"For What Must The Church Repent And How?" - A Lent Sermon for Ash Wednesday
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

FROM Rev. Aline Silva, Creature Kind
February 2021

We repent by being careful consumers of the earth’s abundance. We commit to getting to know our food growers and handlers; to choosing to eat plants instead of animals as often as we can; to remembering that every created being is beloved by God, and to treating those beings accordingly.

ash wednesday

A Lent Sermon for Ash Wednesday, 2021

“God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’” (Gen 9.12-13, NRSV)

Leader: The Word of the Lord for all CreatureKind.

All: Thanks be to God

And we are told that God so loved that earth, this earth, that God took on human flesh, with all its joys, sorrows, exhilarations, and pains.

I invite you to breathe in with me. And in breathing out, name the pains and sins we have witnessed this year.

  • Racially-motivated, state-sanctioned violence against our Black, brown, and Indigenous kin.
  • An attempted coup, following years of voter suppression and dismantling of basic democratic protections.
  • Acts of hate perpetrated against our Asian siblings, blamed wholesale for a virus caused by capital demand.
  • Black, brown, and Indigenous peoples who contracted and died from COVID at high rates, and yet receive vaccinations at low ones.

Touch your hearts and breathe in with me.

And in breathing out—in this season of reminding ourselves why God so loved this very earth—in that breathing out, name the mourning and the loss of lives caused by our industrialized, colonized food systems.

  • Slaughterhouse, food-plant, farm, and food-service workers around the world were forced to work in unsafe conditions during a global pandemic and sentenced to die because of it.
  • Indigenous peoples murdered, the land they steward stolen to make way for the production of animal flesh to be exported and consumed by the wealthy in other countries.
  • Long lines at food banks. Empty bellies for some while a select and privileged few reap unfathomable financial rewards. Money earned on the backs of the sick, suffering, and often times disabled.
  • Animals—fellow worshippers of the enfleshed God—pushed to extinction by human activity or bred, confined, raped and mutilated on factory farms.
  • Small farmers taking their lives in record numbers after being pushed out of a system dominated by a few powerful corporations.

Beloved, we seem to have broken that Genesis covenant with our Creator, a covenant to care for one another, the earth, and non-human creatures. And so we must ask, where and with whom does God’s covenant need to be restored this Lent? This is work that we must do individually and collectively, to examine our personal and our communal complicity with broken systems and ways of being that cause so many in God’s beloved community to suffer rather than flourish.

We seem to have allowed ourselves as humans to take an unrightful place in the cosmos, considering ourselves a little less than angels. Conquering and Colonizing the world, extracting and maximizing its “resources” to the great disservice of all creation. What must we change to ensure God’s covenant, salvation, and liberation is accessible to the whole world, the chickens and the stars?

Beloveds, breathe in with me. Breathe in the covenant, salvation, and liberation that the God who loves the world has for us all.

Now breathe out fear and shame. For the enfleshed God is also our protector, liberator, and co-Creator of this beloved world.

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:12-13, NRSV)

How might we follow God—Liberator, Protector, Creator—into the wilderness? Can we humble ourselves enough to learn not only from the earth but the animals themselves, like Adam in the garden or Jesus in the wilderness?

For too many of us, entering the wilderness, encountering, and learning from animals is a physical impossibility. Centuries of Colonization and conquering has caused deforestation, displacement of First Peoples, and the desecration of this earth. The EuroAmerican appetite for cheap food and cheap meat, produced in huge quantities at very little cost has created a crisis of climate refugees, food apartheid, and health disparities around the globe.

So, to follow God into the wilderness, we must repent from industrial farming and its death-dealing ways.

Together, we confess:

  • We have perpetuated 500 years of food apartheid.
  • We have forced enslaved peoples to displace natives to grow food for the wealthy few.
  • We have caused global pandemics and untold death, beginning with the first pandemic of a colonial diet and the model of consumerism and capitalist demand.
  • We have subsidized multi-billion dollar agribusinesses while small, ethical farmers suffer. We have contributed to their depression and suicide.
  • We have systematically denied access to land for BIPOC farmers.
  • We have failed to protect or walk with animals. We breed and slaughter them by the billions, forgetting that each life is precious to God.
  • We put factory farms and slaughterhouses in BIPOC communities, polluting their air and water, and creating generations of health crises.
  • Our industrial fishing practices have stripped the ocean of life.

We confess, and we repent with our actions.

We repent by joining Jesus in the wilderness of the unknown, and letting the wilderness herself guide us and we commit to listening and learning from First Peoples, whose relationship with the earth and non-humans has been instrumental in preserving their integrity and diversity.

We repent by being willing and open to learning from other-than-human animals. We commit to remembering that humans are not the pinnacle of creation and that our interconnectedness is the key to our very existence, survival, and flourishing.

We repent by being careful consumers of the earth’s abundance. We commit to getting to know our food growers and handlers; to choosing to eat plants instead of animals as often as we can; to remembering that every created being is beloved by God, and to treating those beings accordingly; to advocating for policies and practices that foster flourishing, equity, and liberation for all.

Fam, this Lent, might we return to the dirt, this very earth, and join Jesus in considering this covenant and life abundant?

May it be so.

Rev. Aline (Ah-lee-nee) Silva (she/her/hers) serves as the co-Director of CreatureKind, an international non-profit leading Christians in new ways of thinking about the Christian Faith and Farmed Animal Welfare. Prior to coming to CreatureKind, Aline served for over a decade as a local parish pastor of rural and farming populations in Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado. Aline shares herself as a queer, Black & Indigenous immigrant of Brasil to the US. Aline chooses not to eat non-human animals, her fellow-worshippers of God. Aline is a pastor, an excellent preacher, and a life coach. You can most often find her laughing out loud, twerking, and sharing her life with her emotional support pup and main squeeze, Paçoca (pah-saw-kah). You can learn about Aline and her work by following CreatureKind on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. She writes today from the unceded lands of the Tequesta, Taino, and Seminole peoples, namedly South Florida, USA.

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