Love. Revere. Discover. Connect.

April 19, 2009: “Earth Day: Listen to Your Mother”

Opening Words

Richard S. Gilbert

Beatitudes for Earth Sunday
Blessed are the heavens,
for they declare the power of creation.
Blessed is the earth, our beloved home,
for she is a planet of plenitude.

Blessed are the waters thereon,
for they gave rise to living things.
Blessed is the land,
for it is the source of life abundant.

Blessed is the air we breathe,
for it fires us to life and love.
Blessed are the beasts of the field,
for they are glorious to behold.

Blessed are the birds of the air,
for they carve a graceful arc in the sky.
Blessed are the mountains and the seas and the valleys,
for their variety makes rich our habitat.

Blessed are the fields of grain, the orchards of fruit,
for they give sustenance, asking nothing in return.
Blessed are the dwellers on earth,
for they cherish the privilege of living upon it.

Blessed are they who protect the earth and all her creatures,
from the plants of the field to the trees of the forest,
for their reward shall be harmony with the web of existence.
Rejoice, and be glad,
for the earth and her people are one.

Source: In the Holy Quiet of This Hour: A Meditation Manual, by Richard S.
Gilbert, Boston: Skinner House Books, 1995.

Vern Barnet
I pledge allegiance to the earth and all life

I pledge allegiance to the earth and all life:
the fields and streams, the mountains and seas,
the forests and deserts, the air and soil,
all species and reserves, habitats and environments;
one world, one creation, one home, indivisible for all,
affected by pollution anywhere, depleted by any waste,
endangered by greedy consumption, degradation by faithlessness;
preserved by recycling, conservation, and reverence,
the great gift renewed for all generations to come.
protected, preserved by reducing, reusing, recycling.
With conservation and reverence,
the great gift renewed for all generations to come.

I pledge allegiance to the earth on which I stand,
and to the environment of which I am a part,
one planet in a Process, with soil, water and air like one body,
indivisible, with resources to be cherished and protected by all.

A man was given a tour of hell by the devil. This is the area where we keep people who have violated the food taboos of their religion says the Devil. Behind this door are the Catholics who ate meat on Fridays. Behind the next door are Jews who ate pork. And behind the third door are Unitarian Universalists. The man looks puzzled. The Devil clarified They didn't drink fair-trade coffee.

I find it interesting that there are five primary belief designations for UUs in most national surveys. The first three are traditional. Theist, Christian and Humanist and the last of course is other, but the fourth designation and actually the third most popular after humanist and theist is earth-centered. at almost 20 per cent. That wasn't even a category 20 years ago. So this Earth Day becomes even more important to we UUs. Michael Dow and his wife Connie Barrow, who spoke here recently, I think have become very popular among UUs, though they are Christian Earth-centered Evolutionary theologians with best-selling books and we my favorite spiritual nature writer is Annie Dillard, who though not a UU herself is married to a historian and biographer, Robert D. Richardson, who wrote the biographies, - Emerson: The Mind on Fire " and one on Thoreau. But I also recommend Chet Raymo, Skeptics and True Believers: Exhilarating Connection Between Science & Religion, among his many books. He is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Stonewall College, in Easton, Massachusetts. His weekly newspaper column Science Musings appeared in the Boston Globe for 20 years. I hope to read his latest book,  When God is Gone Everything is Holy: The Making of a Religious Naturalist, while Im in the hospital, published by of all people, Ave Maria Press !

Here's how they describe this new book: Chet Raymo, author of sixteen books, steps into the fray between science and religion and seeks to delineate a new perspective, forged from both the rigorous standards of the academy and the reverence for creation born of the Catholic sacramental tradition. As a scientist, Raymo holds to the skepticism that accepts only verifiable answers, and replies to life's ultimate questions with the agnostic response, I don't know. "But as a religious naturalist, he never ceases his pursuit of the beautiful and terrible mystery that soaks creation, diminished by any name we give it. Faith no longer matters to me, he says, so much as attention, celebration, wonder, and praise.

In what he describes as a late-life credo, Raymo traces a half-century journey from traditional faith-based Catholicism to scientific agnosticism. The point of religion, he asserts, is to celebrate the unfathomable mystery of creation. Thus he believes, My work as a teacher and writer has been to discover glimmers of the Absolute in every particular, and praise what I find.

Raymo takes the reader on a tour de force of science, philosophy, theology, and literature as he gathers together the rich array of voices of his many traveling companions. With wonderfully detailed anecdotes Raymo brings to life a diverse cadre of mentors such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Darwin, and Teilhard de Chardin. With wit and insight he brings forth an array of quotes from the likes of Blaise Pascal, Albert Einstein, Meister Eckhart and John Updike.

Whether exploring the connection of the human body to the stars or the meaning of prayer of the heart, Raymo's challenging and engaging reflections will cause believers and agnostics alike to pause and pay attention.

I find myself reading many of these nature writers and finding s deep spirituality there that is that earth-centeredness I think that we talk about in UUism, that Emerson and Thoreau certainly spoke of more than 150 years ago. Indeed, Emerson's first book, his initial work on Transcendentalism, if you will, which is what I think  true UUism is today, was titled. simply, Nature, but it sure wasnt simple! I will argue that it was the beginning of the earth centered tradition that we are now talking about as an official position or faith stance. Even the pagan and or Wiccan movement, I think, owes some of its popular revival to the earth-centeredness of Emerson and Thoreau's influence being rediscovered, especially by UUism, but also by many of the contemporary nature writers of today that combine the spiritual with the nature herself even within Christianity.

Annie Dillard writes:  "Is nature whole, like a completed thought? Is history purposeful? Is the universe of matter significant? I am sorry; I do not know" (LBF, 185). "Evolution loves death," Dillard seems convinced, "more than it loves you or me" "Every day is a god. Each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors spreading, at dawn fast over the mountains split."

So earth day is a time to remind us of the spiritual dimension of the earth our mother and of our connection, our interconnectedness, our interdependence.

In his great book, The Tao of Physics , Quantum Physicist and inspirational writer, Fritjof Capra speaks of the of blending of science and religion, quantum physics and Eastern religion, especially Taoism, in a away that even I can appreciate.

"The Tao, says Capra, is the cosmic process in which all things are involved; the world is seen as continuous flow and change...One of the most important insights of the Taoists was the realization that transformation and change are essential features of nature... Acting in harmony with nature thus means for the Taoist, acting spontaneously and according to one's true nature. It means trusting one's intuitive intelligence, which is innate in the human mind just as the laws of change are innate in all things around us..." He goes on to say, "... the careful observation of nature, combined with a strong mystical intuition, led the Taoist sages to profound insights which are confirmed by modern scientific theories."

In other words, science is now catching up with the mystical religions that have been telling us that we are all one all connected and interconnected. There is a Christian group called National Religious Partnership for the Environment that says: "If -- as is often the case -- the crisis of climate change is discussed primarily as a debate about scientific evidence, or about technological solutions, or about complex economic strategies, then those topics are a stretch for most church groups. That's not how we understand our mission, and that's not where we have our expertise. But if we see global warming as a moral and ethical issue that deals with the relationships among human communities, future generations and with the whole creation, then we're getting into religious territory. If we see climate change as a symptom of a flawed understanding about the meaning of life, then we're addressing an area where the church has great expertise. If Earth's deep distress is -- at its heart -- a human problem and not a technological one, then we in the churches should have a decent sense of how to talk about it."

From Eco-Justice Notesby Rev. Peter Sawtell, Eco-Justice Ministries:
Contemporary environmental problems raise profound questions about the meaning and direction of human life, and about the value and purpose of community of life that surrounds and sustains us. Humankind must better understand its role in the greater web of life. Reversing the accelerating destruction of habitat requires a transformation of heart and spirit. These are the perennial concerns of religion.

For them, right relationship with the natural world cannot be realized apart from justice right relationships within the human community. The environment is the whole community of life, and the uniqueness of the human presence is integral to it. A healthy human ecology, then, is essential to a healthy planetary ecology. Our cities, as much as our rural areas and wildlands, need care and restoration if this world is to properly reflect the love and wisdom of the Spirit that gives life to the whole creation. Human intelligence and creativity, working in harmony with the divine ordering of creation, is something to be celebrated and affirmed.

Furthermore, for people of faith, there is always an element of wonder and delight at the glory and majesty of the Creators handiwork that still shines within a broken and battered world. Such joy never obscures the seriousness of our ecological situation, but provides a necessary counterpoint to concern. People of faith labor in the power of a hope that enables them to carry on, even in the face of daunting obstacles to ecological integrity and justice.

Growing as it does out of the core affirmations of Jewish and Christian faith the love of God and the love of neighbor care for the environment rightly permeates the whole fabric of religious life. It belongs in a congregations worship, education, landscaping and architecture, daily operations and service to the wider community, as well as its participation in discussions of public policy. Accordingly, creation care is not limited to being a function of a particular office within a denominational structure or of a specifically environmental religious organization. In colleges and seminaries, hospitals and relief and development agencies, rural and urban ministries wherever the work of the Creator is honored and the human need for the life-sustaining gifts of the earth are met with intelligence and foresight, creation care happens.

Finally, this work proceeds best when each religious community is allowed to be itself to draw on its own unique traditions and resources, to find the appropriate points of entry for its own members, to set its own agenda and develop its own programs. Cooperation among faith communities is most effective when each partner brings the strength of its own identity and purpose in pursuit of a common end.

We tend to think that traditional Christina churches are all conservative and just waiting for God to fix things, but as we can see, there are many progressive Christians who are also active in the environmental justice movement as well on this earth day Sunday.

I hope our church can also become more involved with the wider interfaith environmental movement as well as our UU environmental movement. I I found that they had a lot of information for earth day worships services that I wasn't aware of including order of worship covers we could have used, so next year, well know where to go for these resources!

The group is called UU Ministry for the Earth .org in Lyme, NH  and their mission statement is : We envision a world in which all people make reverence, gratitude, and care for the living Earth central to their lives. Our purpose is to inspire, facilitate and support personal, congregational, and denominational practices that honor and sustain the earth and all beings. We affirm and promote the 7 principles of the UUA including Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

 This is all to say that earth day and environmental issues are deeply spiritual and scientific, a combination of science and religion, not either or, that global warming should not mean that We can just pray that God will turn down the cosmic heat and let it go at that, or indeed e might ask why God seems to be turning up the heat, because, of course, it is we who re turning up the heat of the world and the climate, we with our lifestyle of conspicuous consumption that might as well just be holding the globe over a Bunsen burner or bonfire.

There just isn't any reputable science that is now doubting global warming, though I did note that Cleveland does seem to be left out of it for some reason in an article in the Plain Dealer!  Or that each of us must do our part do help save the environment because we are all part of it part of that interdependent web which we talk about in our purposes and principles. 

Psalm 104 adapted by Robyn Kermes

Contemplating the intricate wonderful web of creation,
I am touched by the sacred
to the depths of my soul.

The wind whispers to all the earth of the ever changing changeless;
Fire and flame are the instruments of transformation.
Each element working together in the Dance of Life.

Clear, cold springs gush forth in the valleys,
They burble up in the hidden places between the hills,
Giving drink to all the animals who live there.

The earth effortlessly brings forth food,
Wine to gladden the human heart, Oil to make the face shine,
And bread to strengthen the body’s limbs.

The circle of the season is marked by the moons ebb and flow;
The sun knows its times for setting,
Completing the circle of the day.

Darkness comes round and it is night,
When all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
When the sun rises, they withdraw and rest.

May we learn to live in harmony
with the energies and Rhythms embedded into the Earth,
That we may appreciate the glory of creation forever.

Benediction: Wangari Maathai, from her Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech
We are called to assist the earth,
to heal her wounds and in the process, heal our own-
indeed, to embrace the whole creation
in all it s diversity, beauty, and wonder.

Let us all find our way to do our part.
Let us love our mother the earth; let us listen to her.

Amen, Peace, Love, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be,Namaste, Abrazo a Todos, Vaya con su Dios