Here in the season of creation, we are looking at the issue of land/ground/soil. We have as our scripture the exquisite beauty of Psalm 139 “intricately formed from the earth” – the sense of awe, deep connection etc, and then we have these two brief passages from Genesis, literally the book of beginnings – and we read of how everything has gone awry.
In the scriptures this week we see humankind linked to the land, and both humans and the land as elements of God’s creation. The spirit of God is present throughout all creation; when humans break the relationship with God, the relationship with the land is also broken.
Please see these passages from Genesis as description rather than prescription. God did not go into a million year pout because someone ate a piece of fruit. I hope we are clear on this. Imagine sitting around a nomadic campfire 4000 years ago… life is hard – infant and maternal mortality is high, crops fail, tribes fight over land and resources and have to figure out who to trade with and who to avoid or destroy and so they tell of this story of paradise lost.
Hopefully we hear these stories afresh today, in a way that warns when we break our relationship with the Creator, and our created purpose, we break the relationship with the land… and when we break our relationship with the land, our respect for the land, we lose respect for the Creator and all other created beings.
The willful blindness is unbearable to witness – Canada’s breaking of it’s own Kyoto accord commitments, Kinder-Morgan just cut protected trees in (Burnaby?) in anticipation of tripling its pipeline…
Our federal government is still banking on big oil to save us while Ireland has just given a $5000 rebate to citizens who buy electric cars, plus a $5000 tax break and for the first 2000 purchases, they are installing charging stations at no cost. Why do we continue to win the fossil award of the nations? It’s not just an embarrassment, I believe it’s immoral and in violation of our Judeo-Christian faith.
Thus Jim and I and our honourary grandchildren will be at the Global (People’s) Climate Change March in Salmon Arm next Saturday, gathering at McGuire Lake – and we’d love to see you all there. We’d hoped to have a fabulous banner made in time, (it will get made) but in the meantime, we have cardboard and a felt pen – hey, it’s a start! There will be marches next Saturday and Sunday around the world in anticipation of the UN World Climate Summit on Sept 23rd.
And so we consider our relationship with the land this day. The Seasons of the Spirit curriculum offers this reflection:
“Land is an important aspect shaping people, cultures, identity, and practices. Land contributes to the sense of being a people who belong in or to a particular place. People develop a deep attachment to the land in which they were born, live, or generations before them have lived. National identity is often attached to land. Borders are defined to determine which land belongs to whom.
Throughout the world, there are many people who are displaced from their land. Could it be that Sheol (the “pit,” the “place of the dead”) is being in a land that you don’t want to be in? What does it feel like to be unable to return to your land, your place, your country?
In Australia, vastly different appreciations of land have rubbed up against each other in the formation of identity. These have often been painful differences. Probably, the most devastating impact was from the description of the land of Australia by Europeans, particularly from Britain, as “terra nullius” (land belonging to no one). Land could be acquired/taken because it belonged to no one. For the indigenous people of Australia, land is a connection. (see “The Land and Me” on p. 55).
A very similar situation exists in Canada, and we are still dealing with land claims – and that is a whole study in and of itself!
We have national and personal connections to land. I share with you a wee personal story. When my family moved to Ft Nelson in the mid 1960’s there was a completely undeveloped city block between our house and the house of my best friend Cindy. There was a path through this `wilderness’ and I loved to walk or gallop through along the path, through the poplar trees, feeling the soft bounce of the earth under my feet, until I reached the clearing, and crossed the street to knock on Cindy’s door so we could walk to school together.
Many things have changed since 1966. Cindy’s house burned down several years later and sat abandoned until finally an apartment building was put up on the site. That wonderful wilderness now has houses properly appointed on equally measured lots, but – the house I grew up in, and the land on which it sits, remains intact. It is my connection with the land. It is my home base. My parents still live there.
My children grew up in a much more mobile world – they have no home where they can say they `grew up.’ And yet, they share this sense of `home base’ this sense of land, this 100’ by 150’lot in the middle of a town in northern B.C., and they have a sense of belonging to it.
What piece of land do you connect with?
What makes it significant?
If you don’t have a connection to a place, where would you like that place to be?
Time for sharing… (Several members of the congregation shared impromptu stories of their connection to a particular place/landscape. )