By: Rev. Tim Phillips
Giving up something is a traditional practice during Lent. Some people give up chocolate or alcohol or meat. The idea is that to abstain from something will make us more aware of the pattern of our lives and the life we owe to God. It identifies us with the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness before he began his ministry or the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. Periodic fasting from meals, various foods, or particular actions is part of most religious traditions.
This year, if you are going to give up something for Lent, why not give up something that would make a positive impact on the Earth? Since Earth Day is also Good Friday this year, our Eco-Spirituality group at Seattle First Baptist invites us to experience an eco-friendly Lent, asking you to consider what you might give up as a spiritual practice to care for creation.
If you are going to give up something, why not give up driving one day each week of Lent or give up your incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient compact fluorescent ones? Why not give up some of those toxic cleaning products for an experiment with more eco-friendly cleaners? Why not give up bottled water (a 16 oz. plastic bottle takes as much water to manufacture as to fill) for an eco-friendly non-disposable water bottle? If you think you might want to take on something rather than giving something up, why not experiment with eating locally-grown food during Lent or commit to sign-up for a Clean Greens Farm share this spring? Why not bring home a house plant and nurture it as part of your Lenten spiritual practice?
Why do any of this? Remember that the most fundamental human responsibility in the ancient creation story is the care of the Earth. There is something deeply human and creative about owning that responsibility and something incredibly hopeful about doing it together. At then end of their book, Saving Paradise, Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker write:
We reenter this world as sacred space when we love life fiercely and, in the name of love, protect the goodness of earth’s intricate web of life in all its manifold forms. We feast in paradise when we open our hearts to lamentation, to amplitudes of grief for all that has been lost and cannot be repaired … We recommit ourselves to this world as holy ground when we remember the fullness of life that is possible through our communities, our life-affirming rituals, and our love of beauty. Thus immersed, we are more responsive to and responsible for life in this world.That is why. And that is why, this Lent, we invite you to make a spiritual practice of the care of this Earth. If you are thinking of giving up something, why not make it something that will reconnect you with one of the most fundamental human responsibilities – and opportunities – of all. After all, we were made to feast together in paradise and to walk on holy ground.
Earth Ministry offers several resources to help you along your Lenten journey, including a Carbon-free Lent Calendar with carbon reducing practices for each day of Lent, and a weekly prayer and reflection guide, both available on the Carbon-Free Lent Resources webpage.