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Give it a Rest

Give it a Rest

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 – 6 Easter, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:97-120 (morning) // 68:1-20 (evening)

Leviticus 26:27-42

Ephesians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:41-46

Spending a few hours digging through manure-rich compost to remove Bermuda grass roots is not everyone’s idea of a fun day. I’m not much of a gardener myself. However, that’s what the Ark Fellows and I did last Friday, and I can’t deny how satisfying it was to create a nutrient-dense layer of soil where deep red tomatoes will appear later this summer. We also got to hear from the leader of Tri Cycle Farm about the best ways to rotate crops and to let soil rest in order to produce the most nourishing piece of earth.

Perhaps that well-rested, well-fed soil is a piece of the Promised Land that God prepares to sustain his creatures. God’s people are a long way from that land in today’s first reading. Instead, the passage describes the mutual hostility between God and God’s people that only yields hunger, violence, and fear. The reading threatens people with removal from the land that God has given them.

But the abandoned cities and wasted lands have one positive result: “Then shall the land enjoy its sabbath years . . . As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it.” Finally the earth will have the rest that it deserves. So, if we can get through the disturbing and terrifying muck in today’s first reading, we can discover that rested land is at the root of a life-giving relationship between God and God’s people.

Imagine the whole earth breathing with relief once human beings no longer burden it. Imagine a land that could fight back against human actions that reduce it to an exploitable resource or a contested territory. In fact, today’s first reading envisions a day when people will be so afraid that “the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues.” What an extraordinary image of people responding to the fragile movements of nature with retreat and surrender.

Even though our ecological perspective has changed drastically from the worldview of this text’s early audience, the principle is the same: There are grave consequences for failing to give our land adequate rest from human impact. The Bible warns us that the earth will find its rest one way or another. Yet each day is an opportunity to cherish and protect the promised land that God longs to give to us, so how can we gently relieve the world from our impact today?

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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