Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
The Black Rhinoceros
Wednesday, March 20, 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 Black Rhinoceros

The black rhino weighs as much as a grand piano or put another way, as much as your washing machine, dish washer, dining room table, hot water heater, and deep freeze combined. But when experienced up close they are not just massive, they are expressive. When they sense danger they let out a “sneeze-like” call. When they are scared they emit a “high pitched wonk.” They even scream when terrified. Their little tail curls when fleeing safety. Describing an encounter with a black rhino, Gayle Boss says “with a dexterity defying the physics of his size, he spins and races away, huffing like a steam engine.” 

In 1960 the African continent held about one hundred thousand eloquent and ground shaking black rhino. Now there are only twenty-five hundred. Poachers can get top dollar on the black market for black rhino horns, even though more and more first-rate specialists in traditional Chinese medicine no longer approve or promote the use of rhino horn and offer numerous herbal alternatives instead. In 2014 the World Wildlife Federation estimated that at least 1,215 were killed by poachers in South Africa alone. 

Maybe you remember when the Lincoln Park Zoo welcomed a new black rhino in 2019. In a world where poachers kill at least one black rhino every day, the life of our local young rhino is symbolic of hope. The black rhino is considered a flagship species: an iconic but vulnerable ambassador of conservation efforts, serving as a luminary of the African savanna. When we care for the other vulnerable species who share their habitat. 

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, father Zosima says, “Love all God’s creation the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” As a flagship species, the black rhino helps us to love “every grain of sand” in the African savanna so as to see and know and understand the “divine mystery” at stake in this endeavor of sharing a planet. When we love the black rhino, we love the egrets and oxpeckers with whom they share a mutualistic relationship. When we love the black rhino, we love the hyena who roam the savannah with them. When we love the black rhino, we love the geometric tortoise, riverine rabbit, and Table Mountain ghost frog whose habitat is black-rhino-adjacent. Love the black rhino, and you begin to love everything.

Hold us together, God.
Show us the web,
the network,
the interconnected spirit
that you weave us with.
Amen.

Starting to love everything? Try these ideas from your friends at church too:

Stop using plastic bags, Rose D.

Try to use less water, Annie R.

Use cloth napkins, Trudy

March 20, 2024

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