Over the past several years I've
shared with some of you my usual process for writing a sermon
every week. My sermon preparation typically involves reading
the scripture, prayer, study, reflection, writing, asking
questions like "so what, how do we apply the scripture to our
life now," editing, re-writing, and practicing.
As I began my preparation for today's
message I started out anticipating using my usual sermon
preparation process. But after I finished reading the
scripture, praying about it, and reflecting on it some, I
decided to forgo the normal study time of reading other books,
looking at commentary and so forth. As I reflected on the text
and began to formulate some thoughts about creation and what
God's creation means, I realized I don't have to read to
understand God's creation; I just need to step outside and
experience it first hand.
This past week when I sat on my deck,
and as I walked around the yard and neighborhood some amazing
things happened. I actually noticed the wonder of God's handy
work; I saw things I had never seen before, not because they
weren't always there but because I had never really paid
attention to them.
As I walked around my back yard I
realized that usually when I walk around I'm cutting the
grass, not really paying attention to Creation itself. I
realized I spent more time killing dandelions then I did
simply enjoying the life giving trees and grass. And I spent
more time mulching the gardens, so they look nice, rather than
exploring the wonderment of the shrubs and flowers I was
throwing mulch around.
Now I walk a fair amount around the
neighborhood, but this week I set out to walk not with
exercise in mind but with enjoying creation in mind, and to my
amazement I saw things I never saw before.
It wasn't long until I realized that
when I was walking for exercise I tended to focus on man-made
things like peoples houses, their cars, how they sealed their
driveways, what type of lawn mower they use, and so on. But
this past week I purposely went walking looking to experience
God's creation. I noticed trees, bushes, and animals that had
always been there; I just never saw them because I was focused
on something else.
I share all of this with you to simply
say we need to pay attention to creation; it's a gift, a gift
from God to be enjoyed, used, but not abused.
In our scripture reading today we hear
very clearly that God created the heavens and the earth. We
don't know how, but we do know God created everything, and
through his creation we learn about who our God is. We learn
that God is creative, and that as the creator he is distinct
from the creation itself.
We also learn that God is eternal and
in control of creation. God didn't simply create the world
then step out of creation until some future date. If he did
this, I suggest we wouldn't be here today; none of us would
have ever been born. Humanity would have destroyed this world
God is still very much active in
creation. God continues to create the four seasons, the rain,
the sun, all the colors, the air we breath, and the resources
we need to live a healthy and joy filled life.
Also within our scripture reading we
learn about ourselves. Since God chose to create us, we are
valuable in his eyes, we have purpose, and we have a job to
do. In verse 26 the author of Genesis writes "Let us make man
in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish
of the sea and birds of the air, over the livestock, over all
the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the
Later in verse 28 the author of
Genesis also writes in speaking of humankind, "Rule over the
fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over every
living creature that moves on the ground."
It's unfortunate that our pew Bible
uses the phrase "rule over" in conveying our role in God's
creation, because "rule over" connotes the idea of having
absolute authority over.
After looking at a direct translation
from the Hebrew text to English a better phrase to use is
"have dominion over." Now, to us in our culture this can mean
the same as "rule over." But in Hebrew the word they use for
"have dominion over" actually is understood to mean,
care-giving and nurturing, not domination. I wonder if the
world would be any different today if we simply understood
this phrase the way it was intended.
Today we celebrate Earth Day in the
church, so I would like to take a harder look at how humanity
is treating God's creation. Are we ruling over it, as
understood by our contemporary understanding, or are we caring
for and nurturing God's creation based on a more complete
understanding of scripture?
As disciples of Jesus we all realize
we are to be good stewards of all that God has given us. Among
other things this means we are called to be stewards of the
entire creation. We are called to use the world's resources
wisely, we are called to use the creation to bring glory to
God not to ones self, we are called to manage and care for all
of the created order in a manner pleasing to God.
All creation is under the authority of
God and all creation is interdependent. Our covenant with God
requires us to be stewards, protectors, and defenders of all
creation. In the Bible, a steward is one given responsibility
for what belongs to another. And the Old Testament relates
this concept of stewardship to the vision of shalom.
Often shalom is translated "peace,"
but the broader meaning of shalom is wholeness. In the Old
Testament, shalom is used to characterize the wholeness of a
faithful life lived in relationship to God. Shalom is best
understood when we experience wholeness and harmony as human
beings with God, with others, and with creation itself. The
task of the steward, our task, is to seek shalom.
Now the concept of stewardship is
first introduced in the creation story. In Genesis 1:26, the
Bible affirms that every person is created in God's image. But
this gift brings with it a unique responsibility. Being
created in God's image brings with it the responsibility to
care for God's creation.
God chose to give human beings a
divine image not so we could exploit creation to our own ends,
but so we would be recognized as stewards of God. To have
dominion over the earth is a trusteeship, a sign that God
cares for creation and has entrusted it to our stewardship.
You know we have no claim on God's
creation. Just because we hold a deed saying we "own" the
property our house or farm sits on doesn't mean we really own
it. To own something means to have absolute control over it.
Well in the case of land and other resources we don't really
own it, it doesn't go wherever we go, and when we die we don't
take it with us. In reality we are stewards, entrusted with a
piece of the earth, to meet our basic needs, to help others
meet their needs, and to bring glory to God.
Now ultimately our stewardship of the
world and its resources is always accountable to God who loves
the whole of creation and who desires that it exist in shalom.
The intention of creation was that all should experience
shalom, to know the goodness of creation.
In the Old Testament, "fullness of
life" means having enough, sufficient, to experience the
goodness of creation. By contrast, our age has come to define
"fullness of life" as more than enough. The desire of many for
excess begins to deny enough for others, and shalom is broken.
That all should participate in creation's goodness is a
fundamental of stewardship.
The truth is this world has enough
resources to meet the needs of all creation. The problem is a
minority of the world's population uses a majority of the
world's resources, to excess in most cases.
Another theme of shalom is that in
creation we are all related. Humans are not self-sufficient;
we need God, others, nature. The story of the garden in
Genesis 2 attempts to picture the complete and harmonious
interrelatedness of all creation. There is shalom only when we
recognize and live to care for the whole.
Now when we violate the rules of the
garden what happens? We are dismissed. In ecological terms,
when we violate the principles of ecology, we suffer
environmental damage. As the story of the garden shows, God's
intention of shalom was not carried out. Sin intervened, and
the shalom was broken. But God offered a way to restore shalom
- redemption. And as God's stewards we have a role in that
Stewardship, then, is to become
involved wherever wholeness is lacking and to work in harmony
with God's saving activity to reconcile, to reunite, to heal,
to make the creation whole once again. Stewardship has to do
with how we bring all of the resources at our disposal into
efficient use in our participation in the saving activity of
Environmental stewardship is one part
of our work as God's stewards. As stewards of the natural
environment we are called to preserve and restore the air,
water, and land on which life depends. Moreover, we are called
to see that all life has a sufficient share of the resources
So what are we to do? Well Earth Day
serves to remind us that we have a responsibility to the
earth, and we are accountable to God in how well we exhibit
Now typically on Earth Day people
plant trees, clean up parks, and do other things to care for
the environment, and this is important work. But Earth Day
needs to be a 365-day a year initiative. We all can
participate in good creation stewardship just by taking care
of the property entrusted to us by God, we all can be better
stewards of the creation by asking ourselves what can I do to
preserve the part of creation I interact with, so that future
generations might have a might have an appropriate place to
With our hope rooted in Christ and
with more obedient living as stewards of the earth, we can
participate in God's healing of creation. Since the beginnings
of the Methodist movement, there has been a concern with what
we today call "environmental concerns." John Wesley's emphasis
on "cleanliness" came as he observed a land of open sewers,
impure water, unplanned cities, and smoke-filled air.
In the mines and mills, squalor and
filth were everywhere, as was disease. The substantial decline
in the death rate in England from 1700 to 1801 can be traced
to improvements in environment, sanitation, and a wider
knowledge of concepts of basic health such as those advocated
As responsible Methodists and children
of God we ought to support measures, which will lead to a more
careful and efficient use of the resources of the natural
world. In your bulletin you'll find a short excerpt from the
United Methodist Social Principles that I commend to your
reading later today.
We ought to look carefully at our
consumption patterns and seek to live a simple and less
resource-dependent life. We ought to support or initiate
programs, which will recycle solid materials of all sorts, and
promote the use of using products made with recycled
materials. We ought to support policies and efforts that
promote clean air, clean water, and clean living.
We ought to participate actively in
community environmental programs and urge the establishment of
such initiatives in communities without these programs. We
ought to look for ways to use all our natural resources for
the good of all human kind not just for the few. We need to
look for real and tangible ways we can care for the earth
through good stewardship by not wasting resources or over
using our resources to the point they can no longer be used.
We can no longer sacrifice the
environment for the sake of excess, greed, and exploitation.
The world is not ours, its God's. We must take care of the
earth in any way we can. So I ask you to be more aware of how
you treat the creation and look for ways to restore your part
of creation to shalom.
All people have the right to the
resources of the universe to provide for their health and well
being; and God's creation is intended to be used for the good
of all as a precious gift.
As a country and a world we have made
progress but we can do more, and it begins with you and me. So
again, I encourage all of us to focus our stewardship energy
in making our piece of creation all it can be, so that its use
might bring glory to God, and serve as a model of stewardship
for others. Amen
Read other messages by Pastor Wade