Wildflower diversity reflects Kingdom diversity

ButtonweedBUTTONWEED
Diodia virginiana

By Orrin Morris

The diversity of the wildflower kingdom is minor compared to the diversity of humanity. Every individual is unique although he or she dwells within a family, a community and a culture.

The issue we face is learning to live together in an increasingly crowded world that can instantly communicate information. That information may be accurate or erroneous, helpful or destructive, loving or hateful.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, world population increases about 77 million in 12 months. In only one year, it increases more than the total population of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas combined.

The highest form of worship is the expression of gratitude for God’s creativity, for His love, and His grace that redeems us from sin. Not only did Jesus teach us to love God completely but He commanded us “to love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39).

The wildflower for today depicts that important truth, that is, righteousness is both vertical, to God, and horizontal, to our neighbor.

Buttonweed is found in shallow ditches, low moist areas on a flat lawn and along the banks of streams. It grows along the ground, often nestled under lawn-grass like Bermuda and fescue. Sometimes the light pinkish-green stem will rise a few inches and even branch out. As the stem moves laterally, the leaves are positioned at right angles in clusters, as illustrated.

The flowers have four petals with two stigmas that extend beyond the petals. They are very long compared to the 2/3-inch bloom. Contrary to most wildflowers, there are only two to four stamens and they barely rise above the petals. Thus, fertilization depends greatly on wandering insects.

The flowers appear where the leaves join the stem. The leaves are generally horizontal and appear in pairs on opposite sides. From these leaf axils the tubular flower rises as pictured in the inset.

The buttonweed’s other distinguishing feature is the seed case that gives the plant its name. Note in the sketch the light green buds where the blooms used to be. These are the seed cases or fruit produced by the plant. These “buttons” are useless except to the survival of the species.

Buttonweed begins blooming in late May and continues until the first frost, unless an extended dry spell kills the plant. Finally, it is not known for any medicinal purpose but is a good example of the diversity of the wildflower kingdom.

May we learn to live and act in such a way that peace and harmony will overcome the chaos that divides us locally and across the world.

Trends in Theology, Pt. 2

This is the second article among several exploring trends in theology.  Theology is a search for and conversation with God to realize how God is working in each one of us, in our communities, in our world, and in history.  We do theology because God calls us to respond to His love in creative ways; such reflection is the stuff of theology.

Last week I mentioned that the work of theology is becoming a global discipline, meaning that Western civilization no longer has a monopoly on theology and that various regions spanning from South America to Japan are contributing to the conversation on how humans and God interact.  The trend I’m writing about this week has to do with the relational aspect of theology.

As the world continues to connect in urban, suburban, rural, and cyber-communities, people are hungering for deeper relationships and sustainable partnerships.  But there is an irony here because people are seeking these relationships outside of churches.  People are attending church less but are joining intimate fellowship groups in far greater numbers.  The aim of relational theology is therefore to put Church back in center stage to help build sustainable relationships.

A theology that focuses on relationships mirrors the Trinity—God-in-Three Persons—for it is the Trinity that gives us a vision of the diverse-but-interdependent mode of what it means to be truly human.  What this means is that we are to see that all humans are interdependent upon one another, and that we find God and experience God by listening to one another’s life stories.  It is within this storytelling that God emerges as a major character in the patchwork quilt of our lives.

This trend in theology also obliges us to seek Christ in community, for the sake of community.   In this way theology does not merely help us think about God or talk about God, it forces us to discover God’s Presence no matter how mysterious or uncomfortable that Presence may be.  It forces us to respond in active social justice and repentance.

Emerging out of this theology is the idea that we are firmly rooted in all of God’s creation whereby Christians see themselves as a part of creation.  We are interconnected with creation and have mutual obligations to creation.

This does not lead to pantheism or panentheism (worshipping the Earth or creation); rather, this is a re-claiming of the ancient biblical understanding that humans are holistic beings who partner with the Earth in order to bring about the effects of God’s redemptive plan in every square inch of our world.

Additionally, relational theology assumes that humans naturally seek out authentic relationships and make us aware that there are some ways of seeking relationships that are inauthentic.  These deceiving paths do not lead to the type of authenticity that includes God in the mix.  One false way of building relationships is partnering with the idol of mass consumerism.

It is my opinion that we live in a sort of technocracy in which major corporations study how we live and then feed us products that we think we need.  As long as these products insure us that we “belong”, we buy into the myth that our material things provide identity.  Such an identity does not foster the God-conversations that theology demands, nor does it enact wise stewardship of creation and of the Earth’s resources.  Instead our own desires in a must-have world blind us to the needs of others.  We are so busy seeking the things of this world, we miss out on exploring how God’s Kingdom is manifesting itself in our midst.

A friend of mine often quotes Desmond Tutu: “I am who I am because of who we are.”  Relational theology requires us to stand before a Trinitarian God that calls us into sustainable communities with our neighbors. It keeps us from falling into a consumerism mold.  It intentionally builds relationships that emphasize our interdependence on the Creator and all creation.