Friday, October 24, 2014

Treating the Earth as a conversation partner

Proper 20 Sept 28, 2014
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
Exodus 17:1-7 – Numbers 20:1-13

Step by step, stage by stage, for the past month we have been walking through the Book of Exodus. The stories and themes have been growing, with the people winding their way from Egypt into the wilderness –
step by step – trusting that someone out front is in charge – speaking for them. Like God standing on the rock at Horeb.

sort of like the processional line-up at my wedding last week – the procession just kept growing – it grew to four LEMs, a full complement of acolytes, five musicians, sisters of St. Anna the Prophet, a thurifer with incense, clergy, a Bishop, two vergers, two processional crosses, and of course, two brides. 
This is the wilderness folks!

But back to Moses: The people are trusting that someone out front is in charge – someone has a plan  – someone will find pure water for the people to drink. They are in the wilderness call the Sin, “a moonscape.”
It’s not a wilderness like the Appalachian Trail, it’s more like Nevada, and the people are complaining. The people are thirsty. They are blaming Moses.
Moses, fresh from the flight out of Egypt, is in reactionary mode, and God too, probably is in reactionary mode. God tells Moses to strike the rock for water.
A little violent, to hit the rock, but it is what God seems to think the people need at this moment, when their procession needs a strong verger. They need guidance, milk, not meat at this early point in their development as a Holy People.

There is a parallel story to this – in the Book of Numbers, chapter 20. Same wilderness, same angry, stiff-necked people. This is a second time the people are thirsty, at the end of the 40 years after they have grown, matured, and have by this time, received the teachings, the Torah, the Commandments.  It reflects a development, a growth, in the people.  [i][ii]

In this second story in Numbers,
God tells Moses to “speak to the rock” – not strike it
as in the first story. What does Moses do?
Does he speak to the rock, that is, to consider the rock as a valued conversation partner, as more than an inert substance to use to impress the people, of his amazing power.

No, he does not speak to the rock.
He hits it, not once but twice. He just whacks away at the rock until water pours out.
Now let’s fast forward a few thousand years to last weekend.
There was a little parade in new york city, to protest climate change. To protest the lack of clean water. To protest the violence toward creation, to protest treating the earth as an inert substance to use at will.

It was to be just a little protest – you know – a few thousand folks, they hoped would show up last Sunday. 400,000 people showed up. A procession four miles long.
The UN met this week on the topic of Climate Change, so all these folks showed up. Many of the leaders – the vergers – were representatives of Indigenous Peoples – and particularly indigenous women.

400,000 folks  saying no.
to striking the rock, rather than speaking to it. We haven’t brought the earth into the conversation. Into the relationship. The list of environmental problems is so long now – it is a very long procession too.

We could substitute climate change here for other actions – other ways of being violent with each other and in our relationships.

We could include other conversations – about cosmic rays and solar winds and magnetic fields and heavy water – scientists now believe the water on earth is older than the water in the solar system.

That the water we drink today has been inherited, that was the word, making the earth an even older conversation partner,
even – part of the family.
Maybe that story in Genesis is right – that the water was formed before the light. Maybe – being related isn’t just a metaphor.
We are having a coffee tasting today during the Christian Education hour.
Next week we will celebrate the Feast of St Francis, and it has been our custom to offer programs related to the environment, as a way to honor St. Francis.
                                    So today, the people who supply our coffee for coffee hour – will be here to talk about coffee plantations with shade-grown forests, where birds live and sing.
Where farmers earn a living wage.
Our coffee people are even bringing their own filtered water to use to make the coffee today.   
This coffee tasting is just one example of how we are at a tipping point - with the earth. With our water.
                  With our air. With our tar sands. With our population growth. With our consumption With our constant hunger for more.
With our violence.

We have decisions to make.
We have awareness to grow into, just as Moses does. The earth cannot speak for itself, we are its mouthpiece, although some people are speculating that the earth is now speaking,
and in ways we may not like.

Meanwhile, we are the vergers. We are Moses.

Who can the earth trust that will come out in front of the procession – to speak on its behalf?
Which story is our story – the Exodus story or the Numbers story?
How will we speak for the earth? For this water we inherited eons ago.
Strike it? Speak to it?

[i] Bill Brown,  Mythos of the Ethos.
[ii] Brennen Breed, personal email.