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From the Pastor's Desk


Many years ago, I bought this lapel pin for St. Patrick’s Day. That familiar figure is, of course, Kermit the frog, together with this catchy phrase on a shamrock: “Green is keen!” Perfect for St. Patrick’s and wearin’ o’ the green! I still have it at home. But St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) was months ago, so what’s the connection here?

The month of June leads us into summer when the creation around us is at its glory. The vibrant green of the natural world is mirrored in the house of the Lord. Green is the liturgical color for this long season after Pentecost that stretches out over the next six months from June through November. The long “green season” is seen in the vestments and altar paraments of many churches. Just as plants and trees grow into their fullness over this season, in response to the redeeming work of God in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The church year follows the life and ministry, the death and resurrection of Jesus. The first half of the church year includes all of the major festivals: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. The second half of the church year, which we are now just beginning, is all about our response to what God in Christ has done for us. It is all about the life and growth of believers. Truly, green is keen!

I have a small book entitled, A Celtic Liturgy, by Pat Robson (London: SPCK, 2000). It contains prayers, readings and services from the Celtic Christian perspective. I find the unique Celtic emphasis upon the wonder and beauty of God’s creation enormously satisfying and soul-filling. Found in this book is a prayer by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), an American theologian and Baptist minister who taught at Rochester Theological Seminary. His prayer is this:

O God, we thank Thee for this universe our great home; for its vastness and its riches,
and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are a part.
We praise Thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and
the constellations on high.

We praise Thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the
trees, and for the grass under our feet. We thank Thee for our senses by which we can
see the splendor of the morning, and hear the jubilant song of the birds, taste the
autumn fruits, rejoice in the feel of snow, and smell the breath of springtime.

Grant us, we pray Thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our
souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless
and unseeing when even the thorn bush by the wayside is aflame with Thy beauty.

O God, our creator who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

In this green season, as we travel over the days of summer, my encouragement to you, dear reader, is to slow down and experience anew the joy and glory of all that the Lord has made. The prayer of Walter Rauschenbusch is a call to do this very thing. Summer is a time when many people travel near and far. We go to visit family in other areas and enjoy reunions. We seek out places that refresh the soul: the beach and seaside; mountain retreats; lakeside cabins, to name a few. But maybe summer travel isn’t going to happen for you. What then? Even if travel and vacation are not in your summer plans, the wonder and beauty of God’s good creation is all around us. For example, my wife and I enjoy sitting outside on our patio. We marvel at the astonishing amount of wildlife right on our (and your) doorstep. Birds of all kinds are in our backyards. Blooming flowers in their myriad color shades point to the Master Artist who has made all things well. Going outside on a summer night to watch fireflies and look at the stars is another idea. We are blessed to live in an area with lots of local, state and national parks – take advantage of these treasures!

There are many hymns of faith that call us to rejoice in our Creator God and the works of His hand. When you have opportunity, page through the “Praise and Adoration” section of Lutheran Service Book (or other hymnals that you have access to), and read through hymn stanzas. So often, we get caught up in the music of the hymns as we try to get the notes right when we sing. But the text of the hymn is what matters most. Here is stanza 2 of that familiar and beloved hymn, “How Great Thou Art”:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
(Lutheran Service Book #801)

As we begin this green season, may your heart rejoice in the wonderful gift of God’s good creation, leading you to say and sing “How great Thou art!”