Pledge to the Earth

Pledge to the Earth

This past week of smoke, ashes and fear for our siblings in various areas affected by fire reminded me my own journey of being more aware about the stewardship of the earth. I was in my last year at the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music where as a communal and collective expressions of music, liturgy and art, a team of selected students produce together a liturgical musical play. The last one I was involved took one year in the making as a father and daughter team who belong to an indigenous tribe from the northern autonomous region of the Philippines lived with us to teach, share and co-create this play. We ate together, learned, sang and played indigenous songs and instruments with them, learned their dances and listened to many stories from their community. The highlight of these for me was the Kalinga (the tribe) creation story. From this experience, “Panata sa Lupa (Pledge to the Earth)” was born: a story of how the earth was destroyed by the human’s greed, disrespect and disregard of the spirits around us. We presented it around our country, and in Switzerland and Germany during the Kirchen Tag (Church Day). And it gave hope as the story also shared the tribe’s wisdom, chants and rituals of repentance, and celebrating the gift of creation and most of all the new life of gratitude to sustain the whole creation. That was almost thirty years ago. And here we are, in the midst of the earth’s groaning.

It was not only that many of us had a hard time breathing, but in remembering my encounter with the Kalinga, I felt for a while that the earth stopped breathing. It was frightening. My fear was captured by a newspaper article story about a four year old girl who live near one of the fires and was affected by the polluted air. She asked her mom when she learned that her lungs were affected by the smoke that covered to sun and everything around her, “Is this how dinosaurs died?”

Questions like “What else do I notice?” and “What do I wonder?” and “What might be God nudging me to consider?” help me to slow down, even in the midst of numerous zoom meetings and interruptions of my son, and reflect deeply. I cannot be paralyzed by my own guilt of falling off the wagon in continuing care and advocacy for the earth. I turn to these memories, scriptures and engagement with my own communities – spiritual and secular – to keep me on the journey and continuing to be accountable to the earth and all creation. As we look forward to the season of stewardship in the fall, I wonder how I can use the traditional time, talent, treasures reflection and worksheet, to intentionally include what can we can give to the earth so that it can breathe again and in turn we would breathe better. I wonder how my son, like that 4-year girl, would be able to ask questions and learn about the care for creation out of his great curiosity and enthusiasm. I wonder how I can make my own “ten commandments” and list the things I will stop doing for the sake of the earth and humanity.  I wonder how our collective love and care for creation would not let another creature, even the tiniest one, suffer or die.

Aside from the ELCA’s resources (https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Caring-for-Creation), the Lutherans Restoring Creation, a grassroot movement in our denomination promoting care for creation, has prepared a creation-focused worship service for September 20th to begin the Season of Creation among other numerous resources you can find at their website: https://lutheransrestoringcreation.org/. As a member of the Lutheran Communion, we are also invited to gather around the theme “Jubilee for Earth” for 2020 Season of Creation for this month of September until October 4th, with ”prayers, symbolic acts and campaigns to give thanks for creation and renew our human vocation to care for it.” (https://www.lutheranworld.org/content/season-creation-2020-opening-prayer-online).

And so, in the midst of our slowing down during the devastating fire, and as we lift up our siblings in Christ directly affected by the fire,

What do you notice?

What do you wonder?

What might God be nudging us to consider?

What would you pledge to the earth?

Tita Valeriano, Director for Evangelical Mission & Assistant to the Bishop

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