Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Earth Needs Moms — Sermon by the Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on May 12th, 2013


Sermon  “Earth Needs Moms”         Rev. David Pyle


“MOM!  I wanna build a pipeline from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico that will carry tarsands oil across the country, so that I can have cheaper gasoline and the oil companies can make more money.  Can I?  Please Please Please!”

“David… and just who is going to clean that up when it spills?  Don’t you tell me it won’t spill, because I’ve been around longer than you and I know better”.

“But mom… it won’t happen… I promise.  It will be the best Oil Pipeline ever!  I’ll even give it a cool special name”.

“Right…  it won’t spill.  Sure.  But what if it did?  Have you seen the news lately?  Pipelines are spilling all over!  You can’t even clean up your room like I asked you, how are you going to clean up an oil spill?  (Sigh).  I know you are excited… so let’s make a deal.  You quit thinking about a pipeline, and I will help you build some nice windfarms over in West Texas.  What do you say?”

“OK Mom…  you’re no fun.”

“Not my job to be fun… it is my job to teach you responsibility, and to love you.”

Sure, the topic of conversation is different… but I can think of countless conversations with my mother that went like this while I was growing up.  Perhaps it was the idea I had to trade my little sister for a cat.  Or when I had the plan that if I got a home computer I could teach myself and would not have to go to school ever again.  Or the I think still brilliant idea that my messy room was a defense mechanism to keep from being kidnapped in the middle of the night.

In each and every one of those cases, it was my mom who helped me to find a better way.  It was my mom who pointed out to me where my idea on how to do something was often not taking into account all of the responsibilities that I have as a son, as a brother, as a human being.  It was my mom who taught me to see consequences, and my responsibility for those consequences.

As I look upon our world today, I see all kinds of ideas that remind me of ones I might have come up with when I was seven years old and had yet to learn about consequences and responsibilities.

We are drilling for oil and natural gas everywhere and anywhere we can, seemingly faster and faster, even though we know that the carbon in our atmosphere is reaching runaway proportions.  We are using military drone technology in such a way that we not only kill innocent civilians by the hundreds, but we also give others the excuse to do the exact same thing to us when they have drones of their own.  We choose to deregulate industries, on the hope that with less regulation they will make more profit, and then we are surprised when things go wrong… from the collapse of Wall Street to the explosion of a fertilizer factory in West Texas.

I could continue… but I fear that would be horribly depressing.  And while I am concerned about drone warfare, and deregulation, and a whole host of other issues… it is becoming apparent that the issue of what is happening to Mother Earth because of the immature behavior of humanity may be reaching a point where we cannot easily recover after learning from our mistakes.

It may not surprise you to learn that, when we ministers are in need of inspiration for a sermon, we sometimes cruise the newsletters of other churches, to see what our colleagues are preaching about.  Rev. Jan would never do that… but I have to humbly admit that as I was preparing to preach another Mother’s Day sermon, I went cruising through what some of my colleagues were preaching on.

There were the usual sermons about the spirit of the Jungian Archetype of the mother, depending on the particular spiritual or rational nature of said colleague.  There were sermons on the importance of family, or on how we all need to step into our responsibilities, not just expect that of our mothers.  There was one moving sermon idea about how, with age and time, our role with our mothers can reverse… those who cared for and nurtured us themselves need to be cared for and nurtured.

And yet, there was one sermon idea for this Mother’s Day that I reacted strongly against.  That always means that something within me has been touched when I have such a strong emotional reaction.  It was a sermon of thanks and praise to Gaia, Mother Earth… for all the blessings that she bestows upon the human race.

I have long been afraid that there is a shadow side to some of the way we have modernly understood the concept of Gaia, or of Mother Earth… and that is that if she is a Goddess, then it is we who are in need of her blessings, not the other way around.  It is she, Mother Earth, who has the responsibility to care for us, her human children.  The image that is often presented of the relationship between humanity and Mother Earth is one where we are the dependents… where we receive the bounty of her gifts.

You can see the shadow side of this imagery, right?  In the fullness of understanding and worship of Gaia, we recognize that we are in a symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth… that we must treat her with love and respect in response to the bounty of nourishment and care that we receive… but how many people who are not deeply rooted in earth-centered traditions reach this level of understanding of our relationship with Mother Earth?  Or rather, do most people simply accept the premise that if Mother Earth is a Goddess, then she is beyond our capacity to affect?  That Gods only have affect upon us, we have no affect upon them?

There is a similar shadow side in the Hebraic understanding of the relationship of humanity to the Earth, particularly how it has been interpreted within modern Christianity… and that is the idea that Earth was given to humanity as a garden.  From this has arisen the idea that Earth is here for our use, for us to draw what we want and need from… without recognizing that we were intended not to be consumers of the garden… but gardeners.  This realization that the Genesis story in the Bible is about caring for the earth… about responsibility for the earth.  The realization of this imbalance has been the spark of the environmental “creation care” movement within evangelical Christianity.

Yet, we have this shadow understanding of our relationship to Mother Earth… that we have been given mastery over her, that she cares for us, and yet we do not have any particular responsibility towards caring for her.  That the earth exists to provide us with what we want and need, without any recognition of the costs to the earth of that providing.

Children rarely understand what their parents give in order to insure their care.  It is not in the nature of children for them to recognize the dedication and sacrifice that just comes with being a parent… except perhaps on those occasions when that dedication and sacrifice are not present.  But for most children, they go about the business of growing up blissfully unaware of what the true costs are to their parents for providing them with that childhood.

Now, being a parent is not all about toil, sacrifice, and loss… I hope that there was the occasional joyful moment for my mom during all the years of my childhood…  yet now that I am an adult I can recognize that many times during my childhood were very trying for my mother.  I can recognize all the ways my parents let go of their own desires and dreams to provide opportunity for me and my sisters.  I can see the ways in which the responsibility for caring for their children became the guiding purpose of their lives.

And, over the last few years, I have begun to see that this gift comes around full circle… as I can see the day will come when the roles will reverse a bit, and I will hold some of the responsibility, along with my sisters, for caring for my mother.  The responsibility to be for her what she was for me.  At some point… my mom is going to need me to be… a mom.

Each and every one of us can be a mom.  I do not mean in the biological sense, although I’ve come to believe that if you give our scientists time and funding about anything is possible.  No, I mean that each and every one of us has the capacity to manifest the spiritual archetype of the mother.  I realize I have had a lot of mom’s in my life.  At our evening service tonight, which is a special service for all of those who have losses and griefs that make mother’s day difficult or uncomfortable, I will be presenting a homily written by my “Mother in Ministry”, the Rev. Barbara Pescan, who taught me what it means to be a minister of our Liberal Faith.  I realized that I had an Army Mom… who helped me to grow, who taught me responsibility, who gave me approval and acceptance.  His name was MSG Barry Rhodes, and he was our First Sargent.

I have had many people mother me through the years, and I hope that I have been a mother to some others… that I have been a comforting, challenging presence who provided love and responsibility in equal measures.

I think of what the many moms in my life have meant to me…  They have let me know that I am loved.  They have helped define boundaries that taught me my responsibilities, while still allowing me to be creative about who I am and who I am called to be.  They have been there with care and comfort when I was hurting, but not so much that I did not learn from the pain.  They have helped me to see realities, sometimes ones I did not really want to see.  And, those who were the best of my mothers showed me that I could make mistakes, and still be loved.

I hope, I pray that all of us can have someone in our lives who can mother us this way, even though many among us do not have this kind of relationship with our biological mothers.  Many do, and how wonderful that is… but many do not.  Yet I believe that mothering is beyond biology.  It is a kind of relationship, a kind of commitment that can be shared between any of us, across biology and gender, across age and stage, across community and culture, across race and sexual orientation.  We can be, and must be mothers to one another.

Why?  Because humanity still has some growing to do… and we are reaching a point in our level of interconnection and technical capability in which we desperately need more maturity as a species than we currently have.  Our capacity to cause harm, to each other and to Mother Earth, has outpaced our emotional and spiritual development at the same time our global interconnectedness means that our effects will not be localized, but spread across the entire planet.

We need moms. Humanity needs moms.  Mother Earth needs moms.  We need people, who with compassion, care, and love, can set boundaries and limits.  We need people who dedicate themselves to helping others to grow, and to grow up.  We need people who will nurture creative ideas that sustain us, while with compassion help us to let go of the ideas that are based in that old model of our relationship to each other and the earth… that model of mastery where we are the consumers of resources rather than the conservers of gifts.  We need people who approach a person, or a company, or a nation, not with the idea of how do we use coercive force to gain obedience… but rather how do we help them grow to realize their own responsibilities amidst the consequences seen through an interconnected world.

Moms have always been the salvation of humanity.  It has been the mother spirit that has often called us back to our best selves… that has reminded us with compassion of our responsibilities.  That has helped us to see the larger picture of the consequences of our actions.  That has taught humanity that as we care for one another, so are we cared for.  We need to find and manifest the mother spirit that rests in each of us… and express that mothering in our lives, in our church, in our community, and in our world.

If you are inspired to connect your mother spirit with the work of helping humanity to grow in relationship to our care for Mother Earth, Grandmother Earth, then I would invite you to go by the Social Action Coordinating Committee table after church, and sign up for the newly forming Action Team around environmental concerns.  Yet no matter where your passion leads you to connect with the deepest needs of the earth, each of us has a mother spirit within us, seeking a way to provide boundaries of care, responsibilities of love, and channels for creativity.

To all of you mothers out there… mothers in life and mothers in spirit… I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.  So may it be, blessed be, and Amen.

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