On Sunday nights I have been teaching a study based on Leonard Sweet’s book, Out of the Question…Into the Mystery. The chapter we’re covering this evening is called “Getting Right with Divine Handiwork” and deals with loving what God has made. Here Sweet makes some bold claims. He asserts, for example, that “We can only be with God to the extent we are in relationship with both the Creator and creation” and “No Christian has an excuse for not being an ecologist.” Elsewhere he says, “Today, Christians expend a great deal of energy and effort learning how to rightly exegete Scripture. Such exegesis helps us comprehend and know God. But what about learning how to exegete nature—the handiwork of God?”
I find the idea of exegeting nature intriguing. I was required in both college and seminary to take several classes on how to exegete, or interpret, Biblical passages. There were, however, no classes offered on how to exegete nature. When we recall how many Christians over the centuries have understood nature to be a “second book” of revelation it seems strange that such a class didn’t exist.
In one section in tonight’s chapter Sweet argues that since we are spiritual beings in physical bodies “our biological selves need nature.” He goes on to say: “There are huge health benefits to living in GodLife relationships—including relationship with creation. Contact with nature can heal, whether it’s a walk in the woods, a drive on a scenic route, or even peering at framed nature photography hanging on a wall. Small contacts with creation—gardens and other green spaces—have a cumulative impact. People who view a nature video after a stressful event can reduce their pulse rate, skin conductance activity, and muscle tension after as little as five minutes. Following surgery, those who get a room looking out on trees heal faster and need fewer painkillers than those who look out on brick walls.”
There can be no denying that exposure to nature has many health benefits—physical and spiritual. Those who are wise will use this knowledge to live fuller and healthier lives. Those who are wise will also learn to exegete nature and discover within Creation the Creator who loves and cares for them very much. May God help us all to be wise!
(I took the images above this past Thursday evening at Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia.)