Faces on Faith: Transforming hearts to heal creation
September – the month that began as seventh in the monthly sequence of the original Roman calendar – that is until a king named Pompilius (somewhere around 700 BCE) decided to add the two months of January and February and place them at the beginning of the annual calendar. Poor September then got relegated to ninth position. Here on the island our school children are already in their third or fourth week of school – even as two of our parish teens also commence their freshman year at college. September is the month where many of us previously from northern climes were accustomed to a little nip in the air and depending what part of the country from which you hail, also seeing a hint of color in the deciduous trees around them. September – the month that marks the official beginning of the autumn season. On Sept. 22 the sun will cross the celestial equator and the length of day and night at that moment – all over the globe – will be just about equal in hours. How incredible! September – a time of change, transition, growth and new beginnings.
And here we are on the islands going through our own transitions and new beginnings – whether you’re returning from up north, or just moving here, or starting school, or moving off the island to a new abode, or a more dramatic transition as you deal with the loss of a loved one. All important times of transition, new beginnings, and always the opportunity for transformation as well – whether of mind, body or spirit. Right now, we’re also in the middle of transitioning to a new frame of mind – the new reality for how long we don’t know – as we worry about how the islands, and the coast of Southwest Florida, will bounce back after this onslaught of red tide/algae bloom. How will all of us work together to heal our waters and restore our fellow creatures who have died because of this crisis. How will we support our neighbors out of work, as well as our leaders who are seeking ways to resolve this environmental problem.
Inspiring verses from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind: “That we are an inescapable network of mutuality tied together in a common destiny.” As connected as we all are as human beings, the sea creatures and birds are also an integral part of those connections, and those creatures depend upon us to care for them, to heal them, and at this point to literally help them survive. Verses from John’s Gospel about the “vine and the branches” also provide a beautiful metaphor for how all of God’s creatures are tied together and what we do to each other – or to any living thing – has repercussions for all of God’s creation.
We are so like those branches, aren’t we? Some of us supporting, some of us weathered and weak, some young, some beginning to fracture and fall, some vibrant and strong, some just sprouting leaves, some leaves falling to the earth in the autumn of our lives. Whatever type of branch we are on this great vine of life, we all still intertwine back and forth and between and among one another – always impacting one another in some way.
As we continue to work together to resolve any issues we may have – personal, community-related, or global – and wherever we are spiritually and emotionally this September, take heed of MLK’s concept of “the network of mutuality.” Reflect on the metaphor of the vine and the branches. Allow both of those images to offer you strength, invigorate your minds to creative places that will heal life, allow God’s Spirit to abide in you, and above all, don’t simply “transition” but instead, “transform” your hearts to soothe any of the suffering around you.
The Rev. Dr. Ellen M. Sloan is the rector at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.