This week brought my semester’s teaching to an end. Marking is still outstanding, and a host of post semester responsibilities: some around publishing, some around church work, some around the to and fro that comes with life in an institution.
It has been nice to have a little room to breath. My colleagues and I have had a bit more time to chat, and check in with each other. This really is one of the best bits of my work. My years in parish ministry sometimes came with a sense of being on my own even though I always had supportive people in my parishes. But this isn’t quite the same as having colleagues to interact with daily. That is now the case, and this piece in my position reminds me of how community really is at the core of finding fulfillment in life.
This last year I have been reading Indigenous authors who also speak of this – but they tend to expand the understanding of community in important and interesting ways. They invite us to consider all of the natural world as our relation. Trees and bumble-bees; fox and stalks of grass; clouds, rivers, springs and tides are all our relations. It is a helpful tonic to the way we relate to the world more often; seeing it as a resource for meeting our ever fleeting and demanding desires. This perception is fed by the idea that the world is a big cupboard for the wanton wants of the oh so important human species.
There are theologians, philosophers, scholars of various stripes who are querying the idea that the humans are at the pinnacle of creation – a point made by Indigenous people around the world. These voices point out that our sense of superiority is undone by the track record of homo sapiens vis-à-vis planet care. Further, they recognize that other animals and plants seem to have varying capacities to communicate and relate, and demonstrate compassionate faculties sometimes sorely lacking in us.
Interestingly Luther, in his Genesis lectures, invited us to think of all created things as words of God. I find that to be a liberating idea, allowing me to imagine that I am surrounded by God speaking to me and to all creation, and no one vocable, no single sigh from the divine mouth outstrips the other in importance. Each word from God has a right time, a right place and they really cannot be compared.
This last week, as we spent time chatting over coffee, and in the halls, in the little bit of a lull awaiting the arrival of papers, my colleagues were words from God to me in various ways. And for that I am grateful. Of course, a word came here and there came from the tree on our front lawn – that I adore – and from the light slipping between the pine trees in the backyard, singing a laud that held me spell-bound for a time.
God speaks in so many ways with and to all of the creation. There are no apexes in this taxonomy. We live together; we die together; and just as importantly, we pray together, also speaking the word we are to the ears that hear and echo God’s words right back.