Tuesday, January 23, 2024

A Way to Love the Earth: A Sabbath Practice to Nourish This Intent


by Nancy Corson Carter

 Dear Friends in Earth Care,

 Here are some notes from a retreat Ill be leading soon; it is teaching me about perhaps the foundation of the Earth-loving that we intend. As I plan A Time of Sabbath in Mid-Winter” at a nearby camp, I am convinced more & more about the absolute necessity of Sabbath practice for our Earth Caring.

 Note 1: A Call to Prayer

We who have lost our sense and our senses—our touch, our smell, our vision of who we are; we who frantically force and press all things, without rest for body or spirit, hurting our Earth and injuring ourselves: we call a halt.


We want to rest. We need to rest and allow the Earth to rest.

We need to reflect and to rediscover the mystery that lives in us, that is the ground of every unique expression of life, the source of the fascination that calls all things to communion.


We declare a Sabbath, a space of quiet: for simple being and letting be; for recovering the great, forgotten truths; for learning how to live again.


(Author unknown; from Creation Justice Ministrys Earth Day mailing)


 Note 2: Walter Brueggemanns Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW (Westminster John Knox, 2014) speaks directly to these thoughts.  The limitless pursuit of consumer goods (and the political, cultural, and military requirements that go with it) in the interest of satiation necessitates over-production and abuse of the land, and the squandering of limited supplies of oil and water. Thus, the environment is savaged by such restlessness; the ordering creation is skewed, perhaps beyond viability. It is long since forgotten that rest is the final marking of creator and creation.”


In his final chapter, 6, The Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment” (where greed is rejected) Brueggemann presents Psalm 73 as his final text: he sees it as a report on a journey from the world of commodity to the world of community.” Verse 23 is his chosen refrain from the repentant psalmist as he turns to address God:


Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”


Brueggemann warns us (89) that This is no casual hand-holding. This is a life-or-death grip that does not let go.”… “Sabbath is the regular, disciplined, visible, concrete yes to the neighborly reality of the community beloved by God.”


Note 3: as I thought of the idea of Practical Steps we might take to love the Earth,” I looked up practical” and found this list:

practical (adjective as in realistic, useful) Strongest matches. businesslike constructive down-to-earth efficient factual feasible functional possible practicable pragmatic rational reasonable sane sensible sober workable.


As I pondered whether Sabbath is “practical” for Earth keepers, I found this poem by Wendell Berry from his book SABBATHS (quoted, p.19, in a great teaching book on Sabbaths, Don Postema’s Catch Your Breath: Gods Invitation to Sabbath Rest2016, still in print):


                        The bell calls in the town

                        Where forebears cleared the shaded land

                        And brought high daylight down

                        To shine on field and trodden road.

                        I hear, but understand

                        Contrarily, and walk into the woods.

                        I leave labor and load,

                        Take up a different story.

                        I keep an inventory

                        Of wonders and uncommercial goods.


Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.

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