Coconuts and Papaya

Tonight I am writing as I am completing my 13th day of this South Pacific journey to study theology in the midst of climate change. I hear the wind gently causing sway in the palm branches and coaxing the waves to move with the earth’s gravitational pull. The stars are more clear here than I have ever seen because the light pollution is negligible. The smell of salt greets my nostrils as if I was spending time with an old familiar friend. The taste of coconut and papaya linger on my tongue as I sit at the table of bountiful fish and citrus.

I am in Oceania. The Pacific. Melanesia. Fiji.

It may sound like I have had a tourist experience from my brief paragraph above, but it is not so. I have been immersed in indigenous Fijian culture, living in a rural Fijian village, fishing for livelihood, eating the fruit of the ocean, drinking the ceremonial drink of kava, and living on dirt floors and mats of dry leaves.

It’s a hard journey to come so far, be away from my loved ones, and acclimate to an entirely new culture. My western mindset has, at times, blockaded my openness to the new wonder of this Pacific culture. My health has, at times, been compromised. My sleep patterns are as awry as the deep, wild ocean. My sense of home is grounded in people now and not place. Any prayers arising would be most welcome and more appreciated than you know.

I am in Oceania. The Pacific. Melanesia. Fiji.

I listen in solidarity to the struggles that the changing climate is bringing to the people here. What do we understand about God, the Holy of Holies, given the challenge of climate change? Our thoughts about God must be informed by the receding shorelines, flooding of villages, increase of violent tsunamis/ hurricanes, the acidifying ocean, and so on. Creation care is not really a choice here. It is a must.

Here we understand God from looking at the Moana (Ocean). Just as the waves are fluidly interconnected, so too are we interconnected with God, with each other and with all of creation.

Here we understand Eucharist as the meat and milk of the coconut instead of bread and wine.

Here we understand a grassroots theology, which realizes that we can only see God through our context. So in a context of suffering, we can understand well a suffering Christ on the cross.

Here we understand decolonization as the lifeline to retain and reclaim indigenous cultures. We see Christ through the context of a fishing community much like the disciples fished for their livelihoods.

Here we understand communitarian living through the perichoresis (round dance) of the Triune God. As the Triune leans into each other, working in creation, so too do we lean into each other as we live within God.

This is Oceania. The Pacific. Melanesia. Fiji.

Thanks be to God.

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The Lamenting Echoes of Lutra lutra whitely, Conuropsis carolinensis, and Incilius periglenes

Do you hear the echoes?
The echoes of what we used to be,
Before humans grew too many and took over,
before the biomes of the world grew imbalanced,
before imbalance became the norm.

Do you hear my echoes?
I am Lutra lutra whitely,
the Japanese River Otter.
I thrived in the rivers of Japan,
I swam, and created dens,
I mated, passing my genes along,
never imagining that you would kill me
for what you call my pelt.
Now all you can hear are my echoes.

Do you hear my echoes?
I am Conuropsis carolinensis,
the Carolina Parakeet,
I would travel in groups with hundreds of my friends,
when we were still alive.
I ate the same fruits that you eat today,
I had beautiful green and yellow plummage,
but that was my downfall because you wanted my feathers,
for your decorations and hats.
And then you wanted the trees that I nested in,
for your barns, and houses, and then your fires.
Now all you can hear are the echoes of what I used to be.

Do you hear my echoes?
I am Incilius periglenes
the Golden Toad,
I used to jump in the forests of Costa Rica,
my skin would glow as golden as the sun that hit it,
I needed water for breeding,
but also for my survival
because my porous skin needed moisture in the air,
when the climate warmed, the forest became dryer,
and my skin could not breathe the dry air.
And now I am no more.
Do you hear the echoes of my jumps?

When will you give others the space to exist?
How many more cries will have to turn to echoes?
Creator, why did you create a species which had so much power?
Did you ever ask them to care?
Do they remember the names of those they have killed?
When did exploitation become permissible?

Give our echoes voice again, O Creator.
Remind homo sapiens of their place in the web,
Bring connection, again,
for you are the Originator of connection,
and we need You desperately.

We need richness back in our ecosystems,
We need our coral reefs back,
and our rivers, and our feathers, and our pelts.

We will praise you with our songs of renewal,
with our cries for remembrance,
with our laments of pain,

For you are the Restorer of rhythm,
You are the God of the Moon,
and the God of the Sun,
our Mother, the Creator.

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The three species mentioned here (exempting homo sapiens, of course) are all extinct.