By Catherine Stark-Corn, Minister to Families and Children
One of my most cherished memories is of the church’s family mission trips to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The drive could be a bit long, especially with younger ones who were tired of car games, toys, sitting, being told to enjoy the scenery and who had grown suspect of the promises that we are almost there. Yet when we made our way to the rugged land of the reservation we were transported. The landscape was stunning as it stretched out before us, scenes we rarely see in the Midwest. This Lakota reservation was mainly land – a few small communities could be seen from the roads, but mostly you could just see the raw natural beauty that changed as the sunlight created new vistas.
In his book Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life, Kent Newburn quotes a Sioux writer, Ohiyesa saying, “Whenever in the course of our day, we might come upon a scene that is strikingly beautiful or sublime – the black thundercloud with the rainbow’s glowing arch above the mountain; a white waterfall in the heart of a green gorge; a vast prairie tinged with the blood-red of sunset – we pause for an instant in an attitude of worship.” Many of the scenes we encountered on those treks in South Dakota brought a reverence and awe of God’s good creation.
As we observe Ash Wednesday we are called to acknowledge, before God and one another, our mortality, our finitude and our moral failings. I connect the words often shared on the day that begins the season of Lent – ashes to ashes, dust to dust – to my experience of the rugged earth on the family trips. We learned from observation and experience the unity the Lakota Indians had with the earth. There was a oneness, a clear understanding that we are from and will be returned to the earth and one of our tasks in this world is to care for the earth that gives and sustains life.
In the season of Lent, reflecting on our moral shortcomings can provide a time of personal and communal growth. We have fallen short of reverently caring for God’s creation. During this season of Lent I feel called to seek to renew my sense of awe at this amazing natural world. With intentionality I will look anew as the earth awakens to spring, I will pause with an attitude of worship of God’s good creation and I will seek to find ways to bring healing to this broken earth.