Creation Encountered


ew cameo.jpgHere’s a side of history they seldom teach
in school:

In the first years of the Roman republic, the soil was so fertile that seven jugera — just four and one-half acres — were ample to support a farming family. This was the size of the allotments after the expulsion of the Tarquins, and the allotments in Manius Curius’ colonies.

Curius declared, The man must be regarded as a dangerous citizen for whom seven jugera of land are not enough.

Yet as the Romans and their subjects exhausted their soils, the minimum farm size had to grow. Three centuries after Curius, we find Tiberius Gracchus proposing that homeless soldiers be given allotments of thirty jugera each. A century later even thirty weren’t enough….

Whole provinces emptied out. The historian Livy — who knew little of farming — fell to wondering … how provinces that were now almost totally deserted could in former days have sent forth legion after legion of warriors. Odd, said he, but it seems these districts may have once been thickly settled!

In the second century A.D. Antioch had 500,000 inhabitants. By the fifteenth century it no longer existed. … Archaeologists had to dig through twenty-eight feet of silt washed from the farms upstream in order to get at some of its ruins.

This U.S. Soil and Conservation Service map shows how much of our nation’s topsoil had already been lost as of 1934….

These paragraphs are from a talk I gave about Christianity and the environment, to a gathering of church people in southern Appalachia, sponsored by the Coalition for Appalachian Ministry, in 1989. The folks who invited me gave me a whole year to prepare it, and I spent that year lading it full of ideas and insights. I think the talk was one of my best.

Here’s another extract, from a later point in the talk:

There’s an instant at the beginning of every true religious event when the world takes a new coloration: it becomes a charged space, a space into which the remembrance of God has entered. All actions take a new significance that directly derives from that charge in the air. The priest manipulating bread and chalice, the minister declaring Holy Writ, the worshiper bowing her head in prayer, engage in acts we can feel touch the fabric of Creation.

Wherever two or more of you
are gathered in My Name,
there am I in the midst.

That’s how we’ve learned to understand the experience.

But I believe there’s more to it than that. For what is it when you go alone to the wilderness, and feel God’s presence there? Is it not that two or more are still gathered in God’s Name — but that now only one is human, while the others are the creatures of Nature?

Friends, I’m making this talk, newly re-typeset as a booklet, available as the literary equivalent of shareware. That means you can download and print it out for free (though you’ll have to provide your own binder), but if you decide you like it, you’re invited to pay.

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