“The earth is utterly broken,
the earth is torn asunder,
the earth is violently shaken.
The earth staggers like a drunkard,
it sways like a hut;
its transgression lies heavy upon it,
and it falls, and will not rise again.”
– Isaiah 24:19-20 (NRSV)
Years ago I devoured the sci-fi series Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. In it, Earth has long ago been destroyed in what its survivors euphemistically call The Big Mistake.
Ever adaptive, those survivors have colonized other planets, each with their own distinct climate, culture and customs, an Epcot flung across the universe. But there is an ache where Earth was—a literal black hole. Or so they think (spoiler alert).
Because the Earth is still there, hidden. In the many millennia that have passed since homo sapiens vacated it, it has renewed itself into a new Eden, entirely healing itself of the wounds inflicted by human habitation.
When it is rediscovered, the descendants of the pilgrims who left are forbidden from recolonizing it but are allowed to return as tourists, for no more than a single day, to see its splendors.
Many of us are, understandably, in a panic about global climate chaos. We wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Earth decide to shake us off entirely because of the big mistakes we continue to inflict upon it. But could we ever really destroy Earth itself?
It may be torn asunder, violently shaken, utterly broken. But God can fix what is broken, with enough time. Isaiah spoke in absolutes, but those of us who have lived through even one long season of wildfire, flood or hurricane have seen how Earth renews itself, if left to itself.
God, we are still making capital-m Mistakes when it comes to the gift of our earthly home. We pray we may adapt before it is too late. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.