Sunday, September 10, 2017

This Land is My Land Matthew 12:38-40

Opening reflection
We remember the dry land that rose from waters in the beginning, the plants that emerged from the soil to cover the land with vegetation, and the rich diversity of animal life. We remember the gardens and the fields of our childhood, the places where we played in the sand, when we felt close to the round, to magic flowers, and to baby animals.
Jesus Christ, once buried in Earth, hear our cry: We regret that we have become alienated from Earth, and treated this garden planet as a beast to be tamed, as a domain to be dominated, and as a place to be ruled for our gain.
We remember and confess how we have violated and polluted the lands of our garden planet. We are sorry. We have killed living soils with chemicals, we have turned fertile fields into lifeless plains, we have cleared rich lands of wildlife. We are sorry. We are sorry.
Let Us Pray;
God, our Creator, whose glory fills all things, help us to discern your presence among us and our kin in creation, especially in the soil, in the fields, and on the land. Help us to empathize with your creatures who are suffering and to serve you as agents for healing the land. In the name of Christ, who reconciles and restores all things in creation. Amen.

Mathew 12:38-40

Tehra Cox shares her experience  of the land in the secret language of earth speak ; “When I moved from the noisy concrete and steel canyons of New York City to a small Hudson Valley village with its serenely-forested highlands, I was stunned by the radical change of scenery. As late summer turned into fall, my favorite season, nature’s magic began its work on me. From one of my first autumn walks along the wooded mountain path behind the old Victorian house that was my new home, I was introduced to the uncanny voices of the natural world.
My first encounter with what I call “Earth-Speak” was nothing less than phenomenal for its impact on my life and sensibility. As I came around a bend at the top of the mountain, the lush goldenness of maples along the trail nearly took my breath away. They colored the very air around them. As I stood transfixed, it seemed that all the flora of the woods began to sway toward me. The dramatic red-orange-gold hues in all shapes and sizes were pulsating with light, sounds and scents so intoxicating that I wasn’t sure if I was breathing or drinking. Suddenly, I “heard” a whispering of words that I will never forget: “Ah yes, the very things you humans love about us – our different colors and shapes and smells and languages – are the things you often hate about each other. Alas, you have lost touch with your beauties because you have lost touch with us.”
Having just moved out of a city teeming with the tensions that densely-populated diversities of culture, creed, economy – and yes, race – too often provoke, this message was stunning and timely for me. During that first year of “life in the country,” I became unusually acquainted with this sentient world. In my daily walks with pen and paper, the presences of nature enfolded me in their lushness while I chronicled their wisdom-teachings. As these “inner tuitions” invited me to consider some of life’s most paradoxical mysteries, they required only one thing of me – to be utterly present and receptive. I didn’t know to call it that at the time – I was only aware that I felt light and free, as if all the space around the trees and the flowers and blades of grass was also around, and even inside, me.”[1]
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of Going to the heart of the earth.  One may say the very soul of the land. As we sit here on this land I know of some of its History.  I know there was a great Oak out here at one time. I Know a gentleman who recalled spreading blankets out here on this land to watch the fourth of July Fireworks. I know that annually there has been an outdoor service here but for how long can any one say?
The heart of the earth the heart of this land, this area around us is rich and diverse. “Sonoma County encompasses more than 1 million acres of land and water, rich in scenic beauty, and with an array of parks, recreational facilities, campsites and lakes. Open space and agricultural land accounts for a great majority of Sonoma County acreage. The county has approximately 123,070 acres of surface water area, of which 8,580 are bay waters.”[2] So Much happens on this land, this land for which we can see for miles, this land called Sonoma county alone the land is rich and diverse.  We have wine trails and cheese trails and farm trails.  The land is gently cultivated, probably much more so now than last century.  Many of our farms and dairies are organic and people care for the land knowing the land cares for them.
Right here we preserve land and set it aside because we know the value of our environment and it needs to be preserved.  If one would ask what is the heart of the earth, what is the heart of this land where we are now I wonder if it isn’t our parks.
Regional Parks
Number of Parks 52
Developed Acreage 777
Undeveloped Acreage 57,203
Trails (Miles) 175
Park Users (Annual) 5,603,743
Vet/Community Buildings 8
Events (Annual) 4,788
Attendance 312,570[3]

There is something almost mystical about being in a park sharing community space in a peaceful area all connected to the land.
There is a spirituality that just naturally accompanies the land.  I would encourage anyone come up here for a picnic day or night sit on this hill, listen and see you will get that spiritual connection to the land.
One of our most famous naturalist, John Muir, spoke spiritually of the land and nature around him.  He saw God in nature and connected the respect that our planet deserved to that for instance
One bright October night in 1871, John Muir camped the Yosemite high country by Lake Nevada and watched the reflection of the trees and mountains in the still water. He Jotted notes about how the reflection showed every line, “every shadow in fine neutral tint, clear, intensely pure” in the “rayless, beamless light.” Moonlit Yosemite domes shown on the surface of the lake.[4]
The Glacier-polish of rounded brows [is] brighter than any mirror, like windows of a house shining with light from the throne of God-to the very top a pure vision in terrestrial beauty…. It is as if lake, mountain, trees had souls, formed one soul, which had died and gone before the throne of god, the great first Soul, and by direct creative act of God had all earthly purity deepened, refined, brightness brightened, spirituality spiritualized, countenance, gestures made wholly Godful! . . . I spring to my Feet crying:  Heavens and earth! Rock is not light, not heavy, not transparent, not opaque, but every pore gushes, glows like a thought with immortal life.[5]
To see such majesty in the land and be awestruck it is not unique to John Muir heck it is not unique to Yosemite.  I am amazed and bless for every morning I pull out of my complex and I look to the Mountains and am amazed.  When we travel this area I never take or rarely take the freeway because the back roads and side roads have so much to offer us. So many her in northern California get just how precious our land is.  We often forget our own history of our abuses of the land and it is easy to shelter ourselves form the abuses that go on to this day.
But lets talk about the Gold rush “Some 80,000 immigrants poured into California during 1849. They came overland on the California Trail and by ship around Cape Horn or through the Panama shortcut. The majority of them came in one immense wave during mid-summer, as covered wagons reached the end of the California trail. At the same time, sailing ships were docking in San Francisco, only to be deserted by sailors as well as passengers. Competition for the gold grew fierce. New methods were invented to wash more pay dirt in less time. At the same time, merchants raised the prices of mining tools, clothing, and food to astronomical levels. A miner had to find an ounce of gold a day just to break even.”[6]  It was a cruel and harsh time.  But the outcomes seems hardly worth the rush.
Many miners grew tired of the work and the luck.  But they liked California and sent for their families which eventually led to the agriculture boom.
“For others, however, the gold rush was a catastrophe. The peaceful indigenous people were decimated. They perished in great numbers from starvation, disease, abuse, and massacre. Their society, habitat, infrastructure and culture were utterly destroyed. Other minorities suffered severe discrimination as well.
As miners continued to invent faster, more destructive methods of finding gold, the land was ravaged. Hillsides were washed away in torrents of water, and towns downstream were inundated by immense floods of mud. Water supplies were poisoned with mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and other toxins. Grand forests of oak and pine were leveled for mining timbers.”[7]  
As Humans, first we dug out and washed away the heart of the earth pulling out Gold, silver, copper, coal, oil salt even.  The heart of the earth where Jesus said he was to go for three days.  If Jesus was in the heart of the earth then that earth is sacred and yet we violate the sacred with no thought or concern. So we have violated the earth by drilling, digging, washing away, using dynamite to blow the top off of mountains and we are not done yet.
Just as we seem to not to be able to harm the land any more we inject poisons into her. “Fracking fluid is a toxic brew that consists of multiple chemicals. Industry can pick from a menu of up to 600 different kinds. Typically, 5 to 10 chemicals are used in a single frack job, but a well can be fracked multiple times, and each gas play consists of tens to hundreds of thousands of wells - driving up the number of chemicals ultimately used. Many fracking chemicals are protected from disclosure under trade secret exemptions. Studies of fracking waste have identified formaldehyde, acetic acids, and boric acids, among hundreds of others.
For each frack, 80-300 tons of chemicals may be used, selected from a menu of up to 600 *different* chemicals. Though the composition of most fracking chemicals remains protected from disclosure through various "trade secret" exemptions under state or federal law, scientists analyzing fracked fluid have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene - all of which pose significant dangers to human health and welfare.
Industry experts say it's misleading to suggest 600+ chemicals are used in a fracking operation since only a small percentage of this number of chemicals is used per well. But this "one-well" model is the biggest misrepresentation of all: fracking operations in a gas play typically consist of thousands of wells. Cumulative impacts are what matter.”[8]
where is this fracking and land abuse occurring?  Well you can bet it is not in most of our back yards.
“An analysis by the nonprofit FracTracker Alliance conducted for In These Times found that the 5 million California residents who live within a mile of an oil or gas well have a poverty rate 32.5 percent higher than that of the general population. Overall, FracTracker found that almost 20 percent of Californians who live below the poverty line—more than 700,000 people—also live within a mile of a well.
A related FracTracker analysis for an October report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that of the Californians who live within a mile of a well, 69 percent are people of color. In addition, almost 2 million people who live within a mile of a well are classified as among the “most vulnerable” to the effects of pollution by CalEnviroScreen, a tool developed by the California EPA. That means that they not only reside in some of the most polluted areas of the state, close to industrial facilities, transportation corridors, hazardous waste facilities and toxic cleanup sites, but are especially sensitive to pollution because of factors like poverty, asthma, youth or old age. Nearly 92 percent of these most vulnerable 2 million are people of color.”[9]
Woodie Guthrie wrote that great song this land is your land this land is my land and yet white privileged culture says this land is my land and the rest can lump it.  Even Woodie asked the question in his song;
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?[10]

We are blessed ot have this land that we sit upon today.  We are blessed that we live in a good educated area where people do what they can to preserve this land, top treat it fairly and, many of us do the best we can to share it fairly and equally but there is still work to be done.
We have to work to stop coal mining, fracking and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels a nice way of saying we are burning dead creatures to survive. In 2013 the united Church of Christ announced a resolution to divest from fossil fuels and in 2014 “On the anniversary of the United Church of Christ's historic vote to take action to lessen the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, United Church Funds announced the launch date of a new fossil-fuel-free investment fund. The Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund is a domestic core equity fund that will be free of investments in U.S. companies extracting or producing fossil fuels”[11]
I believe the challenge to each of us is too look at our investments and how we use our energy and the land.  How do we honor the earth that housed our lord in her heart and truly find ways to make this land your land and my land or in other words our land in equity and equality. amen

[1] Terah Cox, The Secret language of Earth-Speak, April 22, 2016, accessed September 7, 2017,
[2] County of Sonoma, Land Use, 2017, accessed September 7, 2017,
[3] County of Sonoma, Land Use, 2017, accessed September 7, 2017,
[4] Richard Cartwright Austin, Environmental Theology: (Originally published as Atlanta, Ga..J. Knox Press, Abingdon, Va: Creekside Press, 1987–c1990), 23.
[5] Linnie Marsh Wolfe, ed., John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979 c1938).
[6] Coloma, “The California Goldrush of 1849,” Coloma, 2015-2017, accessed September 7, 2017, .”
[7] Coloma, “The California Goldrush of 1849,” Coloma, 2015-2017, accessed September 7, 2017, .”
[8] Gasland the movie, “Fracking FAQ's,” Gasland the Movie, 2010, accessed September 7, 0217,
[9] Hannah Guzik, “Fracking the Poor,” inthesetimes, November 9, 2014, accessed September 7, 2017,
[10] woody Guthrie, “This land is your Land,” woody Guthrie Publications inc., 2001, accessed 09/070/17,
[11] Emily Schappacher, “United Church Funds announces fossil-fuel-free investment fund,” United Church of Christ, July 2, 2014, accessed 0907/2017,

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