In honor of the celebration of Earth Day this week, let’s start with two questions.
Do you have a sacred place in nature where you love to visit, a place where you feel a deep spiritual connection with life?
Do you have a special outdoor activity that you love to do that energizes your soul?
For many people such places and activities are connected to a favorite mountain or seashore, a special lake or river, a beloved forest, park, farm, garden, or even a treasured backyard. These places can be anywhere that one finds a connection with creation.
I have many special places that connect me with the sacredness of creation. One of my favorite such places in the world is Quetico Provincial Park in northwestern Ontario, Canada. Quetico is a protected park that can only be accessed by canoe by those granted a permit to do so. Permits are limited in order to preserve this pristine wilderness, a wilderness containing hundreds of lakes, rivers, and streams. The park is so pristine and remote that visitors are able to drink the clear flowing water right out of the lakes without filtering or boiling it first.
It dawned on me on a trip to Quetico many years ago that my family and I were only able to enjoy the sacred gift of this park because others before us had made the intentional decision to preserve this wilderness area. You and I do not have the power to create the beauty of the wilderness. It is a gift from the Creator. And while we do not have the power to create the beauty of the wilderness, we do have the power to protect and preserve it, and to be stewards of its sacredness. As you reflected upon the questions I began with and thought of places in nature that are special to you, I wonder if there were people before you who worked to protect those places to keep them wild and sacred.
What is true about nature is true about all that is sacred in life. The sacred is all around us–in nature, in the community of our neighbors, and in the love of friends and family. We don’t create the presence of the sacred, but we are called to be protectors and stewards of all that is sacred in life, in nature, in all of the communities in our lives, and in all of our relationships.
In the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, there is a wonderful prayer that speaks of “this fragile earth, our island home.” This phrase describes how the earth, and in fact all that is sacred in life, is indeed fragile. It is our calling to respect and protect our earth, as well as to protect all other people and things that are sacred and fragile as well.
It is said that the true character of a society can be measured by the way it treats its children, its elderly, and those who are most fragile. I would add how we treat the earth to this list, as well. In honor of Earth Day, I invite us all to recommit to preserving all that is sacred in our lives, including the sacred we find in nature as well as all that is sacred and fragile in the people and relationships in our lives that are most in need of our love and care.