Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Sarah Champlin
The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
Maundy Thursday, March 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

The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Do you know how big a bluefin tuna is? I have only ever seen tuna in their canned form at the grocery store. In my stunted imagination, I would guess that tuna is about tuna-can size, more or less. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna can get up to thirteen feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.1 I used to find the story of Jonah getting swallowed by a big fish a little far-fetched but now I’m starting to think he must have been dealing with an enormous tuna. One big fish could be 16,000 tuna cans!

Grocery stores have a way of separating us from where our food comes from. When our food is packaged and shelved, we lose sight of where it was, who it was, before it came to us. When we only see tuna in a can, we forget that it was a sentient being, that lived a whole life far away from Kenilworth, Illinois.

The bluefin tuna of the Atlantic live quite miraculous lives. Their enormous bodies are made for distance travel, so they swim all across the ocean: from Nova Scotia to the Mediterranean, covering thousands of miles. Think of the travel stories these fish could tell!

When they return each year to their breeding ground, they are hunted by boats with big nets, boats driven by fishermen who often take double the quota of this overfished species because it is in such high demand. The tuna are backed into a corner until they are panicked into a blind terror. It’s said that the top chefs can taste how afraid the fish was when it died—a delicacy.2

I’m not trying to say that we should all go vegetarian (though by all means, don’t let me stop you). As Nigel the pelican from the movie Finding Nemo says, “Fish gotta swim, bird’s gotta eat.” We humans must eat too. I do wonder though, whether we can set a higher bar for ourselves than complacency with consuming canned fear, packaged beyond all recognition. Author and ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer asks, “Whether we are digging wild leeks or going to the mall, how do we consume in a way that does justice to the lives that we take?”3 She proposes the Honorable Harvest, a code of ethics that guide the harvesting practices of the indigenous people of this land. Among these guidelines are to take only what is given, to never take more than half so that other creatures might share in the bounty. Kimmerer says, “It’s not so much a list of ‘do not’s’ as a list of ‘do’s.’ Do eat food that is honorably harvested, and celebrate every mouthful.”

Today is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ Last Supper before the crucifixion. During communion each Sunday, we remember his sacrifice for us, and gratefully consume the spiritual nourishment that he gave to us in the form of bread and wine. May we carry this reverence to all else that we consume. May we honor the lives that were given so that we might thrive. May we be grateful for the sacrifices made for us, and may we use that which nourishes us for the glory of the God who created us all.

God who gives us all we need,
We thank you for the abundance you have set before our table.
Bless the providers in our lives—the plants and animals that nourish and sustain us.
May we honor them with our respectful consumption.
May we honor you with our generosity of spirit.
Amen.


1 https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/western-atlantic-bluefin-tuna

2 Gayle Boss, Wild Hope

3 Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

March 28, 2024

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