By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
The Internet can be filled with pearls of wisdom.
Recently I came across a story where a farmer tells his son the secret of life: The cow doesn’t give milk. The message is meant to be simple. The cow doesn’t give milk. The farmer must get up at four in the morning, walk through the corral full of manure, tie the tail, hobble the legs, sit on the stool, place the bucket, and milk the cow. In other words, people must do the work.
Hard work is important. Still, reading through this description of work, I find myself thinking that there is another metaphor imbedded in this story: The cow doesn’t give milk. We take it from her. She really doesn’t get a say in the matter as her tail is tied and legs hobbled. Her contribution really doesn’t matter in this telling as the focus is on the work of the human. Yet, it doesn’t matter how hard a human works, without the cow, there would be no milk.
Yes, I get that is a very simplistic statement as there are many different types of milk. Still, the point remains valid. We need cows, goats, sheep, almonds, oats, and other resources from creation to make the milk we consume.
What happens when we intentionally reorient our understanding of the processes to value the contributions of creation? What does it look like to give thanks to the cow for what she has provided? What does it look like to see the cow as a beloved creation of the Creator? What does it look like to continually remember that our work is not the sole contributor to the benefits we enjoy?
What if the secret of life, the secret to our sustainability, is that we need to fully acknowledge all that is necessary for us to have milk? What happens if we pause to consider that the cow needs food from the land to produce milk and that food needs soil, and sunlight, and rain to grow? What if we realize there is inherent wisdom in creation that creates opportunities for farmers to acquire milk and processes and people through which that milk is bottled and delivered to stores so that we can purchase and consume it? What does it look like for us to give thanks truly and humbly for all aspects of creation and all those people who enable milk to be available to us?
What would it look like for us to change the message: ‘the cow doesn’t give milk’, to something more akin to ‘creation and hard work make it possible for the cow to share her milk with us’? To what extent would this change of focus challenge us to treat cows and soil and people with greater respect and dignity?
The Season of Creation is fast approaching. This year’s theme is “Let Justice and Peace Flow”. This is our opportunity to consider what it looks like to let justice and peace flow in our world. This season invites us to intentionally reflect on our relationship with Creation and with one another. To what extent do we value what God has made? To what extent do we respect the dignity of everything and everyone that contributes to the resources we consume? How can we know better and do better?
The Season of Creation begins September 1 and extends through October 4. Resources are available at https://seasonofcreation.org/. This website includes a celebration guide and links to videos and resources to help individuals and congregations celebrate this season. May we all take time to honour God’s gift of Creation in ways that enable Justice and Peace to Flow this year and beyond.
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is a tri-chair of SEJH and a tri-chair of Justice League of Huron.