This morning as I was working out at the YMCA, I was inspired by my “Playaway” audio book of Killers of the Flower Moon to take a “virtual stroll” on the cross country machine through the American Southwest. Yes, that book takes place in Osage County, just north of us, but the 30 or 40 “virtual walks” that are programmed into the big screen you face while you’re churning away on the elliptical or treadmill or exercise bike doesn’t include that among its choices. So, I pushed the buttons to give myself a cooler workout than I actually would have this time of year in southern Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and started enjoying the majestic views of places I’ve never actually been.
I started thinking to myself as I make preparations to help our church celebrate “the Season of Creation” during worship on Sundays, “when was the last time I was actually outdoors being bowled over by the beauty of nature?” Thinking back over the past month, I’d say it was probably when I was visiting my sister in Austin, Texas. We took a late afternoon dip in Barton Creek, near their house, and I remember looking up at the bluffs and thinking what a beautiful spot this was, right in the middle of a metropolitan area of more than a million people. Austinites work hard to preserve and protect the natural beauty of that city in the Hill Country of Texas, and it’s inspiring to see a city like that with so much natural beauty. I look forward to our own city’s enhancement we’ll enjoy this month in the opening of The Gathering Place for Tulsa. There is a great article in the New York Times about the social and cultural ideals that are expressed in the creation of such a place spearheaded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/arts/design/tulsa-park-gathering-place.html
The season of creation has social and cultural objectives as well. We dedicate the Sundays in September to recognizing the way that God is in relationship with non-human as well as human members of creation, and that when we foster our own relatedness to non-human creation, we might discover new things about ourselves as well as God. The General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church guides us through ideas and experiences that can be further elaborated by attentiveness to five distinct aspects of creation: the good beginnings of planting, the concepts of protection and care that might be illustrated by mountains, the concerns of dominion and exploitation that are provoked when considering the vastness of the sky, the experience of cultivation by the theme of harvest, and the connection we have to pets and animals by the experience of pet care and husbandry.
We’ll end the season of creation with a Blessing of the Animals here on Sunday, Sept. 30, and I look forward to that experience of meeting some of your pets and loved ones. That’s not all we plan to bless in September. As I’ve mentioned the blessing to our community that is the Gathering Place, I’d like to gather at least as many from our congregation who want to come to the park on opening day for a “blessing of the park.” This idea is currently in development and might grow into an ecumenical/interfaith blessing involving some of my friends and colleagues and their communities of faith, so stay tuned for further details in the bulletin on Sunday, Sept. 2, as well as the midweek email on September 5. Park opens September 8!