World Wide Communion Sunday/ Season for Creation 1

This morning, on this world-wide communion Sunday, we call people from all around the world into our presence … people of all races and cultures, people living in so many different circumstances. And with the focus of this Season for Creation, we open our awareness to all creatures and the Earth herself as well.

How do we keep our hearts from breaking? we might wonder as we allow ourselves to see more clearly and know more truthfully the reality of the climate crisis we are in. The best answer is that we don’t … ideally we won’t keep our hearts from breaking … that we won’t barrel along guarding or hardening our hearts … for it is in breaking open that we allow the grief that is there in our own hearts to be honoured, released …
it is in breaking open that we connect with each other, encounter one another …
it is in breaking open that we allow our God-given capacity for empathy and compassion to rise in us.
It is through breaking open that healing works a way.

This morning we’re going to hear some heart-breaking stories.
I want to read you a short passage that offers us a way into these stories … that speaks to why we would do this:

“Lay aside the armour of your little troubles.
Quit your sordid affair with happiness.
Enter the black-draped house and stay there.
Your sister and brother are in the mourning parlor, and they need you to sit with them.
Christ is not consorting with angels above,
but still among the slaves and prisoners,
mothers helpless beside their children,
the scum, the used, the lonely and despairing.

Let your heart be ruined with them.
It is for them, yes, and for you—
since hearts, like seeds, give life when broken open.

But first it is for love of God
(imagine the tears of God that no one dries),
that God should not weep for her children alone.

Even if it changes nothing— will you do this?

Come sit with God in our overflowing grief,
for the heart of God is hidden in the wound of the world
the heart of God is hidden in the wound of the world.

Don't expect it to get better, to stop hurting.
It won't.
Don't be afraid to mourn for the world,
to bear the wound too deep in you to be patched,
to stay sad a long time, without demanding relief.
For here in the deep root of our pain is our oneness,
and here is the Heart at the heart of the world.

The wailing of a God who is not easily consoled
is the sound of a love that is never overcome.
Our sorrowful longing is the Spirit of God,
Our sorrowful longing is the Spirit of God who creates worlds.

Our hurt is our hope. [1]

How can we keep from singing? Today our singing will be a lament … After each story is read, we’ll join in singing Kyrie eleison / Christe eleison … meaning Lord have mercy / Christ have mercy.
Let’s begin with that now.

The nation is in mourning,
They lie in gloom on the ground, their cry goes up.
The servants go out for water, they come to the cisterns; they find no water; they return with their vessels empty.
The ground refuses its yield, the country has had no rain;
Even the doe abandons her new-born fawn in open country, for there is no grass;
The wild donkeys standing on the bare heights gasp for air like jackals; their eyes grow dim for lack of pasture. (Jeremiah 14: 1-6)

Does the snow of Lebanon vanish from the lofty crag?
Do the mountain waters run dry, the cold flowing streams?
But my people have forgotten me, they burn offerings to a delusion; they have stumbled in their ways, on the roads of former times, to walk in tortuous paths,
Making their land a horror, a thing to be hissed at forever.
All who pass by it are horrified and shake their heads. (Jeremiah 18:14-16)

“The sea is eating all the sand.
Before, the sand used to stretch out far, and when we swam we could see the sea floor, and the coral. Now, it is cloudy all the time, and the coral is dead. Tuvalu is sinking.”

During storms, waves batter the island from the east and the west, “swallowing” the country. Many say they have nightmares that the sea will soon gobble them up for good.
“The weather is changing very quickly, day to day, hour to hour. I have been learning the things that are happening are the result of humankind, especially [from] other countries. It makes me sad. But I understand other countries do what is best for their people. I am from a small country. All I want is for the bigger countries to respect us, and think of our lives.”

Porous, salty soil has made the ground almost totally useless for planting. Pacific Island staples now have to be imported at great expense, along with most other food.

Since the rising ocean contaminated underwater ground supplies, Tuvalu is now totally reliant on rainwater, and droughts are occurring with alarming frequency. There is now not enough rain to keep even simple kitchen gardens alive.

The fish too, the stuff of life here, have become suspect. Ciguatera poisoning affects reef fish who have ingested micro-algaes expelled by bleached coral. When fish infected with these toxins are consumed by humans, it causes an immediate and sometimes severe illness: vomiting, fevers and diarrhoea. Fish poisoning began to climb a decade ago; around the same time the weather really started to go haywire.

But as climate change batters the seashore, a trickle of young Tuvaluans are returning, even if coming home can feel claustrophobic after the freedoms of life beyond the islands. The young woman crowned Miss Tuvalu last year used her platform to campaign for women’s rights and education. “I left in 2010,” she says. When I came back I immediately noticed the difference. The heat is sometimes unbearable now, and the erosion is also dramatic. Some of my favourite spots have disappeared. I feel like this place is a part of who I am and I shouldn’t just run away from it, even though it’s disappearing. To just abandon it at such a time as this, when it is hurting – I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t feel like I can do that.”

“During COP [climate] negotiations we had to stay up till 7am to ensure we were listened too. “The world want to ignore us. They want to keep behaving as if we don’t exist, as if what’s happening here isn’t true. We can’t let them.”  [2]

For me, this story began in another classroom, in another century, at the Carlisle Indian School where my Potawatomi grandfather was taken as a small boy. My chance of knowing my native language and your chance of ever hearing it were stolen in the Indian boarding schools where native children were forbidden to speak their own language. Within the walls of that school, the clipped syllables of English replaced the lush Potawatomi sounds of water splashing on rocks and wind in the trees, a language that emerged from the lands of the Great Lakes.
Our language hovers at the edge of extinction, an endangered species of knowledge and wisdom dwindling away with the loss of every elder. So, bit by bit, I have been trying to learn my lost language. … It’s a very difficult language to learn, but what keeps me going is the pulse of animacy in every sentence. There are words for states of being that have no equivalent in English. The language that my grandfather was forbidden to speak is composed primarily of verbs, ways to describe the vital being-ness of the world. …
Birds, bugs, and berries are spoken of with the same respectful grammar as humans are, as if we were all members of the same family. Because we are. There is no it for nature. Living beings are referred to as subjects, never as objects, and personhood is extended to all who breathe and some who don’t.
I greet the silent boulder people with the same respect as I do the talkative chickadees.

It’s no wonder that our language was forbidden. The language we speak is an affront to the ears of the colonist in every way, because it is a language that challenges the fundamental tenets of Western thinking—that humans alone are possessed of rights and all the rest of the living world exists for human use. Those whom my ancestors called relatives were renamed natural resources. In contrast to verb-based Potawatomi, the English language is made up primarily of nouns, somehow appropriate for a culture so obsessed with things. … 

Because we speak and live with this language every day, our minds have also been colonized by this notion that the nonhuman living world and the world of inanimate objects have equal status. Bulldozers, buttons, berries, and butterflies are all referred to as it, as things, whether they are inanimate industrial products or living beings. [3]

It was a journey of love, driven by a mother’s loss, stretching across a thousand miles of ocean. Tahlequah, the 20 year old mother orca from the Southern Resident pod gave birth to her calf who lived for just 30 minutes. The loss of the new born is not out of the blue. The species is in imminent threat of extinction.
For 20 days and 20 nights Tahlequah carried her dead calf with her everywhere she went … sometimes nudging her with her nose, sometimes gripping her with her mouth, sometimes diving to retrieve her when she lost grip … bearing her dead child on a tour of grief.

She’s telling us the story far better than any of us can that these whales are in trouble. It’s a message.
They know they’re being watched, and they know what’s going on, and they know there’s not enough food.
And maybe they know that we have something to do with it.

Meanwhile threats to orcas continue to increase. The federal government has approved an expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline that will increase the risk of oil spills and increase tanker traffic in the whales’ critical summer habitat. Another marine shipping terminal is planned in the Fraser Delta and shipping lanes are busier than ever, raising the impact of noise on whales trying to hunt and even the risk of ship strikes. [4]

Yours, O God, is the sky with the water
Yours is the land with its plants
Yours is the deep earth with its minerals
Yours … and we arrive each day
like gaping little birds
with hungers we cannot satisfy
with thirst we cannot quench
with rest we can only receive
and truth be told, with safety we cannot generate.

You are the God of truth to whom truth must be told.
From you no secrets can be hid.

And so we do not hold back from you
the truth of our sorrow
the truth of our complicity
the truth of our need.

Do not hold back from us the gospel truth of your mercy
your compassion, your forgiveness.
Sway us from our deep distortion into your deep goodness
that we and the whole Earth may be made well.
Amen [5]

[1] Steve Garnaas Holmes, “For the hurt of my people” posted on

[2] Excerpts from an article written by Eleanor Ainge Roy, in the Guardian, May 16, 2019

[3] Excerpts from “Speaking of Nature” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, in March/ April 2017 issue of Orion Magazine

[4] From articles posted on-line in LiveScience, by Laura Geggel, Orca Mother, who pushes her dead calf for 1,000 miles and 17 days moves on, August 13, 2018; and Seattle Times, by Lynda V Mapes, Mother Orca Tahlequah and her dead calf, one year later. How did she change the conversation?, July 24, 2019.

[5] Walter Brueggemann, portions of two prayers (slightly altered) in Inscribing the Text, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 2004.