In the Gospels, we hear the story of a lawyer who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The lawyer responded, “ You shall love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and all your mind. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then said, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
We gather this morning as people of faith and as faithful citizens of this country. Last Friday, October 19, we, the U.S. Region of the International Congregation of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, formally filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is the next step in our ongoing faith-based resistance to the forced installation of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline through our rural farmland in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This high pressure pipeline is capable of transporting 1.7 billion cubic inches of natural gas per day, and will facilitate the extraction and intensive use of fossil fuels.
In 2005, the Adorers adopted a Land Ethic, which includes these words:
As leaders, we know our choices impact our interdependent Earth community; we initiate broad-based participation to make decisions focused on our common good. We work in solidarity with all creation for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? Pope Francis, in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ On Care for our Common Home, says,
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an option or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.
Our work as “protectors of God’s handiwork” has been in collaboration with Lancaster Against Pipelines, a local grassroots coalition of Lancaster County residents. Our efforts have included erecting a rustic outdoor chapel directly in the path of the proposed fossil fuel pipeline. In July, 2017, the chapel’s dedication service attracted more than 300 supporters. Since then, regular prayer vigils for the Earth have been held at this site, including a Palm Sunday service where a large wooden cross and heart-shaped labyrinth—together forming the Adorers’ symbol of membership—were placed directly atop the pipeline’s path. These symbols declare our ardent hope that the Gospel of Life will ultimately overturn our death-inducing dependence on fossil fuel consumption.
Since October, 2017, twenty-nine friends of the Adorers and members of Lancaster Against Pipelines community have been arrested in prayerful, joyful acts of civil disobedience at the chapel to prevent the desecration of this land by pipeline construction and installation. These brave witnesses for God’s Creation have ranged in age from 16-86, and among those arrested have been clergy from the Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Methodist and Buddhist Traditions.
Despite our repeated refusal, based on our religious beliefs, to allow Transco to use our property for the pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted the easement to Transco by eminent domain, and to date, our appeal to hear our Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) case has been denied.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? As we gather here today, we plead with the US Supreme Court to allow the merits of our case to be heard in light of the very broad protection for religious freedom that is guaranteed under RFRA. We invoke the words of Jesus and ask, “ What is written in the law and how do you read it?”