After a long winter this year, I find myself outside far more regularly these recent days, getting reacquainted with my neighbors, and reconnecting with that part of nature that migrated or went dormant for the winter, the world seems to be coming alive again, and with it, my soul too seems to be regaining a new life.
With this notable increase in my time out in the natural world, even as I gather with others inside our fellowship hall each week for exploring our lectionary texts together, I am struck by the notion that very very little of the Gospel narratives, took place inside. We have a hand full of choice encounters indoors in the Gospels: when a disabled man was lowered through the roof of a home in order to be brought to Jesus, that encounter with Mary and Martha, the time when Jesus gathered in the upper room with his disciples washing their feet and sharing a holy meal, when Jesus meets the disciples in hiding after the resurrection and he approaches Thomas (off the top of my head). Sure, there are clearly some moments of the Gospel narratives that take place indoors, but the vast majority of our spiritual heritage comes from stories that take place outside in the natural world: in a manger, baptism in the river Jordan, in boats out on the sea of Galilee, on the mountain-sides and mountain tops, in gardens, near mustard trees, and vineyards, on the road to Emmaus…
Both our physical & spiritual heritage are rooted in the outdoors, and yet we Minnesotans spend so much of our time and so much of our years indoors. The human body and spirit were simply not intended to be walled up the way so many of us are today, and so I urge you to get outside this summer, as much as you can, whether that means simply sitting outside on your porch, taking a long walk, or kayaking on the rum river. Why is my pastor so animate that I get outside? (you might be wondering)
I’m currently reading a book called “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age” by Richard Louv author of “Last Child in the Woods”. It’s not a Christian book (or religious at all for that matter), but as a pastor and former wilderness guide in christian outdoor ministry, so much of this book’s message resonates with me on a spiritual/pastoral level. Louv recounts that:
Studies suggest that wilderness adventures increase participants’ capacity to cooperate and trust others… exposure to the natural environment [that God created for us to be part of] leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, to value community, and to be more generous!
This is why we build a wilderness adventure trip into our middle school programming. Getting outside of our walls, our phones, and our comfort zones reconnects us with the world and the people around us. If we want to raise up caring youth to care deeply for neighbor and serve selflessly on mission trips, we need to first be about reconnecting our young people with the world God created for us to care for. Research clearly shows that connecting with nature helps, inspires, and moves us to care more deeply about our human neighbors, but it’s not just about our young people. It’s for all of us, young and old alike!
Previous studies have shown the health benefits of nature range from more rapid healing to stress reduction to improved mental performance and vitality… [and] now we’re found nature brings out more social feelings, more value for community and close relationships.
So let’s all take a page from Jesus journey and get outside, be that in a garden, in a boat, at a river, or just walking down a road. I look forward to seeing you all in the sanctuary at Cross of Hope for an hour each Sunday, but let’s all spend as much of the other 167 hours of the week outside, where God meant for us to live.
Grace and peace to you all this day and always,