Sermon: Healing Ourselves, Our Earth, Our Relationships
This summer, we’ve been speaking about the gifts of Creation, their beauty and diversity, the ways in which all living things are a blessing from God. Our reading from John today, reminds us of the love that God has shared with us from the moment of our birth and of the love which we are invited to extend to others and to our precious earth. In our speaker series, Rekindling Love for Our Living Earth, we have heard from some wonderful speakers, including some in our local community who have been sharing important insights and research as well as hope for the care and healing of our sacred earth. We know we live in sacred relationship with every other living thing. Our food, our health, our homes, our vocations are all part of an interconnected community. Creation hangs in the balance when we forget this connection. We have witnessed over the past few years the ways in which we have forgotten this sacred connection, when some in our nation forget that we belong to one another, when some seek to cause division and hatred, and the kinds of harm that have been done to individuals, to the health of our community as well as to the health of our planet as a result. How many of us feel that some part of us has been harmed by what we have all been through? How many of us are in need of healing and hope? Let us pray, O God of comfort and mercy, touch each of us with your love, help us find what we need to heal the broken pieces of ourselves and inspire us to help be a part of the healing of our precious earth. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
A few weeks ago, I saw a wonderful piece on CBS Sunday morning about a gentleman in Florida who serves as a couselor, a listener and confidant to whoever passes by. He extends his love and presence to strangers who have become friends, to those who are in need of a good listener and some wise advice. The correspondent explained, “When the sun rises, Al Nixon sits for his impromptu therapy sessions. Nixon isn’t a trained therapist — he actually works for the city water department. But in the early morning hours, he’s a trusted confidant and counselor to whoever passes by. Nixon, however, doesn’t do a lot of talking during the sessions. “Listening is the number one skill all mankind needs to know how to do very well,” he said. When Nixon started coming to the bench seven years ago, the therapy was for him. He needed a quiet place to clear his head, and the last thing he wanted was to hear other people’s problems. But then a woman he had never met told him something he’ll never forget. “She said, ‘Every day I see you, I know everything is going to be OK.’ And that made me realize that when you speak to someone, or you smile, you let them know, ‘I value you.’ And people pick that up,” Nixon said. Sometimes he’s in high demand, one woman said. “When I walk by, sometimes I don’t even get a chance to chat with him because there are other people waiting in line,” she said. In appreciation of him, Nixon’s faithful friends put a plaque on his bench that said, “A loving and loyal friend and a confidant to many. Forever and always.” This gentleman has brought healing to others by his kind presence, his openness and his ability to listen carefully to the concerns of others. He is a healer.
Last week, several of us watched the award-winning film, Kiss the Ground, as one of the offerings from our Speaker Series. I highly recommend that you take time to watch it as it is available through Netflix. While it presented some of the grave and deeply upsetting realities about climate change, it also offered important and hopeful solutions to healing our sacred earth. As the NYT writes, “the film makes a case for the healing power of soil, arguing that its capacity to sequester carbon could be the key to reversing the effects of climate change. The film begins by examining how tilling and the use of pesticides have led to soil erosion, and then traces the damage done to our ecology, health and climate. The filmmakers find a solution in regenerative farming, an ethical practice designed to restore degraded lands and facilitate carbon drawdown. At one point, the film brings us to North Dakota, where a regenerative rancher stands at the boundary between his lush acreage and his neighbor’s denuded farmland; there was amazing footage of the Loess Plateau in China before and after restorative methods were used to restore lush greenery to what had become a barren land. “(NYT, Sept 22, 2020, Natalia Winkelman)
Ultimately, the film left me feeling hopeful that all of us can do our part to show love for our earth. It was also a wonderful reminder that there are many people and organizations who are trying new and innovative approaches to regeneration that could hold an important key to healing our soil and thus healing our earth.
Matthew Fox wrote in his book on Creation Spirituality that “Compassion – understood as living out our interdependence in celebration and in justice making – is the goal of the creation spirituality journey. Thus, creation spirituality liberates us from our complacency to our potential as divine agents of compassion,” He continues, “Compassion is a kind of fire ( Theologian Thomas Aqnuinas says compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth) – it disturbs, it surprises, it ignites, it burns, it sears, and it warms. Compassion incinerates denial; it especially warms and melts cold hearts, cold structures, frozen minds, and self-sastisfied life-styles. Those who are touched by compassion have their lives turned upside down. That is not necessarily a bad thing.” (97)
We understand that love, divine love, the love that Jesus spoke about daily in his travels and in his ministry, that love is at the heart of God’s desire for us. That love inspires within us a compassion for all living things and can serve as the catalyst to seek healing for ourselves in whatever ways we most need in this time in history, after such a long, arduous journey. It is this compassion for the earth which can serve to renew our hope and our determination to help heal all of God’s creation.
If you feel that deep need for healing within your own life and within the world, please do pause, take care of yourself in the ways you need; take the time to be compassionate toward yourself and others. Eventually, this may lead all of us to continue the work of healing our precious planet. Amen.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God look upon you with kindness and give you peace. Amen.