April 2023 Issue of Thema: Listening to the Groans of Creation
On Maundy Thursday we remember how Jesus solemnly shared Passover with his disciples but was soon to be cruelly crucified. He typifies our human condition of both love and undeserved suffering. We’d all like to skip the crucifixion and be done with the pain and humiliation, but God’s mystery is greater than our understanding and/or desires. The writers and sermonizers in this issue ponder our own groans of despair and pain.
Associate Spiritual Director PJ Scarr draws on the wisdom of Jewish scholars as she urges us to “Listen to the Voices of the Silenced”. Do not be daunted by the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. We are brothers and sisters, she reminds us, a community, and as the Talmud states, You are not obligated to complete the work but, neither are you free to abandon it.
A poignant excerpt from a poem shared by Sister Deborah Lockwood in her piece, “Listening to the Groans of Creation,” describes an atlas in the poet’s lap. Sister Deborah runs her fingers across an imaginary world and says, “I can whisper to the places I touch and begin to perceive the groaning of my world, God’s creation.” She encourages our perseverance through the suffering of the earth and its creatures with the trust that God is moving through our lives.
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Walter in her article, “The Groaning of Creation,” reminds us that God’s plan is to redeem not only us but the whole cosmos. She remembers the natural childbirth classes she took long ago and how she was taught about the pain and agony depicted in movies. She says, “To a great extent in the modern era, women suffer in childbirth because that is the cultural expectation.” Fear, she tells us, exaggerates pain.
Jeff Reimer’s article, “On Not Burying the Dead,” describes the unexpected ordeal of his wife’s brain cancer. He tells us that his wife is fine now, but during the gruesome process of surgeries, chemo, and endless medical interventions, he and his family were walking through the valley of the Shadow of Death. He experiences fear, grief, anger, and resentment, but he continues to try to follow the Way of Christ.
Watch the video of Rev. Anna Traynham, Senior Pastor of Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and hear her sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in a sermon based on Jesus’ wilderness temptations. She recounts an anecdote about a LGBTQ+ event when an angry man in the audience begins shouting. The actor on stage is tempted to retaliate, but instead begins singing; soon others join him and drown out the anger.
Writer and minister Debie Thomas in her article “Now I See,” explores the scripture about Jesus healing the man born blind at birth. Jesus dismisses worldly misunderstanding and restores the man’s sight. Debie tells us that when we feel down and alone, when no one seems to see or understand us, Jesus helps us to see that we are beloved.
Associate Spiritual Director Donna Becher reminds us in “Care for Creation in Appalachia” that “mountaintop removal mining, which explodes mountains and dumps rubble into streams, casts a deep shadow.” She asks, “What is it that God might be calling you to in sharing stewardship of this lovingly created gift of our world?”
Cindy Boland, M.A., takes us into her garden to help us understand that a call stewardship is not only “a mandate to care for the earth but to care for the world, especially with a watchful attentiveness toward those who are suffering, vulnerable and marginalized. To reverently respond with compassion.” A personal commitment to stewardship is not enough to tackle the enormity of the world’s problems, but our desire to be a steward of creation is like a seed which, when tended with attention, can grow into an abundant harvest.
Rev. Robin Blakeman has worked in the nonprofit environmental and energy efficiency advocacy sector for most of her ministerial career. She describes her calling in “My Vocational Journey.” She encounters God’s presence most deeply in natural environments. After she returned home to West Virginia to help her parents fight a large coal strip mining operation that was threatening family property, she began working for OVEC – the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
The final poem by Sr. Irene Zimmerman, OSF, “Creation of the Crocodile,” is a playful reminder of God’s diversity and humor.
I hope you will enjoy this issue of Thema and consider submitting an article, poem, sermon, or image to connect with other spiritually curious people and become part of a wide-reaching community. Please feel free to contact me with comments and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Christina St Clair was born and raised in London, England. She came to the United States when she was eighteen and is a U.S. citizen. Her passionate interest in spirituality led her from Eastern meditation to become a follower of Christ. She earned degrees in philosophy and pastoral ministry. She eventually pastored two Protestant churches (United Methodist and Presbyterian). She is a certified spiritual director from West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and practices Reiki distant healing which is like intercessory prayer.
Her latest historically accurate novel, Naomi and Ruth; Loyalty Among Women, is intended for women of all religious persuasions or none. www.loyaltyamongwomen.com