Lent Devotion, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018


Yesterday I noted how the openings of Mark’s Gospel and the book of Genesis are both about beginnings. John’s Gospel does the same, saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

Like Mark, John connects the person and work of Jesus to the creative power of God, a power that calls all things, not only humans, into existence.

It is good to be reminded that God has created more than we humans. Too often we have treated the rest of God’s natural world as if it were no more than a stage on which the drama of salvation is played out. We sometimes treat nature as if were simply placed there for our benefit, to be used, manipulated, and abused in any way we see fit.

But all things exist, not for our convenience, but for God’s glory. And we are called to be faithful stewards and caretakers of God’s creation.

Creator God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are at work creating the world and filling it with new life. You have given we humans the special honor of caring for your world. Give us inquiring minds to seek an understanding of how the world works. Fill us with passion to care for water, air, and ground. And place in us a deep respect for every species, for all belong to you. Amen.

Mountain Pilgrimage


IMG_0855 Hawk Mountain sign

When August comes with sun so hot,
And land is blessed with flowing  crop;
When butterfly skips round and round,
And dragonfly is also found;
When northwest wind picks up its pace,
And hearts begin to stir and race:
Many set out on pilgrimage
To visit rocks of ancient age.

Drawn by wonder of creation
And the magic of migration,
Some will come as they have before,
Ten, twenty, thirty years or more.
In their minds are memories kept
Of wondrous days of birds wind-swept,
Of sunlight gleaming on the land,
And good friends standing near at hand.

Others arrive for the first time,
Including some from distant clime:
One in zeal for conservation,
Varied in their tongue and nation,
These young trainees from many lands
Eagerly offer helping hands;
And through their smiles and what they do
They help to keep the old hill new.

Together all share this wonder:
Eagle first seen at a number–
Then dipping into woods below,
At Hunter’s popping up to show
Its head ablaze like fiery crown.
Then flying along field of brown,
The raptor climbs to horizon,
And over steeple continues on
Its journey of migration flight,
Headed toward day’s final light.


Alleluia! Grace Appearing!


IMG_0850 Alleluia Grace Appearing

I wrote this hymn text in 2012 as a celebration of resurrection hope for all creation. It was dedicated “in honor of Roy Gulliford, and in appreciation of his calling to proclaim Christ and to care for creation.” (An ordained pastor, Roy was the founding director of Bear Creek Camp, an outdoors ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.) Sung to the tune “In Babilone,” it was first used in public worship on Easter Sunday, 2012, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Orwigsburg, PA

Alleluia! Grace appearing! All creation moved to say:
“Praise to God and all the wonder for the glory of this day!”
Alleluia! Light is streaming! Sun and sky join in the praise.
Hope arises, new life granted, day breaks out in beaming rays.

Alleluia! Death defeated! Phoenix and the butterfly
Witness to the resurrection, freely given from on high.
Alleluia! Laughter takes hold! Frog, hyena, blue jay, too,
Sounding joy of Easter story, sharing God’s good news with you.

Alleluia! Joyful tears flow! Ground and plants receive new life.
Oceans cleansed and rivers made pure, all released from fear and strife.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Fish, and bird, and ev’ry tree
Lift their voice in endless singing to the One who sets us free.


Cosmos Threatened



IMG_0802 Cosmos Threatened number 2

This hymn text was written in 2013, while I was re-reading Scott Weidensaul’s book “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds,”  and is dedicated in appreciation of Scott’s writings. It may be sung to the tune Ebenezer.

Cosmos threatened, life in danger
Is there time to save it yet?
Can we hear the cries of nature;
And upon right paths be set?
God has made a good creation,
To provide our ev’ry need.
Can we now avoid the danger
Of destroying it with greed?

Lord, on knees we fall before you,
Filled with thankful gratitude
For rich blessings you have given
Latitude to latitude.
Singing warbler, rich rainforest,
Glacial ice and polar bear.
South and north is your creation,
Gifts of your great loving care.

Lift us, Lord, to new beginnings
To protect your cherished earth.
Fill our hearts, our minds, our actions
With your Spirit of new birth.
Grant that we may steward wisely
River, mountain, land and sea.
Keep us living in your image:
Caring for the wild and free.

The Rainbow Christmas Tree


IMG_0522 Rainbow Christmas Tree

In this sixth part of “Jensi’s Story,” a child’s drawing inspires Jensi to write a poem about God’s desire that we care for creation and love our neighbor.

While visiting her great-aunt Elizabeth, Jensi noticed a yellowing piece of paper enclosed behind the glass of a picture frame. On the paper was a sketch of a Christmas tree, with a rainbow sitting atop the tree.

Jensi asked, “Aunt Beth, this Christmas tree, with the rainbow at its peak: Who drew it?”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “I did, when I was seven years old. My grandfather asked me to make it. He said he wanted the rainbow atop the tree because tree and rainbow together remind him of God’s mercy for the world. The Christmas tree, he said, celebrated Christ’s birth, while also drawing attention to the tree of the cross on which Jesus died, as well as the tree of life in the book of Revelation with its leaves of healing for all the nations.

“My grandfather said that the rainbow reminded him of two important stories Christians tell. The first story is God’s promise to Noah to care for creation. As a sign of that promise, God placed a rainbow in the sky. And the rainbow’s many colors he said, point to a second story: God’s love for all the peoples of the earth, a love we see coming to the world in the birth of Jesus. He told me that when he was a child he had learned this song:

          Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world;

         Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight;

         Jesus loves the little children of the world.

         Ev’ry color, ev’ry race, they are covered by his grace,

         Jesus loves the little children of the world.

“Wow,” said Jensi, “that’s pretty neat. I like it.” And with her cell phone, she snapped a photo of the Rainbow Christmas Tree

And over the next several days, Jensi kept thinking about that Tree. She realized that it pointed to two of the things that the voice of Jesus said her child would do: encourage people to care for creation, and create bridges of understanding among people who differed from one another. As Jensi pondered these things, she found herself writing a poem, which when completed went like this.

The Rainbow Christmas Tree                    
Is a reminder of God’s intention   
To cherish the life of all creation.

In the Noah Story,
God looked, and felt deep grief at what he saw:
An earth made for beauty and harmony

Was not in unity. 
Evil ran deeply in harsh and hard hearts;
Foul mouths spoke aloud the mind’s ugly thoughts. 

Violence—terror—greed filled ev’ry land,
And God regretted the work of his hand.
So in deep grief God said,
“No more. It cannot continue this way;
I will end it, and begin a new day. 

“I will destroy it all,
Except for Noah, his kin, and a pair
Of every living creature of earth.” 

The rain came, the flood rose,
And all died in the water’s raging dark
Except those who were safely in the ark.

But now God felt new grief.
God said, “Toward evil human hearts are bent;
Yet the answer is not the flood I sent. 

“Never again will I 
Destroy my whole creation. As a sign
Of my pledge to people and all creatures 

I set a bow in sky,
A reminder to be gentle with earth,
To seek a better way for life’s rebirth.”

In the fullness of time,
God decided the better way would be 
The birth of his Son, the Nativity. 

In the Christmas story 
A young Galilean girl hastens off
To visit an old Judean woman. 

Angels come to two men:
An old priest offering the ancient rites,
A carpenter asleep after day’s work. 

And to shepherds, thought by
Many to be unclean, with uncouth views,
Comes a surprise announcement of good news. 
But the greatest surprise 
Is the foreigners who come from afar,
Scientists who were guided by a star 

To see the new born king.
With faces odd, with clothes and accents strange,
They enter the house: Mary welcomes them. 
In the Christmas story 
Male, female, native, alien, young, old,
Religious, secular: All hear good news.
These of Christ’s birth story
Foreshadow Jesus’ coming ministry
Of embracing the world’s diversity.  

That’s why the rainbow sits
Atop the tree. It is a sign that God’s 
Love is not given for one kind alone.  

The Rainbow Christmas Tree
Roots us deeply in Messiah Jesus,
Calling us to partner in God’s good work.

Thus we pay attention 
To the beauty of the natural world,
And seek to treat it gently and kindly.

We protect open land;
We preserve endangered species, valuing 
Them because they are created by God. 

Taught by birds of the air,
We live simply, content with daily bread,
Striving to keep our carbon footprint low.
We support policies 
That keep air clean, rivers pure, streams sparkling,
Fields fruitful, fish spawning, forests growing.
We are people of the 
Rainbow Christmas Tree, called to bear good fruit,
Caring for the gifts of God’s creation.
As people of the Tree,
We also seek to love one another,
Whatever our race, gender, or color. 
Heeding John’s warning word,
We beware the danger of too highly
Exalting our own kind. So we humbly

Attempt to build bridges
With those we may not know nor understand.
Through listening and through conversation
We seek common respect 
Among gay and straight; Hispanic, black, white;
Liberal, conservative, moderate.
We build relationships 
Between atheists and Christians and Jews,
Among Moslems, and Buddhists, and Hindus. 
The prophet Isaiah 
Spoke of a time lion and lamb will lie down
Together in peace. We yearn for that day.

Walking the Jesus’ Way,
We use our minds, and our skills, and our wealth
To support causes promoting civic health. 

We oppose any “ism”
That would divide or tear people apart,
For such actions bring grief to God’s holy heart.

The Rainbow Christmas Tree 
Reminds us of God’s commitment to earth,
His desire for its ever-new re-birth.

May the Rainbow Christ Tree
Inspire us to value creation,
As well as peoples of ev’ry nation.