One of the many blessings for me of living here in the North Okanagan has been the privilege of rising early and sitting relaxed on my deck that overlooks the beautiful valley that runs both North and South – listening to the early morning songbirds – watching the graceful carefree hawks and egrets above – the pheasant couple in the trees along the fence line – laughing with the chipmunk that comes to visit every once in while – I breathe in the awesomeness of creation and sense a bubbling joy and privilege in simply being a part of it.
Sometimes, and mostly in this summer season words of A Song of Faith, our UC most recent poetic expression of our faith, comes to mind:
So God creates the universe
and with it the possibility of being and relating.
God tends the universe,
mending the broken and reconciling the estranged.
God enlivens the universe,
guiding all things toward harmony with their Source.
Grateful for God’s loving action,
We cannot keep from singing….
Finding ourselves in a world of beauty and mystery,
of living things, diverse and interdependent,
of complex patterns of growth and evolution,
of subatomic particles and cosmic swirls,
we sing of God the Creator,
the Maker and Source of all that is.
Each part of creation reveals unique aspects of God the Creator,
who is both in creation and beyond it.
All parts of creation, animate and inanimate, are related.
All creation is good.
Powerful words, beautifully written capturing the authors’ love of creation – In these words you and I are reminded of the God who creates the universe filled with diverse possibilities, wild and wonderful! Did you notice some of the verbs? God tends…God mends…God enlivens! The reader is reminded, and we need the reminder, that each part of creation makes known the unique aspects of this Creator – and God sees that it is good!! Of course, we cannot keep from singing! It is awe –inspiring!
As we open ourselves to awe, to wonder at the sheer beauty of creation we enter a little deeper into its mystery. Awe, sacred scripture teaches, is the beginning of wisdom!
A.W.E. That is, Awakening to Wonder Everywhere
Yet, even as we take in creations beauty, we know the human footprint that damaged this very beauty – a footprint that has impacted the animal population, agricultural production, the water we drink, the very air we breathe. Sure, we have sought to protect it over recent years but we have also become complacent and too often turned the other cheek. I am reminded of the song written recently by Bruce Cockburn entitled Beautiful Creatures “there’s a knot in my gut as I gaze out today…what is there to say? The beautiful creatures are going away. Why? Why?
We all need to recognize that in the songs of praise for creation there is the lament – the negative is uncomfortable yet – even as I take in the valley’s beautiful along the Grey Canal, or ski the winter wonderland at Silver Star I must also ask with Cockburn Why? Why then are the beautiful creatures going away? Lament is essential for us as people of faith because it propels us into responsibility and action.
Bruce Sanquin, an ecological Christian theologian UCC, draws our attention to the disappearance from the planet of amphibians – frogs are often the first creatures to suffer the effects of our compromised ecosystems. Disease is the cause, yes, but global warming is the trigger, he says. He laments the reality that, in his words, other-than-human life forms have become mere after thoughts to our way of life, their extinction merely the cost of doing business. Humans are crowding out other life forms, and poisoning the land, air and water as we go. Disconnected from the earth and its goodness, we act in irresponsible ways. From a Christian perspective this is a loss of divine presence –a sacrilege we, on behalf of the world, must lament.
As we grieve what we’re doing to the human race, to each other, and to the planet, we recognize our own complicity to the systems that have destroyed, hopefully with as much honesty as possible. Why do we take the sacred trust of creation we’ve been given and trample on it? There is a cost – a terrible cost of not living in right relationship with the Creator, with others and earth. As we move through the grieving process our sense of interconnection grows and in the process we are transformed. We move closer to awe: Awe opens us not only to the beauty and wonder of life, but to that which is not-life as well. An ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said it this way: “Where there is an absence of awe, there is destruction.” In other words, it’s impossible to dump raw sewage into river or and ocean if the river or the ocean is a source of wonder and inspiration for us!
Some of our hymns express the ambiguity so well – like the words by Ruth Duck VU 295 Let’s sing it together
Hymn The Earth and All Who Breathe VU #295 tune #321
Creation’s waiting is reflected in Romans 8:14-23. I draw your attention to the verse that for many years convicts me and draws me up short as I wander in nature or work in my garden, as I decide whether I will take to time to recycle one more plastic container or go back to grab the cloth grocery bag I left in my vehicle: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God…. we know that the whole creation has been groaning”
We hear creation’s cry and if we listen closely, we hear the struggle of thousands of species of living creatures; Creation’s song is both praise and lament. The groaning of the earth is both hope and suffering as in child birth – and from out of the lament, we, the children of the earth, are redeemed in Christ to live more fully into our original calling to serve and keep, to tend the garden of creation gifted to us. We can be part of earth’s liberation! We can live with intention in a way that heals and satisfies the longing for wholeness for not only ourselves but also all creation.
Such longing is reflected in Gaia imagery.
Sing O Beautiful Gaia MV 41 (drum) *refrain all verses and return to refrain
Whenever I sing this hymn I am called back to the ancient harmony and oneness of creation imaged in Genesis 1. Many indigenous peoples witness to humans as interconnected parts of a larger web, each being uniquely valuable. Trees, rivers, the sun or plants are all part of our extended family – our well-being dependant on theirs. And it is gratitude for this interconnectedness that keeps us to our purpose of taking care of life. Core Gaia theory acknowledges that life looks after itself as the diverse species in creation work together to maintain the balance of nature. Gratitude plays an important role in this! Why not stop and hug a tree? Breathe in the beauty of a rose – express a deep appreciation for mother Earth, our home – teach a child to grow a flower! Thanksgiving for what supports your living is a way of giving back to the Creator! It grows hope! It reveals a better future!
God is never finished with creation – there will be new wine from old wineskins. The very nature of God is to ‘make all things new’. This is both hope and good news for places destroyed by forces of nature and by the human footprint. As people of faith, we too participate as we fall in love each day with Beautiful Gaia.
Psalm 104 expresses that ancient Gaia invitation as well. Listen as Andy reads it for us.
Here the wisdom crying out for our attention lies in an awareness that we, like all other creatures, are dependant on the spirit of the Creator for life – dependant on water and earth to produce the plants we need for food – we are one of many creatures cared for and sustained by the Creator! All creatures wait for you to give them their food! This ancient Psalm celebrates what today we describe as the interrelationship and interdependence of all species in the web of life. Mountains, valleys, wild goats and lions – the earth is abundantly teeming with diverse habitats and creatures! The goodness of God celebrated here also recognizes the misuse and abuse and yet, the enduring faithful renewal by the spirit of God.
Here’s God’s Good News: You continue to send forth your Spirit and the earth, though not without turmoil, is renewed (verse 30). The inclusive Bible translates the Hebrew this way: “Send back your breath – fresh life begins and you renew the face of the earth.”
The whole earth is infused with God’s glory – with divine presence – Sophia wisdom in every plant or flower or field – in the chaos and order of it all is abundant living. Divine Sophia loves justice and speaks out fiercely against the foolishness of human arrogance that fails to recognize our oneness, the universal harmony and presence of the divine in all. We are invited to learn her ways!
Creation is waiting for all of us to show up ready and willing by the grace of the Spirit to set creation free, to play our part – to live our piece in the puzzle.
“If a butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico, does it cause a hurricane in Texas?” a meteorologist, Edward Lorenz asks. Subtle shifts matter and we cannot tell what difference our smallest acts will reap on behalf of the earth’s transformation. We have no reason to be discouraged about our capacity to go out and make a difference and every reason to hope! We can give back to the future!
In the ambiguities of our living, injustice lies also in our relationship to the earth. The Creator yearns – calls – grows all life towards what was originally intended: the kingdom is growing from the very beginning into all that God has intended…from the very first moment of creation, it is the kingdom that has been on God’s mind, and God is infinitely patient as it grows.” It is our job to muster, to endeavor to embrace God’s holy and purposeful plan for all creatures. Let us get on the business of loving, caring for all God’s creation, at least living well. There is a re-borning that happens for us as well as the earth as we encounter a larger reality – a redemption and a hope that moves towards completion. May this redeeming thrive in us, around us and even, miraculously, sometimes through us”.
Remember for the sake of the earth and all living creatures. Jesus’ words: “I tell you solemnly, whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.”
Touch the Earth Lightly #VU 307
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