Last week I listened to a friend recall her humanitarian visit to Nicaragua in the 1970’s, when she was in her 20’s, prior to the revolution led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Upon her return she spoke of her experience to many United Churches on the island. Her memories of the people’s poverty and struggle still brings tears to her eyes. Today she still wonders if her sharing made any difference; yet through all the hardship and subsequent turn of events over the years she heard stories of hope and love – those two powerful spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit that have the ability, when put into action, to draw us closer to God’s vision for true life and salvation.
As I prepare the 2021 annual report for the Creation Care Team I am again struck by the word: hope. Through books, global climate change conferences, creative art projects, scientific gatherings, world faith groups working together for climate change (human, other life, nature) I heard HOPE and LOVE, co-operation, leading actions to make our common home, a better place for all. In the sweeping work of the Holy Spirit, it is not just love, nor just action, it is a combination of both. Love and action. Or better put, Love in action. Out of this springs hope – The very basis of our faith, hope given by the resurrected Christ, reconciling all creation to God.
“In any relationship, fierce love causes us to cross boundaries and borders to discover one another, to support one another, to heal one another. When we do this, when we go crazy with affection, and offer wild kindness to our neighbor across the street or across the globe, we make a new kind of space between us. We make space for discovery and curiosity, for learning and growing. We make space for sharing stories and being changed by what we share. This is the space of the border, of mestizaje [mixed race], of both/and. . . . We can learn to see the world not only through our own stories, through our own eyes, but also through the stories and worldview of the so-called other. . . . We simply must open our eyes, look across the room, the street, the division, the border—and reach out to that neighbor, offering our hand, our compassion, and our heart.” Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World (New York: Harmony Books, 2021), 103–104, 109–110.
Wendell Berry’s poem, “A Vision”
If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
there, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.
A Franciscan Blessing
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those
who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and want,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them,
and to turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of the God of Abraham and Sarah,
and of Jesus, born of our sister Mary,
and of the Holy Spirit, who broods over the world as a mother over her children,
be upon you and remain with you always.