Wendell Berry, in Christianity and the Survival of Creation (which I commend to you if you have 30 minutes and a heart for it), writes on the relationship between Christian teaching and practice and the life of our planet. He sheds light on ways in which Christianity has by turns accommodated the destruction of Creation and supported the good stewarding of Creation. I've long been drawn in particularly by the section on "good work."
Good work, says Berry, is characterized by respect for the tools and materials used in the work; by love for their origin and their current use. Good work "honors Nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty."
Every time I return to this writing I am sad, in a holy way. Sad this time because this morning I threw away two plastic food wrappers that after a month's utility to humans will sit in a landfill for ages. Sad this time because yesterday I ate 3 servings of meat, so costly to raise, and for which an animal gave up its life; and only one of those times did I pray in thanksgiving for what I was about to receive. This sadness is holy because it convicts me in my spirit. It breaks open my heart to a little bit of change. This sadness converts me to recognize and honor a bit more the "great mystery and power" that Berry writes of.
The Anglican tradition in Christianity has a particularly enduring form of teaching that resonates with Wendell Berry's admonition to good work; the beauty and usefulness of our sacred buildings and objects. From the bright chalice that holds the communion wine, to the sturdy interlocking posts and beams of our Great Hall, we encounter this beauty and usefulness weekly at St. Andrews. Can we allow this example, itself the fruit of generations of creativity and attention to good work, to give us a push toward holy wonder and honor of Creation today?
This Sunday October 1st, right after the 10 AM Eucharist, we are going to practice this. We are going to lay our hands upon part of our St. Andrew's building in order to renew it. We'll be taking down the Alaskan Cedar fence that crowns the top of the Memorial Garden wall, in order to dry it, to clean off the lichen, and to fortify the wood for its next season of beautiful usefulness. I hope you'll step out and take hold of a piece, carry it, feel it, honor it; and in doing so be renewed yourself by participating in the good work of the church.
Good work has an infectious spirit to it. It always leaves me wanting more. I'm hoping to catch this spirit this Sunday.
With You in the Beauty, Vulnerability and Promise of Creation,