I was lucky. Although I grew up in the city, I spent weekends, holidays, and sum-mers at the Michigan family farm where my father was raised. This changes how you view nature and our place in it as you spend time close to the earth. Meat was not anonymous red matter on white Styrofoam and wrapped in plastic. It was the calf I fed from birth and then suddenly missed the next visit. Produce did not spontaneously appear in groceries but was planted in the 160 acres and prayed over—green beans, corn, wheat, oats, beets, Northern white beans, and the rest.
On Sunday we celebrate an Environmental Sabbath. Superstorm Sandy taught us how sensitive our coastal Connecticut ecosystem is, linked to an encircling biosphere. Now into the summer, we are more in touch with nature all around us.
Environmentalists have blamed Christianity for our ecological crisis. They argue the Genesis text (1.26) that gave humans dominion over the earth has led direct-ly to our exploitation. The accusation is a distortion of biblical theology. But it has a kernel of truth. For we Christians have been as co-opted and led along as any-one else in the fouling of streams and rivers as well as the polluting of the skies. Just now the church does well to rethink some basic assumptions about nature.
Perhaps we could begin by noticing and not neglecting the inherent connection of all things. Jesus said that not a sparrow falls from the sky without the heavenly Father’s awareness. Is it possible to build whole economies as aware as that? The reign of God is one such economy. And it is the job of those who people that kingdom—the church of Jesus Christ—to make such an economy intelligible.
We have an opportunity to remind the world that creation is God’s living creature.
If we could reenact in worship and carry with us into the world that our true end in life is to worship and glorify God, even more than increasing production goals by always inventing new “needs”, we could help renew the biosphere all around us.
At the same time, we resist feeding into the nature-worship mentality, too often identified with environmental awareness, mocked by terms like “tree-hugger.” Creation is not valuable as some god-in-itself, but because it is the glory of God, and deserves our careful respect and thoughtful stewardship as a gift from God.
Can we notice the inherent connection of all living things? That is what Francis of Assisi did. St. Francis understood that whether it was a bunch of peasants or a bunch of flowers, all creation is essentially in the same business: praising and serving God. This means as we come to see other living things—from trees to waterfalls—we should also see our shared vocation. As we see a clear-cut or a strip-mine, the voice of creation has been damaged and badly needs restoration.
We have a baptism this Sunday (remember clean water, above all!) as well as laypersons who will speak from their perspectives to children and adults alike.