I called my mom Monday night so we could compare notes on Irma. “I went out to see if I could get some gas,” she told me. “But Mom! Everybody’s supposed to stay indoors until Tuesday!” “I know,” she said. “But I only have 4 gallons of gas. I wanted to go out and see if any gas stations were open. None were.” Which meant she now had less than 4 gallons. “How am I going to get to my bridge games without gas?” That’s my mom. 🙂
I suspect Mom mostly wanted to see what damage the storm had done. She mentioned that trees were down, some of them twisted off, as if they’d been hit by tornadoes. “It was a ghost town,” Mom said. Because everyone else was staying home like they were supposed to!!!
The pull to see damage done by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is strong, isn’t it? All that water. All that destruction. Or the flooding and mudslides in southern Asia and Africa. I’m not sure what that’s about, the need to see pictures of the aftermath of natural disasters. Maybe it’s because we’re just trying to wrap our minds around it. Seeing houses submerged in several feet of water is surreal. It takes a minute for our minds to make sense of what we’re seeing. Imagining the devastating loss to the houses’ owners and what it will take to clean up and rebuild…that can get overwhelming very fast. Or maybe we view those pictures out of relief that we can view them…that we’re safely ensconced in our own homes, watching the coverage on our TVs or laptops, gazing out on our dry yards.
Or maybe…we seek out pictures of natural disasters because we want to see how our family’s doing…not our family family (unless they were in the path of the storm). Our creation family.
A couple weeks ago, we looked at Psalm 139:15 which says, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” That image of being “intricately woven in the depths of the earth”– there is a sense in which dirt runs through our veins, isn’t there?…because we are one with creation. We are part of creation.
The theme of our kinship—our one-ness–with creation continues today in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Creation suffers; we suffer. Creation groans; we groan. Creation is not yet what it will be; we aren’t yet what we will be. Creation awaits–hopes for–redemption, for transformation. We also await and hope for redemption and transformation. And God’s Spirit intercedes for us all–we ourselves and the rest of creation, too. God’s Spirit seeks only and always to act all of creation, including ourselves, into wellbeing.
This text is rich, theologically dense. It would be a delight to take it apart layer by layer and experience all the wisdom it has to offer…but that would take long enough we’d probably have to stay overnight. I don’t want to wear anyone out before we host Family Promise.
So, I invite us to focus on the first two verses, which read: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” Paul acknowledges the suffering of the present age. Paul was well-acquainted with suffering. As a Pharisee, he’d inflicted a lot of it. As a Christian missionary, he’d received a lot of it.
In these verses, Paul sets suffering in its larger context. Why is there suffering in the first place? He asks. It’s because we’ve been created–human beings and the rest of creation–with a sell-by date. Decay of our bodies, of creation’s body, is part of lived experience. Our sell-by date, though, is a gift. When we know our finitude, life becomes more precious…the desire to make it better, to grow, to act it into wellbeing has more meaning.
…which is why, I suspect, Paul says– “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” Creation waits for human beings to become who they are created by God to be because as human beings become who they are created by God to be, creation will be empowered to become more fully itself, as well. Creation longs, is desperate for human beings to become our best selves. Its survival depends on it. Because we are all connected. We’re all related. We’re all part of the same family. We are kin.
In all the debate we hear these days about climate change and earth care and deregulation, that’s the piece that always seems to be missing. It’s like creation is something apart from us, something we have to control or protect. It’s like creation is some thing that’s completely separate from us.
This idea that we are kin with creation isn’t just a theological concept; it’s also a scientific fact. NASA scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson said this: “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
I wonder how all the debates about climate change would change if we remembered—and felt—our kinship with earth? I wonder how our prayers might change?
So…how shall we pray for creation? How shall we love it? How shall we act creation into wellbeing?
I could tell you how to pray for creation; I could give you a list. I could tell you how to love creation, how to act it into wellbeing…but each of you has your own relationship with creation. Praying for creation isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Each of us prays for creation in our own way, based on our own personal relationship with it. You’re going to know way better than I will what way is best for you to pray for creation.
So, here’s what let’s do. Take a few minutes to either turn around in your chair and look out the windows, or look out the doors and reconnect with creation. You might also remember a time when you were out in creation…if so, put yourself back in that place. Close your eyes if you need to. Do you want to know how to pray for creation, how to love it, how to act it into wellbeing? Ask it… (Three minutes of silence)
Each of us prays for creation in our own way. Some of us with words, some of us with silence, some of us with groans…some of us pray with outdoor play, while others of us pray with advocacy… And some of us just sit quietly in meditation. We have many ways to pray for creation. As we close, hear how St. Francis prayed for and through creation in the 13th century.
Praised be You, my beloved, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my beloved, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my beloved, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.
That’s how Francis prayed creation. How will you pray for creation? How will you love it? How will you act it into wellbeing? (Silence)
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2017