Feasting on God’s Gifts; Fasting in Sorrow
A Lenten Devotional by Presbyterians for Earth Care 2012
Matthew 26: 1-13
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.
But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Glenn Albrecht an Australian environmental philosopher coined the word “solastalgia” to describe the devastating physical, spiritual and psychological distress people experience due to the anticipated loss of a person or place. It is estimated in the next 50 years due to climate change there will be a billion people that will lose their God-loved home place. We are and will be a people in spiritual distress experiencing solastalgia, a longing for God’s wholeness and renewal of creation – for the places we have shared with loved ones and with God. We experience the spirit speaking to us in our placedness, the place of roots and family. For us, and the congregation we serve in Southeast Louisiana we feel the brokenness of an uncertain future. We live in a region of the country experiencing rapid land loss, amounting to a football field of home, of earth disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico every 30 minutes. Yes, we are watching our future disappear and missing a future we will not be able to share with our children.
The Gospel wants us to know that the woman with the expensive ointment was anticipating the events of the coming week, took what she had, and anointed Jesus. He told his disciples that it was in preparation for his death and we are to remember her. In our solastalgia stress, we feel the pain of the disintegration of beloved communities, the disappearance of the places of beauty and the end of historic livelihoods that have been home to Gospel people and places. But it not just our loss and our “solastalgia.” It is a loss that will be felt around the world in that we are the resting spot for tens of thousands of migratory birds of various species and the estuaries of life for the Atlantic Ocean. The region groans.
We as Christians called to be mindful of all God’s creation feel the distress of loss and anticipate even greater loss before us, let us not forget the woman who poured out the nard, nor the man who received it for the final gift of resurrection. We enter this week humanly defeated, not optimistic but knowing, hoping and anticipating God’s ultimate promise of a new heaven and earth.
O God of creation, teach us to listen before we pray and to listen while we pray, to listen to your children, to listen to both the glees and the groans of your creation, and at our core, to listen to your call. Having listened, guide our word-ways and our work-ways, now and always. Amen
Rev. Kristina Peterson is the pastor of Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church and researcher at CHART at the University of New Orleans. In 2010 she received the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement for her advocacy of the Louisiana wetlands.
The Rev. Richard Krajeski has served the Presbyterian church and the environmental community for over 45 years. He is instrumental in developing the Wetlands Theological Education Project in South Louisiana and serves with his wife Kristina at the Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church.