Today is April 1, 2022. On April 1, 2019, the Rev. Peter Rood began his tenure as the rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Oak Harbor WA. Peter’s spouse and dearest companion, Christen Herman, accompanied him in his beginning and in the ministry that followed. They made a remarkable beginning.
On November 9, 2019, Christen experienced a brain aneurysm from which she never recovered. She died on February 10, 2020. Peter went on medical leave at the end of which, he retired. That was July 2020.
Alongside all this, the COVID-19 pandemic overtook the world in March, 2020. In some measure, that plague continues to plague us. The political divide that festers in our country and the larger world is a part of this picture, too. And seemingly as always, there is war.
It is also true that throughout this time, Susan Ho and Marsha Vanderford and the Vestry have provided strong faithful leadership and the retired clergy and the whole congregation have made a go of our liturgical life. And we have been joined by the community of SPIN Café. All to the good!
All that being so, we now come to Spring, again, and the prospect of Easter, again, offering thanksgiving and seeking reassurance, nourishment, guidance and whatever else that is good that we can hope or pray for.
A first line from a hymn comes to mind, “Now the green blade riseth…” [H204, Hymnal1982]. And, of course, the green blade rises from the earth, or more particularly, from the soil, or what I think of as just plain dirt.
In our congregation, we have some very fine gardeners. Barbara Wihlborg, Harry Anderson and Christine Visick come most readily to mind but there are others, likely many others, who, like Christine, Barbara and Harry, like to play in the dirt. Amy and I are among those. This time of the year, at our house for sure, it’s “dirt-under-the-fingernails” season.
I mean here to be respectful of this “dirt,” mindful of its place in our religious and spiritual life. Remember, it was dirt like this that Jesus, our eternal foundation and cornerstone, took in hand to heal the blind; dirt like this to wash from the feet of his disciples; dirt like this from which he rose in glorious resurrection. It is also dirt like this to which we will return in God’s good time and from which we too will rise in the Great Day to come.
This time of the year, I’m drawn to revisit Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening by Vigen Guroian . I have shared the following passage with you before, but likely beyond memory. The author writes,
Several summers ago my children found two turtles and put them in the vegetable garden. During a thaw the next February, as I was digging up the soggy soil where the peas go, I lifted a heavy mound with my shovel, and then another. The two turtles had burrowed down for winter sleep, and I had rudely awakened them too soon. So I carried them to a corner of the garden where I would not disturb them and dug them in again. When my wife said that she feared the turtles might be dead, I said I did not think so [though I wasn’t as sure as I sounded]. I insisted that in spring they would come up. And they did in Easter week.
Lilies and hyacinths signify the resurrection, and I can understand why. But I have a pair of turtles that plant themselves in my garden each fall like two gigantic seeds and rise on Easter with earthen crowns upon their humble heads. With the women at the tomb, I marvel. For “Christ did arise, Christ did awaken/Out of the virgin tomb, out of the tomb of light” [Armenian Ode for Ordinary Sundays]. And he leads us back, back into the garden of delight. [p. 30]
As the days grow longer and we have more light, I invite you to be thankful for the dirt and all its prospects. That dirt, in the companionship of the rain and the sun, contains within itself the cycle of life, incipient, prospective, eager for expression.