Midweek Faith Lift
April 28, 2021
For the Beauty of the Earth-Dominion to Humility
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
What God Requires
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
For this Earth Day celebration this year, we consciously shift from the mindset of dominion, of what it is that the earth can provide for us for our use and achievement into sacred relationship with the Earth. In this passage, the Israelites are asking what it is that they should do, what part of their created wealth should they give to God. What part of their achievement do they share with God so that they are meeting God’s requirements? How much oil, how many rams, how about a year old calf? They view the relationship with God as one of transaction, not one of union or intimate connection as a part of God.
While this story is from ancient times, consider that it is also our story. In our journey on this earth, we want to bargain with God about how much we can exert “dominion” and get away with it, without suffering any consequences. I am as liable for this as the next person as I drive my car and ride on airplanes and do all the things that I do that create my carbon footprint. On this Earth Day, what is mine to do to create once again that sacred relationship with the Earth? How then do we live in a complex society and and profit driven economy that is built on a transactional/exploitive relationship with the earth? These are really tough questions, but ones that we are called to answer for our very survival, for the survival of our beautiful Earth.
It is clear in this passage from Micha, in the Hebrew Scripture, that while the story of Creation says that God gave humans “dominion” over the Creation, what God actually requires of humans is humility. The word human actually comes from the Latin root word, humus, which means Earth. In one version of the Creation story in the Hebrew Scripture, God takes clay and fashions the first human being from that clay. Humility comes from that same root word….Earth, dirt, clay. What is required of us is not achievement, success or wealth but to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.” It can take a lifetime to understand what God is asking of us!
If we consider this passage metaphysically, it really packs a wallop! Everything listed is in terms of ones: a one year old calf, a thousand rams, 10,000 rivers of oil and the number one child. What this signifies is the consciousness of Oneness with God, from 1 to 10,000 and the more zeros the greater the intensity of the message. What we as humans are seeking is a sense of Unity or Oneness with God, even as God is expressing in the diversity of Creation as expressed by humans. We are not asked to give up our uniqueness or individuality. We are asked to use our creative energy in a consciousness of Wholeness or Oneness with each other.
When our heart’s desire is to function in the world and navigate our life in that consciousness, the awareness that all we think say and do impacts the Wholeness of God, and each other, and the wholeness of the Earth, then we begin to know our God-ness. We begin to see it as the most powerful way that we can walk humbly with our God-ness, truly seek justice and love kindness. But, dear friends, we, as a human race, are just at the beginning of realizing this new way of relating to God, to the Earth and to one another. We have a lot to learn, and that is the humility that is needed; the beginners mind that is open and receptive to what the Earth, what Spirit has to teach us, for we are all expressions of the very breath of God.
The spiritual Truth that is present here is that the Whole of All is contained in each and every one of its parts. Richard Rohr shared this in his Monday, April 19, 2021 blog: https://email.cac.org/t/ViewEmail/d/FF733386CE15FD362540EF23F30FEDED/FB36CAEDB1E450AC148F9D201EEB5695
Richard Rohr quotes St. Augustine and the apostle Paul as proclaiming that in the end, it is all God and it was always all God. He writes:
St. Augustine (354–430) proclaimed in one of his great sermons, “The end will be the one Christ, loving himself.”  Paul preceded St. Augustine when he wrote that, in the end, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). They saw creation as coming full circle.
Both Augustine and Paul are pointing out that the Eternal One has come forth and has taken on form and manifestation in the whole of creation: humans, animals, plants, elements, the galaxies, and all the endless forms and faces that have come forth from God. Everything in creation is the infinite self-emptying of God, and as such has inherent dignity and deserves respect and appreciation.
Lady Julian of Norwich (1342–1416) ….. understood that “Everything that is has its being through the love of God.”  Contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber puts it this way: everything is a holon—a part that replicates the whole.
St. Bonaventure (1221–1274) taught that to work up to loving God, start with the easier lesson of loving the very humblest and simplest things, and then move up from there. “Let us place our first step in the ascent at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror, through which we may pass over to God, the Supreme Craftsman,” he wrote. And further, “The Creator’s supreme power, wisdom and benevolence shine forth in created things.” 
When we realize that God or the Eternal One has taken form in every aspect of the Creation, we are then in awe of the truth that everything in creation is the infinite self-emptying of God, including us. When we walk humbly with our God, what that means is that we too are willing to “self-empty” our energy putting in service to the greater good, for the highest and best good of all.
Friends, that is a high calling, one that we answer again and again, not knowing for sure if we are answering adequately or rightly.
I have always been challenged with the concept of “loving” God because it feels so abstract. What in the world does it mean to love God? I really can relate to the advice from St. Bonaventure that Richard Rohr offers us. Begin with the easier lesson of loving the simplest and humblest things and work up from there! So I have loved my cats and dogs and children and husband; I also have loved God. I have loved my neighbors, my co-workers, my congregants, my fellow ministers, my online FB friends: I have loved God. As I care for my part of the creation, I have loved God for the whole of God is in each part. As I send positive energy to those with whom I strongly disagree, I have loved God. It reminds me of the line from the song by Jana Stanfield: “I cannot do all the good the world needs; but the world needs all the good I can do.”
When we were in the desert, hiking in Sabino Canyon, we were surrounded by Saguaro cacti on all sides, in every direction. Now I have never been a big lover of cactus and in my mind, they all looked the same. I have since walked humbly with the cactus in the canyon and learned from them. They are huge, some 60 feet tall or more. They grow three inches per year, which means we were in an ancient cactus “forest” because these were tall cacti. They weigh up to 200 pounds because they are full of water and can “water” themselves for the duration of a three-year drought. They begin with a seed the size of a pinhead and for years the small cactus grows in the shade of a Palo Verde tree or a mesquite tree, which gives the growing cactus nourishment and water. Wow, I had a lot to learn!
There is much to be said for a slow, steady growth process for both cacti and humans. When I first looked at the Saguaros in Sabino Canyon, all I saw were the drawings from the Snoopy © cartoons come to life, or old westerns like Bonanza and Gunsmoke! As I walked humbly down the canyon floor, feeling my mortality in the heat and strong desert sun, I began to see with new eyes the true reality of this fragile but incredibly strong and resilient ecosystem. What had been a visual cliché had now become a symbol of the presence of God. The native peoples of the desert felt the presence of God in the Saguaro and all the plants and animals who live there. As I walked humbly, well aware of my human age and timeline, I too, felt the Presence of God in the wind, the rocks, the birds and the Saguaro.
To love the Earth is to listen and be transformed, asking of the Earth what it needs from you. You and I may not be able to do all that the Earth needs, but we can trust and know that what we do give to each part does impact the whole, the whole that is God!
I close today with another quotation from Spiritual Practices that comes from Lawrence Kushner. He writes:
“By doing what your lover wants, you transcend yourself. So it is with all sacred deeds. We give ourselves over to them, humbly offer ourselves as servants of something or someone greater. In so doing, we are transformed.”
— Lawrence Kushner in Invisible Lines of Connection by Lawrence Kushner
To Practice This Thought:
Make a sacrifice for a friend or lover with the understanding that such giving is also extended to God.
Blessings on the Path,