Monday, July 31, 2017

Blowin' in the Wind: Richard Rohr and Creation Theology

("Blowin’ in the Wind" is a periodic feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me or give me joy. I trust they’ll do the same for you.)

It has been a very busy couple of months, and my personal practice of ‘contemplative activism’ (a.k.a. active contemplation!) has had to take a back seat simply to activism. I know, I know, I am the worse for it, and I expect a more reflective season before me, but one of the results of the pace has been insufficient time to give to a blog post yet this month. Please, I apologize. I am the worse for that, too. So before July is history, allow me a morning muse on the subject of Franciscan creation theology. This is not as heavy a subject as it sounds, because, after all, it is I who is writing. But the subject alone will drive me back to a more meditative space, and I pray it will do the same for you, as I always pray for these blog musings.

Many followers of Christ do not have a creation theology. I'm not talking at all about a theology of creationism, but the theology behind the practice that respects, honors and protects the good earth our good God has created for us. Some would call that Christian environmentalism. I call it creation theology. In fact, I called it that a long time before I found there are others who call it that as well.

A good friend to creation theologians who are Christ followers, if they look at Christian traditions beside their own, is St. Francis of Assisi, references to whom have popped up in this blog from time to time. Hit the index key above to see several posts that cite him specifically. Now, Francis is medieval history, 1200’s A.D., so how relevant can he be to our modern, complicated day? Well, that’s the beauty of theology. It is timeless, and so, I believe, is our friend Francis. He’s not considered the patron saint of environmentalism/ecology/creation care for nothing, you know.

Today I want to approach Francis’ thought through an excerpt from one who is a vastly better theologian than I, the Catholic priest Richard Rohr. Say what you want about Rohr (and I have also cited him in an earlier post); I don’t agree with all his theology, but as a Franciscan friar, there is much about his approach to creation that seems spot on to me.

I have a friend, Steve, who more closely follows Rohr’s writings, including a daily devotional piece I do not routinely use. But Steve periodically sends me one of Rohr’s postings when he knows, as a reader of this blog, that it will be meaningful to me. I am deeply appreciative of this, in fact, always love to hear back from readers regarding things related to creation care that inspire them. My sister Carolyn often does this kind of thing, too, and these sharings mean a lot to me.

“…You have to sit still in nature
for a while, observe it, and love
it without trying to rearrange it...”

Rohr shared a post in June entitled “At Home in the World” that I thought was quite good. Here are extracts from it:

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy emphasized the cosmos instead of churchiness. For the first few centuries, Franciscans’ work was not about the building of churches and the running of services… We were not intended to be parish priests. Francis himself refused priesthood, and most of the original friars were laymen rather than clerics. Francis knew that once you are in an authority position in any institution, your job is to preserve that institution, and your freedom to live and speak the full truth becomes limited… He wanted us to live a life on the edge of the inside -- not at the center or the top, but not outside it throwing rocks either. [In, but not of…] This unique position offers structural freedom and, hopefully, spiritual freedom, too.

Francis, a living contemplative, walked the roads of Italy in the 13th century shouting, “The whole world is our cloister!” By contrast, narrowing the scope of salvation to words, theories, churches, and select groups, we have led many people to not pay any attention to the miracles that are all around them, all the time, here and now. Either this world is also the “Body of God” or we have less evidence of God at all.

The early Franciscans said the first Bible was not the written Bible, but creation itself, the cosmos. “Ever since the creation of the world, God's eternal power and divinity -- however invisible -- have become visible for the mind to see in all the things that God has made (Romans 1:20).” This is surely true; but you have to sit still in it for a while, observe it, and love it without trying to rearrange it by thinking you can fully understand it. This combination of observation along with love -- without resistance, judgment, analysis, or labeling – is probably the best description of contemplation I can give. You simply participate in ‘a long, loving look at the real.’

For Francis, nature itself was a mirror for the soul, for self, and for God… He would rejoice in all the works of the Lord, and saw behind them things pleasant to behold -- their life giving reason and cause. In beautiful things he saw a beauty itself. And all things were to him good. This mirroring flows naturally back and forth from the natural world to the soul… Once that flow begins, it never stops. You’re home, you’re healed… in this world.

This is what I love about nature, why so many of us find nature such an important spiritual pathway. What Rohr says is true, that “…you have to sit still in it for a while, observe it, and love it without trying to rearrange it...,” that the ‘combination of observation along with love’ will get us somewhere good.
~~ Yours for just such a good thing,
RGM, July 31, 2017