trees, look to nature, and learn from its ways.  For there is wisdom to be found in the earth, in this wonderful creation that God has blessed us with.

                                                                                                            Root down to rise up, Pastor Sam