By Ken Sehested
Pacem, pacem, pacem in terries
Easter’s focus is always sharper when allied with Earth Day. We sing, properly, of being wayfaring strangers. “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” (Deuteronomy 26:5) is among the oldest testimonies of fate and faith. An alternate translation—“A Syrian ready to perish was my ancestor”—brings added poignancy to the text.
We are indeed strangers; but not foreigners. In common usage these two words seem similar. Biblically speaking, though, the theological difference could not be greater.
This “world” is not my home; but this earth is.
We are not drifters: directionless, detached,
disaffected, suffering neither loves nor longings,
risking no hopes, claimed by no promises.
We are in fact squatters, occupying the land and
waters whose only trustworthy deed challenges
every indenturing creed, every realty’s lien which
privileges the few at the expense of the many.
We seek no flight to another terrain for it is this
very domain—every meadow’s shadow, every peak’s
brow, every river’s careen, every furrow’s plough—
which asserts heaven’s riposte to Hades’ advance.
Earth Day observance represents a significant theological lens focusing Easter’s provision with Pentecost’s promise. It’s not only human reality on the line (contra our abiding anthropocentric arrogance); and not only sentient life. In the testimony of Scripture, all creation is sentient—capable of responding to the Creator’s purpose, promise and provision.
- When covenant faithfulness is ruptured, thorns and thistles abound (Genesis 3:17-19); rain is withheld (Deuteronomy 11:11-17); the land languishes and mourns (Isaiah 16:8, 33:9; Hosea 4:3) and vomits (Leviticus 18:28); the stone cries out from the wall and the beams from the woodwork respond (Habakkuk 2:9, 11); the stones cry out (Luke 19:40); light disappears from the heaven, mountains waver, hills palpitate, gardens become wastelands (Jeremiah 4:23-26); the earth withers (Isaiah 24:4).
- On the other hand, when righteousness and justice abound, mountains drip sweet wine (Amos 9:13); rough places are smoothed (Isaiah 40:4); the sun lifts its hand in praise (Habakkuk 3:10); the seas roars and the fields exult (Psalm 96:11); fire and hail, snow and frost, fruit trees and cedars offer praise (Psalm 148:8-9); the wilderness shall be glad, the desert rejoice and bloom (Isaiah 35:1); trees will clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12) and sing for joy (Psalm 96:12), the heavens testify (Psalm 19:1).
- The covenant of peace will free creation from its bondage (Romans 8:21); beasts and birds and all creeping creatures are heirs to this covenant (Hosea 2:18); the earth shall be satisfied (Psalm 104:13); sabbath provided even for cattle (Leviticus 25:7); the leaves of the trees will provide healing (Revelation 22:1-2).
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth. . . .” (Matthew 6:10) Pacem, pacem, pacem in terries.
©Ken Sehested <prayerandpolitiks.org> is the author and editor of prayer&politiks, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.