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Flowers Not Fig Leaves

This is my second semester teaching at Hartford Seminary. I am loving it. I’m working with half-a-dozen churches around New England, and speaking at Yale, and, in general, spending a lot of time in the Northeast. Someone asked me recently if it wouldn’t be easier simply to move to that area. In many ways, it would, and I love that part of the country.

I think the one thing I would miss the most about living in the South, though, is that Easter and spring almost always arrive at the same time. I have friends around the country who are still scraping snow, but we have been scraping pollen in Atlanta for several weeks now. I mean that literally. Those of you who have never lived here, like those of us who have never lived in New England, just can’t imagine it. It is yellow everywhere.

Trees and flowers seem determined to fertilize the world, including our eyes and noses. Everyone is sniffling. Nature is embarrassingly promiscuous this time of year in the South. It is fascinating to me to think of this in sexual terms. It is nature’s act of reproduction, of course, and we all learned about it in high school biology.

Nature is so generous and open and obvious and, well, public. Humans are so reserved and private and uptight and repressed about our sexuality. I blame the church. Not God, but the church. The parable of Genesis seems to indicate that our shame came as a result of our sin, but, if that is the case, why didn’t our redemption free us? Forgiven and redeemed Christians actually seem MORE repressed and shameful and uptight and fig-leaf obsessed than those who are still living with the full load of guilt and shame. Why is that?

I don’t know why, but pollen covering everything this time of year makes me smile and wonder if this isn’t nature’s way of making fun of us and how constrained we are about one of God’s best gifts.

Shame-based behavior hasn’t ever served anyone well. Perhaps the church should try offering the world another gift. Who knows? Flowers might work better than fig leaves.


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Rev. Michael Piazza

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