On earth as in heaven

April 25th, 2023

Jesus paused to let saliva pool in his mouth and then launched it into the dirt at his feet. He bent down and mixed the two to form mud. Then, Jesus gathered it on his fingertips and pressed the mixture over another’s eyes. He offered a healing touch with earthen things. The atoms around him and of him were there in the beginning with our Triune God. Christ was there as an intimate witness to the creation of each microscopic element. Then, with conception, these same particles formed the body of Jesus. Jesus Christ’s relationship with creation is one of intimacy and kinship. Christ is present with, and Jesus is made of (just like us), the same matter from the beginning, simply arranged in ever-changing forms.

I once imagined Jesus' relationship to the soil, water, fruits, and creatures as wielding power over these created elements to perform miracles. But, upon further reflection, this is not how Jesus relates to power or others. In his life and ministry, Christ gives power to others, not over them. And he partners with creation for the healing of our world. Jesus Christ’s relationship with all creation, sentient and insentient, is intimate, known wholly from the beginning, and named by God as good. Jesus’s relationship with water, soil, bread, and all of creation reveals a deep connection. He models kinship with the earth as a created being in right relationship with Creator, Spirit, and the world around him. 

The Social Principles outline this relationship for us:

“Rather than treating creation as if it were placed here solely for humanity’s use and consumption, we are called to practice responsible stewardship and to live in right relationship with the Creator and with the whole of God’s creation(Gen. 1:26-31; Matt. 6:26-30; Rom. 8:22-24). We are also called to honor the role of every part of creation in healing the whole; thus, we praise God with the whole of creation (Ps. 148) and recognize that we are part of complex ecosystems, all valued by God…We recognize we are interconnected members of complex ecosystems, intricate webs of life, all of which have their origins in God’s gracious act of creation.”

Our Earth is groaning. We have neglected a loving, right relationship with creation for far too long. We have forgotten our shared language and true kinship. There is a holy invitation to see the restoration of this relationship as paramount to our discipleship as Christians. As we receive grace and respond to grow in the love of God and neighbor, our neighbor expands beyond our brother and sister in Christ to our Mother Earth, Brother Wind, and Sister Water. There is an invitation for us to practice holy listening and loving response. 

Judges 19 is referred to, by scholar Phyllis Trible, as one of the “texts of terror.” A husband and his wife/concubine were traveling. As dusk came, they went door to door, looking for a place to stay. Finally, a man welcomed them into his home and extended hospitality to the travelers. As night came, so did a gang of wicked men. They heard of the visitors staying in the town and went to the man’s house, banging on the door and demanding, “Bring out your guests so that we may abuse them!” Fear filled the home. The host said he would not offer the husband but instead would offer his daughter or the husband’s wife/concubine. But the corrupt men continued to threaten them, pounding on the door. In a blink of an eye, the guest grabbed his own wife/concubine and threw her out to them. The unnamed woman offered to the wicked men was gang raped and abused throughout the night. The story reads, 

Then at daybreak, the woman came and collapsed at the entrance of the house in which her husband was a guest, where she lay until the morning. When her husband rose that day and opened the door of the house to start out again on his journey, there lay the woman, his concubine, at the entrance of the house with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Come, let us go,” but there was no answer.” (Judges 19:26-30, NAB)

The mental image of the woman, hands at the threshold, brings me to tears every time. Why did they not stop to think of another way? Why, after they made the mistake of throwing her to those men, did they not wake up their neighbors, grab every pot and chair to rally, and charge in to save her? How did they not listen to her cries and come together in time? 

Sadly, humans’ dominant relationship with our Earth is not far from this tragic story. Our Earth is the unnamed woman. Humans have allowed perceived threats to their safety, status, productivity, and acceptance to create catastrophic levels of terror for humankind. The result is that we have sacrificed the unnamed woman, our Earth, over and over again. We have sacrificed the Earth for too long, assuming She will be okay and ready to continue with us into the next part of our story. But some hear Her cries in the night. Now is the time for us to sacrifice together, to intervene. Let us not wait till dawn to respond to Her cries, for it will be too late. Our Mother needs us to respond now in every way we can. 

Christians are called to do everything in love. Love requires a relationship free from abuse, neglect, or forced submission. It asks for deep listening, full presence, patience, and care. Let us wake our neighbors, churches, and leaders and grab every pot and chair to do what we can to stop the violence against Her. Let us then repent and beg Her forgiveness. Let us learn Her name(s) beginning with your town’s water source and your family’s food source. Next, let us learn the names of your local organic farmers and conservationists that can teach us the practice of deep listening to care for Her healing. But let us do this all together. 

We can learn to love and honor what Jesus knew in mixing water and soil for a conduit of his healing touch, that loving Her begins with a conscious connection to the soil at your feet, the bird out your window, the water in your cup. And maybe, in doing so, we will find God’s kin(g)dom come, God’s will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven in the community of creation before it is too late. Lord, have mercy on us, sinners. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession and Lament

Lord, we confess, “Overconsumption, shortsighted policies, poor management of natural resources, and other unsustainable practices have severely impacted the fragile, natural ecosystems on which all of life depends. Too often, humankind has treated the rest of the created world as if it were disposable and allowed the destruction of other living organisms and their natural habitats to go unchecked. Further, the experiences and voices of people most at risk have largely been ignored.”

Lord, we grieve, “...the human activities that have contributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases…[which] has resulted in a steady rise in sea levels, growing acidification of the world’s oceans, increased droughts and famines, and the intensification of extreme weather events. Climate scientists warn that the window of opportunity…is rapidly closing. Without concerted action by individuals, churches, communities, shareholders, businesses, governments, and international organizations, the negative effects will become irreversible.”

Lord, we ask for your guidance, strength, and healing powers as “participants in and beneficiaries of complex natural ecosystems made up of myriads of symbiotic relationships….” 

Embolden us to care for your creation, “In pursuing alternatives to fossil fuels…transitioning from an overreliance on fossil fuels…developing and deploying alternative sources of energy…by investing in strategies that support people in successfully transitioning to new employment, strengthen the social safety net to deal with the loss….”

Let this not elicit, in any one of us, a spirit of paralyzing fear, hopelessness, or frantic cycles of fixing and burnout, but let our hearts and actions turn to serve one another and You with a deep, Christ-like love for Your creation.  

Holy Spirit, forgive us, heal us, and embolden us in and with You,


comments powered by Disqus