Pastoral Ponderings . . . 

Unlike many other flower seeds, tulip bulbs like to freeze. They go dormant during the winter, and then the come back to life as the earth warms in the springtime Sun. To me, they are a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When Jesus died on the cross, all hope was gone. His friends were so sad when they laid him in the cold dark tomb, and rolled the stone into place. But three days later, the stone was rolled away! The tomb was empty! God’s love raised Jesus from the dead. God’s love brought hope alive again at Easter! Tulip planting is a spiritual exercise for the fall. In a season that seems so hopeless, with so much grief and despair, we have so much to hope for. And God’s loving hands to put our hopes in.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This is the deep mystery, the deep soil, in which our hopes are planted. The gospel tells us to trust in God’s love, even when all hope is lost. When we have exhausted every effort. When we have no ideas left. When no answers come and so much uncertainty remains, we turn to the One who acted when all hope was gone. The One who’s greatest act was to restore life when death, hate, and violence had done their worst to Christ Jesus. We place our tulips of hope in the ground, and trust God’s love to blossom in ways we may never expect. This is the journey of our “wait and see” faith. A faith that tells us that there is more going on than meets the eye when hate, death, violence, and suffering are all we see.

“The only thing constant is change,” the old saying goes. How we wish things wouldn’t change. Until we wish they would! We wish things would just return to normal. But all the forces of God’s Creation, the forces of Nature, the laws of physics, are all about breaking and re-making. Forming and re-forming. From its very beginning, the universe has always been evolving. Atoms bond into molecules, and molecules into matter, and matter evolves into life, and life continues to evolve, over eons. Change and reformation are the principles of existence! That can either bring hope or despair. And sometimes both at the same time.

A tiny coronavirus evolved into something that has brought humanity in the 21st century to its knees. Science shows us the human species and its current way of being on the planet is changing the planet itself in ways that are accelerating the natural pace of change. Our political life as a country has evolved over just 240 years to where we are today.

There is much despair in these times. And yet, we are still being called to be partners with God our Creator in all these changes. We are called to be co-creators of the future, with God’s guidance. A guidance given to us in our tradition by the ethics of Christ. The ethics of compassion: to see ourselves in every person, even in the planet itself; to do love in acts of compassion for every person, and the Earth; to give as Christ gave himself, for the common good. A common good that encompasses everything that shares this beautiful Planet.

We are called to be co-creators with God, of a future that embodies those ethics Christ gave his life for. A way of being in relationship with each other, and everything that God so loves, the gospel tells us, that God will never give up on. Even restoring what death, hate, and violence would destroy. That’s such very good news. That’s the soil in which hope can grow. That’s soil we return to, together as people of God in the season of thanksgiving.                                                                                                                           

I have so many tulips I’ve been given to plant this fall. Maybe because I have so many hopes and prayers for our future! We were gifted with all these tulip bulbs, by the father of one of our friends. He is Frieda’s grampa. And Frieda’s grampa is one of the gardeners who tend the grounds at the beautiful Grand America Hotel downtown. Every year, Frieda’s Abuelo and the other gardeners dig up the tulip bulbs in the early summer. And this year, he had a big box to share with us! He also shared some amazing tomato plants that gave us beautiful yellow and orange tomatoes for Kirstin’s salsa. Frieda’s Abuelo is so generous with what little he has to share. And now we all have many tulips to plant wherever we live throughout the Valley, in hope for a new day to come.

As I plant, my hopes and prayers will be: a safe and effective vaccine for everyone; an end to hate speech, and division in our country, a living wage for everyone and an economic bridge for us to get there; a home for every person on the streets; an evolution from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy; a welcome to every migrant seeking refuge and a new start in this great land; an end to privilege based upon the color of our skin; equal human rights for every woman; and a return to global partnerships for peace, and conservation.

I hope for the day when we can come together in person again and grieve with those who grieve. And give thanks for the faith of loved ones whose faith sheltered hope in times just as hard as these. A faith we have learned and inherited from them. And singing together in person again! Like we learned how to do when we were very young. Lutherans sing so wonderfully together. Especially Tabor Lutherans!                                                                                                                            

Change happens, because our Creator is a changer. A reformer. One who doesn’t rest until compassion is the new norm. Calling us from old routines, and time-worn pathways, to a future we can co-create together as the Body of Christ active in the world.

In God’s hands, in the soil of the gospel, we plant our hopes and prayers. Formed, and being reformed, always by God’s Love.             – Pastor David