Monday, November 9, 2009

A Sustainability Journey

By Deanna Matzen

This last Saturday morning, over 60 friends and members of Earth Ministry gathered to hear Rev. Alan Storey give a talk on his Sustainability Journey, which began after meeting Earth Ministry staff, board members, and friends at Holden Village in July of 2008.

We all fell in love with Alan at Holden Village, so it was a great honor and privilege to hear him speak again. As a pastor in South Africa, his depth of experience with people at the margins of society and in the middle of one of our world's greatest injustices -- Apartheid -- give him an incredibly unique perspective on the gospels. This perspective resonated with and challenged me to the deepest core of my being.

Since Alan's teaching is so profound, and not everyone was able to attend the gathering, I wanted to share with you a few of the things that struck a chord with me.

To start, Alan gave us the framework for his faith. At the risk of completely botching it, I'm going to summarize it as this, "God is love; God is life." The whole of the Bible, if read in this context, is brought to life with new meaning. One of his examples was the Beatitudes. I spent time during church yesterday sitting with the Beatitudes and was moved to tears. "Blessed are those who mourn," Alan said, "because you see that there is no life where there should be life." God wants life in this world and those who mourn see what is missing. "Blessed are the gentle [merciful]...for they do not bring death." "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God." God does not want death. God wants life. I challenge you to sit with the Beatitudes in this context and find yourself mourning with God and be set free to work with God to bring forth life in this world.

As Alan read the Bible after his time at Holden, the frame of environmental stewardship brought new meaning to him. For example, he invoked the image of manna in the desert as a reminder that sustainability is taking enough for today and not storing up and hoarding for the future. For those who have more than they need are taking from those who do not have enough. This is the heart of sufficiency. He then told us about a book he had read on the old testament, culture, and agriculture that contrasted the land of Egypt with the land of Canaan. Egypt was a land of great fertility with the Nile River and irrigation channels where food grew easily. Canaan was a hill land with rocky soil. The Hebrew people had to conform themselves to the land in Canaan in order to receive what they need to survive. They couldn't force the land to change or give more. They had to depend on the land in a whole new way. They had to learn to live within the limits of the land. There would be enough, but it would take a change in attitude and relationship to the land.

Alan not only shared with us his new way of seeing the scriptures, but gave us a new agency for hope by invoking the image of the burning bush, "When you go to speak to the leaders of the coal and oil industries, know that you have the power of the God of renewable resources with you - 'The bush was ablaze with fire yet it was not consumed.'" Wow! How often we forget the power of our God!

We hope to bring some of Alan Storey's insights to you in the Spring Issue of Earth Letter. Stay tuned!

Listen to Alan's Bible Study at Holden Village in July 2008

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