Common Connection – Br. Luke Ditewig
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When I was about six, two collegians who were allergic to cats asked me to move a cat away from them. I tried but had difficulty, so I said: “The easiest thing would be for you to move. You could come back later and by then the cat will have moved.” The students later told my dad they could tell I was his son. People still recognize my parents in how I speak, listen, and serve. How we live communicates our community, to whom we are connected.
Today we conclude a ten-part sermon series on the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. These are one way to summarize who God is and what it looks like for us to be known as God’s beloved daughters and sons. These communicate we are connected to and being converted by Christ.The five marks may be summarized: tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure. Let’s review.
Tell: We’ve received good news. Repent is a gracious invitation to change and grow.In response to such love, how can we keep from singing?
Teach: Always children of God, we keep learning how to live resurrection.We strive for selfless serving rather than scrambling for security, for forgiving rather than retaliating, and honoring rather than hating.
Tend: Flowing from our relationship with Jesus, we serve with loving kindness in many ordinary ways. We listen deeply to each person, respecting Christ already present and at work. We stand in loving solidarity with generous intercession and prayerful action.
Transform: Everything is being renewed and restored. Pay attention to something local. Eating radishes Br. James planted opens eyes to the reality of food justice, changing us.
Treasure: All of creation is a gift to be cherished. We are in an ecological crisis. Let’s do something together, cleaning along the Charles River.
Tell, teach, tend, transform, treasure: these five signify Jesus’ love is making its mark on us.
Now let me add just a few more words about treasure. Language indicates and shapes how we see. Martin Buber distinguished between I-It and I-Thou relationships, between objectified and personal.What’s our relationship to the Charles River? What or who is our neighbor?
Treating the other as it, an object, we often try to control for our own use or disregard.Natural resources suggest creation as things to be used.Treating the other as thou,personally, gives honor, opens us for encounter, even affection. Saint Francis famously called every little part of creation brother or sister. As with people or plant, tribe or terrain, a language or at least perspective of fraternity invites listening rather than restricting, honor rather than control, a sober humility pointing back to our common loving Creator.[i]
God came all the way down to us in flesh. The good news of Jesus is thoroughly personal. In our Gospel lesson today we hear Jesus praying for us. (John 17:20-26)“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.” As God and Jesus are intimately related, so Jesusintercedes that we may be one with him. Why? “So that the world may know that you have sent me.” God’s mission is to restore and renew all of creation in a loving embrace.Jesus intercedes and invites our participation.
When we relate personally, we open ourselves to being shaped and converted by others. Facts don’t change our behavior; relationships do, both with people and all of creation.We relate and connect by spending time with, by stopping to tend, look, and listen.There’s a Native American saying: “Live so that a piece of earth mourns when you die.”
As our friend The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas says: “It’s important not only to save the earth itself, but also to save a way of seeing the earth as beloved, as possessing its own life and energy, as worth preserving.”[ii]
Here’s one way Margaret suggests to practice seeing the earth as beloved. Take a walk outdoors slowly and silently to personally visit and encounter neighboring nature. For us, I particularly suggest along the Charles River. Notice the sounds, smells, colors. Stop when a particular place attracts you and pay closer attention to it. First notice what happens to your sense of self and your sense of God when viewing creation as an object. Then notice what happens when viewing creation personally, as an equal, possessing its life and energy. Listen, look, respect, receive.Imparting great value and worth, we treasure by investing in relationships, continuing to walk, reflect, wonder, and tend our neighboring creation.
What we treasure is telling. How we tend teaches and transforms.The five all go together communicating our common connection to Christ, for we are marked as God’s daughters and sons, beloved brothers and sisters.
[i]Pope Francis (2015) Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Vatican City: LibreriaEditriceVaticana, p13, 145.
[ii] Margaret led the Brothers’ annual community retreat in 2013. She also shared with us the Native American saying. Please explore her wisdom at: www.revivingcreation.com
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The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.
During the pandemic I have found it particularly helpful to remember this is God’s world. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. I have been blessed with a life long passion for God’s creation. Now it is Spring and the spectacular wildflowers are in bloom. By carefully removing the dandelions I find a large portion of the yard beside my home is filled with Trout Lily and Blue Violets! Thanks be to God.
I like this comment. Thomas Berry would also approve.
Your words remind me that I am always waking and reawakening to the “Thou” in creation and service to others. Thank you for reminding us of the privilege we share in this “Mark” as beloved brothers and sisters.
In my mind every living object has life, is a creature of God’s making. When I enjoy and send my love to the flowers in the yard, or the weed by the driveway, I am sending my love to God. When I must cut down a tree, or remove a weed, I say a little prayer. God’s creation was given to me to cherish but not to be overlord of. Even the rocks are there at God’s pleasure, not mine. I can enjoy them however, knowing they are part of God’s creation.
Dear Anne, I remember your woodland yard so well, and the reverence for creation we shared so many years ago in eastern Massachusetts. We no longer have a church community in common, but the SSJE community is as rich and nourishing as any physical ties. May you be safe and well during this time, and may your message inspire many others to your kind of mindfulness and appreciation.
The link in note 2 for Margaret Bullitt-Jonas website is outdated. It should be:
Amen. This is the best wake up call I have gotten in a long time! Praise God.
My husband was a quarter Native American. He was so conscious of our natural surroundings. We taught our children to be so, too. We always had a beautiful yard, with many flowers, some wild ones which attracted butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. We lived on a bluff overlooking a river. Being married to him for 50+ years taught me many things about nature I had taken for granted before. Our statue of St. Francis in our flower garden was of special significance. I love the Psalms which are brimming full of praise and thanksgiving for God’s creation.