In the book “Thank God for Evolution,” Michael Dowd talks about how everything is a part of something much bigger. For example, we’re parts of families which are parts of neighborhoods which are parts of cities which are parts of states and so on. Likewise, trees are parts of forests which are parts of eco-systems which are parts of the earth, etc. For Dowd, God is that which has no bigger part. Everything that is, is an expression of the Divine. Everything is a part of God.
The very mission of biblical prophets such as Amos was to try to get God’s people to realize that they are in fact parts of a bigger whole. We know that when we damage a part of a thing, we damage the whole thing. It ceases to work the way it was designed. It ceases to be the thing it was created to be. When humans damage each other we cease to be who God created us to be. And so in the seventh chapter of the book of Amos, we find Amos warning the people, especially those with wealth and power that can’t seem to see past themselves, that a failure to take care of each other, all the parts of Creation, is an affront to God and it has consequences.
God expects us to care for the poor and the oppressed, those who are in need. God expects us to do so because they are a part of us. They are a part of God and to damage one part of the whole is to denigrate and decay and destroy the entire whole. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it this way: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Taking care of each other is not just something nice we are supposed to do but it is our responsibility.
Psalm 85 also reminds us of our interconnectedness, telling us that when justice and peace have embraced, God gives us what is good. For the psalmist, this state of being where we are caring for each other is called peace. This isn’t an inner peace, although that might be true as well, but this is a peace where instead of shooting each other we care for each other. Instead of getting what we can for ourselves, we share food with the hungry. We make sure people have housing, are secure and safe. This state of peace is what we often call the kin-dom of God, a way of life in which we realize our interconnectedness and care for all the parts of the whole which is the divinity, where we love our neighbors and also know that flowers, trees, deer, bear, etc. are as much our neighbors as the human being who lives next door.
What if we could imagine the world as God intends it? Can we hear God’s call to peace and change? Can we let go of our selfishness? Can we create peace, the peace that results when love and justice are the way we live our lives? In faith, let’s leave behind our fears, our selfishness, our false security in how things are, and reach out to God, reach out, embrace, and care for this amazing earth and its beautiful inhabitants in love, for they are us. May we with God’s guidance create justice and create peace, that all may have full and abundant life.
Rev. Ken Arthur
P.S. This reflection was inspired by the sermon “Speaking Peace,” from Sunday, July 11, 2021.