Call it spring fever, call it mid-life crisis, but actually my whole life long I've been more than a little "Earth-centric." I don't know if the word is real, but a few years ago, I was trying to communicate my love for this blue-green ball we call home and this is what came to me.
It came to me when I was considering starting a new church and was trying to describe to people how in my belief system creation is not only a sacred gift from Spirit for which we are to care, but we're all a part of creation and what we do here and now on Earth matters.
There are great churches like Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco (maybe you saw it in the movie "Pursuit of Happyness"). Glide is what church leaders call "Afro-centric" - the music and "culture" of the church is predominantly African-American. Of course, all sorts of people are drawn there and at Glide everyone is welcome!
I'm Earth-centric in that way. It is my culture. Being Earth-centric doesn't mean I'm against thinking about life on other planets. And aliens would be welcome in my Earth-centric church. I loved Avatar, all of the Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who and all. That kind of stuff helps me expand my mind beyond the current limits. Certainly, there could be life on other planets. It makes sense. There could be all sorts of realities of which I'm simply not aware. But my home base is here on earth. In my limited time and energy, Earth is my focus.
Perhaps it's because my background in Christianity is United Methodist who celebrate God's unconditional love - Grace - as a foundation of our beliefs. Even though I grew up in Oklahoma, the belt buckle of the Bible belt, I didn't buy into the fears around what would happen after I died. I believe in a compassionate and forgiving God. What seems strongest in the ways of Jesus is teaching about how important it is to care for each other. What we do here on Earth is important.
Certainly people experience both heaven and hell here and now on earth.
We're connected with each other and all creation in ways we are just barely beginning to understand. We are family.
Mystics from all traditions have talked about how Spirit is present with us even in the earthly creation. St. Francis and sometimes his friend Sister Claire are recognized as loving and serving even the birds and lilies of the field. In case you don't know St. Francis, he can be found in garden statuary with a deer near by, birds perched upon him and sometimes his hand is actually a birdfeeder.
As Lakota elder, Black Elk, said, "The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."
Modern mystic and author, Annie Dillard warns: "There never was a more holy time then right now, a more holy place then right here and a more holy people then we are!" This isn't an invitation to competition and judgment of others; it is a call to wake up and smell the holy here and now in our midst.
If you want to go Earth-centric, too, consider Celebrating the Earth especially this Sunday and next at Aldersgate, 11 a.m.
Join in the community interfaith celebration, Earthsong, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Northern Light United Church. Aqeela Sherrills will talk about a reverence movement. He believes that social, peace and environmental issues all stem from violence - against ourselves, each other and the natural world. Go reverent for the earth!
Judy Shook is pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.