All Souls’ Day
CAC teacher Brian McLaren has a deep love for the natural world and all that it reveals about God and our place on the Earth:
If we’d like to bring our God-concepts into better sync with a Creator who makes sense in this particular universe, we’d better face up to this sobering fact: God loves tortoises.
And really, God loves reptiles in general. (Not to mention insects, if we judge based on how many species exist: three hundred thousand beetles, seventeen thousand butterflies, and five thousand dragonflies, for example, out of over two million insects in total.)
Fathom it: For 245 million years, there were zero people around, but lots and lots of reptiles….
Apparently, God did not say, “Wow. These things are boring.… Praise be to me, for my sake let’s get these reptiles out of here so we can get some religious primates evolving, fast!”
No. For 245 million years, and for 99.999 percent of the 66 million years since, God was happy to have a good universe that included neither a single human nor a single religion, but lots and lots and lots of reptiles….
For humans to make sense to ourselves, I think we’re going to have to rediscover our kinship with the reptiles—and the fish, insects, birds, mammals, and palo santo trees—with which we share the world.…
In his beautiful Canticle, [Saint Francis] describes how we humans are related to all our kin in the family tree of creation. I’ve adapted his prayer as a song:
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Sun,
who brings the light of day;
He’s beautiful and radiant, like you!
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon,
Through all her sister stars.
They’re luminous and wonderful, like you!
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Wind
And Sister Cloud and Storm.
They bring flowers from Mother Earth for you.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Bird;
You gave him wings to fly.
He sings with joy and soars up high for you.
Through Sister Water, Lord, be praised;
She’s humble, useful, too.
She’s precious, clear and pure, O Lord, like you.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Whose beauty glows at night.
He’s cheerful, powerful, and strong, like you.
Be praised through all those who forgive,
The patient, kind, and brave,
Enduring suffering, trial, and pain, like you.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Death,
Who will embrace all life,
And carry us up to the arms of you.
In this grand vision, we aren’t ruling from the heights of a great top-down pyramid or chain of being, generals under King God in the divine chain of command. In this grand vision, we aren’t given by our rank a carte blanche to dominate, oppress, exploit, and exterminate everything below us. No, we aren’t at the top of anything; we’re simply at the tip, the tip of one small branch of a very huge, verdant tree, and all created things are our grandparents, cousins, and siblings.
Brian D. McLaren, The Galápagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2019), 209–214.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Jeune Fille Français (detail), 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian; Textile Design for Cretonne (detail), 1928, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian; Eglise Saint Joseph (detail), 1954, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.
Creation teaches us to love God in all Her death, decay, fallow times, insemination, growth, blooming and life and death and life.
Story from Our Community:
It always seems like each meditation is pertinent to what our Holy Spirit is working in our lives. Today, talking about God’s spirit in nature actually made me chuckle. Early this morning around 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by this strong odor. I live on the beach, and in my sleepiness I thought “oil spill.” [It was] so strong, and as I woke up further, I ran over and shut the window, exclaiming, “skunk”! I went back to sleep covering my face. Later I woke up to read your morning meditation about God in His animals. I just had to smile. A reminder, God created and [even] loves the skunk! —Sue B.