Stewards of God’s Mysteries

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Space discoveries have been thrilling these past few weeks, thanks to traveling telescopes launched many years ago!

Pluto

Pluto

The New Horizons program, nine years on its journey, has sent back amazingly detailed photos of Pluto, the icy dwarf planet at the near edge of millions of icy-rock balls in the Kuiper Belt at the far edge of our Solar System.

Then there are the Kepler photos of “452B,” a planet that shows some surprising similarities to Earth. Who would have imagined this? It is one of twelve planets that are roughly similar to our “pale blue dot” (as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse-Tyson describes Earth). The thing is, 452B is 1,400 lightyears away from us. This means it is so far away that it would take 1,400 years for us to get a message to them, and another 1,400 years for them to send a message back!

The scope of God’s creation is staggering. Currently I’m pondering a sermon involving the Hubble Telescope, launched twenty-five years ago. It is now sending incredible photos of nebulae where entire galaxies are born, or die, or super-nova to distribute their elements back out into space. I can’t help but respond with wonder and awe at the immensity and intricacy of it all!

“Think of us in this way,” Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, “as stewards of God’s mysteries.” It’s so easy to operate within our comfortable, human-centered surroundings. But in the context of the universe and our tiny place in it, it is even more extraordinary – and essential – that God has called us to be stewards of our planetary home.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Food, Simple or Easy

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beans, corn, potteryLiving more simply is not necessarily living more easily. In fact, it often means putting in more time and effort to do things the old-fashioned way. Take food, for instance – finding it, preparing it, cooking it – choosing more natural, organic foods, without preservatives, fillers, or radiation that kills the “food” part of the food – let alone developing balanced nutrition. This is especially challenging for people who live outside metropolitan areas, where organic grocery stores may actually exist. But even in the city one has to read all the fine print and say No more often than Yes. And (even if you have a huge truck garden and a great supplier network) it takes real creativity and practice, as well.

Simple-living eating is a whole new world of awareness that requires less time running around in less-than-essential involvements in order to have more time to do the basics. That’s part of the not-so-easy portion of it, as well: deciding what is not important in order to focus on fully participating in what it takes to live abundantly as a physically healthy human being.

But this is also where a dawning sense of satisfaction comes in: when we realize that some of our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ generations actually had it right – with plenty of salt and potassium, tons of vegetables and a small accent of meat, and lots of exercise because that’s the only way they got around.

That’s simpler, healthier living, whether they knew that or not. But we can know it and start to turn our lives around. The thing is, living more simply is never done. It is lived one day, one choice, at a time.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Water and Justice

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The colorful Acorn Woodpecker perches on the top of our fence at the edge of the lawn. He dips his head as the sprinklers sweep by, as if in thanks for the welcome spray. The four-year California drought is taking its toll. By this month of July the grass, trees, and animals large and small are all feeling it.

Waterfalls cascading over ledge“The desert shall rejoice and blossom,” says Isaiah in Chapter 35. “The burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water. . . .” Welcome rains and the greening of the earth become a metaphor for the joy of all creation when God brings justice on earth and guides the oppressed and imprisoned people back home.

We are stewards not only of water, but also of such justice, on behalf of people and all these creatures surrounding us. This is the surprise: often the way that God brings justice is through us, through human beings. When we’re not stepping up to bring it in, God thirsts for it to come. Water and justice: two essentials we need to pray for – and then act upon.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub