“The heavens are telling the glory of God…”
“Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature…
has been clearly percieved in the things that have been made…”
This week not only is Earth Day being observed in various ways across our nation, but so is Holocaust Remembrance. Maybe that’s why I was reminded of something I read long ago in The Diary of Anne Frank, written by a bright, brave, beautiful young Jewish girl during the Holocaust in Nazi occupied Amsterdam. For over 2 years Anne Frank, her family, and several others lived in hiding, as many Jews did, concealed by friends in the extremely close quarters of a small secret apartment over a warehouse—“the secret annex.” It is difficult to imagine what those 2 years must have been like, severely restricted, always in danger of being discovered. To minimize the risk, they slept by day and were awake only at night when the building was empty. They could open no windows, breathe no fresh air, shine no light into those dreary rooms. The only access they had to fresh air and sunlight was through a skylight in the attic which could be visited only at night. And that’s what Anne would do. In one entry in her diary, after having visited the skylight, she wrote these words: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists…I know that there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever circumstances may be. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
I do too. Who of us has not found healing in nature, the rising and setting of the sun, a walk in the woods, along the river, on the beach at the ocean, or just digging in the garden, hands in the soil? It mends my soul. It revives my spirit. It connect the dots, reconnects me to God, to you, to my best self, to the cosmos. It is as Anne says, “the best remedy.”
Why is that? Why do we feel closer to the Creator by being closer to Creation? Why do we feel closer to an artist after having seen his or her masterpiece? You can read about Monet or Van Gogh all your life, but until you have seen one of their originals, one which they touched and handled and poured their heart and soul over every stroke of paint, you will not know them, not really. Art leads you to the artist. Music leads you to the Composer. Creation leads you to the Creator. “This is my Father’s world,” says the song, “he shines in all that’s fair.” Or as Paul puts it: “Take a long thoughtful look at God’s creation and see into the mystery of God’s divine being.” As Thomas Aquinas put it like this: “Creation is the primary and most perfect revelation of the Divine.” Or as Richard Rohr puts it, God did not materialize just once in a baby born in Bethlehem. God has been materializing since the very beginning, incarnate in all creation.
And so, in answer to the question, “Is God green?” Yes, and blue and red and yellow, every other color of the rainbow, which he painted across the skies. He shines in all that’s fair, his hand is behind it all, his very life is breathed into every living thing, into us. Indeed, scientists tell us that the Earth is not so much an IT—but more like a LIFE, a BEING, a LIVING THING, a pulsing, throbbing body of intricately balanced systems of which we are a part, intimately connected, ultimately dependent, a life that shelters us, feeds us, clothes us, enfolds us, like a mother who cares for us. And we are called to care for her.
I have read that at the Bronx Zoo in NYC there is an exhibit with a sign that reads, “The World’s Most Dangerous Species.” When you enter the exhibit, what do you see? A mirror. Is this true? Have we human beings, the ones who were made in God’s own image and given dominion over the earth, that is to say, entrusted with the task of caring for creation, become the most dangerous of species? We may not like to hear it, but prophetic voices around the world warn us of another kind of holocaust which is threatening our environment, one in which we 7 billion human beings have played a significant role.
But the good news is this: if it is true that we possess the God-given power to damage the beauty of the earth, do we not also possess the God-given power to save the beauty of the earth. For years, many of us have practiced the old mantra: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. But that’s barely a beginning. Today we are challenged with a new mantra for a new world: RETHINK, RESTORE, REDESIGN.
Rethink, Restore, Redesign, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—we in New New Orleans are becoming among the world’s experts in this kind endeavor—Recover, Rebuild, Rebirth, Renew, Revive, Recreate, Reconceive. It is nothing less the same business that God has been into since the beginning of time, and it is a sacred business. It all comes under the heading of “Resurrection”—bringing life out of death, making all things new, God’s recreation of the new day. Brothers and sisters, let us all join hands in taking up the sacred task of caring for the creation.