Este es uno de varios sermones escritos en inglés y español por pastores de la Iglesia Luterana de Perú y el Sínodo de la Costa del Golfo Texas-Louisiana, ELCA, para el domingo (3 de junio de 2018) antes del Día del Medio Ambiente (5 de junio de 2018) . El sermón aparece en español primero, luego en inglés, a continuación.
This is one of several sermons being written in English and Spanish by pastors in the Lutheran Church of Peru and the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA, for the Sunday (June 3, 2018) before Environment Day (June 5, 2018). The sermon appears in Spanish first, then in English, below.
Meditación: Una Consciencia Nueva de La Creación de Dios
Día Ambiental, Junio 2018
Rev. Dr. Uta Ihrke-Buchroth
Iglesia Luterana Emanuél, Lima (Collique) Peru
Meditation: A New Consciousness of God’s Creation
Environment Day, June 2018
Rev. Dr. Uta Ihrke-Buchroth
Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Lima (Collique) Peru
Exodus 20,13 / 1. Thessalonians 5,17
I: Exodus 20,13
The decalogue, the 10 commandments as christians say or Mitzwot as it is called in the Tanach, are understood as key rules for theological ethics in Judaism and Christianity. Especially the prohibitive “You shall not kill!” the 5th commandment according to Catholics and Lutherans and the 6th commandment to other churches and Jews is a well known and challenging text considering the occasion of the day of environment.
Within the concerns for environment the topic of global warming has become one major problem for our planet, because it is destabilizing the ecosystem earth. Consequences are the increasing whether extremes. Last year in March, Peru suffered from the floods through the El Niño phenomenon, which destroyed homes and also took away lives. Just months later our sisters and brothers in Texas were affected severely.
Environmental issues signal that beyond the differences of life reality in the two countries and churches we are all sitting in the same boat, which is our mother earth. It makes us feel part of one unity. If one part is suffering all parts are suffering with it. Therefore the 5th of June presents an opportunity for us as Christians, sisters and brothers in different contexts to look at environmental issues through the perspective of our religion and scripture. God’s creation as a whole and its suffering is an ethical duty for us as believers, because God has no other hands than ours. We are called to involve as protagonists in favor of life according to our basic ethical rules.
So lets take a deeper look into scripture. “You shall not kill!” A short prohibitive, as exegetes call it. The root retzach/razach is used to describe destructive action of different kinds .”לֹא ִת ְרצָח“
In the New Testament, especially in the context of the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew 5,18 Jesus affirms the Torah as a whole and makes the commandments even more rigorous and can clearly be understood as an affirmation of non-violence. In a more motivating way we could say, you don ́t need to kill because God’s love has saved you through Christ. You are liberated and your liberty can liberate others to feel alive.
The missing object-suffix in לֹא ִת ְרצָח has concerned me since my first semester of theology. Luther interprets it simply with “your fellow” and most scholars point out the significance of the commandment within human relations, however there is no object in Hebrew that explains whom is supposed not to be killed.
Considering ethics in an initial and terminal state of human life, the commandment of life tends to be diluted increasingly. Peruvian law is still clear about it and last weekend about 800.000 people participated in the March for Life through the streets of Lima organized by the Cardinal to maintain the law that protects unborn human life under all circumstances.
But how about other species? The 5th of june is an occasion to reflect on how we relate to God’s creation as a whole in order to make effort for life, for all living creatures on Gods beautiful planet. The day of environment invites us to rethink how our lifestyle our daily action can form a statement for life and for happiness of Gods creation as a whole, to maintain and reestablish our ecosystem as beautiful and functional as God has created it.
I am very happy that our little Lutheran minority in Peru has made effort for life and peaceful living, as emphasized in different public ecumenical conferences held by the church, because it is such an important testimony as christians for sustainability.
The work of Albert Schweitzer: Reverence of life, and his famous statement: “I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live”, can inspire us towards a new attitude of compassion and love for all of Gods children.
Of course there are different ways we could approach making change in our own lives, because that is the field where we can change something as individuals. And Environment Day might encourage us to ask whether there exists a necessity to kill other creatures for our nutrition for instance. Scientifically and thanks to the testimonies of a growing number of people, it has been proven that in our context it is not necessary to consume meat, especially considering the cruel mass production of livestock and milliards of animals being slaughtered yearly.
Besides carbon dioxide, methane is affecting our climate severely. One molecule of methane is similar to the pollution caused by 40 molecules of CO2 and is emitted by agriculture, mainly by beef production.
At the present date intensive livestock farming occupies about 70% of world’s area of arable land. Potentially this territory could be used for a high quality plant-based nutrition that would stop hunger for humans all over the world, saving resources. Particularly in Latin American soya fields for fodder (90% genetically manipulated highly pesticide-burdened) are occupying high amounts of former territory of the Amazon rain forest, which is the green lung for earth, storage of CO2 and has a lot of interaction with our climate.
So there are many reasons to rethink our consumer behavior. I don ́t need to point out that especially mammals as organisms function very similarly to the human body, and that they have a nervous system that perceives feelings of fear and threat similarly to humans. You might oppose, saying that in Gen 9, 2-3 God literally allows eating meat. But it was under special contextual circumstances after a natural disaster. But Jesus ate fish and lamb (Luke 24,42-43; Luke 22,8-15), gave fish to others (Matt.14, 17-21) and declared all food as pure including animals (Acts 10,10-15; Mark 7,19).
Our lutheran theology encourages us towards an interpretation that considers the context of time and space in which a biblical narrative speaks. A contextual theology has to point out, that neither Jesus nor the Israelites in antiquity experienced a context of industrialization and exploitation of creation. In ancient times there was no overfishing, no intensive lifestock or factory farming, etc.
In the report of creation Genesis 1,28 the priestly source states that humanity shall rule over the earth and all living creatures. Now, the verb “rule” in Hebrew implies responsibility and respect, not exploitation. Nevertheless ecotheology to a certain extent holds the pericope responsible for todays ecocrisis, because it gave humans authority over God’s creation.
Considering the actual circumstances of our ecosystem, as Christians we can admit that we have sinned, because our consciousness of being simul iustus et pecator, as Luther says, always holy and sinning in God’s perspective, liberates us. Our salvation does not depend on our action, but our action can become good, creating justice in unconditional love and care for other human and not human beings, because we are liberated to act.
If we think about how our own life can be a testimony of God’s love for her creation, we need to have compassion with ourselves acknowledging that changing habits especially if they have been taught to us since our early childhood is not easy and will not happen rapidly but step by step. We need to feel gratitude for every little step forward, for instance by reducing animal-based food and enjoy more fruits visualizing that we want to reduce suffering of God’s creation.
II: 1. Thessalonians 5,17
Paul tells the Greek congregation to pray without ceasing, just as Jesus does in Luke 18,1 and many other pericopes in the Second Testament. But what does that mean? Surely he does not refer to a non-stop talking prayer, but rather to the attitude of meditation, where we seek God’s presence and a higher state of consciousness that is difficult to reach in our daily lives filled with stress and preoccupation.
If our mind is preoccupied for instance, a presence in meditation will gain the transition into a prayer and gratitude in order to keep inner peace. Living in Gods presence we do not fear. (Phil 4,6; Col 4,2). In other words, praying should be like breathing, naturally without thinking of it. Since atmospherical pressure provokes breathing, it is actually more difficult to hold or pause our breath than to inhale and exhale. As believers we are practically existing within the atmosphere of the Divine.
Paul declares that we should constantly breathe Gods presence and truth in order to function completely as followers of Christ, feeling alive and not hold our spiritual breath assuming that it is sufficient to get back to it once in a while.
Instead of an outspoken prayer, what Paul refers to is the attitude of listening or meditating, feeling God’s presence and counting on it all the time and let it permeate our thoughts, words and actions.
Now, combining the two texts it becomes obvious that a closeness to the Divine in constant meditation is the force within us to let change happen, for instance if we think of our nutrition, which of course is one life dimension among others. Feel welcome to think of the many ways in our lives where we can do better. Meditation, constant prayer can change the chip in our head, because everything starts with a new perspective new ways of looking at things and circumstances.
Preaching ethics, (which I do only occasionally, but the day of environment is a great occasion to do so), one needs to give personal testimony. So let me tell you how meditation made me able to change the chip in my head and realize that I was called to a different nutrition than my parents have taught me. I started living vegan during my full-time studies of theology, for ethical reasons, but when I met my gourmet-cooking husband, I could not resist his magical dishes (among other things).
￼Work-life routine with all it ́s appointments and projects that occupy ones mind neither helped to a deeper spirituality. So I managed to lead a “normal” life, free of feelings of guilt or compassion for God’s creatures, I abandoned the kitchen completely for years, because seeing or preparing raw meat or fish made me sick to the stomach.
It was not until last year’s Lent, that I felt the deep need of spending time in a monastery. For a mother with two toddlers that ́s not actually a realistic desire, so I just prayed about it and tried to find out why God put this wish into my heart. I found out that I was missing silence (which in Lima is very hard to get), I was missing a deeper mindfulness as I had as a student spending hours in meditation and walks through the forest. I found out that my life consisted in functioning and restlessness. So the wish of the “monastery” simply represented the necessity of mindfulness and inner peace. In Lent I went back to Yoga school and meditation, that I have come to know during pregnancy and it helped me in difficult situations. So I started power Yoga developing deep breathing techniques, which I haven’t known before. It just felt awesome and brought back a state of mindfulness and sensibility that I was missing so much. The sensibility gained through a deeper spirituality also lead to a new longing for plant-based nutrition and changed the chip inside my head without forcing it. Meditating the לֹא ִת ְרצָח– commandment encouraged me to develop a new sense of compassion.
Beyond all obvious scientifically-based reasons, it was the force of spirituality that changed the chip in my head. In a spiritually conscious state, we become who we really are, it brings us back to our origin and life-source, which is God. I learned to love the kitchen again, without the feeling of guilt or disgust. I enjoy preparing food for my kids with happiness and deep gratitude, because Peru is a wonderful and very blessed place to be for a plant-based nutrition because of its abundant variety of fruits and vegetable due to its different climatic zones. Its a joy rather than diet and avocados have become our daily bread.
Albert Schweitzer says: “By having a reverence for life we enter into a spiritual world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep and alive.”
If we want to change the world as believers, there is a significance of spending time for daily meditation. God talks to us when we are in a state of mind that is listening in silence. Its not coincidence that meditation has literally a lot to do with conscious respiration. When Paul states that our life should be a prayer he refers to the meditative state of mind that brings us closer to God and enables us to feel compassion.
But of course my nutrition-example is only one possibility and it can be practiced little by little in an explorative way. You could try out a detox day, or detox-week and see how it feels to you. You might not imagine how strength-full you wake up in the morning. Every little step is important. The decision to grab an apple for snack is a reason to be thankful. We need to be compassionate also with ourselves.
There are so many life dimensions where one could rethink behavior in order to make the world a little bit better and give a credible testimony as Christians.
Another example would be using the bike instead of the car. Every time that I get back to Germany I am just astonished showering with potable water. That is an incredible blessing and not imaginable in Peru. Every showering becomes a prayer and thankfully reduces shower time to save water, because of the consciousness of being in the midst of potable water that most of my sisters and brothers in this world need so urgently.
In my congregation at the outskirts of Lima we focus on being a healing community and we donate fresh fruits to everyone who visits considering their needs and living condition in poverty, teaching them a plant based nutrition as a healthy low cost alternative and combine it with curses of meditation. The testimonies of our sisters about how their life has changed are incredible.
Living the salvation and liberation through Christ creates an attitude of looking towards the possible little things and steps just next and near to us.
The attitude of Jesus always was looking to what is possible, reachable in a situation where others were anxious and affirming that it is impossible to do good. He was not murmuring about what is missing and instead gained feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves in John 6,1-15. Jesus teaches us to realize our potential and not lament about what is missing.
To gain the attitude of Christ and to follow him, we need a daily and consistent praxis pietatis in meditation. Spirituality can change the chip in our heads, because its our unconscious lifestyles that causes suffering to God’s creation. Consequently it is meditation that changes the world. Our lives should be a prayer, because only a meditating mind can make efforts for non-violence. Peace in this world and in our families can only be gained through inner peace, peace in our minds.
לֹא ִת ְרצָח The Sanskrit term Ahimsa, often used by Mahatma Gandhi, is a synonym of our meaning
Environment Day invites us to think about how we are called to protect God’s creation in the life dimensions we can think of, and to feel gratitude for every little step forward, trusting that change comes naturally by itself, having compassion with ourselves.
Changing the world through faith is just about little steps that a more conscious living in the presence of the creator enables us to do. Through listening to God, the Holy Spirit can and will work in our different life dimensions. The gift of seeing miracle, and appreciating everything that God puts into our life has a lot to do with our own eyes. Being liberated through faith, we are enabled to visualize all the blessing that makes us able to act and feeling gratitude for every little step.
Jesus fed the 5000 people with his positive attitude. His gratitude was the light he send out. With his actions and words he enlightened all the people around him and nurtured them spiritually and physically.
May our spiritual practice lead to a new consciousness of God’s creation and may our faith make us powerful to go little steps together as sisters and brothers in Christ, in Texas, in Peru and wherever we are on this one and only planet earth as sisters and brothers. May God’s presence sharpen our eyes and ears to fulfill our task as caretakers of God’s creation with compassion and love in our hearts. Amen