Justice and Creation

by Clint Baldwin, Executive Director We had included this reflection in a monthly newsletter to our staff but wanted to make it available to friends of Word Made Flesh as well. Thank you for partnering with WMF and being a part of God’s work to bring healing, hope, and peace to our neighbors in need around the world.


Dear all,

We are heading into autumn here in the US. In Wilmore, Kentucky the leaves are falling, but they are unfortunately falling off the trees more from heat rather than from a change toward cooler temperatures. I just read from a friend today that the temperatures where they are staying in Florida have been cooler than here in Kentucky. Unfortunately, ongoing 90F+ days in the middle of September is an historically increasing heat trend. Cooler temperatures will arrive, but these warmer days are reminders of larger and often harsher patterns of climate changes transpiring around the world.

As I think of the communities where you all minister and live, I am reminded that climate change often has a greater and more immediate negative effect on those who have very little in the way of material resources inasmuch as they also often have fewer options for navigating variations in living. As frequently happens in many other ways too, folks oppressed by various issues of impoverishment unduly bear the outcomes of scenarios that they regularly have little part or no part in creating.

The above is a reminder to me that to love God and neighbor well, we must also love all of God’s creation. Our surrounding ecosystem has been gifted to us for our thriving. However, to thrive as hoped, we would do well to remember Gandhi’s adage that “there is enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.” Thanks to all of you for taking seriously our ongoing fiduciary responsibility of care.  As per above, this is simply a varied way of saying thank you for taking seriously love of God and love of neighbor.

Recently, after a number of years gap, I again ran across a poem that I love and that I find offers excellent perspective about where we live and who we are. As relates to our faith, I would add that the poem for me also offers excellent perspective as to Whose we are.  Indeed, we (you, me, everyone, the surrounding environment) are fearfully and wonderfully made.

The following poem was penned by Maya Angelou in 1995. It was first read at the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. She dedicates the poem, “to the hope for peace, which lies, sometimes hidden, in every heart.”

You can watch/listen to Maya Angelou read her poem here.

A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

We – the comprehensive “we” – are created in the image of God and carry the very breath of God in us! May we deeply and truly understand this and live accordingly.

Maya Angelou’s poem’s comprehensiveness of connectivity reminds me of the connectedness of the Body of Christ – a body where all the parts are needed and none are left out. All are vital. Such connectedness reminds me of (c/C)ommunion; the communion of relationship that transpires in the best sense of community and the Communion of the Body of Christ together that transpires in partaking of the Eucharist and fosters deep and abiding community.

I leave you with these thoughts from the end of a well-utilized Communion liturgy:

Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery
in which you have given yourself to us.
Grant that we may go into the world
in the strength of your Spirit,
to give ourselves for others,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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