Bring into your mind the Holy, the Mystery, always within us and always around us. This Holy Mystery, I call “Christ.” I feel Christ flowing like water, blowing like wind, surrounding us, penetrating us, flowing outward from us. In this awareness, we can know that all of us belong to one another and to all creation. Now imagine that we might pivot, all together, into caring for all creation – with immediate personal and corporate action.
In my life and ministry, I rely on the Gospel of John as a scriptural foundation for knowing the Holy in creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .” (John 1:1-2) “God was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him.” (1:10) The Word was one with the Divine, was Wisdom, was known as Sophia. John offers that each and every one of us can participate in the great work of creation.
Theologian John Culp observed that creation is an interaction between nothingness and all of everything. There is nothing outside God’s infinity, and God leaves space for creation to, well, create. From John the Evangelist, to modern theologians, including Sallie Mc Fague and Friend Doug Gwyn, we consider the same core mystery of faith. God is an embodied mystery. Matter is made in such a way that finely-tuned, calibrated dances of molecules interact with conscious beings who are able to make choices.
Our Earth is one manifestation of Christ, the body of God. We humans have scarred our Earth, and yet, the Earth heals. When we are injured, we can heal if we tend our wounds. The embodied mystery includes this: God desires well-being – and desires our well-being.
Before Covid-19, U.S. culture generally assumed that our consumerist way of life, supported by our extractive treatment of the Earth, was a fundamental right, no matter who we elected. We followed a narrative that our way of life was self-perpetuating, that no reasonable person could expect it would ever end, much less end worldwide in the blink of an eye. Before Covid-19, the driving economic forces in the U.S. had unfettered freedom to wreak havoc – to use all the resources at our disposal and discard our waste in careless ways. We now live with the consequences of our choices – fouled rivers and streams, polluted air, and degraded lands.
Narrow self-interest in the last few years has dismantled important ecological protections that were hard-won by advocates through previous decades of persistent effort. New “pipeline protest laws” have been passed in recent years to criminalize environmentalists’ right to free speech. These new laws must be repealed, and our environmental protection laws must be restored and strengthened.
To ensure we are standing together in our witness for Earth, we must remain aware that we all belong to one another and to all creation. The way forward is the way of love. As a Christian in the Quaker tradition, I welcome wisdom as a mystery, and I follow a practice of knowing experimentally. Quakers invite others to listen to the inward teacher, which I call Christ.
I think Christ operates through practical actions. I think Christ teaches us that life is full of beauty and goodness, and that life is also full of critical opportunities to “be the change we wish to see.” I look at life’s beauty, and I make a commitment to protect it. I see the sparkling skies, fragile life at the oceans’ edge, wonders in the ocean’s depths, and I commit to the following: I will pollute less, consume less, and I will care more for the vulnerable people in my congregation, my neighborhood, and the world.
It has never been my way to lay blame at God’s feet when bad things happen to good people. Christ has come to teach us how to restore our unity and trust in God’s presence in our lives. We are invited into a relationship with Christ so that we may grow in Love.
I write this reflection as I prepare for Earth Day 2021. Throughout the pandemic pandemonium, every person I have met has marveled at new beauties revealed by the sudden and profound drop in human busyness this past year: the sparkling skies, the fresh air, the streams that run clear once more, the birdsong. Amazing healing is occurring. We are witnessing evidence that we can make different choices in the ways that we care for our Earth. We can make these choices right now.
Blessed are those who find Wisdom. By Wisdom, God laid the Earth’s foundations; by understanding, God set the heavens in place; by knowledge, God divided the watery depths. If we dwell in Wisdom, we might come to know the nature of Christ in all we are and all we do. The living Christ has come to teach us that water, air, and land – and the energy of the sun – are intimately interconnected.
Countless caring individuals, representing a wide spectrum of faith traditions throughout the globe, partake in this wisdom with us. Prophetically, we join with others who lead by moral example. The voice of prophecy is a voice from our Quaker tradition, it is part of our Christian faith, and we can speak it now. ~~~
Jaimie Mudd is a member of Pima Friends Meeting. She and her husband Dan lead Circles of Trust, Experiment with Light, and Friends Couple Enrichment retreats. She currently serves as pastor for Greensboro First Friends Meeting.
This article was abridged from a longer version, which includes citations, references, and a bibliography; published online here: https://westernfriend.org/media/belonging-concern-earth-stewardship