Over the last few days, I have been attending an Episcopal conference called “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace” in Oklahoma City. To get to Oklahoma City, we drove from Kentucky through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and into Oklahoma. The drive was mostly beautiful. However, upon entering Kansas, we began to see signs for zones that had been burned…though not sure why. I believe it is called “range burning.” This was heavily prevalent in an area called Flint Hills. We drove through miles and miles here and there of grassland that had been burned. This continued through most of Kansas south of Wichita on I-35. And then, upon entering Oklahoma, we began to see lots of drilling machines…I’m assuming drilling for oil? I started to think about the fracking that I have heard has been going on in this region, and about the rise in earthquakes that have been attributed to this fact.
And I couldn’t help but think about the words of Isaiah:
The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers;
the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
and few people are left.
The wine dries up,
the vine languishes,
all the merry-hearted sigh.
The mirth of the timbrels is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
No longer do they drink wine with singing;
strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
The city of chaos is broken down,
every house is shut up so that no one can enter.
There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has reached its eventide;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
Desolation is left in the city,
the gates are battered into ruins.
For thus it shall be on the earth
and among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended.
It is my prayer that in following Christ our eyes our opened to the damage we inflict on our land. As I have spent these last few days visiting these regions once inhabited by throngs of Native Americans, whose culture embraced the protection and stewardship of the land, I can’t help but wonder how our current society might learn to do the same. How can we learn to be faithful stewards of God’s sacred creation? How can we make our world a more beautiful place for our children? May God be with us as we encounter more numerous challenges that result from our abuse of this wondrous planet.