The Hospitality of Creation

The mountain commands attention – for miles around.  Mount Monadnock is the signature peak in southern New Hampshire.  Its craggy top is a magnet for photographers and hikers (for years I was told that it was the second most climbed mountain the world, after Mt. Fuji).    Early one morning this past week I climbed the mountain, going up a route that I had taken many times previously, the trailhead being just a quarter mile from my house.

But this ascent was different.  For starters, I got a bit lost in the early morning light.  I began on the white arrow trail, and somehow ended up on one that featured yellow dots.  The combination of sky, sun, rock and foliage was beyond beautiful.  But there was something else.  Most of the Monadnock region regards the mountain as a cherished icon.  It is depicted on innumerable paintings, photographs, logos and teeshirts.  Property values can be determined by whether one has an iconic view of its peak and its breadth. 

On this particular Tuesday morning I was on the icon.  Actually, I was fully in it.  And the icon received me.  Yes, it was hard work navigating the uneven steep path.  At one point I fell – very slowly, as if the mountain trying to make sure I wouldn’t get hurt.  (I didn’t)

I spend considerable time praying before traditional icons, which depict figures and events that are remembered for their holiness.  I learned, years ago, that one is invited to look into the icon to see – or experience, the presence of God.  More recently, I learned that in pondering the icon, we can imagine that the presence of God is looking back – through the icon, at us.

For me, Mount Monadnock is an extraordinary manifestation of God’s presence, an earthly icon.  On that morning I felt creation looking back at me.  Literally holding me up.  As it did so, I realized that God’s creation provides us with all that we need.  Food, water, minerals, resources, rain and snow.  All that we need.   Creation presents a remarkable demonstration of hospitality, which doesn’t quit.

We don’t return that hospitality very well.  When God created humankind, according to the account in the book of Genesis,  God said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”  (Genesis 1:28)  Ever since those words were recorded, much of humankind has insisted that God’s directive has given us license to regard the earth as if it were a terrestrial bank that we could continually draw from, without needing to put up much, if any, collateral in return.  For centuries, much of the Western world has treated the earth as if it were an indentured servant.

Some may argue that the earth is rebelling at its mistreatment.  It turns out that it has no choice.  As the ozone layer continues to be invaded, as we go on extracting oil and gas from under the ground, as we use the ocean as a global “sea-fill”, the earth and its atmosphere seek to rebalance, and it has no option but to release increasingly frequent violent storms which produce more devastating floods; or as parts of the landscape get dryer and hotter, wildfires consume more houses, businesses and lives.

There are those who say that humanity will not survive the ongoing crescendo of climate change.  That may be.  Humanity may not survive.  But the earth will.  It may take a long time to heal, but its intent (and I believe creation has an intent) is to continue to offer hospitality.

There are a host of factors that could reverse the tragic trajectory we are on, that are often referred to, and which we acknowledge but may not fully understand, given they are often technical.  Reducing our carbon footprint, staying within a global 1.5 degrees centigrade rise, employing renewable energy sources.  They are not just important.  They are critical.

But another ingredient, that may be just as critical, is to learn to see the earth and its atmosphere not as resources to be exploited or taken for granted – but as our partners in creation who offer extraordinary hospitality, no matter how we treat it.   Partners who give us all that we need.  Partners who hold us up.  An icon of creation



The Ten Commandments: Laws or Guidelines

Last week the governor of Louisiana signed a law mandating that the Ten Commandments be displayed in public school classrooms.  In some ways I get it, in spite of the fact that like so many it challenges the constitutional separation of church and state.  The Ten...

Mistrust and Trust

It was the spring of 1970.  The United States had just announced that it was expanding the war in Vietnam by authorizing bombing campaigns in Cambodia.  Campuses across the country erupted in protest.  On May 4, four protesting students at Kent State were shot and...

Challenges to Trusting the Process

Trust the process. This was a phrase I often heard when a strategy session or a problem-solving meeting bogged down.   The group would get stuck, and in frustration someone would either suggest we scrap the whole enterprise, or would start accusing a participant of...

Ep 13 – “A Common Humanity” with Wilk Wilkinson

Wilk Wilkinson joins me to discuss his journey from political apathy to toxic political engagement, followed by the epiphany that since led him on a mission of bettering the world, one attitude at a time, by charting a course toward understanding, bridging divides, and fostering a community where wisdom prevails over discord.

Time and Space Needed for Grief and Mourning

“In war, death interrupts nothing.  Time doesn’t stop; it seems to accelerate.”  So wrote David French, in a New York Times column on May 25, 2024.  A veteran of the Iraq War, French goes on to say that in battle there is no time or space for mourning the loss of a...

Whose Land is It?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this passage from my daily reading:     “From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates,all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.   No one will be able...

Ep 12 – “The Church Cracked Open” with The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers

Canon Spellers shares her journey from being a skeptic and critic of the Church to becoming a senior leader with a deep faith and a commitment to social justice. We explore the themes of mission, evangelism, the power of genuine curiosity in bridging divides, and ongoing efforts to address systemic issues like white supremacy within the church.

Dealing With Fear

Tornados of fear are swirling around the world, many of them invading our psyches.  Wars in Ukraine and Gaza, not to mention Sudan and Myanmar; escalating climate change; unrelenting gun violence; immigration crises.  To my mind, the storms of fear are particularly...

The Different Layers of Campus Anger

I lived a block away from a campus protest that erupted in November, 1974.  I was a teaching fellow at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and the campus was about to be shut down in opposition to Gerald Ford’s visit to the city, the first time an American President...

Campus Protests: What We Bring to What We See

In the past week I have had several conversations with friends about our respective opinions on what is happening on college campuses across the country, as students have set up encampments to protest the war in Gaza and insist that their university divest any...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!