Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost


August 30, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

In reading again the story of Moses' encounter with the burning bush, I find myself wondering what messages we might be missing to which we must attend if we are to participate in the healing of our society and our world.



Science & Nature

Learning the Language of Nature

Timothy Seekings

A reflection on the language of our planet and the urgent importance of our learning to understand it.

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What are the costs we pay to maintain a belief that we are separate from one another and from the rest of God's creation?


Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” —Exodus 3:3

It has been said often that we are experiencing two pandemics—the global pandemic of covid-19 and the national pandemic (which is also global) of racism. Natural events such as hurricanes, derechos, and wildfires remind us that our present global pandemic is part of feedback loops in which we participate that are changing the nature of our planet. Likewise, racism is part of feedback loops that shape and limit what is possible in human relationships.

It is understandable, with so much loss and destruction resulting from both pandemics, for us to feel a lack of agency.

When we look at our world event by event, the picture before us can seem hopeless. We need a bigger vantage point—not to diminish the importance of each event, but to understand the relationship of various parts of a bigger system to the moments we witness.

We need, as Timothy Seekings observes in today’s science and nature lesson, to make connections and learn to hear messages from voices that seem removed from our immediate experience and interests. I believe this is true in both pandemics we face.

Like Moses when he noticed a strange phenomenon outside his normal experience, we need to turn aside and wonder why things are not as we expect.

I believe we all have the capacity to seek the good. To build a world that leans toward Eden. A world that reaches forward to recover the garden we have lost.

And yet, our capacity to build what we long for is compromised. We each have pieces of what is needed, but we have lost access to the whole. We have become disconnected from one another and from all of creation. We have lost what Seekings refers to in today’s science and nature lesson as a common language.

What is “life’s lingua franca, this common sense shared by living beings”—as Seekings calls it?

Whatever else it may include, this common language begins with a profound syntax of oneness. We are not separate—from one another or from all creation. We cannot treat other human beings or other creatures as means to our own ends. And this fact is a 360 degree truth. By which I mean that the unwavering core of the gospel—the fundamental good news—is that every single bit of this divine experiment we call our world is beloved by the Creator. Every person you adore, every person you despise, everyone you trust and distrust, every pig you fry on the stove, every tide receding in the ocean, every particle of the ozone, every butterfly, every rodent, every creature of the deep. All of it. Precious in the sight of God. And—perhaps the most demanding truth—all of it—and all of us—bound up together as one.

To embrace this truth of our oneness—to truly make it our life’s work to comprehend its boundless implications— is to begin the journey of our collective redemption.

The longer we try to pretend we are separate, the more we will suffer from our own economies of extraction—in nature and in society. Sooner or later, our denial of the other who is, in fact, simply part of us, will suck the life out of all of us.

We have forgotten that we are one.

Creation is sending us messages every day, begging us to remember.

Perhaps, it is time for us to listen.