“The great lesson from the true mystics … is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends and family, in one’s back yard.”
—Abraham Maslow, Religion, Values and Peak Experiences
The encounters continue to add up: encounters with the sacred in nature. My most recent litany of them begins with the largest, loudest owl I have ever heard calling out words of wisdom, and continues to include the armadillo in my path with its shell of protection, the spotted fawn playfully skipping in my yard, the neighborhood turkeys frolicking in the mulch pile, and the young opossum that keeps showing up in my son’s room — a treasured gift of his cat? What are these creatures saying to me? Are they messengers of God? Perhaps the Divine incarnate?
The 14th-century Christian teacher Meister Eckhart said, “Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature — even a caterpillar —I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.” Later John Wesley proclaimed, “God is in all things,” and then went on to say that looking upon anything as separate from God “is a kind of practical atheism.”
Many may join me in this affirmation, but few in today’s culture center our lives on embracing or protecting this sacred treasure. Our lives are more attuned to consuming than protecting.
The primary response of my neighbors to the Colonial Pipeline spill 20 miles south of Birmingham, Ala., and the pipeline’s closure, was to quickly fill their gas tanks, creating a shortage of gasoline. The response of our governor was to address consumers saying that our elected officials were doing everything possible to ensure access to gasoline so that our lifestyle would not be disrupted.
On the same day President Obama is recorded in our newspaper as addressing the United Nations in New York City speaking unapologetically of global integration, naming these issues as critical for the future of globalization: religious fundamentalism, human rights and global inequality. Global warming is glaringly omitted.
As people of God we are called to devote ourselves to better care of and better relationship with all of creation. We have much work to do to restore an alliance with God’s creatures and all of creation. What are the steps to restoring that relationship?
First, make spending time outdoors and with creation a part of your spiritual practice. The average person who lives in the United States spends the vast majority of their time indoors. Doing so distances us from the earth and we easily forget our interdependence on the natural world. As Augustine urged: “Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it.”
Second, join me in confessing our complicity in the 100 to 1,000 species of plant and animal life lost per million per year, mostly due to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change. Our thirst for gasoline which contributed to the recent leak of 336,000 gallons of gasoline in central Alabama could potentially threaten more loss of life than the rabbit, raccoons, fox, coyote, muskrat, armadillo, turtles and birds that have already been found dead.
Third, take action for creation in your community and local congregation. Ideas are abundant on the Creation Justice Ministries website including resources for celebrating Earth Day, educational materials, as well as advocacy opportunities.
Let us devote ourselves to better care of, and relationship with, God’s amazing world. The future of us all depends on it! And, we don’t have to wait for an “official” Earth Day to celebrate, learn and advocate. After all, everyday is Earth Day for those concerned about true justice for this planet we call our earthly home.