Mid Week Faith Lift
April 30, 2014
Earth Sunday: For the Beauty of the Earth
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
When I started the ball rolling for this special service, my first thought and effort was to focus on the music and to ask Clark for a special song. Thank you Clark! He is truly our own “Treasure” and came through beautifully again. And then we hunted down “This Pretty Planet” with Su Podraza-Nagle’s help —this was surely a team effort! Go team! And then it was time to write a talk for this day….where is the team?!? OMG! Well, Deb, here it is, God and you again! What to do….meditate! And God came through with a Divine Idea…send out an SOS to your fellow Unity ministers! Surely someone has already done an Earth Day service! And by golly, they had and several were willing to share. WHEW! Gratitude thy name is Facebook!
And I will share some of what was given to me with you today. But what I realized in this process is that as much as I might want to just make it easier by giving someone else’s talk, that isn’t me….I can’t do it that way. Bummer! So once again, I really had to work for it this week! I had to work to find my own voice about what needed to be said about this Earth Day celebration. And as I sifted through all the stories, poems, videos and prayers I received….and there were a lot of them, I realized that this whole Earth Day Sunday celebration is really about a primary relationship—our relationship with Mother Earth.
It is easy to stray into politics, advocacy, political correctness and thus create an “us and them” conflict scenario, which just results in more conflict and separation. Ugh, that won’t work very well. It dawned on me that beneath all the rhetoric, the real story is about our (human beings) relationship with Mother Earth, and in the end, however we work out that relationship, we all have to live here. No matter who we are, no matter what we do, how much money or power we have or don’t have: “the rain falls equally on the just and the unjust.” Mt. 5:45 That is the Beauty of the Earth! Today is a day to recognize the sacredness of our relationship with the Earth and to acknowledge the Earth as both a material and a spiritual reality and ourselves as an integral and important part in the web of all life.
Just what is the nature of our relationship to Earth? In Genesis 1:28 in the Creation Story it is recorded that God made man and told him to be fruitful and multiply and to have dominion over all the Earth. What does this dominion mean? What kind of relationship does it describe? Dominion means authority or rule over which in this case is over the earth, but we forget that it also means that we have rule over ourselves as well. In this relationship with the Earth, we have been focused on domination of earth, as if it were separate or “other.” In our Western mindset, we have focused on taking action and doing and making the Earth do our bidding rather than engaging in contemplation or meditation about the highest and best way to exercise our authority. With an eye to exercising dominion over ourselves and Mother Earth, were we to do that, we would develop a mutually respectful relationship, recognizing the Sacred in all partners in this relationship
The Jewish Existential philosopher, Martin Buber, has described two ways of relating:
I–It = we treat the “other” as object to be used for our benefit; treat other people in terms of how they can best serve our needs or make us happy. We are willing to compensate them, but this relationship creates separation and a sense of “otherness.”
I-Thou = we treat the other as sacred and holy; there is a huge difference in relationship; we see and treat others as children of God, with respect and reverence. The most important question we can ask is: “Do others feel they matter & are truly valued in our presence?”
What would change if we approached our relationship with Earth the same way? Instead of an “it”, an “object” to be used solely for our purposes and pleasure, what if Earth was a sacred Thou, holy, and to be revered? What if we asked ourselves: Does the earth feel valued in our presence? Does the earth’s perspective matter? Ultimately, the earth doesn’t belong to us, not as an “it” to be owned or used. We will eventually all leave the Earth but Earth will remain to sustain and support all those who come after us. How can we manifest an I-Thou relationship with Mother Earth? That is a compelling question we each must answer.
Another perspective comes from Parker Palmer, a writer, teacher and activist who is also a Quaker. In his book, The Active Life, Palmer explores the dynamic tension between “action” and “contemplation” which we in the West experience intensely. Our Western psyche has a bias toward taking action, toward doing and making, much more than toward contemplation and just “being.” We see ourselves as agents doing the work and will of God without necessarily taking much time to reflect and discern what that Will might truly be, until things run amuck, of course. We pay a price for this, however.
As “knowers” and “doers” we are both actors and acted upon and we exist in a vast web of interrelationships such that the reality we know and experience is the result of an infinitely complex “encounter between ourselves and the environment.” He goes on to say “In this encounter we do some shaping, ..but we are also shaped by the relational reality of which we are a part. We are a part, and only a part, of the great community of creation. If we can act in ways that embrace this fact, ways that embrace the gifts we receive through our membership in this community…our actions can contribute to the health and well being of all who live in that web. When authentic action replaces unconscious reaction, the active life becomes….a vital and creative power.”
What do we hear from Myrtle and Charles Fillmore on this topic of nature?
Myrtle Fillmore writes:
“I was almost accused of being a nature worshiper when I was a little girl. And I have always loved what I see in nature, as well as in all artists who are so close to the beauty side of God. Nature is surely the glorified face of Good. See the beauty about you and you do see the manifestation of the infinite Mind.”
Charles Fillmore stated in Christian Healing:
“We should speak words of Truth to the rocks, plants, and animals as well as to our fellow human beings. The Christ Consciousness that measures all appearance by Divine Ideas informs all aspects of manifest life. All of life is imbued with Christ Consciousness.”
We are called to remember the deep mystery that is the created world, and that we are part of that web of all life. I leave you with a story that describes our relationship with Mother Earth. After that we will watch a short video together and then have time for meditation.
A young boy and his grandfather spent their days together, as was their custom. The old man spent much of his time teaching the boy to hunt, fish, and make things, and to do it all in a sacred way. He taught him how to walk on this holy earth with respect and reverence.
One day the grandfather said to the boy, “We will change the course of a mighty river.” The boy was filled with wonder, for he knew his grandfather was a great man and could do great things. But the course of a great river? Who could do such a thing?
As they approached the river, the boy’s heart leapt as he imagined the course of the river being changed. When they got to the bank of the river, the old man reached down into the water and picked out a rock about the size of a melon. The boy watched as the hole that the rock left began to fill with water, and in that moment he understood that, in some small way, his grandfather had indeed changed the course of a mighty river.
The old man looked at the boy with a twinkle in his eye and said, “This is the way the great river is changed, one rock at a time. It is the duty and privilege of everyone to change the course of rivers.”
And so it is…..and so we let it be…Amen.
Blessings on your earth journey…