Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Sarah Champlin
The River Redhorse—Closer to home in Illinois
Wednesday, March 27, 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 River Redhorse

Despite what its name would suggest the River Redhorse is a fish not a horse. Home to rivers and streams across the eastern United States and Canada, the River Redhorse have a widespread distribution but are rare when detected. These freshwater fish are very sensitive to changes in water quality, which means that the presence (or absence) of these fish is often an indicator of the relative health of the water. As a student of the intricate connections within my watershed, I understand that the health of the water nearby relates directly to the health of myself and my community. Within a watershed there is no us and them: there is only us.

During his ministry Jesus was interrogated by an expert of the law who was skeptical when confronted with the two great commandments: to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. The law expert defiantly asks “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

This question is one that stumps many of us. Who counts as a neighbor and who is outside of our neighborly reach? I’d love to say that everyone in the entire world is our neighbor and maybe on some level that’s true. But more often we understand our neighbor as someone who lives right by us. Proximity remains a crucial factor in determining who a neighbor is. Even the Good Samaritan, the exemplary neighbor was only given the chance to act out his neighborliness to the injured stranger because he happened to be walking right nearby.

Watersheds offer a helpful frame for thinking about our neighborhood. Like the streets and cul-de-sacs we inhabit watersheds are not something we can opt out of. Our neighbors are our neighbors often not by choice but by the mere fact of their proximity to us. Their mail sometimes gets delivered to our house, their tree drops acorns in our yard, their kid sells Girl Scout cookies to us every year. Even if we have nothing in common besides houses next door we interact regularly with our neighbors. Like our presence on the block our existence within the watershed impacts the rest of the community whether we like it or not. Our choice lies in how we show up. Jesus asks of us: what kind of neighbor are we going to be?

So who counts as our neighbor? One answer to this evergreen question is the River Redhorse. We would do well to heed the distress call coming from these creatures in closest contact with our local water. There they are half dead on the side of the road just downstream from us. Like the Good Samaritan we must now choose how to act: not because these neighbors are necessarily particularly special to us but because they live on our same street and we saw them as we were walking by. What kind of neighbors are we?

He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ But wanting to vindicate himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ —Luke 10:27–29

Here are some suggestions from friends at Kenilworth Union Church on how to be a good neighbor:

Don’t use plastic baggies, Annie R.
Ride with a friend, Katie L.
Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, Louise M.
Compost yard waste, Carl S.
Go vegetarian or vegan, Rob D.

March 27, 2024

Join our Mailing List

Share This