September 11, 2022 ~ Rev. Beckie Sweet
Holy Ground ~ Week 1
What is your favorite place in creation? ‘A natural place, not defined by humanly constructed walls. What is your favorite place in creation? Are you a beach person or a mountain person? Do you enjoy being at a lake or in a pasture? Do you feel connection with earth and self when in the woods or on a ballfield? What is your favorite place in creation?
For some, the beach is where they long to be. Hearing the waves rhythmically pound the surf and inhaling the salty air gives a sense of calm, reorientation, regeneration, and joy. So, they are drawn to the sand and ocean water. Others appreciate most the resource richness of the forest in early summer. After the rains of spring, the foliage is lush, the ferns uncurl, and the moss is soft under foot.
I love to be out on the water of a large river or lake. The rocking of the water that buoys body and spirit, the fertile life that feeds the fish, the cool liquid reminder of the content of our own bodies, brings me a deep sense of God’s created order.
When we are inspired by God’s creation, we feel a sense of sacred peace, wholeness, and connection with God and with creation: water, land, air, and creatures. That connection reminds us that we each have a place in God’s creation.
But we live in a time of great dis-connection: When we are reluctant to go outside of our home-space, to encounter other people who may even unknowingly share disease; when being in the midst of crowds causes anxiety; when fear of contact causes us to withdraw from social interaction. And we begin to wonder:
- And when, how, and where will God show up in our lives?
- How can we make more friends and feel like we belong?
- Where can we be our real, authentic selves with others?
Throughout the stages of life, we wonder who we are, and whose we are, and why we are here? How do we fit in? When we are young, we ponder these questions in the midst of a school environment. After a couple of decades, we wonder what family will look like for us? And then, when we are older, we wonder what kind of legacy we will leave to our survivors.
We seek the connection to God that holds our lives together and answers our questions of who we are and why we are here. The snippet of the first creation story that Holly read to us from Genesis reminds us that God creates humanity and gives us a task: to take charge, be fertile and multiply, and to be among the creatures of the earth. We were made for that connection. God has a remedy and answers for our questions about our disconnection and loneliness and identity.
The direction to “take charge” or “have dominion” over the earth is so often misunderstood. This statement is too often used to abuse, neglect, and destroy creation. And then there are some who may innocently take creation and nature for granted. We have water, sun, soil, atmosphere that supports life. Have we taken their health for granted? How have we provided care for creation?
Where is your favorite place in creation? How does it make you feel? Have you begun to see that place now in your mind? We were created to feel that sacred connection with creation and its inhabitants more often that most of us allow. That feeling should not be relegated to just a couple of short vacations each decade. We were created to be in that peaceful, whole, and connected state of mind as often as possible.
I have been delighted in the past month to see NASA’s amazing images from the James Webb space telescope. Stars and galaxies have come so beautifully into our view after their light has traveled billions of years and now is captured in photographs.
In our Psalm for today in a more familiar translation (NRSV) we hear: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”
God has created us for connection, to take charge of this earth. And what we know from other Scripture passages this means that we have a responsibility to steward the earth; to take care of it, to love it, to hold it with humility. Who are we, in the midst of galaxies so radiant in beauty? And there are places on this earth that may make us feel small. We may look out into the ocean at the horizon where seemingly water stretches to the edge of the sky. We may stand in the valley and crane our necks to see the peak of the mountain or the top of Taughannock Falls. We may lay on a blanket in a dark field to view the expanse of stars above on a clear night. We may look at the vast number of migratory birds stopping over for a rest. We may view the desert that stretches on as far as the eye can see with little life visible. And while we may feel so very small, we can still sense peace, wholeness, and connection when we have the right perspective on life. For we are made by God for connection with everything. Though we are small, we are filled with God’s own Spirit, and Breath, made in God’s image.
In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants the author states: “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
Within this powerfully poignant book, the author reminisces about how her school day began from kindergarten through 12th grade as she attended a native school of the Onondaga Nation. Each day began with one grade leading the “Thanksgiving Address,” a river of words as old as the people themselves, The Words That Come Before All Else. It is a greeting which gives thanks to all members of the natural world. While it varies from leader to leader, I will share a short portion in the author’s words.
It begins: Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one. There is a pause and the kids murmur their assent.
We are thankful to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send thanksgiving, love, and respect. Now our minds are one.
Then the sections of the river of words give thanks for the waters and fish life, for plant life and those that provide food, for medicinal herbs and trees, for animal life and birds, for the Four Winds, the Thunder beings, the sun and moon and stars, and for the enlightened teachers. And the closing section returns in this way:
We now turn our thoughts to Creator, Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to Creator. Now our minds are one.
Orienting our thoughts in gratitude for all of creation, including the earth and its inhabitants, heightens our connections with God, with nature, and with one another. Each week during this Holy Ground worship series, I am going to give you some homework, which I hope will help to infuse the message God is giving us into our beings. Your homework for this week: Spend 15 minutes listening to and pondering creation. You may want to listen to one of our beautiful waterfalls. You could listen to raindrops. You could listen to the wind rustling the tree leaves. You may listen to birds or wetland creatures. You may listen to children playing after school. You could observe a sunset progress. Or notice the morning dew highlighting a spider’s web.
By observing Creation, it helps us to feel connected and at home with God, our surroundings, our neighbors and community. It helps us to remember who we are and whose we are and why we are here. If we all spend more time with creation, including these precious humans, that feeling of disconnection will likely fade away. For we are made to be with each other on this earth. And then, I believe, God will rejoice! Amen.