“The land doesn’t belong to the people. The people belong to the land. The people are to be stewards of the land.” An ancient belief.
I don’t begin with the land and that affirmation. Although when I think of our relationship to the land and to my God I hearken to Jeremiah who with wisdom and pain and deep belief, spoke the voice of his heart and the grounding of his belief, “Don’t separate nature from nature’s God.”
I begin with Jeannette. We graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon in June of 1958…and next year we’ll celebrate our 60th graduation anniversary.
Jeannette Butts [now Jeannette Hereniko] and I were Congregationalists, which in 1957 became the United Church of Christ. We were on the cabinet of the Oregon Pilgrim Fellowship—circa 1956—and drove to Ione, Oregon to visit with their youth group. Returning home, before Jeannette went up the stairs to her home, a question pushed me. So I asked, “Jeannette? I don’t know what I want to be.”
For some reason I thought that should be decided no later than my 17th birthday.
Her response will breathe in me forever. She laughed! She clapped her hands. And laughed again.
What was this?
She spoke, “Mark, that’s the stupidest question you could ever ask. Of course you know! You’re going to be a minister.”
I said, “Okay, that takes cares of that.”
I didn’t consider sitting in a Chevrolet holy ground. But, Jeannette made it so. I thanked her and returned home. My parents were sleeping, woke them up and announced my vocational decision. My mothered thanked me, tears evident. My father, ever the best father ever, cleared his throat, “Mark, get a good night’s sleep…and we’ll talk about it in the morning.”
All that focuses central for me this morning, more than 59 years later. Why?
Because Jeannette, now living in Hawaii with her wonderful spouse, Vili, remains as dear a friend as God has ever gifted me. We haven’t seen each other in over since…well, I don’t remember. But, we have a truth friendship—nothing is ever recorded with anyone else—and we have each other in our heart…ah, sweet!
This morning Jeannette, now a film maker and a leader in cinema events in the Islands—Roger Ebert, God rest his soul, was one of her strongest supporters, sent me a short film that she and Vili made. It hit me with such power. It’s subtitled in English. But, deeper. It echoes the quote at the front of this blog about that we belong to the land.
I remember a sermon Bill Coffin once preached, saying that to regard “the land” as God’s gift and blessing, establishes the best relationship. The creation is a gift…to us. And in exchange we should regard the land as valued and respected, never to be plundered.
All this morning, as April ends. And a new month and new day is about to begin. As Jeannette and Vili offer, “Mahalo.” To you. To me. To the earth. And with that, hello? I believe fervently Climate Change is not alternative fact. Not for a breath…which unfortunately may not be as continued as we’d like.
Here’s the short film…a favor…please see, listen, understand…and then reflect how you and I can become better stewards of “the earth, the creation, and all that is therein.”