The Christian perspective of our ecology &
why we should rise up to become better stewards of our planet, gifted by
Peace Be With You,
Cyndy Ross, Fellowship Chairperson
Sylvan Lake Lutheran Church
2399 Figa Avenue
W. Bloomfield, MI 48324
THE CREATED REALM
ver.: 06 August 1999
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IT WAS GOOD. ... RIGHT...
What God created was deemed by God as 'good' (Gn 1). Light, the earth, seas,
trees, animals, and us -- all were created 'good', and all together were deemed
'very good'. This is what the loving God sees in the created realm. Its
goodness. Even with all that has happened, even with layer upon layer of
disturbance, disorder, disobedience, catastrophe. Even so, what God created, God
owns. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof", as Psalm 24
back to where the formless void ends and
the forms begin
NATURE SLIPS, TOO
Those who posit the earth as God's body, or as a pristine reality spoiled
only by human actions, misunderstand nature. Nature is a creation, not the
Creator. It is a disordered, messy creation which can be casually cruel and
merciless, unpredictable and unstable. Yes, there are cycles of life which all
of this takes place in, but these should be seen for what they transparently are
: another way for God to make good come out of bad. The badness doesn't stop
being bad just because something good came out of it; it just becomes the ground
from which God will grow something new and good. It's just as true in nature as
it is in daily human living.
THE PROMISE IS FOR ALL
The Old Testament speaks of more than just a covenant with one nation of
humans (though it definitely does that). For instance, at the end of the flood
story, God makes a promise (Gn 9:8-10), not just
to Noah and his family, but to "every living creature that is with
you", birds and dogs and even snakes and snails. Revelations speaks of more
than just a New Jerusalem with golden streets; it pictures the whole of creation
being reborn and made pure. The promise is for a new heaven and a new earth -- a
new creation. Resurrection isn't just about us, it's the way God will bring all
things to a new state of existence, of which this is only a glimmer. If you
think that Yellowstone or the Alaskan mountains or the African plains are
breathtaking, God's hardly warmed up yet...
recycle to top
ER...THE SOPRANO SECTION NEEDS MORE
The created order praises God. Not just us, with our worship songs, or even
our lives. But all that exists, simply because God gave it existence, sings (Ps
96:1) the greatness of God. The Psalms, especially, are full of this. Psalm 148, in particular,
doesn't leave anything out of praise-giving. Not only earth, sky, and all living
creatures, but praise comes from even the cosmos beyond earth - represented in
the Psalm by the sun, moon, and stars, but you can safely take that to include
universes, pulsars, black holes, wormholes, supernovas, and even other beings
should there be any. Does it always sing praises? I think those who say it does
are hearing only what they want to hear. But there's more than enough praise
going around out there to know at least of God's glory and power, and even a
glimpse of God's love, through that which God created (Acts 17:27). Learning
other things takes more attention to the Scriptures.
beam me back to the index, Scotty...
IT'S ALL TIED TOGETHER
We are a part of nature, nature is a part of us. One's ill takes part in the
other's ill. The early prophets of the Old Testament had a special way to put it
: "The earth mourns and withers" (Is 24:4)
"Therefore the land mourns" (Hos 4:3) And what brings
it to such grief? God's people acting as if they weren't God's people. Greed.
Adultery. Murder. National pride. This is more than just a literary way of
making nature seem like a person so that those who hear the prophecy can get the drift of how far
they've sunk. This sadness is over more than just the sorry spactacle of evil.
The nation's sins actually have consequences for nature. The attitudes which
lead one to adultery or murder lead one to other selfishnesses. Greedy deeds
take no account of what damage is done to the environment. When we sin, we
reject God's ways. But God's ways take everything into account, and hold it all
together for good. In ways that range from the in-your-face destruction of an
H-Bomb to the subtle intricacies of trace chemical poisoning, we defy God's ways
in order to satisfy one or another sinful desire. It is not God's desire to have
us cause the earth to mourn. God wants us to lead all that exists in a joyous
hymn of praise. That will take a lot of remaking, but then Christians follow a
resurrected Christ through the fresh, energizing breath of the Spirit, so
remaking is not strange to the Body.
The same thing sustains nature that sustains us : the life-giving Breath of
God (Ps 104:30) which made all things from the void (Gn 1:2). In the Genesis
account of creation it is written: "The Spirit of God was moving over the
face of the waters" (Gen 1:2). It is this same Spirit who is the breath of
life for all living things and particularly for man, made in the image and
likeness of God (Gen 1:30; 2:7). Generally speaking, the Spirit in Hebrew is
called the "breath" or the "wind" of Yahweh. It is this
ruach who makes everything alive, the
"giver of life" who upholds and sustains the universe in its existence
and life (e.g. Ps
104:29; Job 33:4).
moving around this
page is a breeze, too
GOD'S RULE APPLIES TO ALL
God's role as creator of all has another implication : God created the
nations -- not just Israel, but all nations. All nations are thus under
God's authority, not their own. Just as the 'fallen' human defies God and the
'fallen' created order doesn't always act as it should, the 'fallen' societies
pretend they have noone to answer to. Nations need to pick up their part of
healing this world, too, and the spiritually-attentive Christian belongs in the
forefront of making the nations do so. This is especially tough when there are
so many nations and so many reasons for some of them to tempt businesses into
their nation by not enforcing environmental laws. Since Christians are all over
the world, they can act together to bear witness about it ito the
okay, you can go back without turning
into a pillar of salt...
POWER and SERVING GOD'S
The sin which most threatens life on earth is the will to power. Humans find
out very early on that they are able to change that which is around them ('our
environment'). It wasn't really Genevan Calvinism nor Greek philosophy that
taught us that (despite what some creation spiritualists say). It was when each
of us as a child first arranged the room so we could play in it, or first
cleared out objects in a field for a soccer game with the other kids. Or when we
first noticed that we could break a tree limb by pulling on it, and then use the
resulting stick to draw figures into the ground or dig channels for the
rainwater to flow to a nearby puddle. We experience over and over again, even as
a little child, that we can shape the nature around us. The older (smarter, and
stronger) we get, the more our day-to-day experience teaches us of the powers we
have. It becomes a part of our identity and our sense of safe space. It is what
Psalm 8 is about. It
is part of what comes with being created in God's image; we have weak
versions of the powers that God uses in a greater way. As we become adults, we
then tend to accept philosophies which claim to explain that power and help us
get more of it.
In the face of this reality, talk of oneness with nature and such by itself
is really of no help. Nor does it help much to understand the limits of these
powers, that we don't understand the sheer complexity of life and existence.
Most of today's people think we'll eventually solve that through technology, a
belief that assumes a lot about our pr. Like any other sin, there is only one
help against the illusion and reality of this sense of power over 'our
environment', and that is Christ. Christ had all sorts of power over all sorts
of matters, but used it to serve. Christ called all of us humans to become aware
of what our power does to nature as well as to people. He calls us to turn away
from the sinful lust for power over other things or other people, the sin of
coveting as found in the Ten Commandments. Then, the Spirit makes us able to
free our sense of who we are from the desire to control everything and make them
serve our narrow purposes. Then, we can view ourselves as bodily beings that are
a part of a creation that is much bigger than we are, a creation which is the
ground we live on and the air we breathe and the stuff we claim to 'own', all
created like we were by a loving God. It becomes no longer 'our environment',
world', in which we too belong. The powers we have been given are that
of a trustee, and we are responsible to use them in the way of the crucified
servant Jesus, not in the way of a crucifier-master.
go to the head of the class...
STUFF : MORE OR LESS?
Another sin that puts us in conflict with nature is greed. We're not the only
animal that hoards stuff, but we are the only animal that chases after having
ever greater amounts of stuff, especially stuff that we don't really need. We
use our powers to get and make what we want, and it doesn't matter to us much
that it rips out a hillside or creates radioactive wastes. Many Christians have
responded to this by way of 'simple living' -- sharply reducing the stuff that
we own and use.
Christians did not create the idea. It's been around in some form as far back
as recorded history goes. Ancient records are full of ascetics (people who are
extreme about not having stuff). John the Baptist was part of a long history of
Jewish ascetics. Jesus wasn't really much of an ascetic. While he himself had no
real estate and no more property than his robes, his Jewish ceremonial wear, and
maybe a scroll or two, he did not hesitate to accept and use what others
provided for him, and sometimes this was a bona fide feast. He was
constantly living at other peoples' homes as he traveled, and often took part in
parties and celebrations -- as his critics pointed out. But Jesus did not serve
stuff; it mattered to him only as far as it was used for goodness' sake. In
fact, Jesus treated the desire for wealth as the biggest pretender to God's
place on the throne of the human heart. He even gave it an idol's name :
Jesus' followers took on much the same attitude, at first. But as generations
passed, they went two different ways. As Christianity became official, official
Christianity dropped its concern about having too much stuff, started gathering
an incredible amount of wealth, and started blessing certain other peoples'
actions for gathering more wealth. Meanwhile, monasteries and convents developed
where devout people committed themselves to having no goods. (Of course, the
typical Christian had little wealth and even less freedom to chase after it.
This was true of the public before Christianity, and once official, Christianity
did little to alter the picture.) Later on, the followers of Menno Simons
rediscovered what the monks knew, that living simply made it much easier to
focus on God. There was less to get in the way. Others, especially in Methodist
and Holiness traditions, picked up on this same theme.
Today, there are all sorts of Christians trying (fitfully) to re-establish
some limits to the constant craving for more stuff. But they are discovering
that the benefits go beyond just those of spiritual focus and preserving our
limited natural resources. It's not just what you remove from your life, it's
what you add to it. The chase after goods makes you as fake as the
packaging; the way out of that is to add being truthful and authentic in
whatever you do. By giving a Christmas or birthday gift that you make (maybe
goods, maybe experiences), you add something more of yourself to the
relationship. When you add this way, you miss the stuff much less. If
more of us did that, we would not be so stuff-driven, and we would be less
driven to spray insecticides onto the garden, less driven to gouge the land for
coal or ore, less driven to pave over good farmland or forest to put up malls or
outlet centers. And we could then be freer to pay more attention to the Spirit's
voice, calling us to see the created world as God sees it, and to treasure it as
God treasures it.
back to the list
GIFTS OF HEALING?
God gives the Body gifts for strengthening, guidance, and healing. It may
well be that, because we have been given the mind to learn how nature works, God
has given us a responsibility to help it where it falters, especially where we
ourselves have broken it. (That alone is a lot of breakage to repair.) But let's
go a step further : could it be that God provides gifts for the task? It
makes sense: if God is redeeming all of
creation, and we are a part of creation which
is called to serve God's purposes, and God the
Holy Spirit gives Christ's followers the gifts they need for the service they
are to provide, then it may very well be that
the Spirit has given some people from among us the gift of healing the scars we
have put upon the world we live in, and some people the inner wisdom as to how
to prevent such scarring in the first place. Could that be you, or people in
your church, or your fellow employees? Pray for it.
God gives life to nature. God is at work restoring it. Thank God we don't
have to depend on our puny efforts. But just as God calls us to be a part of the
divine task of restoring humanity, God calls us to the divine task of restoring
the created realm. And the hope nature has is the same hope that human beings
have : the risen Christ.
lost? go here...
Some Links :
O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty: Open
our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your
whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him
through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (US), p. 814
"When God created the first human beings, God led them
around the Garden of Eden and said, "Look at my works! See how beautiful
they are! For your sake I created them. Do not spoil and destroy My world; for
if you do, there will be no one to repair it."
Spirit of God in the clear running water,
greatness the trees on the hill,
Spirit of God in the finger of
fill the earth,
bring it to
and blow where you will.
blow till I be
but breath of the Spirit blowing in
----- "Spirit Of God", v.1, by Sr. Miriam Therese
(c) 1965, Medical Mission Sisters, adm. by Vanguard Music Corp.
Used with permission.
There was a pine tree in the woods. It was sullen and its branches hung low.
"What's wrong?" asked a joyful tree nearby. "I am just another
pine tree in the woods... ", mumbled back the sullen tree. "Just
another pine?" said the joyful tree, "Why do you compare yourself to
other trees? Lift your leaves towards the Sun. The Sun has given and continues
to give you life. How lucky you were to have been a seed. How even luckier to
have taken root in good soil. How even greater that you may lift your branches
skyward and see what has made all this possible. What bliss to see the
Sun." The sullen pine lifted its branches joyfully and was happy
---- a tale for a miracle world, as relayed by Lynn
A Challenge :
choose a specific place in your area that has serious environmental damage.
Then, pray regularly for God to give healing for that site, and pray for action
from the people who can make that healing take place. (That might include