From The Rev.Deacon Terrance Goodpasture, TSSF
St. James Cathedral, Fresno
Earth Our Neighbor
In a recent Friday Reflection we were invited by Bishop David to join Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and all Episcopalians in pledging to take action to protect and renew God’s world and all who call it home.
“But ask the animals and they will teach you,
or the birds of the sky and they will tell you.
Or speak to the earth and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea declare to you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has
in whose hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all the human race?” (Job 12:7-10)
In these lyrical phrases, the Book of Job exhorts the human person to be open and ready to be taught by animals, birds, fish, and indeed, the earth itself. This passage calls us to be stewards with nature, not over nature. It resonates deeply with those who have been touched by the wonderful richness of the Franciscan tradition.
As a Franciscan, I understand creation to be the outpouring of God’s love into the universe. Creation reveals to us God’s love for us and God’s beauty, which is why Franciscans call creation “the mirror of God” and that God has two books of creation-Sacred Scripture and creation.
St. Francis of Assisi is widely acclaimed as the pre-eminent example of Christian care for creation. Francis recognized God’s work in creation, and loved it. He celebrated the beauty of God in creation, and loved God all the more for this gift. Francis was foremost a follower of Jesus, but in him there was no tension between loving God and loving all creatures of God. His life inspires faith in Jesus Christ and care for creation.
Francis’ famous composition popularly called, “The Canticle of the Creatures,” celebrates his passionate and sensory love of creation. It conveys in Francis’ own voice his experience of creation. Francis reveled in the sun, gazed upon the stars, danced with the air, was drawn to the fire, marveled at water, and caressed the earth. The Canticle’s vivid images emerged from Francis’ sustained contact with the elements and his prayer with the psalms and Gospels. The Canticle discloses Francis’ recognition of creation as an expression of God’s generous love, and that creation has inherent value, not because of its material or instrumental value to humans, but because it is created by God.
The example of Francis can inspire us to respond to the cry of the Earth with love, compassion, and generosity. We cannot simply mimic him, but we can look to his example as we formulate our own vocational responses to a world of environmental crises.
As it becomes increasingly clear that we have disrupted the delicate balance of the Earth’s climate, we can easily become overwhelmed by the enormity of environmental challenges.
Nonetheless, God loves the human family more than we can ask or imagine. Because of God’s abundant love for us, and for our survival as God’s beloved creation, we must commit ourselves to engage this issue with wisdom, prudence, prayer, and an open heart.
I urge you to go to https://dfms.formstack.com/forms/creationcarepledge and take the pledge to care for God’s world in concrete and tangible ways.