by Elaine Breckenridge; feature photo by Elaine: “‘EARTHRISE’ Picture taken of my large framed reprint”
“Earthrise,” the first known picture of the Earth from the vantage point of the Moon, was taken by astronaut William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. Enthralled by the picture, I was delighted to be gifted by my husband with a very large and beautifully framed reprint. It hangs in the bedroom on my side of the bed. Every morning, it is a reminder to be grateful for the wild and cosmic hospitality of God.
The phrase “cosmic hospitality” comes from a chapter in Matthew Fox’s seminal book on creation spirituality called Original Blessing. Reflecting on the cosmic hospitality of God, he writes, “The Creator God is a gracious and abundant and generous host/hostess. She has spread out for our delight a banquet that was twenty billion years in the making.” Then writing with the exuberance of some of the Old Testament psalms and prayers found in the Celtic Christian tradition, he describes Earth’s banquet culminating with this conclusion. “God has declared that this banquet is “very good.” And so are we, blessings ourselves, invited to the banquet. God is indeed a good host/hostess, welcoming us to creation and its multiple gifts and blessings.”
I am a grateful recipient of God’s hospitality. The banquet is a feast for all my senses. Just last evening, I tasted and savored a succulent peach. I know the exhilaration of the scent of creosote after a desert rain. I love the caress of the warm sand of a California beach between my toes. Can anything be more beautiful to the eye than the sun sinking below the western horizon painting the sky with color, or hearing the conversation of a mated pair of Bald Eagles?
I have known both emotional and physical shelter from trees. I have been healed by the Spirit on the breath of the wind. I have experienced the mystery of a Celtic “thin place” wherever the fire in my belly connects with a landscape of earth, air and water. And I have been the recipient of human hospitality in love, friendship, ministry and more.
Fox writes, that “the banquet we call the planet Earth, works.” And then here is the punch line. “It works for the benefit of human beings, if we behave toward the Earth as reverent guests.” Humanity, Fox points out, forgot and forgets how to be a good guest.
And then he describes the Incarnation as an expression of God’s hospitality. God played host in the act of creation, but then let go of hosting to become a guest as well. The divine and human guest of the world was and is Jesus. “Jesus”, Fox says “was an excellent guest, a true revelation of God’s guesting side.”
Wow! Think of how generous a guest, Jesus was. No home was too high or too low in terms of status for him. He dined with tax collectors and sinners and with scribes and Pharisees. He drank water from the hand of a Samarian woman, and as a guest allowed a woman to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. He told many parables about the importance of being an appropriate guest. Jesus showed us that hospitality is not simply setting a table and setting out food; it involves inviting others and serving them. Guests have their role to play in receiving the gifts from others. Ultimately, hospitality is a relationship.
As a follower of Jesus, I can see how important it is to imitate his example of being a guest in the world—being open to receive hospitality and to engage in relationships with other humans where ever and whenever it may be offered. Additionally, I am challenged to understand myself as a guest on the Earth.
What does it mean to behave like a revered guest at the banquet God has created for us on our planet? The word “guest” invites me to consciously tread lightly on the Earth. Being a guest on the Earth has a more intimate feel to it than “being a steward of creation” or “reducing my carbon footprint.” It speaks to me of finding ways to reverence the Earth in the same way that indigenous people do.
Saying a grace before meals is one thing, but what would it be like to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for a piece of raw salmon that I put in my grocery cart? As I chop my lovely summer vegetables for a meal, perhaps I can acknowledge the soil, sunlight, and souls who gifted me with such lovely produce.
And would I be more conscious of my water usage if I thought of myself as a guest every time I stepped into the shower? Speaking of water, what if we revered the water of the earth as we do the water in our church’s baptismal fonts? Would that not help us to be better guests of creation? What if we saw the food of the Earth as having the same holiness as the bread and wine of the Eucharist?
I believe it would raise our awareness of the sacred in all of creation and invite us to become both better guests and wiser hosts and hostesses of our Earth.
In my pursuit of being a reverent guest at God’s abundant banquet, I have expanded my daily spiritual practice of contemplating my framed print of “Earthrise.” Each evening as I retire, I will continue to give thanks for God’s wild and generous hospitality. And each morning, I will remember Jesus and pray to follow his example of being an excellent guest of the world and the planet Earth, our, island home.
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