Let us pray.
We are the people:
the people of earth.
Let us care for each other:
let us care for the earth.
Let us worship the creator:
let us attend to the earth.
For the earth is filled with God’s presence.
Our ancestor Jacob woke from his sleep and said,
“Surely the Lord is in this place—and I didn’t know it!”
And he was afraid, and said,
“How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God,
and this, the gate of heaven.”
Let us acknowledge this place’s traditional custodians,
the Peek Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Maar nation,
and pay our respects to elders past and present.
May we wake up to this place and its peoples.
May we wake up to God’s holy presence.
Let us attend to the earth: the very dwelling place of God. Amen.
A few weeks ago, I talked about inscribing biblical stories on the local landscape, and how the leadership hopes that our 2023 Lent Book can be a collection of reflections and prayers which integrate our experience of the land with biblical faith. The prayer above is one example of this, as it brings together the biblical story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel, the psalmist’s claim that God’s presence fills the earth, and an acknowledgement of country. We use it from time to time in our communal worship: but this week, I invite you to pray it at home slowly, carefully, attentively. As you pray, ask yourself a few questions.
- Who are the traditional custodians of the place where you are praying? If you don’t know, how are you going to find out?
- What might it mean to be people of earth? What does it suggest about our/your relationship with land, air, and waterways?
- Do you think of the earth as filled with God’s presence? Where locally do you find it easiest to sense this?
Now make a time to go to this special place. It could be your backyard; it could be Tower Hill; it could be a favourite tree; it could be somewhere else. Once you are there, make yourself comfortable. Let your busy thoughts drift away; you can attend to them later. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or show you today.
Now feel your body anchoring to the earth, the earth which gives you life. Remember: “When God made the earth and the sky … God formed the earth creature from the dust of the ground and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life; and the earth creature became a living being.” (Gen. 2:4, 7). Feel what it is to be an earth creature.
Give thanks to the earth for all it gives you: water, food, strength, being. Radiate your gratitude deep into the ground, and along the waterways, and through the air into the skyways. Breathe.
Gradually turn your attention to what is around you: land, sky, air, plants, creatures. What can you see? What can you hear? What do you notice? Take your time.
When you are ready, begin to wonder: Does any biblical text or image come to mind? If so, notice it. Contemplate it with curiosity and wonder. What is being said to you? How does it relate to the land? Do you have any sense of integration?
Imagine a dialogue between text, land, God, and yourself, and pay attention to what emerges. Perhaps a biblical text has become geographically alive for you in a new way. Perhaps you have noticed something new about being an earth creature, or about being in relationship with the land, or God’s presence in it. Perhaps the seed of a prayer, a drawing, a poem or a story has been planted in you. If so, make a note of it.
When you feel done, rest awhile. Savour the gift of the earth, God’s loving presence. Close with a gesture of thanks: perhaps by resting your hand gently upon the earth.
As you prepare to leave this place, if any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you. And if something has emerged which you want to work on and share with others, let me know. It could be a prayer or poem; a story or drawing; or even a biblical paraphrase incorporating local plants, animals, or place.
For more ways of listening to God in creation, go here.
Image shows one of my favourite places: the shivering reeds and big sky at Kellys Swamp in the Belfast Coastal Reserve. Emailed to Sanctuary 24 August 2022 © Sanctuary, 2022. Sanctuary is based on Peek Wurrung country. Acknowledgement of country here.
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