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Galatians, Luke, Freedom and Honoring Earth Community

The following is a reflection from Sylvia Knight, Earth Care Coordinator at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Burlington

For freedom Christ has set us free; … do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1 “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 ESV

What slavery do we experience today? Emotional bondage to perceived expectations of others? Feeling trapped in work that violates one’s values and dignity? Attachment to things or attitudes that offer a false sense of security? Addiction to shopping or to electronic devices? Crippling indebtedness?

Jesus and Paul lived daily under the yoke of Roman domination and oppression at a time when those marginalized by poverty or physical ailment were considered unclean and dispensable. Is there a similarity here to our time? Jesus spent much time healing and liberating those shunned because of leprosy, blindness, paralysis, and poverty, calamities thought to be the result of sin. He emphasized their ultimate worth in God’s creation and kingdom. When Jesus prayed, he went alone to the hills amongst the olive trees and cedars that provided shade and beauty and held the soils of the land. He felt solidarity with the humble poor and affinity for the Earth.

Jesus’ exhortation to not look back, once our hand is on the plow (Luke 9:62), can free us to love Earth Community as part of our response to God’s love, to know our life-giving inter-dependence with Earth’s air, water, soil, trees, and wildlife. We can begin to understand how idolatry, licentiousness, selfishness, and envy (Galatians 5:19) can harm Earth, contaminate air, water and soil, squander forests, kill off entire species, and create climate chaos. Exploitation of Earth also exploits people in other lands who still experience slavery to produce goods for our markets. Slavery exists in the food industry (including in Vermont), in the clothing industry (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Central America), and in silver and gold mines (Africa, Central and South America). Such uncomfortable truths may nudge us through compassion toward different buying habits.

I feel Christ’s spirit of new life stirring among our immigrant neighbors on Vermont farms who struggle for liberation from slave-like conditions and from oppressive policing even here in Vermont. God’s liberating love can help us examine our privilege and how our lives affect others, learn from the poor, and strengthen our faith. Deeper thanks for God’s love and reverence for Earth Community (all communities of life) lead me to live into intentional simplicity, quiet listening to God, loving solidarity with farmworkers, and sharing Eucharist with those who give their lives to God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace.

Can we as Jesus’ disciples learn to extend the graces of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control to Earth Community? Jesus is Lord, not only of human-kind, but of the whole Creation. I believe that we can read Luke 9:62 as a call to radical discipleship in God’s kin-dom on behalf of a new Earth Community, listening carefully to those who are marginalized, working in solidarity with the oppressed for justice, and knowing our relatedness with God’s sacred creation as a basis for life. AMEN.

About the author

“One might say I have been steeped in the Episcopal Church from birth, having been ‘marked as Christ’s own forever’ by my grandfather, a priest, one of several family members ordained or dedicated to service in the Church. My experience over 70+ years has taught me about my privileged status and leads me to synthesize my love of God’s Creation with my love for and solidarity with God’s people who struggle for basic dignity and justice, As a church member I have worked as Earth Care Coordinator at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Burlington for over 10 years. You can contact me at” – Sylvia

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