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Horizons — Let justice roll down

Rosalind Banbury previews the next Horizons Bible study offered by the Presbyterian Women.

Let justice roll down: God’s call to care for neighbors and all creation  

I was driving the steep, twisting road leading into town. In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you had to want to get to the hamlet because it was certainly not a destination site. My first call as a pastor was in that town and it was like I had landed in a foreign, rural land. One family made its own sorghum molasses with the help of a mule walking round and round turning a grinding stone with a central funnel where we fed the cane to be crushed. Several people had enormous kettles in which to make apple butter, which simmered all day outside. They did organic gardening before it was a specialty. Perhaps that all has changed now.

Having been an isolated area for centuries, people relied on the land and the land was in their blood. They knew the hollows and the hills, the smells and the seasons, and they knew what it was to be hard-scrabble poor. The area has been settled since the mid-1700s, and folks still said to turn right by Whitman’s barn, which was no longer standing.

The experience of being tied to the land is fundamental to human life. Indeed, in Genesis 2, the Hebrew word for “earth” is adamah and the first human creature is the adam, the earth creature. The play of words is the “human” from the “humus.” God plants a garden near the intersection of several mighty rivers and God calls the adam to till and keep the land. A better translation is that the adam is to “serve” the land. God’s vision for human life is stewardship of the earth and that all have what they need to have a fruitful life in community.

The giving of manna is a good example of God’s intention that everyone has access to food. God gives the sweet, flakey manna (which means “What is it?”) to the people’s understandable complaint that they have no food (Exodus 16). Each person is to gather about two quarts. After picking up the small, seed-like flakes, the people measure out the manna, and, surprisingly, everyone has an equal share. The people cannot hoard manna because it will turn rancid overnight. Depending on God each day for “bread” is to teach the people to trust God for what they need. When we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we are praying for everyone on Earth to have food, and we are reminded to put this prayer into action.

This call from God to take care of the earth and each other has been met by tremendous human resistance. White Europeans, who colonized many parts of the world, sought to conquer or eradicate Indigenous peoples and use all they could get out of the soil. The drive to have more and produce more has led to prosperity for many, but has just as often left millions in poverty. Our author, Patricia Tull, asks us to examine how abundance has and can lead to suffering.

Let Justice Roll Down takes us on a journey of what good stewardship of land, climate and water can be and how environmental issues are rooted in justice. In this study, we will walk through the biblical understanding of land and food, wade through the pollution that affects everyone’s well-being, and look at the train wreck of climate change. We will travel through the history of our land, and we will also lift up the sign-posts of people, nonprofits and churches working to bring environmental healing.

The topics in the study are meaty and complex. We will learn about diversified farming, fair trade, “forever chemicals,” dioxides, food insecurity and food sovereignty. We will discover a river being granted legal status as a human in New Zealand and “Jubilee 2000,” a 40-country campaign for debt reduction for the world’s poorest nations.

We might tend to shy away from learning about environmental justice. In our society, which is given to extremes, environmental protection has been viewed as the enemy of working people’s jobs — but both sides can work hand in hand. The environment has been made into a political issue instead of being viewed through the eyes of health and well-being. All life is interconnected. What is leached into the water supply in one place can be carried into rivers and oceans. Companies that extract water for bottled water can leave a community with a meager supply. And rehabilitating barren places can provide life for many.

You can purchase the PW/Horizons Bible study book through the PC(USA) Church Store.

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