“We are not alone” by Sue Johnson

September 2, 2007



“We are not our own, Earth forms us”recommitment bulletin 2007

(quoting Brian Wren’s hymn)

Jer. 2:vs. 7: ”I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.

vs. 13: for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”

I come today not with answers, not as a prophet, but to lift up a concern. I come to ask the question — What can we as Seekers, both individually and as a community – do to carry out Seekers’ call to be stewards of the whole creation?

Whoa! I can’t believe I’m doing this.  God doesn’t usually call me to offer the Word in the first place.  Besides, when God does call, my language is usually dance or InterPlay.  But it has disturbed me greatly when we meet to allocate our Domestic Giving budget that not one environmental cause was represented.  What has happened to us since Kathy Cochrane, Jenneke Barton and Jeanne Marcus, those passionate, eco-conscious Seekers, left us?  Who among us has taken on the advocacy for the health of our planet? Maybe all of us need to help!

You know my Call is to dance, sacred dance, especially to InterPlay.  Surely it’s not me, God!  I’m too busy.  My plate is already too full.  Yet, as I have pondered and prayed about this ever since we made our allocations for 2007, I began to notice.  I noticed that of the myriad requests that come in the mail, I consistently put the environmental groups at the top of my list.  As much as I care about social justice and other issues, without the world of nature, we can’t exist.  I also notice how much I am fed by a walk in the woods, a mountain-top view, or vast stretches of beach, sand dunes and ocean at my beloved Cape Cod.

I’ve always been curious about why this is so — not just in my experience, but it seems to be a universal experience.  I caught a snatch of an announcement on WAMU just last week.  It was an announcement of some event that said “how a tree, a lawn, or a view from your office window can affect your sense of community.”  Community.  Interesting.  Nature is important to community?

Last Memorial Day weekend Liz Gould-Leger and I attended the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology where Bill Plotkin was the keynote speaker.  [Much later I learned that Bill led the vision quest that Peter took back when we were still at 2025, and now Katie Fisher is about to do a vision quest led by his group!]  Plotkin has spent “nearly 3 decades studying human development – specifically how the soul grows and unfolds in relationship to nature.”  For me, his was a prophetic voice of hope.  Bill Plotkin talks about eco-centric development (as opposed to ego-centric development) and offers a nature-based model for wholeness.  Quoting from the conference brochure: “His conviction is that as we evolve into individuated people – true adults and elders – we become the essential seeds for the cultural renaissance: a flowering desperately needed for our Planet’s survival.”

I began to understand that nature wasn’t just pretty to look at; that environmental causes weren’t just something extra that I could ignore if I was too busy; that I needed to bring my questions and concerns to my faith community.

I noticed that Monday night at Artists Mission Group when I shared what I’d be preaching about today, Kathy Tobias immediately popped up with a book she’s currently reading by Paul Hawken – Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming.  The largest movement in the world.  Maybe it isn’t so surprising this is coming to be part of my Call.  Hawken says: “the division between ecology and human rights was an artificial one, that the environmental and social justice movements addressed two sides of a single, large dilemma. The way we harm the earth affects all people, and how we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.”  Hawken says about his book: “This is a story without apologies about what is going on right on the planet…”   I want to read more.

Right now, let me share a few poems and writings, mostly from one of my favorite meditation books, Earth Prayers.1

“Teach your children

What we have taught our children –

That the earth is our mother.

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

if men spit upon the ground,

they spit upon themselves.

This we know.

The earth does not belong to us;

we belong to the earth.

This we know.

All things are connected

like the blood which unites one family.

All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

We did not weave the web of life;

We are merely a strand in it.

Whatever we do to the web,

we do to ourselves.”

(Chief Seattle, p.10)

“We know ourselves [permission pending]

(Susan Griffin, p. 25)

and this poem by Alan Dragoo, Adam’s Dream:

“Naming mine and me

    under the Tree,

naming pistil and seed

    stamen and bee,

naming what has been,

    what is, what is meant to be,

naming her Tiamat

    Ukhat        Ishshat    Eve

God bloomed as a crimson flower

    in aszure night and spoke

down gossamer lines of space,

    the rhythm of her voice

        creating time.  From hollows

of her breath words emerged

    like caterpillars creeping to dreams

in silken beds under green leaves.

Out of white webbed spasms of my sleep,

out from my silken dreams she comes,

    pushed and molded,

        as hands shape pliant clay

or smooth the blush of marble,

or as lovers touch, recreating their bodies.

She comes: blood and breath,

    substance of rib

        into lineaments of flesh.

She comes youth-plumed,

    beating her tissued wings –

        Arabesque in gold and lapis –

exulting her burning cry into my silver dawn.”

(1982 and 1999)

I think I notice that many or most of us are already giving to or are members of organizations that care for the Earth.  Please take a moment to write down on the scrap paper at your seats the names of all the environmental organizations of which you are now a member.  If you donate in addition to dues, or volunteer or work for that organization, make a star by its name, and sign your name.  Put these notes in the offering plate.  I will make a list of all we have named, and send it out on our All Seekers email.  My hope is that a cause will emerge to which we could contribute as a community and raise our awareness of the absolute critical importance of caring for God’s creation.

A few more poems or mediations from Earth Prayers:

“Awaken in us a sense of who we truly are: tiny ephemeral blossoms on the Tree of Life. Make the purposes and destiny of that tree our own purpose and destiny.
Fill each of us with love for our true Self, which includes all the creatures and plants and landscapes of the world. Fill us with a powerful urge for the wellbeing and continual unfolding of this Self.
May we speak in all human councils on behalf of the animals and plants and landscapes of the Earth.”

(John Seed, p. 34 – permission rec’d from John Seed 6.3.08)

“Lord, the air smells good today, straight from the mysteries

within the inner courts of God.

A grace like new clothes thrown

across the garden, free medicine for everybody.

The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,

the first blue violets kneeling.

Whatever came from Being is caught up in being, drunkenly

forgetting the way back.”

(Rumi, p. 40)

“We hear you, [permission pending]

(Joanna Macy, p. 280)

This poem on recycling from my cousin, Russ Peery:

Harvesting Water

“He never owned a rain barrel

until he was eighty –

never even dreamed of having one,

But during a serious drought

a generous neighbor gave him two –

and how could re refuse?

Connecting them required more energy

than he’d anticipated

but even so, they got connected.

And when

a brief and gentle rain came down

to be transferred from gutters into barrels

he was amazed at the volume they collected.

He wondered why it took so long

for him to learn to harvest water.”

Back to Earth Prayers.

“i thank you God [permission pending]

(EE Cummings, p. 241)

I close with one that has spoken to my heart for along time.  It is by Manitongquat.

“Hear, O Humankind, the prayer of my heart

[permission pending].”

(Manitongquat, pp. 124-125)

I quote again:

“Hear, of Humankind, the prayer of my heart

[permission pending]



1 Earth Prayers From around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth
By Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon


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