“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”—Helen Keller
“For everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.” — Jesus
“That which you would not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” — Confucious
“Good Morning, Starshine! The Earth says ‘Hello!’”
Okay, those of you over 50 surely remember this line from the ’67 Off-Broadway musical “Hair” and the singer/songwriter Oliver recording the hit in the “Summer of Love.” And those of you under 50 – maybe you remember Willy Wonka’s words of welcome in the movie remake with Johnny Depp or the ’90s with the Burger King ad or the “Renn and Stimpy Show” (“Superstitious Stimpy” episode where Stimpy wards off the evil of Tuesday the 17th incanting the lyrics!). I’m probably overreaching my readership here with some of these references!
But this was how my wife, Linda, woke our two sons up daily, well into their adolescence (and much to their increasing dissatisfaction), with this very greeting, “Good Morning, Starshine (as she’d throw open the curtains), the earth says ‘Hello!’”
So I’m banking you also know the line, and many of you are already caught in an ear-worm maelstrom of the chorus spiraling round in your brain — “Glibby gloop gloopy, nibby nabby noopy, la la la lo lo. Sabba sibby sabba, nooby abba nabba, le le lo lo. Tooby ooby walla, nooby abba nabba, early mornin’ singin’ song.”
You can thank me later!
For now – “Happy Earth Day!”
Though by the time you’re reading this, Earth Day, 2021 has probably come and gone (the celebrations will however, continue through the weekend)! I hope you had the chance to plant a tree or two, give a few $100 to an environmental NPO, or perhaps just thanked a tree for being there!
Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine the Earth actually waking us up these days with such cheerful, carefree emotion — given its declining health. And given human complicity in its degradation, I wonder just how happy the Earth is with us and if she’s got something far less comforting in mind for a wake-up call!
Let’s be honest; our relationship with the Earth has been more along the lines of Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. For those of you a little rusty on the story, it’s about a boy who loves a heroic and self-sacrificing tree and visits her year after year as he grows up — taking her apples to sell for profit, eventually removing her branches to build a house, and finally chopping down her trunk so he can build a boat and sail away. In the end, the tree has nothing left to give and is reduced to a stump.
Maybe you’re suddenly aware of what I realized after years of reading it to our sons when they were children — this is kind of depressing! And while it’s often praised as a book about great heroic generosity, it’s really about a kind of abusive relationship and unhealthy sacrifice. The fact that the tree is “female,” I suppose, is just a coincidence.
But there may be a much more challenging if unintentional, message in this children’s book that we often miss. We have historically had a fairly abusive, acquisitive relationship with life. On the one hand, what does the story say about our unhealthy relationship with life in general and the earth more specifically? But on the other hand, what might it also illuminate about our unhealthy relationship with people, religion, nationalism, and even our take on heroism? I suppose we all need some confession and conversion when it comes to the carbon footprint we’re leaving in our individual and collective wakes and the less than self-reflective ways with which we align ourselves to religious, national, and heroic narratives that do more to perpetuate injustice than transform it. This latter concession, however, I probably need to explain.
In eleven:eleven, I’m three weeks into a mini-series on Easter and Resurrection, re-thinking what more resurrection might mean than the Evangelical Christian take on it from my adolescence and what it might then mean to be a “resurrection people” today. This Sunday, I’m exploring the 3rd point — that “Resurrection, more than simply a matter of resuscitation, is in Jesus’ teaching all about participation.” It is very much about how we live our lives, here and now, transformed by the vision and path of the Kin-dom of God (what I’ve also been calling “the path of Shalom” toward justice, mercy, humility, harmony). In my thinking, the problem we continue to face in attempting to transform the world for the Kin-dom of God is our ongoing difficulty in evolving past our primitive brain stem into a more evolved, empathetic consciousness.
My friend, Minnesotan storyteller/actor Kevin Kling, underwent several years of major surgeries to rebuild his body after a motorcycle accident years ago. One day walking the hospital hallway in his gown, IV pole in tow, he crossed paths with a ten-year-old boy in his gown. The boy inquired, “Wanna see my surgery and stitches?” Kevin said, “Sure.” And the boy revealed a 6-inch scar with 12 stitches on his thigh. Kevin said, “Wow. Look at mine,” whereupon he revealed a series of surgical scars running from his right ankle up to his thigh and a massive chest scar where his ribs had been broken open to repair his heart and lungs. And the boy replied, “Yeah. But mine really hurt!”
We assume we’re mostly an empathetic species. But neuroscience, as well as the current pandemic, suggests this isn’t necessarily the case. Capable of great empathy, people tend to respond to other’s problems at best from a place of sympathy and at worst from a place of discomfort and self-protection. But there is a spiritual pathway to this neurological impasse — resurrection!
This Sunday, let’s look at resurrection, not as resuscitation, but as participation — cultivating empathy and action for the transformation of the world. You get to be a ripple in the water. You get to be a window to justice and joy. But first, we have to get out of our own way. The earth and all of its inhabitants will thank us! See you this Sunday, at eleven:eleven, downtown, 11:11 a.m at fumcfw.org/1111-live, or on the eleven:eleven downtown page for Facebook Live.
See you soon!
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven
Hey, a Special Note
Sunday, May 2, we will begin IN-PERSON worship again with eleven:eleven downtown at the Historic 512 Ballroom! This will be a gradual in-person start.
So, we’ll be taking reservations starting Monday, April 26 through Saturday night, May 1, for up to 60 people. We won’t be reserving specific seats but need to know the number in your party and names. This will all be on the reservation form.
Once you arrive, an usher will take you to your seats and we’ll mark the seats beside you as taken to create approximately six feet between you and the next party.
We will still require you to wear a mask and we won’t be able to sing along with the band for now. Also, no coffee or refreshments will be served. But you can bring your own covered beverage (no food) and pull down your mask to drink as needed. We’ll also have a time of “passing the peace” with others so it’ll be good to say “hi” in person and catch up just a bit! Any further instructions will be in the reservation link.
I know many of you, like me, have been anxiously waiting for the time we can get back together. This is a start and we’ll continue to expand it in the upcoming weeks!