Is it just me, or does it feel like spring has really struggled to break through this year? There was a chill in the air this morning as the sun came up and caught the few azaleas that have courageously begun to flower in my back yard. They glowed in resistance to winter’s refusal to loosen its grip. But winter will eventually let go, of course. A few weeks ago (on Tuesday March 20 at 12:15PM EST, to be precise) our planet reached the point on its annual journey around the sun where our northern hemisphere began to tilt towards its star. Spring equinox! Spring is now inevitable: warmth, growth, new life. Nothing can resist it. It may feel slow in coming, but it’s all relative: we are actually moving around the sun at a staggering 670,000 mph. I’m not sure I want to go any faster!
This coming Sunday April 22 is Earth Day, and it’s well worth celebrating. There’s something beautifully “grounding” about the earth. The predictability of the seasons, the rhythm of day and night, the cycles of life and death all keep us humble and aware of our dependence on so many things over which we have no control. In fact, the very word “humble” comes from the Latin humus meaning “ground.” Humble people are grounded: aware of their limitations, conscious of their dependencies, and mindful of their impact on others. The earth reminds us of this.
We all belong to the earth. The ancient Hebrew creation story found in the Bible (surely a poetic metaphor for creation rather than a scientific account) pictures humanity as being very much from the earth: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). The word “man” in Hebrew is adam; the word “ground” is adamah. This word play is telling us we are part of the earth, grounded in it. We truly are earthlings and until we work out a way to sustain our existence on other planets, we are all dependent on this one right under our feet. No matter how rich or poor we are, no matter our race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age or education, we all need planet Earth. So Earth Day reminds us of how connected we really are, and how much we need one another. And that is worth celebrating!
We humans have the capacity to support and sustain our planet, but also to damage it. Earth has got along quite adequately for most of its 4.5 billion-year history without us, and will most likely continue to do so when we are long gone. But the way we treat it now determines how we’ll continue to benefit from it both in the present and the all-too-near future. The effects of climate change, pollution, the degradation or our forests and oceans, and the tragic extinction of countless species are all ultimately prices we pay. Earth will recover without us, but we have so much to enjoy, so much to look forward to and benefit from, if only we could walk humbly and lightly upon it. Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). So, Earth Day is also a reminder that the earth is an inheritance for us to treasure and pass on to generations to come. And that is worth celebrating!
At Cedar Ridge, we treasure the earth as a gift from God and an expression of God’s love. This Earth Day we’ll join with local people from all kinds of faiths, traditions and walks of life for an Interfaith Day of Service. Whatever our religion or politics, none of us have all the answers. But together, as grounded, humble, gentle, compassionate earthlings, we can make the world a better place.