Encountering God in the Churchyard

On Earth Day, April 22, instead of a usual sermon, the Rev. Claire Nevin-Field invited St. Peter’s parishioners to go outside in the churchyard to think and pray about God’s creation.

As those of you who have heard me preach a bit know, I am a big fan of incarnation. Not just the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, God’s unique one, but God’s incarnation—God’s taking on flesh, matter, in you, me, and everything that exists. You know that I believe all that is to be an expression of God’s own life—God’s creative energy and joy bubbling out, creating the world again and again. One of the implications of this concept of incarnation is that we are very much embodied—you, me, and all that exists from plankton to elephants. We have a body, a shape—we all eat, breathe, grow, die. We are creatures of a particular time and space—embedded in webs of relationship and rooted in place.

This morning, on Earth Day, instead of a sermon that consists of me talking to you, we are going to spend some time contemplating this particular place—right here between 3rd and 4th, Pine and Lombard Streets. In a moment I am going to invite you to go outside and take 5 minutes to walk around the churchyard. Look at the trees, the flowers, the grass. Look for birds, squirrels and other denizens of the yard. Pray with them. Contemplate those who inhabited this space before us—both human and non-human. For those of you who, like me, are Type A and are now panicking about how to do this, no fear—the ushers have a sheet of paper you can pick up on your way outside that has a list of the tree inhabitants of the churchyard (thanks to Elaine Markezin) and on the other side, some prayers you may choose to say as you go.

If you choose to stay inside, that is fine—I invite you to look out the windows and think about the space you occupy—you and every blessed inhabitant of this blue green jewel of a planet.