Spirit in Nature, Again!

Hatch Cove Preserve, part of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust

On Sunday, September 25 at 4:00 PM, I’ll be leading a contemplative walk – the second this fall! – in Castine. This time, we’ll be meeting at the Hatch Cove Preserve. Our contemplative walking will be accompanied by poetry (“Lost” by David Wagoner and one of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath Day poems) and illuminated by prayers from J. Philip Newell’s book Celtic Prayers from Iona. The readings, meditation prompts, and questions for reflection can be downloaded here and used as a self-guided walk anywhere in the world!

The Land Mourns

In the September 1 issue of The Christian Century, I explore the prophet Hosea’s assertion that the land mourns.

“To take seriously the land’s mourning is to acknowledge that the grief that we feel—solastalgia, ecological grief, climate grief—is wider than our own lives. In that acknowledgment is an invitation to become even greater participants. What might happen if we used creation’s lament as inspiration for what to do with our own too rarely acknowledged grief?”

The essay is available here: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/critical-essay/land-mourns.


On March 27, 2022, I preached a sermon on the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32) at the Congregational Church of Middlebury. The essence of the sermon goes like this. We all get lost. And we all have a choice about what to do when that happens. It’s a choice that Henri Nouwen – in his lovely book The Return of the Prodigal Son – described as the choice between wallowing in our lostness or returning to our basic blessedness. That choice sounds easier than it is – but there’s courage to be found in the 20th verse. “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”

The sermon ends like this:
while we still feel alone,
while we still feel unseen,
while we still feel unforgiven,
while we still feel unloved,
while we still feel unlovable.
Whatever it is, while we are still far off,
even then, God sees us,
in our aching need, and in our perfect, God-given beauty.
Even then, God is filled with compassion.
Even then, God is running towards us,
arms stretched wide, ready to draw us in.
Even then.
Even now.
Thanks be to God.

The sermon can be viewed on the Congregational Church of Middlebury’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/AYr_ct_YD88 . The text can be downloaded from the Preaching page of this website.

a prayer for today

Ripton, Vermont

A couple of years ago, I agreed to offer a prayer of invocation at the start of a worship service. For whatever reason, words proved elusive. I wrote. I erased. I wrote again. I erased again. On and on. Finally, the night before the worship service, my efforts to write turned into a prayer. “Help,” I prayed.

Thinking that maybe fresh air would help, I went outside into the dark Green Mountain night, laptop in hand. I sat down in an Adirondack chair in the field behind my house, beyond the reach of lights. I closed my eyes. I put my fingers on the keyboard. And I waited. I felt the peacefulness of that dark night wrap itself around my anxious heart. I felt God in that darkness. Words came, eventually. A prayer answered, a prayer written.

It’s a prayer of comfort, for me. Words that settle my heart, that bring me to a place of stillness. I needed it today. Maybe you do, too.

Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of this day,
and for your love that sustains us every day. 

May we find peace in the quiet of you. 
May we find courage in the nearness of you. 
May we find wonder in the vastness of you. 
May we find faith in the mystery of you. 

Through Jesus Christ we pray. 

Wonder & Christmas

Wonder (n). Something that causes astonishment. A marvelous object; a marvel, prodigy.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

On the first Sunday after Christmas, December 26, the lectionary leaps from the infant Jesus to the precocious 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple. My sermon takes a deep dive into verse 51, in which Mary treasures in her heart “all of these things: the very things that Jesus speaks that she does not understand. To treasure that which we don’t understand is to open ourselves to wonder. And what better time than this to be present to the Mystery and the wonder that is God With Us?

The sermon text can be downloaded below, and a video of that Sunday’s worship service is linked on the Sermons page of this website.

The power of lament

As an ecologist, I studied the effects of climate change on the boreal forests of Alaska and Siberia. Recent climate change at sites like this one, in the Alaskan Brooks Range, is affecting these forests — changing patterns of tree growth and distribution in ways that matter for local species and for the global climate system. As a Christian, a preacher, and a future pastor, climate change continues to be a matter of deep concern. To love my neighbors – human and non-human alike – and to care for the most vulnerable among us is to care about climate change.

The sermon linked below brings those threads – ecologist and Christian, scientist and preacher – together to wonder about harnessing the power of lament.

On November 17, 2021, I had the privilege of preaching my ‘senior sermon’ in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. The sermon reflects on the words of the prophet Hosea – in particular, his insistence, in the 4th Chapter of Hosea, that the land mourns. What does it mean for the land to mourn? What truths is the land’s grief speaking to the people in Hosea’s time? What truths does the land’s grief speak to us in ours?

The sermon text can be downloaded below. A video of the sermon can be found on the Sermons pages of this website.