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Summary: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. It isn’t ours and on no day of creation did God make "pests."

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LIVING WITH WOODCHUCKS

TEXT: Genesis 1:20-31; Luke 20:9-14

If you’ve been on my website or if you listen to NPR, which profiled the story a couple of weeks ago, you’ll know I have some history with woodchucks. My defense of the woodchucks when I served St. John’s became the stuff of local legend with even the local paper in Dover running a front-page story on Groundhog Day about my efforts. I haven’t seen the first woodchuck at the parsonage here, but in this season of stewardship, I wanted to lift up the cause of my furry friends. Stewardship is not just about money. It is the attitude of the heart that recognizes that God is the owner of all that is. That does include our money, but it also includes woodchucks and all those creatures we so easily label as “pests.”

I will first say that I have a long history with woodchucks. Grandma Robertson, who lived with us, was best known for her compassion toward wasps. She fed them. Sugar water. On her finger. She accepted their stings as merely ignorance on their part, and even when she fell into a nest of them and was stung all over her body, she maintained their goodness and innocence. The only thing Grandma loved more than wasps, was her flower gardens. She had many, and she tended them from dawn until after dark.

It’s hard to say why a woman who would feed a paper wasp on her finger would turn on a cute, furry woodchuck, but when her forensic examinations turned up their teeth on her bulbs, the sentence was death. Into the house she came to find my father and his Army rifle. No matter that in our household we spent our time rescuing mice from our two cats, filial duty called and my father reluctantly went out to hunt woodchucks.

This was my earliest remembered trauma. Even now I can feel the horror in my heart at the thought of the woodchucks being shot. I remember screaming and crying and running to my room and putting my pillow over my head, feeling utterly helpless and filled with grief. Eventually my reaction ended the shooting and elaborate systems of fencing and netting began to appear, but it left its imprint on my soul.

What had those woodchucks done that they deserved death? They were hungry. They ate the food they were designed by God to eat. They were not eating small children, they were not bearing disease, they were not competing with our family for a scarce food supply. They were just eating a few of Grandma’s flowers. For that they died. To this day I can’t find a suitable explanation for why that is right.

My next trauma was self-inflicted. Newly-married and an adult at least in theory, I awoke one morning to discover a spider much too close to the bed. I was terrified of spiders, but had been blessed in my youth with a mother who was not. Whenever a spider invaded my space as a child, I had only to call for my mother and she came and whisked it away, carefully taking it outside and releasing it. My mother, however, was not included in my current living arrangments, so I did the next best thing. I called for my husband. Being the dutiful husband that he was, David came rushing to my rescue. Squash. No more spider. He looked pleased.


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