Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Christine V. Hides
The Laysan Albatross
Wednesday, March 13, 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

The Laysan Albatross

Water for those of us living in the Midwest is fairly ordinary. We have abundant rain that fills lakes and rivers. A water molecule is simple and stable: two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom create something that we cannot live without. At our baptisms we recall the waters of creation, the great flood, the water Jesus was baptized in. We are marked with a visible sign of God’s grace reminding us that God’s love for us began even before we were swimming in the womb. “By water and the spirit” we are given new life in Christ, becoming part of Christ’s church and God’s redemptive work in the world.

This week’s devotional animals force us to notice the intricate and interconnected flow of water in our world. The Water Cycle is a miracle we take for granted at our own peril. You’ve likely heard of the way plastic waste is carried in the water breaking into ever smaller parts, infiltrating our drinking water, and polluting our oceans. It is this ever-moving current that carries tons of the little everyday plastic objects to the ocean. The currents swirl in a great gyre which funnels the plastic into giant garbage patches. On a remote atoll in the Pacific, a colony of baby Albatrosses are fed 5 tons of this plastic each year by their doting parents.

The albatross has a deep memory of the few square yards of earth that they come home to each year on the Hawaiian archipelago. They practice their adolescent mating steps just a few steps from the nest where they hatched. After spending several years choreographing their own, unique dance, the life-long partners return there to nest and have chicks of their own year after year. The parents will dutifully take turns going out to sea to bring food back to the nest. There’s something about the pieces of plastic that make them mistake it for a meal.

I never really thought about where the phrase “an albatross around the neck” came from until writing this devotional. A quick internet search told me that it comes from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” where a sailor kills an albatross which has been bringing their journey good luck. The wind dies and leaves their sails empty. They run out of water to drink (you know the line, “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”). Realizing the cause of their misfortune, the other sailors force the one who shot the albatross to wear the dead bird around his neck. More and more trouble follows until the mariner’s heart is filled with love upon looking at a swarm of water-snakes and he is able to pray.

The albatross is one of too many vulnerable creatures with whom we share this beautiful, water-covered, and life-giving Earth. In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the sailor makes it home to tell a wedding-guest what he learned. Let the mariner’s hard-earned wisdom be our prayer:
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Other ways keep plastic out of our water from our Kenilworth Union Green Team friends:

Use reusable straws more often, leave them in your purse, Sue L.

Say no to plastic straws, Rose D. , Magdalena S., and Jay R.

Bring a container along to a restaurant for your leftovers, Greta C. and Rob D.

Use less single-use plastic and send what you do use to be recycled, Annie R.

Take plastic wrap and bags to grocery stores for recycling, Rob D.

Donate Lego to Pass the Bricks, Rose D.

March 13, 2024

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