“A Resurrection Love for Earth” by Kolya Braun-Greiner

April 28, 2024

Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Saturday of our Silent Retreat at Dayspring was bookended on either side with cloudy, gloomy days. But Saturday – Oh, springtime beauty was in full bucolic glory! What at blessing it was!  Beauty shows up especially in the Wisdom tradition of the Bible.  The Holy One is the author of beauty (Wisdom 13:3); strength and beauty is found in the sanctuary of the Holy One (Ps. 96:6). Certainly Dayspring is a sanctuary where the beauty God has created is fully evident. What if we considered the whole Earth the sanctuary of God?

Joyce Rupp’s & Macrina Wiederkher’s poem which Jacqie Wallen shared recently expresses how our liturgical season of Easter and the season of spring echo one another in a kind of mutual hymn of praise, which we experience resurrection such visceral and soulful ways.  I share some excerpts:

 “Blessed Are You, Spring” In you is a life no death can destroy…

You open the closed buds of our despair
as you journey with us to the flowering places.

Blessed are you, spring, season of resurrection, sacrament of promise.
Like Jesus you rise up out of the darkness, leaving around you a wake of new life.

…each year you amaze us with the miracle of returning life.

I invite you to sink deep for a few moments in the springtime beauty of that day at Dayspring or recent days here. (Pause)

Rooting ourselves in gratitude for this beauty can help us face the grief and losses.  We all know that there is a great unraveling, a crisis facing life as we know it on Earth. Some of heard last night one aspect of that crisis shown in industrial agriculture system’s disharmony with natural systems so graphically shown in the film screening of Common Ground.  Farms that have made the transition to regenerative agriculture flourishing green with life, next to farms using conventional chemical dependent agriculture that looked eroded and dead.

Of course there’s a litany of examples and I do not wish to flood us with more depressing or shocking news.  I thought of all kinds of stories – the highest rate of bleaching corals, the decimation of bees, the deforestation caused by the demand for avocados in Mexico…. So I chose just one recent story that epitomizes our predicament of disconnection with nature.  Here’s a story I read from the Rachel Carson Council News which was origianally published in The Guardian:

The tale starts 30 years ago, when Bernie Krause made his first audio clip in Sugarloaf Ridge state park [in Sonoma County], 20 minutes’ drive from his house near San Francisco. He chose a spot near an old bigleaf maple. [This was a place I too roamed about 40 years ago.] Many people loved this place: there was a creek and a scattering of picnic benches nearby.

As a soundscape recordist, Krause had travelled around the world listening to the planet. But in 1993 he turned his attention to what was happening on his doorstep. In his first recording, a stream of chortles, peeps and squeaks erupt from the animals that lived in the rich, scrubby habitat. His sensitive microphones captured the sounds of the creek, creatures rustling through undergrowth, and the songs of the spotted towhee, orange-crowned warbler, house wren and mourning dove.

Krause has ADHD and found that no medication would work, but discovered that “The only thing that relieved the anxiety was being out there and just listening to the soundscapes,” he says.

Over the next three decades he would return each April to the spot at the bigleaf maple, set his recorder down and wait to hear what it would reveal. But in April last year, Krause played back his recording and was greeted with something he had not heard before: total silence. “I’ve got an hour of material with nothing, at the high point of spring,” says Krause. “What’s happening here is just a small indication of what’s happening almost everywhere on an even larger scale…. “A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening,” Krause wrote in 2012, in his book The Great Animal Orchestra. “The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence.”  The cause? Extreme drought, followed by extreme fires, caused by climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels.

Is this is what Rachel Carson’s prediction of Silent Spring sounds like? If so, it is sure sign of our spiritual dissonance – being out of synch with intricate ecological systems and lacking spiritual harmony with reverence for the sacredness of all life.  I and we know so many stories like this of the unraveling of our world…

Let’s take a deep breath, the Breath of Life

As I shared in the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery class that Lucy and I taught recently, over 40 years ago I felt drawn to advocacy with Native Americans because I knew that there was some repair due, given the cultural genocide that had happened. And I also sensed that their worldview, what is now commonly called indigenous, of a deep knowledge and reverence for Earth might offer a necessary healing of environmental desecration. I took direction from the American Indian Movement because I found the “New Agers” doing a lot of what I found disturbing and now know as misappropriation. I was not a “Wannabee Indian” though, as my beadwork teacher, Edna Seidner, a Wiyot Bear River member, admonished, “Don’t be a member of that tribe!” 

One of the conservationists, John Muir, is one I admire who coined the term “Land Ethic,” but who also had a blindness of racism that expressed disrespect for an indigenous way of life. A story I recently learned about this took him down from a pedestal admiration.  He was traveling with a Tlingit guide through his trip to Glacier Bay in a canoe. But when a deer appeared, Muir intentionally rocked the boat so the the Tlingit man could not shoot the deer.  More recently when conservationists attended community gathering with the Tlingit community, a leader told them, “You wonder why you haven’t been welcomed here but when you came, you took food off my plate.” 

Let take a deep breath, the Breath of Life.

In a recent reflection of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, Cherokee theologian Randy Woodley, who wrote Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview, attended a gathering for contemplative practice. The gathering was located in a large room with no windows and wall to wall orange carpet.  He wondered why weren’t they outdoors in nature instead on what was a beautiful day. He described an indigenous worldview and way of listening to the Spirit speak:In our Native way, we are more or less listening, not just to ourselves or what we would say the Spirit puts in our hearts, but to what’s going on around us. 

He points out that Jesus whole ministry, beginning with his 40 days in the wilderness drew from and spoke of nature: He was observing what was going on around him. He was listening. The reason that we know that is because when he comes back, he talks about creation for the rest of his life. He talks about flowers and birds and trees and seeds and crops and the earth, and the soil. He could have talked about all kinds of things—Roman chariots and their power and aqueducts and the ingenuity involved—but that’s not what we have a record of. What we have a record of is someone who seemed to be at peace with the quietness of creation.… 

Today we have another parable of Jesus which exemplifies what Woodley is saying about Jesus’ reliance on nature to offer metaphors for his teaching.  

I can imagine Jesus contemplating a vine, probably those grown in ancient Palestine & Israel as they do today.  In it he may have heard the same message from God that he invites us to hear. This kind of inner hearing of spiritual messages discovered through metaphors that nature offers is very familiar to me. In the book that I’ve been writing for several years my essays follow themes of spiritual revelations that I’ve heard Spirit is communicating to me through nature: Clouds, Trees,  Birds and even Insects, just to name a few. Perhaps the Holy One whispered to Jesus and so he does the said to us, inviting us, “Abide in me, as I abide in you. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. I am the vine and you are the branches.”  Abiding sounds comforting and sure.  He’s saying, “Accept me, receive me stand with me, and I will stand within you.”

Being rooted and grounded in the love of God, stimulated by the wonder of nature, both as metaphor and manifestation of resurrection,  this sermon was somewhat spurred by April being “Earth month.” And this week has also been a national Faith Climate Week.  Occurring during this Easter season of resurrection, I asked myself, “What does Jesus’ resurrection have to offer the brokenness and suffering of Earth?”  Did the resurrected Jesus, include a “resurrection love” for all Creation, not only humans?

While pondering  and praying about this to sorting out some answers, a book arrived that I’d seen referenced in one of Richard Rohr’s reflections, called Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril, by Elizabeth Johnson, a Catholic theologian, professor emeritus at Fordham University.  I’d forgotten that I’d ordered it about a month ago! So its arrival seemed like a spiritual affirmation to incorporate some very of its very relevant theology about Jesus resurrection for all of Creation.

Jesus’ death on the cross was an act of solidarity with the suffering of the world. And this includes all life, not just humans.  Jesus was understood by the early church as the manifestation of the heart of the Wisdom tradition.  According to Elizabeth Johnson, he was the Sophia of God, and being so, his life, death and resurrection were understood as inclusive of all life, not only humans.  The anthropocentric emphasis of Christian theology about salvation grew later in the history of the institutional church. She draws upon Pope Franicis encyclical Laudato Si – Care for Our Common Home – to show what she calls “deep resurrection [that] that encourages us to include every creature of flesh in the hoped-for future.”  She invites viewing incarnation in a cosmocentric rather than an anthropocentric view.  Jesus who during his physical life in the material world looked upon the natural world with wonder, awe and love, that “now risen from the dead, Christ, who, took unto himself this material world , intimately present to each creature,” and “surrounding it with his affection” as Pope Francis declares. This love is expressed “in the very flowers of the field and the birds which Jesus eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence.”

This is a resurrection love! 

Also wondered what spiritual practices can motivate us to act upon a resurrection love for Earth?

A webinar conference caught my eye “The Heart of Nature,” and seeing that one of the many teachers was the Buddhist teacher Tara Brach, whom I deeply respect, offered this answer. She distinguished two kinds of motivations for our actions drawn from Emmanuel Kant – moral acts motivated by obligation, duty or even guilt vs. beautiful acts are aligned with our heart and spirit. Healing Earth and re-weaving the web of life is a beautiful act of Resurrection Love! 

And what are the qualities of this Resurrection love? Let’s take some cues from Phillip in today’s reading from Acts.

The eunuch is on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem.  Phillip is told by the Spirit of God to go to a desolate road between Jerusalem and Gaza (between them is roughly 50 miles).  Hearing that I’ve been called to a desolate place would have caused me be fearful!  Phillip was then commanded to “climb into the chariot” with the eunuch, but he has to run and catch up with them to do so!  This certainly took fortitude and commitment to fulfill the task! Then Phillip boldly asks whether the eunuch understands the text from Isaiah the eunuch is reading from Isaiah:

33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asks for some help. “Who is this speaking of?” Filled with the Holy Spirit, Phillip’s explanation that this is about Jesus is so compelling that the Chariot was ordered to stop and Phillip baptized him right away.  So it appears that Phillip was so filled with a love fueled by the resurrection of Jesus and the everpresent Spirit of Christ that he responded with enthusiasm, en theos, of God, a Spirit filled love, filled with joy, qualities of a resurrection love!

When have we ignored the Holy Spirit calling us to “get up and go”?  I confess that when I was at silent retreat, sitting outside the lodge in the sunshine with glorious Dogwoods and Azalea’s in bloom, brilliant neon green growth of new leaves on the trees, a crystal blue sky overhead, and birdsong all around, I had to laugh at myself when I thought – I feel like the disciples who experienced such miraculous oneness and connection with all being, that they wanted to capture it, build booths and stay there forever! 

Or, when have we heard a “still small voice of God” and responded to an urging to “get up and go” like Phillip did?  Now we as the body of Christ proclaim that the Spirit of the resurrected Christ is within us….  (as Phillip exemplified)

There are many examples when I either ignored or didn’t hear such a call.  An inner voice said:

  • Go visit that elder neighbor of mine.
  • Pick up the phone and call a friend.
  • Express my feelings about something someone said to me that felt hurtful.

Other examples of when I did listen and follow:

  • Post 9/11 – I was called to respond to my own ignorance of Muslim people by creating Muslim/ non- Muslim women’s dialogue group.
  • After working at the national level for many years I heard a call to transition to local environmental faith action and education.  God provided that opportunity at Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake.
  • And now, yearning to teach young people ecological literacy. They know more brand labels and Disney characters than they do native plants and animals. So I’m creating some programs for our neighborhood families to learn about the ecological life that is native to these waters and land.

I was reminded that Mr. Rogers, a Presbyterian pastor, turned children’s mentor, taught that when you are in trouble or danger, “Look for the helpers,” those who are practicing a resurrection love!

This dear Earth, our common home, is sick and I am heartened by the helpers who are addressing the dangers to life that the whole web of life is facing. We can become the “helping and healing humans,” joining those who are alreading practicing a resurrection love for Earth.

Only in the recent decade have the big “enviro” organizations really become more inclusive of actual impacts on people of color and marginalized communities:  location of bus terminals emitting air pollution causing asthma, toxic waste sites poisoning people’s water, and chemical industries concentrated in neighborhoods where those chemicals are causing cancer, like “Cancer Alley” in LA.  Environmental organizations have been called to task about prioritizing polar bears, to the neglect of people. That’s changing! Organizations have been increasingly placing health at the center for all life, human and our other than human relatives.  Their boards and staff are more representative of the communities impacted by environmental racism.  Without a healthy planet, all life cannot be healthy. As we learned last night about the tragic suicides or deaths due to cancer caused by indebitness to the industrial agriculture system dependent on chemicals toxic to life.  Unhealthy environment = unhealthy people.

But the actions that emerge from such inclusiveness must come from love, otherwise we become beleaguered, exhausted spiritually, emotionally and physically.   

When reading this love poem from 1John we hear that:

 We love[a] because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate a brother or sister are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. 

Even Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si calls us to expand our love beyond anthropocentric “brothers and sisters “to kinship with the whole creation,” with whom we share the same source of all life, the same spiritual parentage.

The revelation of Christ’s embodiment in the whole creation was also profoundly envisioned by Teilhard de Chardin.  His words appeared as a spiritual synchronicity this week in my daily readings from Matthew Fox’s book of meditations on Christian Mystics: 

Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again these words: This is my Body. And over every death force which awaits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down speak again your astonishing words of faith, This is my blood.

Some of the healing humans I’m inspired by are:

  • “Common Ground” film farmers who are courageously practicing regenerative agriculture, unplugging from dependency on chemicals of industrial agriculture.
  • Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s Annual Report arrived this week, entitled “Spirit of Renewal” That sounds like Resurrection Love!  IPC mobilized nearly 500 advocates for environmental legislation and celebrated the passage of 3 bills including the Whole Watershed Act which will accelerate the restoration of the Chesapeake Watershed and the EmPower act giving access to marginalized communities to convert from gas to electric sources of energy.

 All of these are expressions of indigeneity – returning to a relationship with the ground upon which we live, the soil from which we feed, the air from which we breathe; learning from the native relatives, plants, bees, birds and supporting, not hindering their flourishing.

We have forgotten who and whose we are. Even if our mind has suppressed the suffering that is occurring, the loss of life and the grief we have about this, it’s in our bodies. Our bodies evolved as created by the Spirit of Life, to be attracted to

and love the lush verdant neon green which we witnessed a resurrection of nature at Dayspring last weekend. 

Why am I called to love Earth so fervently and fiercely?  For future generations –Terry Tempest Williams expresses this so eloquently:

 “If we listen to the land, we will know what to do.  We have to go deeper.  The eyes of the future are looking back at us, and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. Perhaps it is this wildness that we fear, the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wild mercy is in our hands. Our beautiful, healing hands.”

Wild mercy is in our hands and hearts.

Here are some embodied beings for whose eyes of the future I want to practice a resurrection love of action and prayer for the healing of Earth:

  • the youth worldwide of Our Children’s Trust (Show slide.) who are filing lawsuits to hold fossil fuel companies for lying about the impacts of burning their products;
  • my most amazing daughter Sage (Show slide.) and her love of animals, soil and plants;
  • my exuberant grandnephews, (Show slide.) 9 year old Colin, and 5 year old Ethan (Show slide 1.), who is learning how to care for bees from his mother Amelia, our neice. (Show slide 2.)

Taking our cues from Jesus who so often used metaphors from nature to drive home a point, let’s take a few moments to imagine ourselves as branches on the vine of Christ, rooted and ground in resurrection love. Feel your feet on dear Mother Earth.  The breath of life filling your body. The water of life flowing through your arteries and veins.  The body, blood and Spirit of Christ in your body.  Be rooted in a vine entwined with Christ in a resurrection love. As poet farmer. Wendell Berry says in the closing of his poem The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, “Practice resurrection.”   Practice a Resurrection love.

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