Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Devotional for Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday Reflection
by Colleen Earp

“… 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’” … (John 20:19-31 NRSV)

It can be so hard to believe that climate change is really a serious issue. I’ve experienced snow pants weather and t-shirt weather within the same week so far this winter, but I have snow pants and t-shirts, and blankets and fans, and hot tea and cold, clean water. I carry enough privilege that I don’t have to feel the worst effects of climate change. It is difficult news, and I am privileged enough to ignore it if I want to.

Thomas heard from the other disciples who had seen Jesus. Even though they had seen and experienced Jesus, Thomas had not, and refused to believe it until he saw the wounds on Jesus’ body.

I think this is sometimes true for those of us not living and working in places directly affected by our collective sins against the planet—I can’t see the cracks in the dry soil! I didn’t see the river swell to historic heights, full of mud washed away from the land! I haven’t seen these giant garbage patches in the middle of our oceans!

Jesus forgives us, not only for our ignorance and denial, but for our complicity in the problem.

It would be easy to become disheartened and lose perseverance in my environmental work, but I find great hope in the community I do this work with. Like Thomas, I once didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation. But forgiven, and with his community, he came to learn, and go out and work for God’s glory. I am so grateful for my colleagues in ministry: in camping and conference work, in peacemaking, in education, in advocacy, in so many other places. While I am hardly living on the forefront and seeing the absolute worst of our environmental destruction, I have “my people” who encourage me and hold me accountable to use my knowledge and privilege to stand up and work for those who are suffering the most.

Prayer: Peace be with you. Find your people, have faith, believe, and get to work!

Colleen Earp serves as Director of Environmental Ministries at Camp Hanover in the Presbytery of the James. After a BA and MS in Geography, she is pursuing an MDiv at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She is passionate about environmental education and conservation, and loves to explore, whether it’s around the corner or around the world!

Devotional for Good Friday

Good Friday Reflection
by I. Lehr Brisbin

“Then the sun was darkened and the veil of the temple was torn in two.” 
Luke 23:45 KJV

Photo by Mark Vukovich

The above passage might well describe an event similar to the United States’ most noted natural phenomenon of the past year. The alignments of the sun, earth and moon caused a path of total solar eclipse to move diagonally across the country on August 21, 2017. The path of totality of that eclipse moved almost exactly across the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Fellowship Camp and Conference Center of the Trinity Presbytery in Laurens County, South Carolina.  This occurred only a few weeks after this presbytery had voted to establish this site as the independent Camping Ministry of the Carolinas (CMC). The purpose was to establish a church-based program there of environmental research and education to provide for a better understanding of, and concern for, God’s creation here on earth.

As one of its first undertakings, this ministry hosted a gathering of prominent scientists as well as the lay public from across the state and around the world, to view the totality of this eclipse at this site and hear a lecture by Dr. Morris Aizenmann, a retired former director of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s program in astronomy.

However a study describing the motivations of other individuals, including Thomas Edison, who traveled west in July, 1828 to observe a solar eclipse in Wyoming and Colorado, revealed that of equal importance to what many of them actually saw and learned was who they saw the eclipse with! That surely was the case with the disciples and women who watched Christ’s crucifixion from the darkened crown of Golgotha, as described by Luke. May we too come to see how that event not only transformed the rest of their lives, but our own as well.

Prayer: May the natural phenomena which draw our attention with awe to the grandeur of your creation here on earth also cause us to realize and appreciate the importance of our being with others with whom we may share that awe. May the relationships which are thus created bring us closer to an appreciation of your magnificent presence in all our lives whether that be manifested through the crucifixion of your son or the continuing movements and alignments of the celestial bodies with which you surround our earth.

I. Lehr Brisbin, Ph.D. majored in biology with a minor emphasis in Old Testament theology as an undergraduate at Connecticut Wesleyan University. He then obtained graduate masters and doctoral degrees in “Zoology (Ecology)” from the University of Georgia in 1967. He then moved to the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina, a position from which he retired in 2002 to become a Senior Research Scientist Emeritus. Dr. Brisbin is a Ruling Elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Aiken, South Carolina, and since 1996 he has served the Trinity Presbytery of the PC(USA) in a position which was first entitled, and still functions as, the presbytery’s Restoration Creation Enabler. In this position he also sits as an Ex-Officio member of the Board of Directors of the newly-formed Camping Ministry of the Carolinas. The above meditation represents the latest step in a process initiated by Dr. Brisbin during his undergraduate studies. This process was formally defined in 1979 by the publication in the Georgia Journal of Science of Dr. Brisbin’s manuscript: “The Principles of Ecology as a Frame of Reference for Ethical Challenges: Towards the Development of an Ecological Theology."*

*Dr. Brisbin’s paper is available upon request:

Devotional for Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday Reflection
Caring for God’s Creation
by Willem Bodisco Massink

“And God took the human being (man/adam) and put him in the garden of Eden 
to till it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

I have been a gardener of some sort for a long time. I have tilled the land in a variety of places: The Netherlands (birth place), the Caribbean (banana plantation manager), Curacao (Netherlands Antilles), Upstate New York and Fuquay-Varina, NC. Any of these places had its own unique type of soil, requiring its own special way of keeping it to produce good vegetables, fruits and flowers. Indeed, tilling the land and keeping the land is hard work and it can also be quite frustrating and test your farming skills especially when you thought you did the right things and therefore expected good harvesting results, but the yield was only mediocre or even poor. Lately there have been moments when I wanted to throw-up my hands and bury my spade. Enough is enough. But I go on.

The same with doing earth care in a congregation. When the Earth Care Ministry Team was formed at the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian in Cary, NC in 2011 there was great enthusiasm. Many individuals joined the effort. Filling out the first Earth Care Congregation’s certification application was fun and a learning experience. During the last seven years, however, this enthusiasm has waned. Maintaining membership on the Ministry Team is a chore. As chair of this Ministry Team there have been moments lately when I have wondered if the efforts were worth it. Is it time to throw in the towel? But caring for God’s creation is ongoing to educate people that tilling and keeping the land is God’s will for “the earth is the Lord’s.” And so, I go on, doing this ministry, hoping that the work in the end will bear fruit.

Prayer: Creator God, we praise and give You thanks for the gift of the land that brings forth the food for all Your living creatures. Forgive us when we forget to be good stewards of the land and guide us in caring for all Your creation.

Rev. Willem Bodisco Massink is an Honorably Retired Presbyterian pastor who lives in Fuquay-Varina, NC. He is a Parish Associate at the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian in Cary, NC. He is, among other things, the chair of the Earth Care Ministry Team at this congregation. In the 1980s and early 1990s Rev. Willem Bodisco Massink was Chair of the Board of the Eco-Justice Project at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. During those years he worked closely with the Rev. Dr. William Gibson, the Director, and they collaborated together on a number of Earth Care and environment related overtures to the GA of the PC(USA).