One of the things I really have to focus on at Tai Chi on a Thursday is balance. I wonder what the value is of standing on one leg in the middle of our Church and trying to stay upright by the use of my arms. Often times I stumble and feel a bit silly as one of the younger members of the group.
The thing about balance is that it is not just about the ability of my aging body to be upright on one leg, its about balance as a key principle of living and relating.
You may have seen the video about the 14 wolves that were re-introduced to Yellowstone national park in 1995. No one quite knew what was going to happen, but it set off a kind of chain reaction of connections: the wolves hunted deer, the deer decreased or stayed away from certain areas, plants grew, shrubs grew, grasses grew. Berries and bugs of all kind returned to these areas and this in turn led to the return of a whole new population of birds and insects. The beaver, who had been absent for many years returned and otters. The wolves killed Coyotes so the rabbits came back, the bald eagle was once again seen in the park.
But there were other changes too. The increase in plant life meant the river banks stabilised, erosion decreased and pools began to form near the rivers. So not just new animals but a change in the physical geography because of these 14 wolves.
This is a well known video but the key point for me is that everything is connected, and it feels as if, right now, we are rediscovering or remembering that truth. Everything is connected.
One of the things about indigenous peoples and forest peoples is that they understand themselves as a legitimate part of creation, of the Natural world but, they live in reciprocal relationship to all that exist in the forest. Some forest people call the forest their father or mother because they say, the forest gives them all they need, unconditionally.
This is a great thing for us to hear because it shows us that creation can teach us about God – about the unconditional love he offers to each of us.
In our culture it can feel like we are groping towards some of these truths but we are not really there yet. Climate crisis is coming, in fact in many ways it is already here but we are slow to grasp the enormity of what we are facing. On Thursday night I was anxious about writing an email to Beatrice’s school to say she wouldn’t be at school in the morning because she was going on an extinction rebellion demonstration. But when I woke up in the morning the first thing on the news was that there were to be 5000 demonstrations across 150 countries about climate emergency. This IS the threat so why aren’t we acting?
Although it has been largely discredited, people in our culture are still reading Richard Dawkins book The Selfish Gene – it is a corrupt and corrosive philosophy with selfishness as a founding principle. The truth is there is an energy flow through all creation – light – plants – animals but the ways in which we are part of that energy flow, the ways in which we collaborate and inter connect to live community in the midst of that energy flow are myriad.
Running through all our readings today is the contrast between God and money. When I was young I loved the book of Amos for these passionate condemnations of the wealthy – hear this you who trample on the needy, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. And that was part of a youthful passion for a faith which righted wrongs, which proclaimed equality – you cannot serve God and wealth. Those early passions held a desire to do something about the unfairness of the world. But today’s Gospel really does invite us to something new, something different and something passionate. You cannot serve God and wealth.
The New York Times recently quoted a poll in France which described rising environmentalism as possibly the “new matrix” underlying the nation’s cultural identity, replacing Catholicism. But the Church is forever being told that there is a new thing on the way replacing all of that old fashioned God stuff.
If we are in the business of finding the spiritual ground of all being we can safely leave behind those who want to create or dismiss a cultural construct of God. What is the Christian mission? Well its not to make another tribe – although we have been good at trying to do that. In the story of Adam and Eve we are reminded that when we don’t trust God, then we reject God, but the price for this rejection will be the death of the planet. What God reveals to us in Jesus is that her mission is to reconcile the world to herself. Not just part of creation but All of it.
Locked in the story of Adam and Eve is both the delight of creation and the turning away from it, the desire to be in charge rather than the desire to be connected. Some of the best artists have made some amazing pictures of the expulsion from Eden – it is, if you like, the image of our disconnection.
Pope Francis, who has been a breath of fresh air for me produced the amazing Laudato si in 2015. The title comes from St Francis canticle of the creatures quoted on the front of the service sheet. In it Pope Francis writes:
“I want to point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected…the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology… the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle”
It is, I think part of the Charism of this Parish/Church to speak into the shared conversations about climate change and ecology. Look at the churchyard- it is in our blood.
The word Ecology comes from the Greek Oikos meaning house. Here in the church we need to expand the walls of our house or at least to see our radical interconnectedness with all that is. Sometimes our own church community can feel fragile but our fragility is not something to be avoided or put up with. Its is a powerful reminder of the fragility we share with all creatures on the planet – it is a standing alongside all that struggles, all that is excluded, all that sits on the margins. Being in this place of fragility can help us build connections which we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. It’s a Jesus place.
God desires that we share more deeply in her joy in creation. Sometimes that sharing can feel like we are giving things up, leaving behind things which give us pleasure. But seek the deeper joy. Because like Adam and Eve we hold somewhere in our hearts the vision of Eden which seems so distant from us now.
We are only on earth for a short time and the earth cries out to us in this moment. It is a call for humility, a call for radical vision, for prayer and action but most of all it’s a call to see, to see that we are dependent, interconnected with the whole web of energy, with all of life on the planet. Its an energy that God who created the world through Christ might more properly call joy or delight. A delight in which we are all invited to share. Amen.