By Lee Van Ham
Most congregations today focus on personal matters, including personal salvation, and on maintaining their institutions. Yet, they are at a loss for how to re-center their focus, their teaching and practice on saving life on Earth. Does anyone feel irrelevance here?
The clergy celebrating Mass, Communion, or the Lord’s Supper have, for so many centuries, focused on personal salvation when breaking bread and holding up the chalice. It has me wondering whether they even see “the far more” that lies beyond this narrow, individualistic meaning? I empathize. For 32 years I was exactly that kind of clergy.
By contrast, Mother Earth has a different wisdom. She knows that the continuing evolutionary energies that live in the interdependence of all creation are, in fact, the core sacrament of being. Scientists and naturalists, as two of this sacrament’s primary celebrants, bring us weekly, even daily, updates on what they are learning about Earth’s endless mysteries. They see that Earth’s distribution of “enough for all” is core to how she keeps eco-systems functioning. She shares her abundance with all creation.
At the same time, this core sacrament of life is experiencing a horrible breakdown. The systems are crumbling that maintain the treasure of interdependence. Unlike Earth’s systems, the human-created systems are killing what Earth’s core sacrament celebrates. “Enough for all” has long, long ago been replaced by individualistic rule instead of distributing abundance to all. And personal salvation is part of this individualistic rule. What a horror!
But in the past few decades a revolution has been underway. It intends nothing less than to end the rule of this individualistic separatism. As Earth’s systems of life are breaking down, people’s minds and hearts are hearing what Earth and her science priests are saying. This revolution believes that because all of life is interrelated, their gospel of interconnection cannot ultimately fail. Individualism is not freedom in this revolution, but a murderous sin that infects relationships and destroys them.
From their beginning, the Mass and Holy Communion have been inherently revolutionary. But they have been drawn away from being a festival of the revolution and become coopted by the reckless culture of individualism. Now, that culture is being exposed. But—wow—is it ever fighting back! The people whose power and financial accumulation depend on the individualistic culture continuing, have no intent of giving it up for some kind of, what they call, socialistic communalism. But their analysis is wrong and will fail. Calling the radical interdependence of life throughout our planet “socialism” or any other name is such a wildly inaccurate understanding that it will not fell revolutionaries aligned with it. Independence, which was so revolutionary in that Enlightenment, is now regressive. In the face of ecological breakdown, it is interdependence that is revolutionary. Every week more and more people are seeing that Mother Earth leads this revolution.
Jubilee—from the Exodus that left empire, to the bread of life (manna) Jesus embodied, to Paul’s new creation in Christ consciousness, on to the Apocalypse’s revelation of a new creation—carries foreword the revolution of Earth’s core sacrament. Some of this sure sounds like the ancient wisdom of Indigenous peoples. Yes, human systems of individualism divided Indigenous peoples and all but destroyed them and their wisdom. Yet, after centuries, Indigenous ways are rising anew. They are people who know Mother Earth is their teacher. They love her, even as she loves them and all who can celebrate interdependence as the core sacrament that it is. It is not difficult to see how Jews may well have adapted Indigenous ways as they developed religious festivals and practices in worshiping Yahweh. The Jew, Jesus, called us to a discipleship made possible by this worldview of Jubilee. If today we will hear the deep soul of his Call to us, then we know it is a call out of Empire in all its forms, from political and economic to religious and psychological. We can be “called out” people who are called to the revolution of Mother Earth and her sacrament of life.