I am tempted to begin my writing for The Ecological Disciple with a litany of what is wrong: our warming planet, rising oceans, and unstable climate; our addiction to consumption and the resulting streams of waste; our penchant to place the burdens of our greed on the ecosystems of the earth, the backs of the poor, and the inheritance of future generations; and our deeply roooted religious complicity and indifference. I am tempted to begin with righteous anger, to thunder like an Old Testament prophet about how all this is WRONG and MUST BE CHANGED! I am tempted to begin with grief, to describe the deep sadness I feel for what we have already lost.
If you are kind enough to read future posts of mine, you will read the litany, hear the anger, and feel the grief – they are important, and chances are you already share them. But I have learned over the years that anger and grief come from something much deeper and fundamental within us, emerging from the same force that fuels our moments of joy, our sense of wonder, our acts of kindness and, most important of all, our hope. This hope is the intuitive sense that, despite the tragic trajectory we have set ourselves on, we are irrevocably woven within a Web of Being that pulses with purpose, guided by a Presence that reassures us of the essential goodness of life.
This fundamental force behind our varied responses to the world is love. By this I mean the love that is at the heart of all that is, the relentless affection that emanates from the heart of God to create stars and starfish, Earth and earthlings, you and me. This is the love that sustains us and, when we have succumbed to despair or weakness or trial, points us back to the way forward like a cairn or a candle in the night. This is the love that sometimes burns so brightly that moments become etched in our souls like waymarkers: the gaze of a newborn baby, the fire of first love, an encounter with injustice; an indescribable sunrise; an unspoken prayer met with unspeakable Presence.
This is the all-encompassing love that forever bound God to the created world in Jesus; the love that compelled him to walk the way of the Cross and then pulled him from the grave; the love that even now is actively making all things new. This love is no theological abstraction, for it is the same love that binds us to the created world and calls us to follow Jesus in the difficult and joyful work of renewal.
This is where we start the journey – in love.
Every generation must discover what it means to say yes to this journey, yes to this love. For us who live in this time of great ecological, social, and spiritual upheaval, I believe we must discover what it means to be ecological disciples, committed to finding and following Jesus in the corners of creation where we live and breathe, the particular places where our personal lives, social networks, watersheds, foodsheds, and bioregions create a unique intersection within God’s great Web of Being. This means learning to love these places, in all their particular beauty, tragedy, and ambiguity. It means keeping our hearts open to everything around us – the land, water, creatures, people, and ourselves – so that we can see and share the divine affection in all that we encounter, and so that we can experience the inevitable heartbreak that love brings without retreating behind a wall of cynicism or despair. To love is to be drawn deeper into our places, which is to say deeper into the heart of God.
This is the journey I am on, taken with faltering and faithful steps. We live in difficult times, which means it is a difficult journey. But I have been guided and blessed by others on the way, and the longer I persist, the more alive and loving I become - the path is paved with grace.
This is the Way forward. Let’s walk together.
With you on the Way,
Can you think of a place that you love? How would you describe the ecology there - how the various aspects interact to make that place what it is? Will you take a moment to share in the Comments?
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