IN THE BEGINNING
[text only] - contributed by the Rev. Kathy Moody-Arndt, Lakeview United Methodist Church, Barberton, Ohio
I love this time of year. It is so amazing to watch all the changes going on in nature. It is awesome to see how plants and trees and birds just know what to do. All the different activities of nature seem to be part of a plan we can just barely fathom. Yet for all our scientific knowledge, the more we learn the more we discover how much more there is for us to explore.
While we’re busy arguing about how quickly the world was created and how it all came about, nature just keeps moving forward and responding to all the influences of a changing world.
Our knowledge of the universe has obviously grown and matured since Bible times yet we struggle to explain why things happen the way they do. We debate about how our human activities affect what we see happening in nature. We argue about how to provide for immediate human needs verses the long-term effects of our actions. Too often we see nature just as something that is there to satisfy our human desires rather than a gift from God. We see having certain things as our right. We expect life to give us a car, home conveniences and easy access to places of relaxation. As Americans we criticize developing countries like China and India for wanting what we have. Yet we are unwilling to take the lead in defining new standards for how nations use energy or natural resources.
Our passage today is very familiar to most of us. One of the things it does is to remind us that God existed when there was nothing. Then after creating the world, this same God looked and declared that it was Good. All God asked was that we care for the earth and all living things.
Many of our debates about the meaning of this creation account come because we want to focus on our scientific questions. We argue about the order in which things were created. We debate how long it took. We wonder about what it all means. But often our debates miss the purpose of this description. It was written not to make a scientific point but to respond to some very immediate concerns. Many scholars believe that this account at least in its present form, took shape during the time that the people of Judah were in exile in Babylon. In response to their captors who insisted that their rulers held all the power, these exiles told a story about their God; a God from whom all things came to be and a God who continued to be active in their lives. This was not a human god but one who was present before all time.
Today as we seek to understand God’s role in our lives, I think this passage points us towards a new awareness of our responsibilities towards creation and how we care for the earth. We are gradually realizing that when God entrusted us to have dominion over creation, it wasn’t a license to abuse the earth. It was instead about compassionate, responsible care for every living thing. It was about seeing creation as a gift rather than something to possess.
The industrial revolution in many ways was an attempt to place humans into the position of being the masters of the universe. We saw the amazing things we could invent and how these inventions opened up opportunities for advancement in wealth and convenience. We began to develop a sense of confidence and pride in all our human achievements. We thought “Anything is possible if we just try hard enough.”
We are now in a time when we are beginning to experience the limits of what is possible. Our dependency on oil makes us very mobile but also pollutes the air and makes us vulnerable to oil-rich countries. Our desire for our own space is making farm land less available and is filling our streams with chemicals and industrial waste that kills off fish and other living things. Our craving for more and more material things, is creating landfills that are costly and overflowing.
In the midst of our materialistic desires, there are more and more people left to live in slums with little hope that things will get better. In our country the inner cities are usually the places closest to polluting industries and poisonous waste. Developing nations often see their natural resources taken away from them with little benefit to their livelihood. Changes in weather patterns and ravages of disease and corruption affect the well being of the desperate poor much more directly than the rich wherever they may live.
In our own state of Ohio we face our own difficult issues. One of them comes from our heavy reliance on coal which makes us a top polluter in the US. We also lag behind the national average of producing 10% of our electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and low-impact hydroelectric. We resist making the necessary changes fearing that improvements will hurt us economically. But in most cases developing alternative sources of energy would not only make it possible to take better care of the environment, but would also produce new jobs and make this a healthier place to live. Much of what is needed is an attitude adjustment so that we can actively look for improvements that could produce opportunities for economic development as well as the advancing of God’s creation.
One place where Ohio is already doing this regards the Cuyahoga River. In 1969 when the river caught fire in Cleveland because of oil-soaked debris, our area became nationally known for our polluted river. This was a little unfair because similar things were happening in many industrial cities. At the time it was common practice for industrial plants to dump their by-products into nearby rivers.
Today, although not all parts of the river are safe for swimming and fishing, there has been tremendous progress made. Much of the success has been possible because of the way our local communities have worked together. They have made it a priority to see that something is done. In the process we have discovered that local industries can continue and nature will return to areas once the conditions are conducive to growth.
As individuals we may listen to all this talk about the environment and think “Why change, what I do won’t affect these larger issues.” But our life styles are the main thing we can control. If we are created in the image of God, then we have a responsibility to treat God’s world as precious. We can’t force someone else to change. But with God’s help, we can certainly revise our attitudes and begin to look for opportunities to bless the earth rather than degrade it.
In your bulletin is a commitment card. It goes through the seven days of creation described in Genesis. I’d like us to take a few moments together and go through this list. As you move through the days, I will suggests a couple ideas and I encourage you to commit yourself to more intentionally caring for God’s creation.*
CREATION CARE COMMITMENT
Move through the days of creation and consider how you can care for God’s creation in new ways.
I will commit to caring for my use of light and energy by_____________
I will commit to caring for and conserving the waters of earth by_____________
I will commit to caring for and enjoying earth’s plants by_____________
I will commit to caring for the air and the earth’s atmosphere by_____________
I will commit to caring for the fish in the sea and the birds in the air by_____________
I will commit to caring for the animals by_____________
I will commit to observing a Sabbath rest for myself and the earth by_____________
Let us pray.
You have given us this earth of joy and promise as well as challenge. We commit ourselves today to doing all that we can for the good of creation. Amen.
*The Creation Care Commitment Card came from Seasons of the Spirit Congregational Life which is a resource for both worship and Christian education.
IN THE BEGINNING