Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher (pictured here with his wife Kristen atop Mount Pierce) is the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland, Chaplain of the Tolland Fire Department and Troop C of the Connecticut State Police, author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith, and an avid hiker seeking to summit all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000’ mountains with his oldest son Noah.
Scripture: Genesis 3:8-15 (NRSV)
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
Reflection: The Sound of God
Last summer my wife and I were able to get away for a few days of vacation by ourselves. We chose to head to New Hampshire for some much-anticipated rest and relaxation. But truth be told, I can only rest for so long, so while we did spend some time kayaking, swimming, and reading by the lake, I also made sure that we scheduled a couple of hikes in the White Mountains.
After summiting her first 4,000’ mountain (Mount Osceola) two days before, we set our sights on Mount Pierce. This is one of the easier 4,000’ mountains in New Hampshire and affords, perhaps, one of the best views in all the Whites.
So we set off early in the morning to begin our ascent up the famed Crawford Path. As is often the case, the clouds were thick early in the morning before the sun has a chance to sear them off the mountainside. However, as our hike took us higher and higher, the clouds were not receding.
“They have to burn off,” I kept saying to myself. “Kristen needs to see this view.” And, if I’m being honest, I needed to see it too. So we kept climbing and climbing and by the time we made it to the top the clouds were as thick as ever. We were completely socked in—no views in sight.
With the wind blowing hard making the temperature quite cool even for a warm August day, we retreated a little bit back into the shelter of the trees to have a snack and to decide whether to keep going over to Mount Eisenhower or head back to the car. “Let’s just wait here for a few minutes,” I said to my wife, “maybe we’ll get lucky and get some kind of a view,” knowing that was an exceedingly optimistic hope.
And then it happened. A hint of blue sky appeared as we munched on our trail mix. We grabbed our packs and raced back to the summit only to watch the wind peel back the clouds, layer by layer, to reveal the entire Southern Presidential range.
When the scripture from Genesis says that Adam and Eve heard the sound of God walking and calling out to them, I now know what that means. For me it was the wind peeling the clouds away on the summit of Mount Pierce. Never have I heard a more inspiring word from God, than that.
Now, with all due respect to the author of Genesis—who was just trying to offer an archetypal story to explain the origin of an imperfect, sinful humanity, I know—I think much of the rest of this passage is troublesome. I don’t believe that God punishes us for what we’ve done wrong nor do I believe in the doctrine of original sin that emerged from Augustine hundreds of years later, based on this interaction.
So while I do think the author misses the mark with much of this text, they were right about one thing: nature does offer a unique space to hear God in a way we otherwise might miss.
So, on this first weekend in June, why not take some time to get outside? Maybe it will be the wind whistling through the trees, the birds chirping in the backyard, or the crash of ocean waves hitting the shore. Stop. Look. Listen. And savor the message that God is walking towards you to share.
I have no doubt that whatever it is will have nothing to do with what you’re wearing (or not).
Creator God, walk towards us this day and grant us the gift of a word we need to hear. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at email@example.com
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for more than 590,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease
- For the victims and their families of the 232 mass shootings already carried out in 2021, including a shooting in San Jose that left 10 dead including the shooter
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For those who died while serving the U.S. military
This Week in History:
May 31, 1921 (100 years ago) Tulsa, Oklahoma's Greenwood District is attacked by thousands of white citizens who burned homes and businesses and killed hundreds of Black citizens in the most violent racial attack in the nation's history. Greenwood District was known as a very successful African American community, having many business owned and operated by Black citizens. The attack is alleged to have started after Dick Rowland a young Black shoe shiner was detained after a complaint from a white women who operated an elevator Rowland rode on May 30. A news story published the next morning claimed it was an attempted sexual assault, triggering an angry white mob to gather at the courthouse and demand Roland be handed over to them. A group of Black men arrived in the evening presumably to prevent a lynching. The two groups clashed, resulting in some injuries and deaths. White citizens then began attacking the Greenwood District. Over the next two days 1400 homes and business were burned and eventually 10,000 were left homeless. Best estimates are that 100-300 people died, most of whom were Black. After initial reports, the massacre was largely forgotten in history books. In 2010 a monument to the historian John Hope Franklin was erected in Greenwood to memorialize this massacre.
(With contributions from Rev. John Van Epps)
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Jeff Michael Gallagher
the Senior Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Tolland and author of the book Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith