This month is Earth Month at FBCPA. You will see elsewhere in this Spire a variety of programming to lift up our love for the earth and care for creation. Thanks to Pastor Gregory for his hard work pulling all this together. We have a couple of books in the church library you might want to check out as resource for this month’s emphasis as well. One is A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism by Emory University history professor, Patrick Allitt. This book was recommended by Dan Cudworth and is the book we’re reading for this month’s Senior Connections Book Group. If you want to read it and join that discussion, feel free to, regardless of your age. We’d be delighted to have your input. The other is a book, suggested by Pastor Gregory, entitled Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth. This is a collection of briefs essays and reflections by spiritual leaders in many different faiths.
As if all that is not enough, Pastor Gregory also loaned me his copy of John Cobb’s Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, and Justice to read as well. Cobb is a distinguished process theologian and advocate for eco-justice who taught for many years at Claremont School of Theology. We have seen and heard him more than once on a variety of episodes in the Living the Questions video series.
In the opening chapter, “Christian Existence in a World of Limits,” Cobb writes that, as Christians, we must recognize “1) the physical limits of our context, 2) the limits of our own capacities to envision needed changes or to adopt even those we can envision, but also 3) the openness of the future and the unlimited power of transformation that is the grace of God” (p. 11). I was especially struck by his suggestion that we live with limits –some of which are self-imposed – to our capacity to envision change and to our willingness to act on such a vision when we do catch it. It may be that clouded or shaky vision actually precludes our ability or willingness to see and accept the possibilities of God’s transforming power in our own lives and in the world around us.
In my Easter sermon, I suggested that Mary Magdalene is prepared to grieve, to spend her time mourning what is lost. She is heart-broken and feels alone. But neither she nor the rest of the disciples are prepared for resurrection. Their vision is clouded. It doesn’t matter that he has told them more than once that he would die and rise again. It is a claim that does not compute, has not registered in their reality, is not within the range of their vision. Do you think it would be any different for you or me if we had been in their sandals? That clouded vision, that lack of awareness is all too true today.
My friend Tim Phillips writes of death and resurrection, “Maybe the worst thing about death in all its forms is that it robs us of the energy to imagine anything else.” Isn’t this Mary’s truth in the early morning shadows? She couldn’t imagine anyone else. She assumed she was talking to the gardener. Tim continues to speak of death and its equivalents, “Addiction robs us of the energy to imagine healing. Violence robs us of the energy to imagine peace. Sickness robs of the energy to imagine some kind of wholeness beyond a cure. The burdens of life rob us of energy for a sense of humor that can put things in perspective. Death robs us of the energy to imagine that anything has power great enough to outlive its hold on us” (Tim Phillips, “Resurrection Power,” The Spire, Vol. 80, No. 3, March 2016, Seattle First Baptist Church).
Isn’t John Cobb suggesting something similar? Cobb reminds us that “prophetic vision” is crucial to our Christian tradition. He argues that “we in the United States need a prophetic vision of an economic order that is viable and humane with respect to our own people without continuing economic imperialism and environmental degradation” (op. cit., p. 18). Is there anyone on the horizon running for public office on this platform? If not, why not? Is there nothing we can do to challenge and shape a political process that purports to elect officials who will represent us? Do we need to take a chance to open our eyes, our ears hearts in order to find the resurrection power that might make a difference?
Burdens of life interfere with our capacity to see beyond business as usual. The threat of death, ironically, robs us of the possibilities of new life. We get stuck in cycles of comfort and privilege and fail to see the potentially fatal consequences of our lack of vision for the whole of creation. What does rob you or me of vision, of our capacity to see God’s ability to work, even through us, to redeem creation and transform the way we understand the world and how it works? How many things do we accept as given, especially if they operate in our self-interest, rather than risking a challenge that might bring us closer to the realization of God’s Beloved Community? What might we have to lose in order to find true selves made in the image and likeness of God? What might we need to give in exchange for God’s promise of abundant life in Christ Jesus?
Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care… Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses, and air that is sweet,
Health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete.
Shirley Erena Murray