Think Like a Mountain
By Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
We are shaped by our landscape. I know growing up on the Korean Peninsula has meant the mountains are always at my shoulder. Mountains still convey a sense of home even as I live in the prairies of Wisconsin. Perhaps people who grow up in prairie land see a horizon as an agent of God’s still, small voice. Maybe the people who grew up near lakes or rivers hear God’s renewing voice in running water. For me, there is a humbling and awe-filled presence waiting for me in relationship to a mountain. The presence of my ancestors on my home mountain and its seasonal colors are like a clock’s face. The mountain is a mother and father and friend at my shoulder.
The prophet Isaiah promises God’s reign will order the dis-ordered harmonies of creation. 11:9 proclaims: “they will neither hurt nor destroy on my holy mountain.” Why? The second half of the verse says: “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” Knowledge of God leads to harmony, not only between God and neighbor, but among and between creatures. The wolf will live with the lamb because knowledge of God settles the appetite of the predator.
The Wisconsin Conservationist Aldo Leopold, author of, A Sand County Almanac, advises us to think like a mountain. He lamented the desire of some to eradicate wolves. Without them the face of the mountain is scarred with too many deer runs and too little vegetation. To think like a mountain is to think of the intended harmony of the whole. God has made us in relationship. Everything from Protons to Neutrons to Monarchs and Milkweed is in relationship. Relationship teaches us about proportion and the consequences of harm. Our God is a world-affirming God who continues God’s self-giving nature in creation. Too often we have served world-destroying idols and peddled easy and short-sighted theologies.
As Deuteronomy 5:14 describes it, Sabbath-keeping communities provide for rest that renews all creatures. On the Sabbath, ox, donkey, or livestock are no longer beasts of burden to be commodified but they are released to be renewed by their proper relationship with the created order and Creator.
Every human creature is impacted by the dis-order of systemic sin and living out of proportion to our relationship in creation. Tribal nations and communities of color, immigrants and low-income communities are those who suffer most from air-quality degradation and lead poisoning. Climate justice and planetary health requires that we think like a mountain. Knowledge of God increases harmony and settles the appetite of the predator.
I continue to join a chorus of voices that calls for climate justice and planetary health.
The September 16th bulletin from the General Board of Church and Society’s Rev. Dr. Susan Henry Crowe, reminds us:
“The United Methodist Church has long been attentive to the realities of climate change when it adopted the 2016 Social Principles, stating in Paragraph 160.D:
We acknowledge the global impact of humanity’s disregard for God’s creation. Rampant industrialization and the corresponding increase in the use of fossil fuel fuels have led to a buildup of pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere … We therefore support efforts of all governments. These “greenhouse gas” emissions threaten to alter dramatically the earth’s climate for generations to come with severe environmental, economic and social implications. The adverse impacts of global climate change disproportionately affect individual and nations least responsible for the emissions. We therefore support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions.”
The September 7th issue of The Guardian featured a story about an unprecedented joint declaration. Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox church, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is the leader of the global Anglican communion, call on the world population: “whatever their beliefs or worldview” to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor.”
Their statement says: “Today, we are paying the price [of the climate emergency] … Tomorrow could be worse.” It concludes: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”
I would recommend a book entitled, Climate Church, Climate World by Rev. Jim Antal, who warns about the fiction of living as if our choices do not have impact for us or for creation. He calls on the church to lead by examining its fragility and inability to prayerfully consider planetary health and discern our proper repentance. We must think like a mountain and keep the vows we have made at baptism to do all in our power to order our lives to nurture the life of children. Antal calls on pastors to hear their calling, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, to deliver a generation and hear the cries of the earth. Siblings, every single day this summer brought fire and storm and heat and waste that puts us in peril.
Where do we go if we cannot go to the woods as a pilgrim of God, or to the waters as First Nation people have harvesting rice and teaching their young? Where will we live if we soil our nest? May we remember racial justice and radical inclusion by living climate justice and remembering the milkweed beetle is our neighbor.
My granddaughter, Sydney Grace, is depending on me to think like a mountain. I pray you do, too. Know that I am praying for you.
In the hope that Jesus offers us,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).