Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
The Koala
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

“Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
Meister Eckhart

Koalas are easy to love with their teddy-bear-like faces and their little pouch to hold their young. Marsupials are charming, especially if you didn’t grow up around them. It’s heartbreaking to see koalas in a book about possibly-vanishing-species. There is a child-like innocence about their non-violent, mild-mannered tree-dwelling lifestyles. 

I expected to read that koalas were in trouble because of climate change and habitat destruction. It was reported that 61,000 koalas were killed in the 2019–2020 Australian bushfires. What I wasn’t expecting was that koalas have chlamydia. Yes the content of your high school sex-ed class comes in handy, surprisingly, when it comes to endangered species. Because of chlamydia, scientists find female koalas with “ovaries completely encased in cysts” causing infertility, and also digestive issues, not to mention discomfort. A vaccine for chlamydia in koalas was developed in 2023 and is part of the plan going forward as scientists and animal activists try to help bolster the wild koala population.[1]

I am humbled by this story. The world is more complex than I expect, more full of sorrow maybe. To think of the would-be koala mothers, not knowing why motherhood never arrives. To think of the weight of sorrow this now-endangered species carries, generation to generation. Scientists believe that prior to intense deforestation and climate-crisis-adjacent devastation like turbulent bushfires, the immune systems of koalas could fight off these kinds of common diseases. Now their future is fragile. 

How can the church respond? Gayle Boss says, “The ark is the church, the community that carries us across the roiling chaos of our lives—personal troubles and public troubles. All that water—it’s the chaos and also the water of baptism that strips off the tough husk we wear so that love can spill out of us.” For the koalas local scientists are carrying them across the roiling chaos with vaccines and environmental storytellers like Gayle Boss are stripping off the tough husk we wear so that love can spill out of us. 

John Muir says, “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, stripped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” 

Holy God, may this infinite storm of beauty be yours to mend, and ours to tend. May love spill out of us. May we carry one another and the animal-other across the roiling chaos toward thriving. Amen.


February 28, 2024

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