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Thanksgiving and Native Americans

I live barely a block from Lake Michigan. I see it from my windows, and I can walk to its shore in minutes. When there, I sometimes join in spirit with the Potawatomi who must also have stood there, marveling at the pristine incoming waves. 

They did not know — as I do — that they evolved billions of years ago from creatures who originally lived in water, or that their bodies were over 70% water. But they had a very advanced reverence for, and unity with, water and all creation. How sad, how tragic, how foolish we were to reject their sense of the sacred and use Earth’s water and resources in ways that desecrate them, thus harming all lives, including our own! 

Every corner of this continent was originally Indian country. There are more than 565 federally-recognized tribes and hundreds of unrecognized tribes. Each tribe has its own culture, customs, traditional clothing, dwellings, and rituals. How would we feel if strangers forced us and our families to leave our homes so they could claim to have “found” this land — and too often spoil it? Why might Native Americans respond to Thanksgiving holidays with acts of rebellion and resistance?

As we give thanks for our abundant gifts this Thanksgiving, let us also remember and value the example our indigenous ancestors left us. Let us remember the injustices done to them both in past centuries and also today. Let us do what we can to protect their sacred burial grounds and their human rights, and let us strive to reduce the pollution and wasteful use of water caused by industries and by ourselves (e.g., if we use bottled water or plastic straws). 

In her gloriously inspiring book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer tells us that Native peoples globally send greetings and thanks to all members of the natural world each day. Here is one excerpt taken from the Haudenosaunees’ all-encompassing Thanksgiving Address:

We now turn our thought to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greeting and thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are one. (p. 115)

Robin ends that chapter with this sobering thought:

Every day, with these words, the people give thanks to the land. In the silence that falls at the end of those words I listen, longing for the day when we can hear the land give thanks for the people in return. (p. 117)

May we speed that day!

Season of Creation 2018

Signs of hope for creation can seem scarce, but think of this: From September 1st until the Feast of St. Francis, October 4th, church members — and the non-churched — throughout the entire world will join to celebrate and protect the gift of creation.

Watch for action organized by other groups that will take place during those dates, like the September 8th Rise for Climate rallies throughout the world and the September 10-16 Story of Stuff project, when volunteers around the world will be picking up plastic litter and tallying what brands and products show up most often. (This data will help the #breakfreefromplastic movement to get at the sources of plastic pollution.)

Think of the difference joining in prayer and action during this season could make for all of our planet!

Background: These dates were first chosen by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1989. The World Council of Churches has promoted this season since 2008, and its popularity has spread throughout the entire Christian world. In 2015, Pope Francis named September 1st the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and asked Catholics to participate in the entire season of celebration and care. 

Theme(s): I have read different information about the theme. One group lists it as “walking together.” Another lists the theme as “Your Father Feeds the Birds and Clothes the Flowers in Beauty.”

Christians will recognize “Your Father Feeds the Birds and Clothes the Flowers in Beauty” as taken from Matthew 6: 25-33. It invites our focus on what Matthew reports that Jesus said about the providential care of our Creator for the continued well being of Creation — which, of course, was not threatened in Jesus’ time. 

(Closer to October 4th I shall post information for celebrating the feast of St. Francis, which has its own theme: “Who is My Neighbor in a Climate – Threatened World?”)

The entire Season of Creation provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on whether our actions uphold or upset the well-being of creation. It’s very important to take the matter of care of creation out of the political arena and return it to the moral and religious one where it belongs. 

The recommended words from Matthew are challenging. To save you from researching them, I shall quote them using the translation from the Eugene H. Peterson’s translation (including his italics). This might help us look anew at Jesus’ message. As you contemplate these words, remember that they reflect the religious imagination of his time, which placed God in human form somewhere away from us. Today we strive to image the divine as living and acting in us and in our world, and we rejoice in the divine presence everywhere. 

Matthew 6: 26 – 33:

“You cannot worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You cannot worship God and Money both. 

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t make a fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion — do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the  wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and the way he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Pause to reflect.

My challenge (and hope): Write one paragraph stating the essentials of this ever-relevant message — perhaps incorporating thoughts from “walking together” — with contemporary understanding of creation and the threats to its well-being. OK to include quotes from Laudato Si’. End with a short prayer. Post in Comments so we can all be enriched by each other’s wisdom and compassion. If writing doesn’t “grab” you, at least try it in your head.

Earth Day 2018

Earth Day Reflection

It’s no secret that Mother Earth is fighting for her life amidst attitudes and policies that misunderstand and threaten her. As we look towards Earth Day 2018, it might help to remember her 4.5-billion-year life story. It proves that our current situation is not the first major challenge Mother Earth has faced and solved. Over the billions of years of her lifetime, Earth has shown the creativity she needed for her survival.

Evolutionary examples

More than 2.3 billion years ago, Earth’s multicellular forms began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. After about 200 million years, the overproduction of oxygen in her atmosphere resulted in severe extinctions of organisms. But, lo!, Earth evolved aerobic organisms that consumed oxygen and thus created a positive equilibrium. Earth survived to face new challenges and new solutions.

By 1970, pollution in the United States was so severe that environmental activists, students and legislators initiated Earth Day. Resulting regulations, laws, awareness and organizations brought relief to the planet and life within it. Earth Day is now celebrated in over 190 countries, and concerted actions are taken to protect our Mother Earth.

Contemporary evolution

Perhaps her current threats are just what’s needed to birth what Thomas Berry called the new human — an evolutionary stage of life where we develop an awareness of our “gravitational bonding with the universe itself and within each of its components, and the intimate presence of each component of the universe with other components, a mystical attraction, you might say.” The threats of our time urgently call us “to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”

No small task, that! Berry writes: “Such a transition has no historical parallel since the geobiological [and astro-biologiocal] transition that took place 67 million years ago….” Regenerations followed disaster.

Pope Francis sees signs that this is happening — what he calls “authentic humanity” dwelling “in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.” (Laudato Si’, par. 112) There is a growing awareness that everything is interrelated and sacred.  Millions of people gather in multiple countries to support policies based on respect and concern for all life, knowing we are part of a communion of subjects rather than of a collection of isolated objects. This never happened, never could have happened, on Earth before our time.

Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how we will respond to current challenges. But, being part of the human species, we can deepen our ability to see in wholes and tap into the Love that lives and acts in us and in all creation.

Earth Day Prayer

Pause for several minutes’ quiet reflection on the wonder, earth_from_space_5_1920x1080variety, individuality and “interbeing” of Earth’s existence in our solar system and universe.

Litany: Let us join in thanking for the gift of Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:  … 
we give thanks.

–  for the creative love active from the first flaring forth, when Earth’s 13.8-billion-year story begins, … we give thanks.

–  for Mother Earth’s continuing evolution from stardust through its 4.5-billion-year story so far, … we give thanks.

–  for Earth’s ability to create, to heal, to diversify, to adapt, to be intrinsically interconnected, … we give thanks. 

–  for the gifts of water, soil, air, climate, flora and fauna, and the bioregions that developed over millennia, … we give thanks.

Unknown-1–  for the colorful and nurturing gifts that developed in our era: flowers and trees, fish and mammals, human beings who collaborated and bonded to further their species, … we give thanks.

–  for the creative ways that Earth developed to heal the challenges that Earth has encountered during her long story, … we give thanks.

–  for the people celebrating Earth Day in nearly 200 countries, … we give thanks.

–  for Pope Francis, whose commitment to care for our common home inspires people and organizations throughout the world, … we give thanks.

– for the leaders and legislators who have provided direction and laws that assist our planet to flourish, … we give thanks.

–  Add as you wish.

Share one image or experience that brought you awe or wonder this week.

Litany: Let us deepen our commitment to care for Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:  may we take action.

Water-Drought – Because stockpiles of nuclear weapons threaten all life whether or not they are ever used, may we take action.

– Because climate change already causes massive damage to all life on Earth, may we take action.

– Because multiple causes are resulting in a Sixth Major Extinction of life on Earth, may we take action.

–  Because mono-crops and farming with harmful chemicals result in inferior food and spoiled soil and water, may we take action. 

greenpeace31–  Because pollution, especially from plastics, is trashing so much of our planet including our oceans, may we take action.

– Because deforestation ruins soil, water, air, and all life, may we take action.

–  Because human greed and consumerism exploit humans and other species and resources, may we take action.

–  Because so many suffer from problems caused by environmental damage, may we take action.

Pause for a few moments’ quiet reflection. Share if you wish: What will we do, alone and/or with others, to enhance Earth’s future?

Sing: “Holy Now” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiypaURysz4) or similar song/hymn of praise for creation