Rule of Life

By: Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, Regional Executive Minister

I’m writing this article a few days after the snow, which is all gone now, and the grass is an incredibly bright green. Spring is here! New life abounds! Christ is Risen, indeed!

And yet, by the time you read this, you’ll probably already be back to work or school or your daily life. We celebrate Easter every year, and then go right back to mundane things. The only difference is you might’ve put away your winter boots and, if you grew up in a certain era, now you can wear white shoes.

The fashion rule about wearing white shoes in the summer only seems mystifying to us now, but it was a rule because you didn’t want to get mud on white shoes. White shoes were also associated with being upper class. It was seen as proper to not wear them between Labor Day and Easter. But it is something that was entirely made up.

We are reminded that as human beings most of the “rules” we have are entirely made up, and especially in church. Rules about whether we light candles at the beginning of the service or not. Rules about when to stand, or what order things should happen in the service. Rules about what to wear—or what should not be worn. Sometimes we justify these as a way to honor God and give God our best, but in doing so, sometimes we unnecessarily and unknowingly create boundaries between rich and poor, between one generation and another, between abled and disabled.

In Christian history there have been monastic movements that use a “Rule of Life.” In our time this has been adapted into the idea of a personal rule of life, a set of practices and rhythms one sets in their life with a schedule, such as morning, noon, and evening, to ground themselves in spiritual practice and connection with God. This is a rule that people make a conscious decision to willingly follow the rule they have crafted. This is different than the “rules” made for worship, that sometimes we don’t understand the origins of, or that have been imposed on us. This is a rule that a believer makes and chooses to follow in order to draw closer to God.

April is Earth Month, with Earth Day April 22. The earth reveals to us the way of God, that in death there is resurrection. Every spring, new life rises. In the darkest of winter, the light will return. On the coldest of days, we know that it will warm again. This is the rule of life established by God—the revolution of our earth around the sun. One way we participate in God’s rule of life is recognizing the gift of the earth to us and caring for creation, as established in Genesis 1—that humankind should have dominion over the earth the way God has dominion over us.

We had a mild winter this year, save for the snowstorm in January and the week of cold temps after, we did not have nearly the snow we usually do. It turns out that this past February was the hottest February on record. This ought to be a wake-up call, as we have had several in recent years, that the climate is changing due to human impact, and we must change our ways.

As we enter this springtime, I am reminded that while we say from Scripture that God never changes, everything we know about God is always changing and growing. We do not stay the same. Something we cannot change is the turning of seasons. Nonetheless, we know more now than we did fifty-four years ago when Earth Day was established about our impact on the earth. We know that climate change is real. We understand that our way of life as human beings impacts other creatures and all of God’s creation.

So perhaps instead of rules such as when to wear white shoes, in faithfulness to God, we ought to craft an intentional rule of life that centers creation care. From Genesis 1, we know that God’s intention for us was to care for the earth. This is the first commandment of God to all of humanity.

This Easter season, as we give thanks to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we have eternal life in Him, we are also reminded that the earth is God’s give to us. Far too often as Christians we have focused on life after death and not life now. 95% of the Gospels focus on Jesus’s life before his death. Life here is important and precious. We must ensure that the new life we are seeing that begins now—the trees budding, the flowers growing, the birds beginning to migrate back north and the deer feeding in the dawn—that all of this is precious to God, and we must care for it, for God, for us, and for future generations. Craft a rule of life that not only gives glory to God, but helps you live into God’s created intention by caring for our planet. Reducing what we use, reusing when we can, and recycling when possible all help care for the beauty of the earth.

Posted in News, Staff Articles.