Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection
Year A, Proper 18

General Reflection on the Readings

Ezekiel 33:(1-6)7-11
Psalm 119:33-48 or 119:33-40
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 18:15-20

Reflection on Romans 12: 1-8
by the Rev Margaret W. Thomas

Human relationships often resemble animal relationships, because we are animals and because our brains may quickly revert to basic instinctual emotions and actions. Hopefully, we can remember and apply some of our learned and nurtured responses to our lives in daily family and work relationships. Hopefully, we can remember and apply some of the ways of recalling and restructuring our lives as Jesus taught how to reconcile differences among his early followers.

When one visits a place of fragile natural life full of flora and fauna, such as the shores of the Great Lakes, one is reminded ot the many relationships in the ecosystems present in the extensive balances of life. Some animals and plants are presently endangered, some are gone or extinct, and some populations are recovering.

The Anishinabe people from the northern lakes of Huron, Michigan and Superior areas recognized the relational small place of humans as stewards in the realm of Gitche Manidoo, the land of the Great Spirit. Humans were created last of the creatures. The value of all of creation, of all living things was high. Mother Earth nurtured the brother and sister animals. Humans might use animals and plants for food and life needs; but respect was always held high for the live offerings that other beings gave so that humans could survive. That is why tobacco is offered to the spirits and why animals are held in high regard as guides and fellow travelers. When an animal gives its life, it is thanked and rituals offered to it in respect and honor. Plants too are thanked when consumed or used, such as birch trees in the making of canoes or baskets.

Sitting on a summer sandy shore where a beach was shared with gulls, cormorants and eagles, one could ponder the meanings in both traditional Native and Christian American ways. Each bird was out fishing. All birds are hard workers. They must dive and catch the fish or capture a meal from a bird who does, or change a menu item.
The birds have learned to use humans too. Cormorants love to dive into the pond netted areas full of fish. and thus are thriving is some places. Eagles now eat many of the road killed deer. More eagles die now from cars than from natural causes in some area. Eagles also steal fish from gulls. The sea gulls are quick to follow fishing boats, trash cans,find land fill heaps, and have learned to love the french fries of fast food store dumpsters.

Paul tells us to work hard but to remember to pray and offer food for our enemies. Do the birds know that sometimes we are enemies and sometimes friends. It is great fun to watch the tourist’s child from Iowa gleefully throw pop corn into the air for the gulls on a lake shore. Yet not too many years ago the excessive use of a chemical poison DDT was endangering all of these birds. DDT was consumed through the food chains into the fish which the birds ate. Eggs were rendered soft and chicks died.

A good outcome has brought fish eating birds back into stronger populations. Through scientific research, people became aware of the danger, and now DDT is banned in the US. The human to bird relationship was out of balance. Although the poison was carried by microorganisms and then the fish; it was the death of the birds that people noticed. Now the issues of habitat are more a problem for many species. Are humans able to recognize and heed the warnings? Are Christians called to help restore the balance again as good stewards, recognizing all their relationships, as do the Native people? Are we hearing warnings such as Ezekiel and the prophets called us to restore our relationships to God? We need to hear, see and act as though we do remember these warnings for all of our relations.

  Copyright Statement

The Rev Margaret W. Thomas is rector of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church, Duluth, MN. She originally wrote this reflection in 2005.  Margaret and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to The Rev Margaret W. Thomas or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

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