Nature Gives Nurture
Readings for Year A—2013-2014
Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary by Richard J. Perry, Jr.
1 Kings 19: 9-18
Psalms 85: 8-13
Romans 10: 5-15
Matthew 14: 22-33
Today’s gospel reading is very interesting. There are a number of preaching themes: Jesus going up a mountain to pray by himself. God’s grace is there even in storms. Jesus walks on the water. Peter is trying to walk on water, but fails. Faith in Jesus calms the storms lives. These are all great preaching themes. However, there is another theme which sometimes gets overlooked.
Notice the writer of Matthew identifies things related to nature: mountain, evening, waves, land, wind, sea, water, storms, and of course the boat. Coupled with humankind we have a partial creation story, absent creatures that fly, walk, swim, and plant life. Matthew’s story reveals how God and Jesus work through all of creation to nurture us in the midst of failure and storms in our lives. Faith is restored by believing in the power of Jesus.
The world is becoming highly urbanized. Cities are now monuments to the human capacity to build. Concrete, steel, and metal in many ways is taking over many empty spaces in cities. I recall several years ago going to Arizona with my family. The weather during the visit was hot and muggy. I recall asking, why is it so hot? The answer was because of all the concrete, steel, and asphalt now. It didn’t use to be like this, but many companies and people are building in this area. I did not understand everything about the answer, but now it is becoming clearer.
Urban residents are turning empty lots into play areas for youth in the community. There are gardens being built because poor and middle residents live in a “food desert,” an area where there are no major grocery stores. Food fairs are being organized by congregations and other non-profit organizations where fresh fruit and vegetables are sold or provided free to residents. And congregations in urban settings are building relationships with congregations in rural settings. Members learn about nature in both settings. Increasingly, nature is being viewed as a friend who nurtures all of God’s creation no matter the setting.
George Washington Carver, an African American scientist, understood what a relationship with nature meant for his own spiritual journey. Nature was an opportunity for Carver to commune with God.
To me Nature in its varied forms is the little windows through which God permits me to commune with [God’s self], and to see much of [God’s] glory, by simply lifting the curtain and looking in. I love to think of Nature as wireless telegraph stations though which God speaks to us every day, every hour, and every moment of our lives.
Carver was famous for all of the ways one could use the peanut. He took time to commune with nature and to experience God in nature. Carver experienced in a deep way what it meant to be connected with nature and how it nurtures the soul. God was there.
Martin Luther offers a similar understanding of where God. Luther says, “God is entirely personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, in the field.” Carver and Luther, although they are from different contexts and centuries, affirm a care of creation reading of the Gospel lesson. Nature contributes to nurturing the faith of God’s people. And this must be a central expression of the Christian faith.
Care of creation involves human beings working with nature and what it can provide us. Mountains give us a place to be lonely and to listen to God. Evening provides us with a sense of our mortality, losing strength, and a time of quietness. The wind blow signifying the Spirit of the Living God blowing upon the earth, humankind, and the heavens. Water provides life and contributes to death. Nature works to nurture faith in Jesus Christ.
Our preaching task during this Pentecost season can be enhanced by a focus on the role of nature in the deepening of our faith in Jesus Christ. Our world is beset with great environment and ecological issues. At the same time, how God through nature provides all that we need may to lead us to be more just in our treatment of nature.
Richard Perry is Professor of Church and Society and Urban Ministry at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
For additional care for creation reflections on the overall themes of the lectionary lessons for the month by Trisha K Tull, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and columnist for The Working Preacher, visit: http://www.workingpreacher.org/columnist_home.aspx?author_id=288
George Washington Carver, “The Love of Nature,” Guide to Nature, Dec. 1912, 228 as quoted in John S. Ferrell, Fruits of Creation: A Look At Global Sustainability As Seen Through The Eyes Of George Washington Carver. (Shakopee, MN: Macalester Park Publishing Company, 1995), 62.