Saturday, December 02, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Left

five minute friday left empty plates
Five Minute Friday :: Left Linkup


Much more often than not I illustrate my blogs with my own photographs and art, but sometimes I don't have the right stuff, so I search the interwebs to find something that fits. I believe Kate usually sources from Unsplash for FMF, and how excited I was to see this week's was one of my faves I've used here at least twice: with the caption "absence" that only a scant three months ago illustrated my FMF on September 1st; five years ago, it headed my August and Summer highlights that I captioned full futures… empty plates.


The word "left" has quite a few connotations. Many people seem to view my political stance as pretty far left, but I consider myself only a little left of center, or "left-leaning." Historically left has related to the latin word for left that's "sinister." But a keyboard score that includes instructions to play a passage with MS – or mano sinister feels not only benign but helpful. Yet keyboard instructions to play a section with your right hand or mano derecha uses language of just and righteous, though in the piano case it's simply a location on the opposite side of left and doesn't assume any particular value.

After a loss, we often consider "how much is left now?" What remains? Enough to work with, to grow a future from? Sufficient leftovers, too. Many culinary leftovers are much tastier than the original meal or dish they derived from, though some seem scant and feel like a last resort "this is all we have left for lunch." At least in some of those situations of [almost] empty plates, can we find or invite another ingredient or another person to augment or even complete the meal?

After a loss, we often consider "how much is left now?" What remains? Enough to work with, to grow a future from? What have you lost? Your dreams? A friend? A family member? Your way in the world or around this neighborhood? How does something or someone being absent relate to whatever's left, whether it's a person, a home, an opportunity, garden produce, or a meal ingredient? But is anything left? A memory to inspire and motivate you? A still reasonable career plan? A nicely-done center portion inside the meal you singed on the outside?

As the church opens wide a new year of grace with the season of Advent, we know, we acknowledge, we announce, we sing, "hope is left." Hope for a new creation, hope for new ways of being that subvert the old. Hope for the death of death starts with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Run, come, see! Little baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem. Run, come, see! The stone rolled away. Is anything left? God's presence, God's love and mercy is left. In the promise of resurrection, God's future is left. And did you know we don't need to see it in order to believe it? Amen? Amen!

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Thursday, November 30, 2023

November & Autumn 2023

November 2023 header
• A Flurry of Bracelets on Olvera Street
• West LA Municipal Building waiting for a new tenant and a future
• Red Benches in Chinatown

September 2023 Highlights

October 2023 Features

Urban Wilderness / City Paradise for November

National sandiwch day 2023
• Friday 03 November meant another National Sandwich Day at another Subway

thanksgiving day in West LA
• Thanksgiving day in West LA again! This year for the annual West Side Community Dinner.

Olvera Street Los Angeles
• An actual semi-formal outing (or at least an official one) with a house guest to a couple of tourist spots I hadn't visited! Here's Part I at Olvera Street.

Chinatown Los Angeles
• Late November Sunday outing Part II to Chinatown.

living local 2023

west los angeles succulent

Friday, November 17, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Result

garden greens and supplies in West Los Angeles
Gardening supplies for sale on the west side of Los Angeles

Five Minute Friday :: Result Linkup


When you search the internet, eBay, or Amazon, you get a results page or list that's supposed to relate to your search terms. If you know how to construct a search string, your results (theoretically) will be better focused and more usable. But theory and reality often diverge.

As they say, the best way to predict the future is to create it. I've spent my life preparing to serve the inner city, an adult lifetime preparing to serve the urban church. And my call to free-range rather than continuing to pursue more settled, authorized ministry hasn't gotten many responses. Both overall result and discrete results have been disappointing and disconcerting. How can my actual life results converge with my intentions, my dreams, and my sense of call?

How to Get Results

As an earthbound lover of creation seeking to live more locally and better steward gifts the Giver has showered on you, you identify good and easily accessible land or someone offers you a plot. You prepare the soil, you plant, you weed, you water, or the skies send rain. Maybe you test the ground and the water and add nutrients. How's the air quality? You wait. Together we hope for good results. Results that previous experience and quality inputs lead you to expect.

When we pivot from horticulture and agriculture to the results we aspire to as humans seeking to contribute to the greater good, quality – and relevant – inputs still are key. But sometimes you need to go with what you have and trust the Spirit.

Via the prophet Jeremiah, God charged the exiles in Babylon to bloom where they'd been planted by working for, planning and preparing for, and therefore expecting the well-being of that strangely foreign place where they'd been sent. Because my neighbor's welfare is my healthiness is your wellness is all of our well-being. But similar to when we interact with earth and dirt, we sometimes need to tweak or add to inputs so they'll be more compatible with our desired results.

How many times here have I observed esperar in Spanish means hope, expect, and wait? When our actions align with our hopes, we can expect results that validate our waiting.

Sometimes you need to go with what you have and trust the Spirit. In fact, it would be unusual for anyone to possess everything they imagine would lead to the best result. Your geography might not be optimal for containing your ideal results. The local population may be too small or in general have a perspective that doesn't "get" your aspirations. Because of finances and location, the only place you easily can get needed education and skills right now maybe is okay but not top tier. Given that theory and reality often diverge, often you need to approach desired long run results with small steps filled with possibility.

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Friday, November 10, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Maintain

five minute friday maintain
Five Minute Friday :: Maintain Linkup

Originally I read the prompt as mountain! That would be apt for our host Kate's words about her struggles with pain management and medication-related weight gain. It's not unusual for meds to affect a person's weight, plus it takes relatively few extra calories to cause natural weight gain and what is more, even when a person does well shedding pounds and changing their overall eating patterns, the final ten often is tough to budge because you've reached what someone called the "set point" your body wants to maintain because otherwise you might starve yourself (according to your body's logical rationale).

As it turned out, when I went back to copy the link and get the picture, I discovered maintain is this week's actual prompt. Over on my scripture blog I often write about freedom, obedience, community, and common-wealth.

Exodus 19:1-8

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites."

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do." Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

You know the story! Out of Egypt, still far from promise landed liberty in the place God first promised Abraham, technically Israel was free, yet after God quenched their thirst and filled their hunger in surprising ways, Israel received the Sinai Covenant with guidelines and boundaries as gifts that would help them stay free.

Scholars consider both the nomadic desert lifestyle and the commandments constitutive events for God's people Israel, similar to how the constitution of an organization or a country defines its heart and substance.

God gifted Israel with the ten Words or Commandments after they'd been liberated from slavery, been freed from production quotas. Out of imperial Egypt, into the exodus desert, on their way but not yet at the promised land, they'd learn to maintain that freedom by keeping covenant. Slavery to empire no long would be their frame of reference; instead they would reverence God by serving the neighbor.

Just as for Israel, especially heeding the sabbath command helps us remember bondage, helps us appreciate freedom and maintain resolve to stay free. In a world of political and commercial empires, Sabbath reminds us to make life as gift a possibility for others.

"This is freedom. This is a weapon greater than any force you can name. Once you know this, and know it with all your being, you will move and act with a determination and power that the federal government cannot ignore, that the school boards cannot overlook, and that the housing authority cannot dismiss." Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, 1966

In the chapter after today's we find the Ten Words or Decalogue that outline how the people can maintain their freedom—what Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann calls God's Working Papers for living together in community—for Israel's, and for ours, as well. God's people whose bounded freedom helps maintain life and avert death.

You also can find the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant in Deuteronomy 5:5-21.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Season

five minute frodau seaspm

Five Minute Friday :: Season Linkup


It's always reassuring to remember our lives have seasons similar to creation's. In addition to clear "life seasons" of struggle, growth, plateau, reversal, and glory like the weather outside, we also experience hints of different seasons within any current one. Have you ever had a sunny July day turn into a horizontal downpour with near zero visibility? Or been surprised by mid-February melting snow and bright crocuses when you know the calendar says spring is weeks away? I've mentioned human seasons enough in this blog; for this Five Minute Friday let's conside our planetary winter, spring, summer, autumn. Their necessity, their interrelatedness, their gifts. This week's five minutes hasn't turned into a book, but the subject of season was so fun I kept on writing.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no vegetation of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground, but a stream would rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground—

then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.… Genesis 2:4b-9

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. Genesis 2:15


While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Genesis 8:22


Five Novembers ago I blogged Bulbs Roots Beauty about the gift of winter. When I lived in places with cold, snowy winters, though going outside to work, school, or other activities often was a major challenge, I enjoyed the coziness of being inside looking out, especially if I didn't need to go outside soon. Related to winter I love warm sweaters, and (of course) body and spirit warming savory soups and hot drinks. What are your faves?


Spring's colorful new growth—how did this happen after winter?

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and reburied; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

In his Reading the Parables, pastor-professor Richard Lischer quotes from a sermon he happened upon: "When Jesus was taken from the cross, they hid his body in a tomb and then sealed it lest someone find him. For 3 days, Jesus himself was the Treasure hidden in the field; for 3 days he was the seed lying dormant in the ground. Jesus was a human parable of God's love and power."

A seed of God's love and power…

What are your fave things about spring? I especially enjoy lighter brighter colors in our natural surroundings and in spring clothing. They both remind us spring is a beginning of new life that hasn't grown or developed much into what it will become.


Always my favorite! From spring greens intensifying as days grow longer and then shorter days but more sunshine, more parties, more fun, and better times. I don't want summer to end because I love the hot days, now and then cloudbursts, bright, light, mostly casual clothes, sometimes spontaneous get togethers and outings. What are your summer joys?


Autumn is my most real and best new year, because back in my day and back when many others were younger, that's when school started again. New beginnings, a new classroom, new teachers, books, (notebooks, pencils, pens, markers, crayons) classes, and activities. And there's even something new and novel as the natural world starts to slow down, bright summer colors fade and mellow, life at the same time deepens and broadens. Despite summer being my best season, I always appreciate fall's sense of wisdom and maturity, of knowing what battles to choose and which ones to ignore, of getting into warmer clothes that somehow always look like better quality and better styling. How about your autumns?


…Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher).
John 20:14-16

Supposing him to be the gardener??

But Jesus is the gardener. Jesus is the seed that is the Word of God that is the seed. Without a seed, without a beginning, (without the Spirit,) there is no growth or life or resurrection from death.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden … [and] made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…

Yahweh is a fertility God! Created in God's image, God calls us and we become people who care for the land, protect creation's integrity. Without a seed or source there's no growth, no fruit.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

The earth, the land, the garden first was gift of grace before it was a covenantal charge and endeavor. Earth and land and garden are gifts for all four seasons, earthbound realities for every one of our summers, springs, winters, and autumns.

What's your favorite and best?
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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October 2023

october header fig leaves dup
• Some of the overgrown fig leaves some people have been commenting on create a lovely autumn duo for October's header.

Urban Wilderness – City Paradise for October

Roxy Easter
• Roxy left earth on Wednesday 11 October. Here's one of the pictures in her beautiful Easter bandana.
emoji subwat art at Vermont Wilshire Metro Station
• A trip downtown through Vermont Wilshire Metro Station (the one with the long escalator) on Thursday 12 October and a visit to Angelica, not all that far from MacArthur Park. Here's some of the emoji art on classic subway tiles.
twin valleys festival
twin valleys fall festival
• Photo collages from Twin Valleys Fall Festival on Saturday 14 October. Fab autumn-Halloween decorations, tasty BBQ, and a beyond fabulous jazz band.
decorated mini pumpkins
• For Reformation Sunday in West Los Angeles we had an al fresco potluck and decorated small pumpkins. Look at this fun and fancy array!
Reformation Rose
• Today, 31 October is Reformation Day 2023.
trick or treat
• All day today, 31 October is Halloween. Though I didn't keep a visitor tally, I handed out four packages of fun size candy bars at 2 per person, including several parents. The last few trick or treaters got Halloween Oreos I actually remembered. Happily they loved the cookies!
living local 2023

Friday, October 27, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Strive

be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Five Minute Friday :: Strive Linkup

As we approach Reformation Sunday / Reformation Day with its glorious affirmation of salvation by grace not works, it feels especially apt to consider this week's strive prompt. Of course we need to be diligent, work hard, make quite a lot of effort for our lives to bear fruit that benefits others and offers us the warm glow of achievement. In short, we do need to strive. We need to strive and try and sometimes cry, but if we don't first recognize life as God's gift of grace we'll get tied up in knots of anxiety and for sure we'll be less productive.

For churches that follow the lectionary for their scriptures, every year's readings for Reformation are the same:

• freedom that is ours when we continue in God's word and abide in Christ – John 8:31-36
• justified before God by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – Romans 3:19-28
• the new covenant promise of God's law on our hearts – Jeremiah 31:31-34
• Psalm 46 that Martin Luther loosely paraphrased to create his hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

Have you seen Psalm 46:10 formatted:

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still

God created us human beings and not human doings. We first claim our identity as icons or images of God with simple being. After that, with less anxiety, more confidence we absolutely can strive to do and succeed in doing whatever work God calls us to because…
Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city, she shall not be shaken;

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

10 Be still, and know that I am God;

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
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Friday, October 20, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Clarify

five minute friday clarify plants with sun
Five Minute Friday :: Clarify Linkup

You don't get much clarity about an object or situation if there's not enough light to show the details. Ever since God said, "let there be light," and there was light, we've had a front row seat that clarifies the glories of creation.

As our host Kate said, we try different ways to clarify the life path ahead, and with good reason. Looking at all the inputs as best as possible helps reveal how we might contribute to the planet's greater good and give God the glory. We talk about transparency in financial and other transactions, in our everyday family and workaday interactions.

Those of us in the church have a habit of trying to clarify God's attributes and actions. Although we have God's words in scripture, some of those need interpreting to clarify them. Then again, we have the best interpreter of scripture, the incarnate Word Jesus Christ, who makes God's written word clearer than it otherwise would be. Some have called the sacraments "visible words," that also help clarify God's presence, God's ways, and God's will for creation.

Similar to ways God communicates with words and the Word, we humans interact with one another with speech and with symbols that sometimes are plainly familiar, sometimes need interpreting and clarifying by spoken explanations or with visual illustrations. Don't be obtuse and opaque! I really can't see through you. But is word not symbol in itself and is symbol not a kind of speech?

Whatever you call it (if anything at all), you probably interpret your context – neighborhood, workplace, church, school, or city – literally all the time. You read signage and other indicators that clarify where you are, the purpose or safety of a venue, if you want to eat in or take out from a particular eating place…

You almost definitely interpret wherever you are in order to discover and discern and clarify—what's the quickest route home?

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Friday, October 13, 2023

Five Minute Friday:: Anticipate

anticipate human in boots ready to travel
Five Minute Friday :: Anticipate Linkup

If FMF wrote to an image prompt and not to a word, Kate's picture of boots ready to start an adventure would be perfect. How fun to write about and anticipate the always unknown we walk into.

Lately I've been reminding myself a lot that the best way to predict the future is to create it. And I wonder what on earth happened when so little I anticipated came to be. I haven't said much about that recently, but my "life stuff" tag leads to some I dared make public.

With yet another devastating war filled with unimaginable violence and horror, what can we anticipate? More of the same or similar? This week for my scripture blog on Philippians 4:1-9, I'm writing on God's presence. I'll link to it here when it's live.

Pentecost 20A on Urban Wilderness/City Paradise

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and petitions with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will protect your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Carly Simon's "Anticipation" opens with "We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway (autocorrect just now changed my error to antiwar. Wow!) Anticipation the song ends with "These are the good old days" and I know I'm engaging in irresponsible eisegesis to align those lyrics with today anticipating a better unknown future, but you know about poetic license.

As I prayerfully and fearfully (fear in the sense of anxiety, not in the holy awe meaning of Martin's Luther's explanation to each commandment in his Small Catechism, "We should fear and love God above all things") anticipate the future of planet earth, particularly my current small slice of creation, more of Carly's music and lyrics encourage and remind us into God's future.

Let the river run. Let all the dreamers wake the nation. Come, the new Jerusalem.

We're coming to the edge // Running on the water
Coming through the fog // Your sons and daughters

We the great and small // Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire // Through the darkening dawn

God's sons and God's daughters! Let's trust God's presence and anticipate the unknown in our sturdy boots. Let's blaze a trail of desire. Let's predict the future and participate with God in the adventure of creating that future we anticipate. Amen? Amen!

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Saturday, September 30, 2023

September Summary

September summary header
Urban Wilderness / City Paradise Lectionary Blog for September
almost ripe pomegranates
• By Labor/ Labour Day on this side of the Big Pond, the pomegranates I've been tracking since spring approached ripe enough to eat.
community garden work day
• Garden Work Day, Saturday 09 September yielded a lot of pictures I've featured in this month's header, the header for my Earth sermon on the 24th, for this line item, and for my almost monthly "California" blog footer declaration.

• I didn't capture it in action, but the Autumnal Equinox came around as it always does.

community garden square
• We've been celebrating Season of Creation in a less structured way than when it first began. Due to my own uncertainties, struggles, and other concerns, for at least the past two yearsI haven't specifically designed for the liturgical emphasis, but on September 24th I got to preach on Earth. I even may edit my post later with more pictures. One of the graces of my ongoing struggles was having enough notes I reasonably could expand them to blog my homily.

• No pictures of the final Supermoon Full Moon of 2023 that graced the sky on Friday 29 September as a Harvest Moon.
living local 2023
small tomatoes with California word

Friday, September 29, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Copy

Five Minute Friday Ghetto box and green plant
Five Minute Friday :: Copy Linkup

With Kate's boombox picture, how could I not five minute friday today? With the "copy" prompt, how could I not reflect on copyrights, digital rights, and AI/Artificial Intelligence? I needed to consider my own claims to my own creative processes and output. I need to remind my readers and viewers:

Blog Content © 2002-2023 …

text, images, graphics, designs and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, or used in any derivative manner without explicit written permission.

Portable stereos or ghetto blasters remain a fond blast from my past; every so often music from one happily energizes my present. "Personal, individual" music conduits like earbuds and headphones simply don't resonate and reach far enough, but please don't worry. You can have the best of all words and plug those into any boombox manufactured in the past couple of decades, and yes, you can buy a new one for yourself or a model for your kids at any nearby Big Box retailer.

But copy remains a concern. As a creative, I frequently remind people there's nothing really original; almost everything derives from something else in some way. You've heard the hue and cry about AI crawling the internet to steal words and art and other creative output. Aside from residuals and other concerns particularly related to streaming, AI was a huge factor behind the recent SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

A few weeks ago I participated in an AI-related ZOOM forum aimed at creatives. One of the presenters asked if we wanted to return to minuscule capacity hard drives, dialup modems, 3.5" floppy disks, *even* 5.25 inch floppies.

I've recently read counsel on how to identify AI-generated photography. Online options to check for plagiarism have long been available. You always can reverse image search to find out if someone has stolen your art or photography. Yet none of this addresses risks and concerns of AI making copies, overwhelming, and overtaking the world.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Summer of Salt

summer of calt book cover

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno on Powell's

In this page-turner YA fantasy, older twin Georgina narrates the summer leading to her eighteenth birthday. It's close to equal parts mystery, magic, friendship, sisterhood, witchcraft, and coming of age into a world of possibilities humans might dream of.

Summer of Salt happens along the east coast of the USA on the previously safe and crime-free island By-the-Sea where uncounted generations of the Fernweh family have lived. Aside from improbable magical powers, the fact of many family members never even briefly leaving for another locale feels unwise to the point of destructively insular, but this is fiction, this is imaginative, and it's supposed to expand the reader's perspective.

Annabella the eastern seaborn flicker, the other central character – or possibly the main one – has held the interest of non-island birding communities for centuries. Annual summer visits from birders long has helped By-the-Sea and the Fernweh family stay financially afloat. I'd suggest those outsiders also have brought a needed taste of worlds outside By-the-Sea.

Summer of Salt is well-written without the annoying stylistic quirks I love to hate. It's strongly feminist yet balanced; none of the characters would denigrate a person who identifies as male or "other." With references to sexuality, orientation, and preferences of Georgina and her classmates more or less in passing, this isn't exactly a sapphic ode.

As a [chronologically] mature adult whose favorite fiction genre is YA, I found Summer of Salt an engaging summer read. And look at the brilliant cover!

Season of Creation :: Earth

community garden september bounty
Last Sunday's Sermon. I had more notes than usual (tired body, weary mind, sorrowful spirit), so this is close to what I said. I haven't expanded all the shorthand, and from the lovely comments I got afterwards, I trust my presentation was more lyrical than these on-screen words.

Genesis 1:9-13

Responsive Prayer

For the fruit of all creation,
thanks be to God.

In the help we give our neighbor,
thanks be to God.

For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
thanks be to God.

For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God.

Most of all, that love has found us,
thanks be to God.

Fred Pratt Green, 1970. Stanzas combined in the same order as the original.

land, sun, sky
• Grace, peace, and love to you…

Continuing today in Season of Creation, etc..

We have an annual emphasis on God's gifts of creation and our stewardship of creation because with the stories and histories we read in scripture throughout the year, it's important to remember God always acts where we are and how we are. Natural and humanly built environments always are integral to God's action, God's presence, and our response.

The physical and material isn't optional or accidental. The spiritual isn't optional or accidental. They come together and interact together.

verse 9 announces, "And God said, 'Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.' And it was so."

Genesis 1, the first chapter of the bible, shows us the living structure of planet earth, the whole panorama of creation as God's dwelling place. Genesis 1 also bring us God's spoken Word that creates, orders, tames – redeems, renews, and reforms. Let's remember how God saves and redeems not only human creatures, but the land, the skies, flowers, seas, and all assorted creatures that make those places home.

Last week we especially celebrated the gift of water. Today features earth. Despite the nearby Pacific Ocean, most of us function as mostly land creatures. We're basically earthlings.

If you grew up on a farm or with a backyard garden, if you have a plot in Central's community garden, if you've visited a farmer's market, even if you've never done those things but only buy your veggies at a nearby stand or supermarket, you probably can relate to today's celebration of vegetation, plants, seeds, and trees.

When we read and interpret scripture, we seek to understand the broad sweep of God's presence and action in history and to place ourselves in the story of all God's people, yet finding guidelines for our own situation is a primary goal.

desert with blue sky

If you've studied the OT, you probably remember Moses acting as God's agent to free God's people Israel from slavery in Egypt. Although in some ways being in Egypt, the breadbasket of the world, had helped them survive, the brutal empire with its death-dealing demands wasn't God's preferred place for them.

After they departed physical, geographical Egypt, Israel's exodus or departure (exodus is the same word as exit) they spent forty years s making a way toward the land God promised – Abraham! The desert also wasn't God's preferred place for them. In the shifting sand with water in short supply, they couldn't plant and nurture, wouldn't be staying long enough to wait for harvest (etc.), but the desert became a place of trusting God.

As God's people trekked through the hot dry desert, the supply of water and food was precarious. But God knew their needs and surprisingly supplied water from the rock, manna from the sky, quails from the ground…

During that time they also received the gracious gift of God's Ten Words – decalogue – or Commandments. This Sinai covenant that brought together God and people, people and people in trusting agreement would become the working papers for their life together when they reached that place of promise God first promised to … Abraham!

They finally crossed the Jordan River. As it turned out, the land of Canaan on the other side of the Jordan River was God's preferred place for the people of God, with rich earth, rivers and streams of clean clear water. This was the place God had promised to Abraham!

God meeting Israel's needs became evidence that God was with the people all the time. Although the journey was rough, tough and uneven, although they complained a lot, later on they told everyone about the God who was with them, fed them, watered their thirst.

Most of us have had times we weren't sure where our next meal would come from. We may have gone a day of more without eating anything.

Although we sometimes think of serious hunger as a big problem mostly in less developed countries, food insecurity remains a major concern in the neighborhoods that border Central here in Van Nuys. As one of quite a few food distribution programs across the city, ours has gifted many meals to many appreciative families.

As we study the creation narrative from its start in Genesis to the end of the bible in Revelation, we see the interdependence of every part of creation. Quite a few of us gather most weeks to get fresh and other ingredients into the hands and carts, into the homes and onto our neighbors' tables, but it's not only about those few dozen individuals.

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Before those veggies, fruits, beans, and soups are ready to hand out, a farmer has grown them, workers harvested them, trains and trucks have hauled them. Somewhere along the way they've been packaged, canned, and bagged… Individuals, businesses, and other organizations have contributed the $$$ that help us purchase the food we donate. Every aspect of distributing and receiving nutrition relies on every other moving part.

Your own life experiences and the gratitude of our neighbors help us realize what a gift any food program is and how deeply it resonates with water, earth, and all aspects of creation.

Scripture and experience show us God always meets us in this community, on this plot of land, wherever that may be. You may have heard the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill's reminder, "all politics is local." Theology is local, too!

Two weeks ago the denomination observed another God's Work / Our Hands day. (Every day is God's Work, Our Hands). God's people Israel learned to recognize and trust that God really was with them because of the way God provided for their actual needs.

Placing ourselves in the story of all God's people helps us notice and trust in God's presence and supply for ourselves and the planet's future.

Will our neighbors recognize God's presence in their lives with the food we provide with our hands and feet doing God's work, acting as God's presence, God's here and now in their lives?

Whether harvested from the earth or built in a factory, the material stuff in our world isn't accidental or optional. God's Spirit that fills all creation isn't an accident or an afterthought. It all comes together to help build a world. When we live as faithful caretakers and stewards of the earth, much of what we do interacts to help God rebuild and restore a healthy world.

We've taken a brief overview of God's good gifts of light, water, and earth…land, sod, soil, turf, dirt, terrain, heaven under our feet.

Again today Jesus invites us to the table of grace. This feast of reconciliation of all creation depends on healthy waters and a healthy earth.

To offer this Holy Communion requires the well-being of all creation.

This festival of thanksgiving brings us a preview of the new creation …

What better way to keep celebrating this season of creation in 2023?!

Thanks be to God!
earthbound rprout in ground