Wild Lectionary: Who Is My Neighbor?

Sacred Earth Camp youth catalogue species at Coleman Creek Credit: Devin Gillan

Proper 25 (30)
Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 22:34-46

By Laurel Dykstra

In today’s Gospel when asked about the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus’ reply is simple, “love God, love your neighbor.” In Luke, this same exchange is followed by the question, “who is my neighbor?” which Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The story of upstanding citizens who fail to respond to suffering after an assault has obvious parallels for first world Christians confronted by climate crisis, species extinctions, and environmental racism.

The Salal + Cedar watershed discipleship community practices a spiritual discipline that is relevant here. We commit to what we call “knowing our place,” or in terms of todays Gospel we ask, “who is my neighbor in the lower Fraser watershed?”

Paleontologist Stephen J. Gould’s has said that “we cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature . . . for we will not fight to save what we do not love.” And Markan scholar and Watershed Discipleship champion Ched Myres adds, “we cannot love what we do not know.” So at Salal + Cedar, on Coast Salish territory, we are working to grow our watershed literacy.

A 2003 study of British school children showed that most could identify nearly 80% of Pokemon characters but only about 50% of common local species like oak, beetle, deer. I imagine the numbers would be very similar here but before we go all “kids these days” I wonder how many of us know the five species of salmon that live in BC? If you know their names can you identify them? Can you tell a Coho from a Pink?

We have a number of ways that we seek to grow our love of neighbor, or watershed literacy. For children we have developed curriculum boxes to explore local flora and fauna while reading bible stories. For youth and young adults, Sacred Earth Camp is a place to explore the eco-justice issues of or region. For adults and all ages we take part in indigenous plant walks with Métis herbalist Lori Snyder, and are working on wildlife habitat restoration on the portion of Coleman Creek that runs through St. Clement’s church in North Vancouver. I myself am studying the connections and parallels between the Western Red Cedar, the tree of life for Coast Salish peoples and the biblical Cedars of Lebanon.

Our watershed literacy is not concerned only with plants and animals but with our human neighbors as well so we seek to learn and take leadership from migrant workers who harvest our food and work in food service industries and Indigenous land defenders like Salmon are Sacred, the Tsleil Waututh Sacred Trust and others. All of these relationships with our watershed neighbors, two legged, four legged, many legged, plant and stone and water, we approach with the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila, “the important thing is not to think much, but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens us to love.”

Wild Lectionary is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.



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