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United Church of Christ
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Newark, Ohio 43055
(740) 323-2407


Pastor's message

2019 March message

Dear members and friends of St. John’s: In a sermon, Arley K. Fadness, talks about praying with nature.

“I hike the forest near my log house. Daisy and Rascal, my two white Jack Russell terriers, happily accompany me. As we hike along the log¬ging trail, I repeat the phrase from Genesis 1, "It is good." "It is good" is the chorus in that great hymn of the creation story. I say those words, add "Lord," and it becomes a prayer. It is a mantra spoken or chanted in cadences every four steps. You can do it, too. Walk and pray in 4:4 time.

I see an Aspen peeking through the granite outcroppings and I pray, "It is good, Lord." I sniff the sweet aroma of vanilla caramel floating through the air from the Ponde¬rosa Pine and I murmur, "It is good, Lord." I see a cottontail rabbit and my tethered dogs go berserk. I whisper, "It is good, Lord." I see a small brown bear — oh — it turns out to be a large mar¬mot. He looks like he has been eating pizza all winter long. I repeat, "It is good, Lord."

I meet people — fellow hikers, neighbors, and tourists. When I hike Mount Harney, I join 80,000 climbers, walkers, and hikers, who go up every year. I say, "It is good, Lord." I see the sun, the ferns, the moss, and the blue bell flowers.

Where are your favorite places to walk and pray? Locally, I enjoy a stroll around the Japanese Garden at Dawes Arboretum. As a Confirmation Camp Director, I hiked with the kids through pine groves and around Spirit Lake. When I was a kid, my mother and I walked in the woods behind our house, listening for the birds. In the Green Mountains of Vermont, I search for hidden waterfalls with my children. In one of the two classes I am taking in Spiritual Formation this semester, we are reading and reflecting on Creating a Life with God, The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices, by Daniel Wolpert. One of these practices is “Praying in Nature”.

Wolpert writes, “As we contemplate the glory of creation, the realization that we are all connected to God starts to take hold in our hearts and minds. Whether a sunset, the view from a mountain, the silence of the wilderness, the song of a bird, or the power of a storm, people see, hear and feel God through God’s creation.

The Psalmist tells again and again how the deeds of God are seen in creation (for example Psalm 104:24). Jesus used the rhythms of creation - blooming fields (Matthew 6:30), harvesting vineyards (Matthew 20:1), bubbling yeast (Matthew 13:33), or sprouting mustard plants (Matthew 13:31) - as material for his parables.

Throughout the upcoming Lenten season, I will be sharing several of these ancient prayer practices with you. It is a most excellent way to connect with God and renew our spirits through the “Amazing Grace” of God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus.

In Christ’s Love,

Rev. Mark

Rev. Mark Katrick