by Nancy Matthews
The Second Monday of Lent
[Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1711]
Jeremiah 1:11-19 Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65 Romans 1:1-15 John 4:27-42
I am writing this Lenten piece from Missoula, Montana, where I have been spending a good part of each year since my retirement. Up to now, I have lived most of my life against a background of the fast-paced East or in the international arena. Being in the West has given me a new perspective, which is what I have chosen to write about this Lenten season. I have come to appreciate more fully all the facets of creation and to be more aware of their interactions. Consider the story of Noah and the great flood, in the very first book of the Bible. However the allegory is interpreted, it is clear that man was not to be the only inhabitant of this earth.
Of all the places I have lived in and traveled to, few can equal for me the vast and beautiful landscapes of the American West in its ability to illuminate God’s presence in nature. The aura of majestic mountains, dense forests, beautiful rivers, huge skies and the feeling of almost endless space enters the human psyche here, creating an innate awareness of the importance of the relationships between man and other living creatures and their natural surroundings.
In the West, the challenges of managing the marriage of land and animals loom large and are a source of daily interest. Discussion of related subjects often crowds more human problems off the front pages of daily papers. Major concerns are the movement of huge herds of bison, once almost extinct but now renewed; finding habitat to save wild horses; how to keep herds of elk from becoming a problem in urban environments; and the preservation of versus threats to livestock and people of grizzly bears and wolves. Recently, a group of volunteers rescued hundreds of animals and birds from an abandoned sanctuary, feeding and caring for them until they could be relocated.
Witnessing such dedication to caring about and giving dignity to these magnificent animals creates a new understanding of human life and the responsibilities we bear for those not in control of their destinies. As we seek direction and calm in an unsettled world, a certain peace comes by realizing that there is more meaning to God’s creation. One only needs to imagine life without the song of birds, horses running across a plain, bison grazing on a mountainside, a family of deer crossing a pasture, a leopard stretching in a far-off jungle, to realize how precious is the harmony between man and the natural world. In the words of Carl Safina in his book The View from Lazy Point, in spite of it all, “the world still sings.”