By Pastor Rose M. Blank St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
Besides serving in ministry as United Methodist clergy, I am also an Affiliate with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Part of that experience is belonging to an Affiliate group, which combines Sisters and affiliates. As affiliates we strive to live by the Franciscan values of simplicity, humility, concern for the least of these among us and concern for the care of God’s creation. The group I belong to has been reading an excellent book by Ilia Delio entitled Care for Creation [a franciscan spirituality of the earth]. She addresses three main topics. The first is St. Francis’ own recognition of God’s work in creation and Francis’ love for this creation. Second, as Francis experienced God in creation, this becomes the starting place for contemporary Christian theology – to get in touch with creation as the revelation of God’s overflowing love. Third, St. Francis gives us a solid model for reflective action as he proclaimed the gospel values throughout his own ministry and life. (pp. 8-9)
We can do all the reading we can, talk about the things we should be doing in order to care for this only place we call home, but until we do the accompanying reflective action, it doesn’t change the severity of the state of our water, air, and land, or the changing conditions that affect human, animal and plant life on earth. St. Francis was known for his connection with the birds and animals of his day. But he is more than just that figure that makes a cute birdbath in our gardens. According to Delio, Francis was keenly affected by his relationship with the birds and animals around him. She writes, “After his encounter with the birds, he ‘woke up’ and recognized that they were his brothers and sisters as well. In the same way we may ask, how do we relate to this richly diverse Earth as brothers and sisters?” (p. 68)
We are an intricately woven web of life that includes everything from honeybees to the whales in the ocean, from the tiniest of microbes to the largest of redwoods, from the poorest of people in the inner cities and rural areas of this world to the most wealthy who hold power in their grasp. And we are all part of a fragile ecosystem that includes all these things as brother and sister. In Francis’ well known Canticle of the Creatures he addresses the elements of Brother Sun and Sister Moon; Brother Wind and Sister Water, Brother Fire and Sister Mother Earth. In our reflective action, we are called to think of how we are related to all of these parts of creation, to see them at connected to us as our own family, “to live in solidarity with creation just as Christ did through the Incarnation.” (p. 77)
As followers of Christ, as people who walk in his ways, caring for God’s earth is our privilege and joy. There’s much to be done by way of ongoing conversation and action to bring about health of life on this earth. The earth is the revelation of God and we are called to love it and its inhabitants as an expression of our love for God. My hope is that each of us might prayerfully find ways to enter into the reflective action Francis invites us to do that we might speak out on behalf of all God’s creatures, work to protect their habitat and support policies that do no harm, but to do good for all God’s creation.