Sitting by the window with morning coffee watching the goldfinches at the feeders I heard the wheezy, whistling song of the white-throated sparrows just below the window feeding on seeds dropped from above.  

I cracked the bottom of the window just enough to hear them more clearly.  It was all quite delightful, morning coffee and the singing of sparrows.  Morning prayer follows morning coffee, however instead of going into my study, I decided to stay where I was, continue to listen to the white throats’ song, and do daily prayer on my iPhone app.  The first reading was Leviticus 19.  My eyes fell upon verse 33:

“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

No talk here of building walls, no talk here of hating or oppressing.  Simply talk about doing the right thing.  I sat with the text in silence letting it sink down into my heart, mind and soul.  Sitting there doing nothing, I realize that I was doing a lot, or maybe I should say the Spirit was doing a lot.  What I was doing was being present and listening.  

The phrase, “You shall”, is a recurring theme in  Leviticus 19.

The “You shall” directs us to action, to some sort of doing.  The text does not conjure up soft, warm inner feelings, which are often thought of as “spirituality.” Reading Leviticus is not a warm Biblical bath.  Instead it simply directs us to action.  We are to do the word.  We are to do the right thing and lest we become lazy or complacent, it reminds us of who is speaking.  “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”   

Doing the word, or living out the “You shall”, is often referred to as Peacemaking, something I take seriously as a member of the Peacemaking Task Force of Albany Presbytery, and one whose focus is on Creation Care.  However when it comes to responding  to climate change, or care of the earth, it is easy to get bogged down by the enormity of the problem, perhaps  to the point of paralysis.  

What is the “You shall” in caring for the earth?  

Care of the earth comes down to acts of doing.  They can be simple things, such as writing a short email to our leaders asking them to support the Paris Climate Agreement by taking actions that reduce carbon emissions.  Beyond that, we can do many things to reduce our carbon footprint in our daily living by being mindful of our use of energy.  For more information I refer you to the hand out, Earth Day April 22nd, 2016 , which was made available at the April Presbytery meeting.  It hardly needs to be pointed out that we are living in a time when every day needs to be seen as “earth day.”  

Oh great!  One more thing to do!”

If that is your thought, and who among us has not been there, I would suggest that you not rush off to do anything.  Instead it might be helpful to remember that all real doing arises out of not doing, a “doing” of sitting in silence.  It is in  hearing the “song of the sparrow,”  being present before the richness of creation and being open to God the Creator that we are renewed and strengthened so we can hear and respond to the words of “You shall…”

About Rev. Larry Deyss, HR

Larry Deyss is Pastor Emeritus of the Delmar Presbyterian Church where he served for 30 years, a past moderator of Albany Presbytery and currently a member of the Peacemaking Task Force with a focus on environmental issues. He and his wife live in Delmar.

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