Apr 18 2016

It’s God’s World!

_DSC5249Yesterday was Earth Stewardship Sunday at my church. We had a chance to sing hymns and offer prayers that honored God as Creator. We were even reminded during Communion that the bread and wine are gifts of the earth provided by the One who made it.  For my sermon I chose to focus on the words of the hymn “This Is My Father’s World.”  I did this so I could emphasize a very important biblical truth, this world doesn’t belong to you or me.  As the Psalmist boldly declared, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (24:1-2)  I like the way George McKinney, Jr. put it, “The creation of our Lord does not belong to the rich who possess it nor to the poor who need and want its resources. Neither the greedy nor the needy can claim ownership!”

So many of the environmental problems we face today have resulted from our failure to understand or remember that the earth is not ours to do with as we please. The earth belongs to God.  We do learn in Genesis 2:15 that we have a role to play in God’s Creation and that involves taking care of it.  Unfortunately we have been far more prone to abuse Creation than take care of it.  Many people see the earth and its resources as simply a means for getting rich.  Far too many people abuse the earth’s resources without any concern for others or for those who will come after them.  No wonder we find our planet in the shape it now is.

_DSC5227When I was a teenager I remember a television commercial that featured a lone Native American standing on a high precipice observing the decimation of this country’s natural beauty and as the camera zoomed in you saw a tear falling from his eye. It was a very powerful presentation and got a lot of people’s attention.  I have a feeling that if we could somehow get a close-up look at God’s face these days we might find a similar tear and for the same reason.  In essence, we have trashed the beautiful world God so graciously gave us.  We have failed to be the stewards of Creation God commissioned us to be.

In the final verse of “This Is My Father’s World” the writer says “God trusts us with this world, to keep it clean and fair.  All earth and trees, the skies and seas, God’s creatures everywhere.”  These may just be the words of a hymnist but they echo the teachings of the Bible.  God did, in fact, entrust us with this world, “to keep it clean and fair.”  Our heavenly Father expects us to honor the earth as His creation and to take the steps needed to reverse damage that has already been done and to work to preserve what we can for future generations.

_DSC7790Last week I spoke at the funeral of a friend whose favorite song was “Rocky Mountain High.” He wanted it played at his service so we did.  As I listened to the words one line in particular caught my attention.  It’s the one where John Denver sings “I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly.” I could relate to that.  I can honestly say my life is richer because I have seen, and here where I live now continue to see on a regular basis, eagles soaring above me.  But not that many years ago there were concerns about whether bald eagles would even exist in this country now.  The effects of the pesticide DDT seriously threatened their existence and had there not been tremendous pressure put on public officials to remove DDT I would likely not have the privilege I do here of seeing eagles on a regular basis.

Those who fought the battle to eliminate DDT made a difference. If we are going to take earth stewardship seriously, we need to be looking for places where we can make a difference too.  Got any ideas?


(I took the top two pictures on a recent trip to southeast KY.  The eagle was photographed near where I live in western KY.)

Apr 27 2014

Hope for Creation

_CES3069In the liturgical calendar this is the Second Sunday of Easter.  In the denomination I serve it is also Earth Stewardship Sunday.  This morning I had the privilege of preaching and presenting multi-media programs at South Elkhorn Christian Church in Lexington.  Mickey Anders, one of my personal heroes, is pastor there and he asked me some time ago to be their guest speaker.  It was great getting to share about our calling to be good stewards of God’s Creation with his congregation.  I hope a lot of other Disciples churches took advantage of Earth Stewardship Sunday to emphasize this calling as well.

_CES3063I wrote about my love for Easter and its message last week on this blog.  I mentioned there that one of the most meaningful messages is God’s ability to bring good from bad situations.  As we reflect on how the earth has been treated the past hundred years or so it is clear that this has not been a good situation.  We have polluted once pristine waters, fouled the air, destroyed incredible amounts of rains forests, literally removed mountains, hastened the extinction of numerous flora and fauna, and apparently altered the climate at the same time.  I’m not sure how any of this could be considered good.  I do believe, however, that the God of resurrection is at work and that it is, indeed, God’s desire to bring good from this bad situation.

When I first became interested in Creation Care twenty-five years ago there were not a lot of books to be found on Christianity and the environment.  That has certainly changed.  Hundreds of such books are now available.  Back then you rarely heard about churches being intentional about Creation Care and ecological responsibility.  That, too, has changed.  In my denomination there is a growing number of churches that have made commitments to be Green Chalice congregations.  We are encouraged regularly to remember our divine responsibility to be good stewards of God’s earth.   I don’t know what’s happening in other denominations but I hope that there, too, a growing commitment to Creation Care can be found.

_DSC3549About forty-five years ago there was much discussion about whether Christianity had contributed to the ecological crisis by espousing an anthropocentric understanding of the human role in Creation.  It was said by some that along with Christianity came the idea that nature is not sacred but disposable, that humans are not really a part of nature, they are above it.  There may have been some truth to these arguments but it truly does seem that more and more Christians are beginning to recognize that we are, indeed, a part of nature and that God has given us the role not of dominating nature but tending to and caring for it.

_CES2984Hopefully with this better understanding of our role we can start doing what we were supposed to all along.  Obviously we cannot undo all the damage that has been done but there are areas where restoration is possible.  Working together we can help others, including our government officials, to see the moral and divine imperative to treat the earth and its resources in a wiser and more sustainable manner.  We can provide those who follow us with a healthier planet.  That will result in healthier lives for us too, as well as more opportunities for God to reveal Himself through Creation.  This may seem overly optimistic to some or perhaps even impossible but, once again, I truly believe that God’s specialty is bringing good out of bad situations.  Having Earth Stewardship Sunday fall closely to Easter is a good thing.  It reminds us all that there is, in fact, hope for all of us and for Creation itself.


(I took these images the past couple of days in the Lexington area.  I want to say a special thank you to Mickey Anders and Holly Fuqua for allowing me to help lead in worship today at South Elkhorn Christian Church.)


Apr 22 2012

An Earth Day Challenge

Today is Earth Day.   We also observed Earth Stewardship Sunday at my church this morning.  The hymns, Scripture readings, choral anthem and sermon all focused on God’s gift of Creation and our calling to be good stewards of it.  The service was a meaningful one to me.  One part I especially liked was the opening prayer offered by one of our deacons.  During the prayer she thanked God for birds and acknowledged that God could have made only one type of bird but thanked him for making many.  She went on to name several different species she was thankful for.

Following my sermon we sang a hymn that I doubt many people know.  It’s called “For Beauty of Meadows.”  It was written in 1969 by Walter H. Farquharson.  Here are the words to the first verse:  “For beauty of meadows, for grandeur of trees, for flowers of woodlands, for creatures of seas, for all you created and gave us to share, we praise you, Creator, extolling your care.”  I like these words a lot for the writer, like the prayer noted above, offers God specific things in Creation he is thankful for.

Often around the season of Thanksgiving you will hear the hymn “Count Your Blessings” sung in churches.  It is a reminder of our need to count our many blessings and how it helps to “name them one by one.”  One way we might all observe Earth Day today is to not just offer God thanks for the earth that sustains us and manifests His glory but give Him a specific list of the things we are particularly thankful for.  If you did that, what would be on your list?

Here are just a few of the things that would be one mine: the sun and moon; wildflowers, especially ladyslippers, Virginia bluebells and lupine; trees (the older the better); birds, particularly cardinals and bluebirds; mountains; rivers; grizzly bears;  elk, glaciers and geysers; the northern lights; clean air; pikas; sea otters; whitetail deer; the wind; rain and snow; deserts; wolves; lichen; mushrooms, cacti; oceans; tide pools; butterflies; the stars; and slot canyons.  I could go on and on.  The longer I live the more I realize how much there is to be thankful for.

Needless to say, as important as being thankful for the many aspects of Creation is, it is just as important that we remember today our calling to be good and wise stewards of all that God has made.  The last two verses of the hymn we sang this morning speak to this.  They read: “As stewards of beauty received from your hand, as creatures who hear your most urgent command, we turn from our wasteful destruction of life, confessing our failures, confessing our strife.   Teach us once again to be gardeners in peace; all nature around us is ours but on lease; your name we would hallow in all that we do, fulfilling our calling, creating with you.”

On this Earth Day I challenge you to offer God a prayer of gratitude for the specific things you are thankful for and also that you pledge yourself anew to being a good steward of the earth and its resources.  Happy Earth Day to one and all!


(I took the top picture at Acadia National Park in Maine; the second one in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and the bottom two in Kentucky.)

Apr 25 2010

Seeing God’s Goodness

possum 736Today was Earth Stewardship Sunday in my denomination.  In our service this morning we sang songs related to Creation and I preached a message emphasizing the importance of being good stewards of Creation.  In my message I used a quotation from Thomas Aquinas that I’d like to share with you.  Speaking of the created order Aquinas said God “brought these things into being in order that His goodness might be communicated to creatures and be represented by them; and because His goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone the whole universe participates in the divine goodness more perfectly and represents it better than any single creature.”

I find this line of thought fascinating.  According to Aquinas, one reason we find such a variety in Creation is because it takes all that God has made to help us understand His divine goodness.  This gives value to everything that exists.  It also creates a mandate that we do everything we can to preserve all that God has made.  When we destroy Creation or cause plant and animal species to go extinct we actually eliminate ways we might have experienced God’s goodness otherwise.

Meister Eckhart once said “every creature is a word of God and a book about God.”  I believe this is true, even if I can’t tell you just what the baby possum I photographed last week (see above) says about the Creator.   Part of me wants to say it shows us that God has a sense of humor but really all I have to do is look in the mirror to be reminded of that.  I suspect if I just took the time to study possums, or spend more time with them, I could discern divine truths.  But that’s the problem, isn’t it?  It takes time and effort.  How many of us are willing to take the time to try and figure such things out?  If we could somehow remember that experiencing a greater comprehension of God’s goodness is at stake perhaps we would be more willing to put forth the effort.

God’s goodness is waiting to be seen in His Creation.  Are you looking?