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Minister's Corner

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Reverend David Old, MDiv.

Senior Minister

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Mariette Jones, LUT

MINISTER'S LETTER
04182024

“Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer.”

  -Black Elk

 

Hello Dear Friends,

Earth Day is a significant event celebrated annually on April 22nd in Canada and around the world. It’s a day dedicated to environmental protection and raising awareness about ecological issues. For Canadians, Earth Day holds significant relevance given the country's vast natural landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and strong national commitment to environmental conservation. For Indigenous peoples worldwide, every day is a day to celebrate our relationships with the land, air, water, plants, and animals. The wellness of the home we share and all those who live in it are connected. 

At the heart of our Unity message is our first basic Unity Principle that there is only One Presence and One Power in the universe and in our life. We honor and celebrate this Oneness, acknowledging our connection with Spirit, earth, each other and all of life.

When I was a young boy, I remember reading, the book, Black Elk Speaks, about the life of Heȟáka Sápa, commonly known as Black Elk (1863 – 1950), who was a medicine man or holy man of the Oglala Lakota people.  The book, published in 1932, was written by the author and poet John G. Neihardt who based his book on interviews he had with Black Elk, who told him the story of his life, which I found fascinating.

Black Elk was a second cousin of the war leader Crazy Horse and fought with him in the Battle of Little Bighorn. He survived the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 and would eventually tour and perform in Europe as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. 

In the book, Black Elk speaks about many of his visions that he had. He had spiritual visions his entire life.  He said, “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its power, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”  Those words, when I first read them, touched me deeply, and resonated at the core of my being. They resonate still today, and I find them in perfect alignment with our Unity teachings.

In my university studies I would later learn of Empedocles (494 to 434 BC) a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher who wrote, “The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere, and the circumference is nowhere.” It would remind me of Black Elk’s quote, which essentially says the same thing. Spoken 2300 years apart on opposite sides of the globe, the words speak of a truth that has been called by many names, Being, Divine Mind, Great Spirit, Jehovah, Brahman, God or Tao, being just a few of the words pointing to something beyond any name or word, suggesting an omnipresence, with no boundaries or limitations. The concept of God being a circle implies a sense of wholeness and completeness, while the absence of a circumference suggests something that cannot be contained or defined by any physical or metaphysical boundaries. One can argue that these quotes highlight the omnipresence and transcendence of God. By stating that the center of the circle is everywhere, it implies that God is present in every corner of the universe, in every particle of matter, and in every spiritual realm. This notion emphasizes a sense of interconnectedness, suggesting that God's divine essence permeates all aspects of existence. Furthermore, the absence of a circumference implies that there are no points where God's presence ends or can be limited, reinforcing the idea of Spirit's limitless nature. 

 

As we take this to heart and contemplate the words of Black Elk and Empedocles, that the nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere, and the circumference is nowhere, we realize that we are each individual points or centers of the Great Spirit, and as we walk this earth, no matter where our feet land, we are walking on holy ground. To hold this in our heart is a powerful prayer and perhaps now we understand a little better Black Elk’s wise counsel to “Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer.”

 

As I bring this letter to a close, I want to share with you a First Nations Prayer for Earth Day, which I ran across this week, which I thought was beautiful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Great Spirit, who sings through the wind,
Whose breath gives life to the world,
Hear our humble voice.

As the sun arcs the sky and the stars blanket the night,
We walk in beauty, with eyes wide to the wonders.

With hands that respect what you have created,
And ears sharp to hear your voice in the rustling leaves,
We seek wisdom, hidden in every leaf and rock.

Grant us strength, not for power over our brothers and sisters,
But to conquer our greatest enemy—ourselves.

In this walk on your Earth, under the sun, moon, and stars,
May we honor the cycle of life, the seasons,
And the sacredness of all creation.

On Earth Day, as we remember our place in this universe,
Make us always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes,
So when our time comes, like the fading sunset,
Our spirits may come to you without shame.

 

May you clearly see the wisdom hidden in every leaf and rock.

 

Have a wonderful week!

 

Rich blessings and much love,

 

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