I'm not what you would call an "outdoorsman." I take my family on a camping trip every summer but we like our conveniences. We sleep in a trailer with comfortable mattresses and even an electric heater if the nights should get cold. It's only a short walk from the trailer to the campground's washrooms and showers. We bring along a small refrigerator and a hotplate for cooking.
A few years ago my kids were so disappointed and I felt like such a failure because I couldn't get a decent campfire going. Not that we needed it for cooking, just for the evening atmosphere and coziness of sitting around the fire together. Now I make use of any of the fire starters that they sell in the camp store.
I'm not an outdoorsman but I like to be outdoors. I enjoy the warmer weather when we can eat dinner out on the patio, when I can while away a weekend afternoon lying in the shade of the big maple tree in our backyard. My wife is an avid gardener so our surroundings are so much more beautiful thanks to her efforts with the many plants and flowers that she tends.
My favourite colour has always been blue. Just the other evening I sat staring into a clear blue sky as just a few whispy clouds floated past. But more and more I'm coming to appreciate green.
Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century monastic theologian and horticulturalist, spoke of God's greening power evident in summer's trees laden with growing fruit, the birth of a child, the Eucharistic bread and wine; the planet, humanity and Christ united in a trinity of living, breathing, potent life. God's greatest desire, she suggested, was to bring "green-ness" to all things that could readily fall into graceless aridity and barrenness. To say the least, summer was—for this medieval nun—a time marked by the natural grace of warmth and growth. The gardener in many of us might agree.
The summer isn't all perfect. The sometimes stifling heat and sometimes increased levels of smog can be hard on people's breathing. It's hard for those who can't afford air conditioning or don't have money for vacations to find some respite from the heat. Summer also brings hurricane season to the south Atlantic and tornado season to the Midwest.
In Lutheran theology we often talk about tension and paradox, about two "words" required to proclaim truth. We are saint and sinner. Creation is good and fallen. The Word of God is law and gospel. Jesus is human and divine. It would seem appropriate to recognize that we need two "words" to speak the full truth of the summer season as well. We give thanks for the growth and greening of nature and we plead for mercy when some find it a struggle just to survive.
During this "green" season we can grow in faith as we hear the stories of Jesus' ministry, his daily life and teaching that comfort and challenge. We hear stories of God's favour for the lowly—a widow's only son, a woman called a sinner, a man possessed by demons, people on the margins of life who received new life through Jesus. We also hear stories about the difficulty of discipleship, about disciples who can't follow Jesus wholeheartedly and turn back and about the disciples sent out with the reminder that they may be accepted or rejected.
May our faith be nurtured, may it grow, may it bear fruit as we live in the tensions and paradoxes of life. And may God bless us all.