Lenten Reflections 2019

‘Living in a Broken World’

Week 3: Antelope Valley

“Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must your foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?” Ezekiel 34:18-19, NRSV

Due to generous rainfall in California this winter season, millions and millions of wildflowers (whose seeds can lie dormant in the ground for years) are blooming all over the state. One hotspot for watching the flowers has been Antelope Valley, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

Since the wildflower bloom is such a rare occurrence, people have been flocking out in droves to see it. The town of Antelope Valley has been overwhelmed by tourists, and its residents have the situation in their usually sleepy region with Disneyland. There are not enough park rangers to deal with the crowds. Parts of the lands where the wildflowers bloom had to be closed to the public because of damage to and further endangerment of the very fragile environment. It takes areas that are trampled years to recover.

Visitors are admonished to stay on the trails and not enter the flower fields – however, the temptation to take a selfie surrounded by flowers is too great for many…

To top it all off, a few days ago a pair landed a helicopter smack in the middle of a poppy field and started hiking, trampling everything in their path. Park officials were able to chase them down, however, before they were caught, they were able to escape in their chopper.

Why would people do that? The easy answer: because they can and don’t give a hoot about the damage they do.

We have a saying in German, ‘Nach mir die Sintflut’, which translates to ‘After me, the flood’ and basically means, ‘I don’t care if the Flood (referring to the flood God sent during Noah’s times) hits once I’m gone’. Or, in other words, as long as I’m not affected (by my own negative actions), I don’t care. This saying seems to apply very well to folks like those landing a helicopter in fragile flower fields.

But as we point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves. We may be appalled at folks who so blatantly and brazenly break the law and wreak havoc on the environment – but we all, to varying degrees, participate in the destruction of God’s good creation. We all consume fossil fuels, we all contribute to carbon emission (which leads to the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ and the overall warming of the atmosphere), we all buy new stuff and discard the old. We elect officials who are in the pockets of firms who profit from the exploitation of the earth. As the human race, we consume much more than we could ever replenish. We mindlessly, ignorantly and sometimes willfully stomp right into delicate systems that may take centuries, millennia or even millions of years to recover.

Why would we do that? Because we can. And, if we are honest, we have to admit that we don’t really give a hoot about the damage we do. The conveniences of daily life are dearer to us than the future of our children and children’s children – than the future of life on this planet. ‘After me, the flood…’

Martin Luther described the essence of sin as follows: we are curved into ourselves. We stare at our own navel and lose sight of anything else. We follow our selfish desires and disregard the need of others, the wellbeing of our co-creation, and God, the source of everything.

Yes, Christ died for our sins on the cross. However, Christ also calls us to repent and to turn around from our selfish and destructive ways. Turning around from destroying creation is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of faith and of honoring God, the creator, sustainer and savior of all.

Kyrie, eleison – God, have mercy on us.

Picture by Megan Ellis on unsplash.com