In Search of a Just and Humble Lifestyle, and a word of sending from an ancient mystic
They heard the sound of the Lord GOD walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze . . .
A typical reading of Genesis 3 brings one into the narrative of Adam, Eve and the serpent in the garden, and temptation realized as those whom the Creator had made passed into disobedience, partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A remarkable teaching from the Bible’s prehistorical lessons about the reason things are the way they are, the Garden story of the ‘fall’ opens a biblical dialogue about the brokenness of sin, and of our separation from God and each other.
I have, however, always been delighted by the image in verse 8 of the cosmic Creator out for a worldly walk “in the garden at the time of the evening breeze.” And I am reminded of the goodness of the simple pleasure of an evening walk, of the refreshing character of a pleasant breeze as day is ending, of the goodness of a little stroll without definitive destination. The same Creator God who bestowed upon the created the gift of Sabbath rest, models for humanity the goodness of a walk in the garden as day is ending.
Many years ago, I spent half a year in the central Cascade Mountains of Washington, making retreat from my seminary vocation at remote Holden Village. One of my mentors during my time in that mountain sanctuary was John Schramm, who with his wife Mary wrote a little book entitled Things That Make for Peace. In his teaching, John often spoke of aspiring to a “just and humble lifestyle,” a way of making life’s sojourn with the ability to step away from obsession with the things which exemplify the consumer culture of the society in which we live, and seeking a justice that redeems the brokenness of the human condition. Like the Lord’s walk in the cool evening breeze of the primordial garden, Schramm advocated a way through life that sought to celebrate our place in the natural order, to build bridges in human community and to celebrate the goodness of simple pleasures.
As 21st century sojourners, amidst the busyness of daily life, the goal of a “just and humble lifestyle” is worthy of our consideration. Our current reality offers stimulus for that consideration. During this time of imposed retreat resulting from global pandemic, you hear of friends and family who are taking time to bake bread and cook together, play board games, garden, or take a walk in the woods. Scheduled ‘Zoom’ meetings are bringing people together for unstructured conversation with more intentionality and regularity, reminding us of the goodness of the life we share. We are perhaps more mindful of the sick and the suffering and those who care for them, and we are attentive to calls for racial and economic justice emanating from those dying from disease and societal violence. To some degree, our enforced ‘lock down’ has brought us to elements of the simplifying and reflection that a just and humble lifestyle fosters.
It’s summertime in west Michigan, and the opportunity to savor the day is ours, even in a time such as this. Go for a walk with God in the cool of the day, and perhaps go barefoot, seeking to perceive the ‘holy ground’ upon which you walk. Take a “Wifiatus” (Wi-Fi + hiatus . . .), nurture a planting, and listen to the birds’ songs, some of the original hymns of praise. Pray for peace in the home, especially for those who struggle with the brokenness of domestic violence, and pray for peace and justice in the world, that we might together chart a way forward to the new future of God’s justice for all.
For a moment, consider this blessing from the 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart:
Apprehend God in all things,
for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God,
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
Blessings to you on this warm summer day. May you find something ‘simple’ to fill you and inspire you.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Bob Linstrom