Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Earth is Bleeding

By Rev. Frank Edmands, Guest Blogger

It has been more than sixty days since the initial explosion and the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and crude oil and gas still gush from the broken drill pipe almost one mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The Earth is bleeding. The ocean is being polluted, marine life is dying and the human species seems inept in managing the emergency. The vital signs of the once productive and gorgeous gulf habitat, one of the largest estuaries in the world and a vacation and recreational paradise, are fading. The Earth is bleeding; and humanity has an unsolved crisis on hand.

Recently, I was transfixed by a disturbing photograph of an oil soaked pelican squatting on the gulf’s Louisiana shoreline. There the bird squats with heavy oil burdened out-stretched wings, feathers and plumage matted entrapped in black petroleum sludge. The image is disturbing. The distressed pelican seems to be gasping, crying, groaning, pleading or praying. The pelican is crying for all creation.

The image of the oil soaked pelican stands in stark contrast to the images of the pristine pelicans that are found in churches, embroidered on kneeling cushions and etched in stained glass windows. For the Church, the pelican is an important symbol that reminds the faithful of self-sacrifice and the passion of Jesus. A legend tells us that a pelican who could not feed her dying young, wounded herself (pecking her breast until it bled) giving her young new life with her own blood. The image reflects self-sacrifice, an action analogous to the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

On the other hand, the image of the desperate oil soaked creature on the beach is a graphic reflection of the result of humanity’s sin, our selfishness far removed from any sense of self-sacrifice. The oil covered marine ecosystem is the result of our collective sins: our nation's addiction to oil, unbridled growth, compulsive consumerism, corporate greed and public ignorance concerning our impacts against the natural world.

Help stop the bleeding. End our extravagant need for fossil fuel. Change. Live a sustainable life-style that benefits all generations. Brake old habits; the desire for more and bigger things will need to be transformed into the love of less and more efficient ways of living. Become an agent of change in your neighborhood. The pelican cries and creation groans awaiting freedom from our self-centeredness.

The Rev. Frank Edmands, once an Environmental Scientist and now an Episcopal Priest, is also an Earth Ministry member, a Board member of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, a GreenFaith Fellow and contact person for Province V Episcopal Ecological Network. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Forgiveness and the Healing Process

by Clare Brauer-Rieke

Within and around the earth, within and around the hills, within and around the mountains, your authority returns to you.
Alfonso Ortiz

Tonight, St. James Cathedral is hosting a prayer service for wisdom in the face of the oil catastrophe in the Gulf and for atonement for the damage we have caused to creation.

Forgiveness is an uncomfortable topic for many. Some may say, "Praying for forgiveness means nothing -- what actions are you taking to atone? Asking for forgiveness is just to make yourself feel better." I don't agree with this assertion, but I sympathize. Our intentions and words need to be translated into reality through our actions. Action is crucial. However, forgiveness is not meaningless, and it is not just to make ourselves feel better.

My pastor once asked the congregation, "When I tell you I'm sorry, what do you say?"

"It's okay," the congregation dutifully responded.

"Ah," my pastor said. "But is it really okay? No. Whatever it was that I did -- let's say I said something cruel or thoughtless that hurt you -- it was not okay. Forgiveness should never require you to tell me what I did to you was okay. What forgiveness requires is that you and I reach a place from which we can move forward positively. Without forgiveness, we remain broken, damaged, resentful, and unproductive."

Tonight, when I ask forgiveness for the way my lifestyle contributed to the environmental disasters around me, do I want to hear, "It's okay?" Probably -- that would be nice. But it's not okay. Forgiveness won't let me off the hook or give me an eased conscience; forgiveness is understanding that "within and around the earth," my authority returns to me. I am empowered to be a part of the healing process. I need not be crippled by my guilt or anger. In this way, forgiveness mobilizes us to that action that is so crucial. Allow yourself to pray. Allow yourself to ask and receive forgiveness. And then, go out and make a difference.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let Us Pray

By Deanna Matzen, guest blogger

I think it goes without saying that everyone is feeling powerless about the oil spill [I hate using that word as if someone was walking along and tripped, "oops I spilled some oil, let me just get a rag and clean that up"]...let's try that again.

I think it goes without saying that everyone is feeling powerless about the cataclysmic oil catastrophe - the unbelievably horrible, incredibly devastating destruction of God's green earth - in the Gulf of Mexico. That's better.

But as people of faith, we do have power. We have power when we join our voices together in advocacy and when we join our voices together with God in prayer.

This summer I was asked to teach the kids at my church about David and Goliath and the modern example of Sojourner Truth, who confronted the giants of slavery and oppression head on. We'll then apply their lessons of faith to the giant environmental problems of today. Just as David confronted the seemingly undefeatable giant, Goliath, because he had a little experience and a lot of faith in God, we can confront the environmental destruction in the Gulf of Mexico, fueled by our faith.

As part of my church's adult education, I taught a class on environmental stewardship, during which the Gulf oil catastrophe began. The class taught about Christian values for why we should care about the environment, connected those values to scripture and, since scripture doesn't really talk about how we should deal with things like oil catastrophes, connected those values to actions. Our last week on action culminated with a time for prayer for the Gulf. While we have not seen those prayers answered yet - specifically to end the leak (or geyser) - we wait in hopeful anticipation and continue to pray for miracles.

Currently, I'm taking a class on praying for the world and I was asked to bring in some prayers for the environment this coming Sunday. I thought I would share them with you since I know it's so easy to get stuck in our own attempt to find words for this devastation. The wonderful thing about this class is that we're being taught that our prayers need not be long and wordy. We can pray simple scriptures and they will have a profound impact in the world and in our soul. Below are some of those prayers and where there is usually a blank to fill in, I've inserted the nouns for you. I hope they help to bring you some peace in this midst of your sorrow. Let us pray...

Lord God,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
in the Gulf of Mexico.
Matthew 6:10

Gracious Lord,
Lead BP and TransOcean not into temptation,
but deliver them from the evil one.
Matthew 6:13

In the name of Jesus I proclaim that the Gulf of Mexico is good.
Hover over the Gulf of Mexico,
bring it new life and create it anew
that we may delight and rejoice in it.
Isaiah 65:17-18

Thank you, Lord, that the fields produce abundant harvest.
Bless the Gulf of Mexico with Sabbath and Jubilee
that your creation may be redeemed.
Leviticus 25:8

Thank you, Lord, for claiming the Gulf of Mexico as your own.
Psalm 24

Lord, help BP and TransOcean to serve and worship only you,
not the god of greed and recklessness.
Exodus 20:1-2

Merciful God,
The Gulf of Mexico groans in eager anticipation
of your redemption.
Bring your glorious freedom!

Show us your hope for the Gulf of Mexico
and help us to wait patiently.
Romans 8:18-25

Jesus, all things were created in and through you.
Through your blood, shed on the cross,
hold together the Gulf of Mexico and the affected communities,
and reconcile the Gulf of Mexico in heaven and earth,
bring peace in the Gulf of Mexico
that in everything you might have supremacy.
Colossians 1:15-20

Jesus, bring the river of life to the Gulf of Mexico
that it may be healed.
Take away the curses upon the Gulf
and restore the Gulf with blessing.
Bring the Gulf of Mexico and the affected communities
under your throne.
Revelation 22:1-3