Text: Psalm 19
Our experiences can be our teachers if we are open and willing to learn from them. No matter how powerful our experiences are, they don’t make an impact on our lives if we don’t listen to them. What we need in our attempt to make a positive change in our lives and communities is not necessarily more experiences but the practice of paying attention: taking time to reflect on what happened, how and why it happened that way, and to listen to the wisdom beneath the surface. We never stop learning and growing. As long as we can breathe there is a chance for change and transformation.
When it comes to a global crisis, like climate change, it’s easy to feel hopeless. What we can do on a personal level such as recycling, saving energy or reducing carbon footprint seem to be too small to stop the relentless deforestation, poisoning the water or polluting the air that are happening every day. Governments and big companies, that are responsible for most of global climate emissions, have successfully delayed many chances that could have been turning points. Blaming, however, doesn’t do any good. In fact, it is the very behaviour – disregarding our own responsibility in the scheme of things – that caused this crisis.
Put simply, climate change is the result of too many human beings using too much energy and taking up too much space on the planet. It is based on a certain lifestyle or culture that encourages excess rather than sharing, and extraction rather than regeneration. For, we human beings have failed to see how everything is interrelated and interconnected. The natural world, however, can’t lie or hide the truth – the truth about interconnectedness. Who would have thought the bloom of algal in Manitoba lakes as a result of deforestation in the Amazon?
The creation has always been speaking the truth, but have we been listening? “The Heavens are telling the glory of God. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
This powerful and wondrous declaration points to the most intimate and inseparable relationship between the creation and the creator. It also speaks about our location in the whole creation. We can discern God’s will by paying attention to the creation, and listening to their voices, which are not heard, but speak louder than any others. Made in the image of God, we have the responsibility to care for creation especially the most vulnerable ones of all.
The UN Earth Charter, a document which lays out the principles for a more just and sustainable planet states its first principle as follows. “Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.”
In other words, and using the most well-known commandment of Jesus, ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ We just have to move from anthropocentric worldview to eco-centric worldview to include all forms of life in the category of the neighbour we are called to love. Sadly, Christianity, especially western Christianity has moved away from this radical calling. The emphasis of teachings in the church has been on time and history not space and place, humans not creation. There is a deep chasm in the Christian community between what’s spiritual or holy, and what’s physical, earthly, worldly or fleshly, the basics of existence. While in reality, what’s more spiritual than feeding the earthly bodies? What’s holier than caring for creation and looking after the most vulnerable ones? Traditionally sin was considered as disobedience to God based on one and one relationship. In a planetary worldview, sin is refusing to share so other people and other life forms can also live. Sin is refusing to live justly and sustainably with all others on our planet. It’s refusing to share the banquet of life: the inability to really see others, to pay attention to their needs.
This brings us back to the experiences we have had. What did you see and experience when you were in nature? How have those experiences guided and informed you on your everyday life and your relationship with everything else?
I remember the very first meeting I had here in this church. I was invited to a gathering of women’s group at someone’s house. The living room was filled with good people and good stories. Everyone in the circle shared what they did in the summer. Some of us traveled far away while some of us stayed home or spent some time at the lake. Almost everyone was talking about the beauty and wonder they experienced in nature no matter where they were. The common theme was our experiences of the holy in nature. Since the gathering, I have been wondering why we don’t see those experiences reflected in our worship. What I have discovered is not only the chasm between our worldly experiences and what’s considered as spiritual, but also our desire to connect the two.
It’s time to pay attention to the wisdom within the creation. Listening, looking or paying attention is a thoughtful ethic in a time of climate change. That is how we can love our neighbours – all peoples and all life forms – as ourselves. This deeply spiritual and profoundly earthly task is ours. Our experiences are our teachers if we are open and willing to learn. We all have heard the voice of God speaking through the creation. “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.”