Pastoral Ponderings . . .

Spring is coming! The season of Lent begins. The count-down to Easter, and springtime. A beautiful time of creation’s change. Have you ever wished you could change something about this world? I think we all feel that way. Maybe quite a lot these days. Water is getting harder to find in the West. I’m hearing that regardless of the snow pack this season, we need 4 more consecutive wet falls and snowy winters to get out of the extreme drought we’re in. Utah’s in a drought that hasn’t been seen in the southwest for 1200 years. But humans are resilient: they learn to adapt to changing circumstances. The Anasazi people and their culture hung on in the Four Corners Region, but soon even they had to leave. We have so much more ability to live in harmony with the land than they could.

I’ve been listening to what our friends in the Save Our Great Salt Lake Coalition have been saying for years now: Utah uses the most water of any of the 50 states. And Utah has the cheapest water rates in the country. The Great Salt Lake is drying up. So is Lake Powell. I wish that human water consumption patterns in Utah would change. I wish the legislature would do something bold. They’re going to try more voluntary conservation measures for 2023. But I don’t think municipal, industrial, and agricultural habits are going to change fast enough. The legislature had a Water Week last month to address our dying Lake. They’re dangling a few carrots in front of farmers and ranchers to entice them to use less water. But my sense is that they’re still waiting to see how bad it gets, before doing more. I wish I could change that; make our legislature more proactive than reactive, but it’s true: “Old habits die hard.” I agree with them that conservation is the way to go: making sure to “leave enough for the next in line.”

So many things we’d like to change in the world today, isn’t there? Maybe even things we’d like to change about ourselves? I remember that it was Jesus alone who’s appearance changed on the hilltop that Transfiguration day. Not anyone else who came with him. I wonder if maybe there’s something in that: We all can change. We all can transform. But we can only change ourselves. And if enough of us begin to change, the world begins to change!

I’m so inspired by the xeriscaping our congregation has done to change our water habits. We’ve been struggling for generations to maintain“a Midwest landscape in a high desert climate.” And our annual water bill shows it through the years! At our annual meeting in February, we learned that we paid $4,000 for water, in last year alone.

In 2021 we did the xeriscaping you can see today on the boulevard. We did’t have to try and convince the legislature, or the Water Boards that conserving water needs to happen now. We know it’s “all hands on deck” now, to save the Great Salt Lake. I think we know from what we were able to do in 2021 that we can be part of the solution -- right now. We as the body of Christ in this place can change, transform, transfigure, imagine, envision! And as we do, I believe we embody hope. Hope that’s seen by all the cars that drive by every day on 700 East: “Hey, there’s one church that’s doing right by the Lake.”

We can’t change other people’s behavior. All we can do is model for them. Like Tabor did for our household. As we saw the results around Tabor’s property in 2021, Kirstin and I said to ourselves, “we can do the same thing in our front yard.” And we did last spring! Yours truly was the landscaper. ( Uff da! that was so much work). But we called up a local sprinkler company, and had them do the work of switching over our system from pop-up sprinklers to drip irrigation. We had the best season ever for our raised bed tomato plants last summer!

We did it the cheaper DIY way. But Tabor doesn’t have to! We have an excellent landscape and irrigation company (D and J landscaping) that did the first stage of xeriscaping for us in 2021. And it appears that we have up to $100,000 (one third of our Endowment Fund) for any building and property needs that the congregation decides on!

I can sure get worked up about water wasting habits in Utah. I can get outraged and resentful about the way the state operates. But I don’t have the power to change that. All I have is the power to change my own habits. And maybe model for others around me what stewardship of God’s earth looks like.

You know, it’s a funny thing about the Transfiguration of Christ where Matthew says, “he was transfigured before them: his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” . . . Did you know that legend has it that all that went down on a little hilltop called Mount Tabor?

I think Tabor shines in many ways. With compassion for the least, in advocacy and generosity. In stewardship of creation, with solar panels and xeriscaping. And with hospitality that celebrates the beautiful diversity of human life and love.

And we are so blessed to find more ways to live God’s love by being good stewards of the land God gives us. So that the light of Christ can continue to shine from here, at 2nd and 7th, inspiring us all to be the change we wish to see in the world.                  Pastor David