By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
Reflection offered at Day House Catholic Worker in Detroit on June 9, 2019
John 20: 19-2
I admit that I come to these readings today carrying my own fear and anxiety. The kind of fear that can force you to lock yourself in a room. I’ve been scrolling through too many headlines these past few weeks that make it hard to breath.
Study after study, detailing huge numbers of species that have silently gone extinct in the last decade. I drove the thumb of Michigan two weeks ago and drove mile after mile of fields pumping out water into the ditches as they sat under a foot of water. June and fields still not planted. I listen to stories on NPR of farmers in Iowa whose fields are so flooded they know that they cannot plant this year. They will take insurance money and try again next year. A million cows drowned in the floods in Nebraska this spring. What will food cost by fall?
And now there seem to be scientific predictions coming out every day about not if, but when humans will go extinct. And it may not be in my dad’s lifetime, but the numbers are in my life time and certainly in my kids. 20 years? 30? 50?
Those numbers are enough to make it hard to breath.
In the US, as we catch up with what the rest of the world has understood for a lot longer, there is beginning to be a whole field of trauma informed therapy and theological ritual around eco-grief. Folks my age and younger are feeling the pain of wanting children, but feeling like it would be unethical to have kids in this time.
I can take a step back and know that this is not the first-time people have feared for the future of humanity and their children- I think about Cold War and nuclear weapons and even the disciples locked in this very room. In fact, there is a part of me that desperately hopes these numbers may be propaganda to push us to act fast before it actually is too late.
So, this is my emotional state as I open the text. I cannot hear about rooms being filled with wind and fire without thinking of wild fires and tornadoes and hurricanes.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote about Pentecost saying “When do we ourselves experience the Holy Spirit, that rushing wind that intertwines all life? The Holy Breath that the trees breathe out for us to breathe in? The Holy Breath that now is in planetary crisis?”
The Holy Breath is in planetary crisis. It is not hard for me to see the wind and fire spreading across the world and believing that that too is a cry from God to leave our places of fear and begin speaking in language that people can understand. God is most certainly in this.
I watch my kids these and I find my teachers. They have no greater desire these days then to be immersed in relationship with the earth. They are learning animals by name. They walk the woods collecting bones. Isaac asks to rise early in order to sit in silence and watch for animals. They wander barefoot into mushy marshes to catch frogs. They lie on the beach searching for shells and rocks that in Cedar’s words are “gorgeous.” Yesterday, they sat down in a pile of mud and played until every inch of their skin and even their hair was covered in smelly, decaying earth. They have learned now to kneel and kiss the ground.
And while scientific predictions, leave me carrying so many questions like… how do we live with any hope? How do live if we only have mere decades? And what do I want to teach my kids now if they will be there to hold this earthly transition?
I look at them and think if this crisis is upon us, why do anything but put our bellies in the mud and love this beautiful earth? My kids trust this earth, love her creatures, and feel God in the wind and the fire.
I want to stop scrolling headlines and sit quietly with Isaac waiting for the river otter to appear.
I want to stop scrolling headlines and hold the bones and shells in my hand that Cedar gathers.
As I mulled over what I wanted to say this evening, my heart ached and it pulled at me towards the need for prayer more than anything else. So, I offer this prayer which is summoned from the Psalm, and Gospel, and Pentecost reading. I offer it to my own heart and hope that it also summons yours.
Oh God, who spread out the sky
And covered the earth with the ocean.
Oh God, whose voice thunders,
And water flows down the mountains.
We beg your forgiveness for losing site of you
In the honey bees and cedar trees.
We beg forgiveness for agro chemicals that flow into your streams
As wild animals now thirst and are poisoned,
And along the stream bed, the song bird’s nest disappears
Without a funeral song.
We beg forgiveness for factories pumping methane towards the sky,
As we forget to look up in the darkness towards the moon
To count the seasons.
We beg forgiveness that we have ignored your love
For lions, wild goats,
And the small animals that hide between the rocks.
The winds bear your voice on its wings,
And the flames of fire act on your desire.
We give thanks for your wild, unfettered, uncontrollable spirit.
Be with us in our fear and anxiety,
When we’ve locked the doors,
And have forgotten to breathe.
With intimacy and love Jesus blessed the disciples with his breath.
Let us keep feeling your breath upon our bodies as the trees exhale.
A breath that is life,
A breath that calms our beating hearts,
A breath that is a summoning of spirit
Out of the door and into the streets
For holy storytelling.
Let the winds surround us and the tongues of fire rest upon our heads.
Let the children lead the way
As we put our cheeks to the dirt
And love the earth with all we have left.
May we know you in the mud, and the bones, and the frog song.
May we water the gardens with our tears,
And bless creation with our lives.