Apr 18 2018

The Church’s Task

Psalm 5Gus Speth, an environmental lawyer and advocate, once said, “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with thirty years of good science we could address those problems.  But I was wrong.  The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy… and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.”  Speth acknowledged that these were beyond the realm of science.  He is, of course, correct but selfishness, greed and apathy are not beyond the realm of the church.  This is a needed reminder as we prepare to observe another Earth Day.

The biblical mandate is clear. Christians are called to be good stewards of the environment.  We are expected to do all we can to preserve and protect God’s Creation.  One of Christianity’s basic affirmations is that God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth, therefore, is sacred space.  In Genesis 1 God declares the goodness of the earth.  We later learn that God’s presence and power are made manifest in Creation. (Romans 1:20)  The earth is God’s gift to us on many different levels.  It was designed to meet both our physical and spiritual needs.  The earth is indeed holy ground.

Psalm 3The world today faces a number of environmental crises. Many of these are quite daunting.  Scientists are at work seeking solutions but as Gus Speth noted, behind the environmental crisis is a moral one.  Selfishness, greed and apathy truly are underlying causes and unless these are addressed by the religious community there is not much hope for improvement.

Somehow, someway, the church must encourage and model love for God’s Creation. We cannot fulfill the Greatest Commandment to love God with everything that we’ve got and love our neighbor as ourselves unless we do practice Creation Care.  These go hand in hand.  The Bible says “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)  How can we love God if we do not care for what God owns?  And how can we love our neighbor completely if we do not care for that which sustains us all?  Love is the only thing that will overcome selfishness, greed and apathy.  And love is the church’s specialty, is it not?

More than ever, the church needs to help people make the connection between loving God and loving the earth. More than ever the church needs to model that love for others.  There are numerous ways this can be done.  For the past five years my church has sponsored a free electronic recycling event for the community.  We have also sought to curtail the use of Styrofoam products.  These are just two examples of things that can be done.  Others include establishing community gardens, participating in litter pickups, and installing programmable thermostats to reduce the use of electricity.  Some churches have gone so far as to install solar panels to produce electricity for themselves and those in their neighborhoods.

Psalm 65Every church, regardless of its size, can do something to promote ecological stewardship and practice Creation Care. Individual Christians should strive to do the same.  We may not be able to make a big difference as individuals but we can make a difference.   That is important.  By just practicing the “three Rs”—Recycle, Reuse and Reduce—we can have an impact on the earth.  We do the same when we plant trees, keep our vehicle’s tires properly inflated, feed the birds, and limit the use of pesticides.

One way we can make a big difference is by supporting environmental causes and organizations. Perhaps an even more effective way is by notifying our elected officials about our concern for issues that affect the environment.   Our government is definitely an area where selfishness, greed and apathy must be confronted.  I encourage you to pay careful attention to what is happening at the Environmental Protection Agency and to monitor legislation that effects climate change, clean air, clean water, and the protection of natural resources.  Let your voice be heard.  Make your vote count.

Psalm 73If we truly love God, others and ourselves we will make Earth Day not a one day event but a year round priority. What does love have to do with it?  Everything! In the conclusion of his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson says “Maybe the environmental problem is ultimately spiritual.  If we put ourselves in order, perhaps we will do the same for the world.”  That is certainly my hope and prayer.

–Chuck

(This blog originally appeared on EthicsDaily.com.)


Apr 22 2015

Honoring your Father and Mother on Earth Day

_DSC7241Generally, if someone asked me what I was doing forty-five years ago today I wouldn’t have a clue.  If you were to ask me that today  however I could answer your question.  Forty-five years ago today I was participating in the first Earth Day activities.  I distinctly remember getting to go outside with my fellow students at Lone Oak Middle School and pick up trash.  Today I observed Earth Day a bit differently, I spent some time volunteering at a community garden.

WY Yellowstone NP Grand Prismatic SpringIf you are a regular reader of this blog you will not be surprised to learn that I am a big fan of Earth Day.  I got excited about it on the very first one forty-five years ago and my excitement has only increased over the years.  I think it’s awesome that every April 22 people pause to remember what a wonderful planet it is we live on and how we all have a responsibility to take care of it.  Of course, I’m one of those who thinks every day should be Earth Day but I realize that’s not realistic.  Hopefully by observing Earth Day one day each year people will, in fact, begin to think more regularly about how they can better care for the earth.

_DSC3064I love Earth Day because it gives us all a chance to honor our Father and our Mother.  By mother here I mean “Mother Earth.”  I realize that there are some who believe it is pagan to refer to the earth in this way but I hardly believe that to be true.  In so many ways the earth is our mother.  According to the Scriptures we came from the earth.  Genesis 2:7 says “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”  The earth not only gave birth to us it has continued to nurse, nurture and sustain us.  Here, too, the Bible speaks of the earth’s bounty and how our needs are met by its resources.  Genesis 2 speaks about God placing trees on the earth that were both “pleasing to the eye and good for food.”  (v. 9)  It also mentions a “river watering the garden.” (v. 10)  In more ways than most of us could begin to imagine the earth serves as our mother.  Next month people will pause to honor their mothers on Mother’s Day.  It seems only appropriate that on Earth Day we stop and give honor to Mother Earth.

ME Baxter SP streamEven more important to me, Earth Day gives us a chance to honor our Father, the Maker of heaven and earth.  The Bible is clear in making the claim that the earth exists because God chose for it to exist.  As Creator of the earth this world and all that it contains belongs to God.  (Psalm 24:1)  I like to think of Creation as God’s handiwork.  When we pause on Earth Day to recognize the beauty and value of this planet we honor God.  We affirm with God that the Creation is “good” and that God’s handiwork is something to be admired, treasured and protected.  If we fail to do these things, whether it be Earth Day or not, we fail to honor God.

A major emphasis for Earth Day is caring for and protecting the earth.  For God, this emphasis goes much further back than forty-five years; it goes back to the very beginning.  God’s instructions for the first humans was to “work” the Garden “and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)  When we stop and remember our call to be good stewards of the earth we, once again, honor our heavenly Father.  We fulfill the purpose God gave us right from the start.

I hope you have had a good Earth Day.  I also hope that if you haven’t already done so, before the day is over, you’ll find some way to honor your Father and Mother.  Doing so will bring joy to the One who gave us this wonderful planet we call Earth.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures used here in Utah, Wyoming, Missouri and Maine.)


Feb 11 2015

Co-Creators With God

_DSC5336One of my goals for writing posts on Seeing Creation is to share with you from time to time wisdom I come across in my reading.  Recently I have been reading a book by Joan Chittister called The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life.  Within its pages I have found much wisdom and would like for you to consider some of Joan’s words found in a chapter called “Co-Creation.”  She writes, “In our twenty-first century view of life—through the lens of the Rule of Benedict—we know now in new ways that the earth and all its fruits are not for our exploitation, they are for our care.  We are co-creators with God of what creation has left unfinished.  What has been left in embryo is left for us to develop.  What can be developed God trusts us to bring to full potential.  But not for ourselves alone.  Co-creation, the human commitment to continue the work of God on earth, requires us to tend the land and conserve the waters, to till the garden and protect the animals, to use the things of the earth in ways that enhance all life now—and preserve them for later generations as well.”

Chittister goes on to say, “The human-centered view of creation is a stunted one.  It fails to recognize the oneness of creation, the symphony of life forms that depend on one another to bring the universe, pulsing and throbbing with life, to a wholeness that is mutual, that reflects the full face of God rather than simply our own.”  This last line I find particularly insightful.  How we choose to care for the earth and look at it will, in the end, determine what others see.  Obviously Creation is meant to be a reflection of God’s face or glory, not ours.  By failing to take seriously our role as co-creators with God we have marred or dimmed the reflection that is meant to be seen.

e_DSC3707Too many people have looked at the earth and its resources as something to be exploited.  The earth is not viewed as sacred or understood to be God’s other book of revelation; instead, it is basically seen as something to be consumed or used for financial gain.  I remember once being at Camp Denali in Denali National Park with a group.  After a day or two we were asked what we thought of the park.  Most people spoke of the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and how blessed we are to have such a place to visit.  One person indicated that what he saw was a whole lot of land that could be developed.  Apparently some people just don’t get it.

We desperately need more people today who will accept their God-given role as co-creator.  For people willing to do so Chittister offers this advice: “We are called to listen to nature as well as to one another, to hear its groans and till its gardens, to nurture its young and maintain the purity of its air, until we ourselves become the voices for life in everything everywhere.  To do that we must become part of the liturgy of life, treating as holy everything we touch, regarding as sacred every being alive, intent on preserving the best of what is—while we use our science and technology to protect, defend, and enhance them all. “

e_DSC3755It seems obvious to me that so many of the decisions being made by Congress in this country, and by government officials in other nations,  do not take into consideration the sacredness of the earth.  They either do not know or do not care that the Scriptures say “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)  The earth is not ours to do with as we please.  We do not own it; it belongs to God.  Our task, as beautifully noted by Joan Chittister, is to be co-creators with God and stewards of the world we live in.  Until more people come to understand this and act upon it I fear that the face many people will see reflected in the world will continue to be not God’s but our own.

–Chuck Summers

(I took the image above at the nearby Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.)


Dec 25 2014

A Baby Changes Everything

2014 Christmas cardLet me begin by wishing you a very merry and blessed Christmas.  I hope you are having a wonderful day wherever you happen to be reading this.  Last night the church I serve had a late night Christmas Eve Service.  For the message I shared with them I found inspiration in the beautiful Christmas song penned by K. K. Wiseman a few years ago that was recorded by Faith Hill.  It is called A Baby Changes Everything.  Obviously the coming of a baby into any home “changes everything” but never was that so true as the child that Mary brought into the world that first Christmas long ago.

In my Christmas homily I talked about how the baby who was born in Bethlehem long ago went on to change how we look at God, how we look at ourselves and also how we are to look at others.  I very easily could have gone on to talk about how the coming of Jesus also changes the way that we are to look at the earth.  There are a number of different ways this is true.

_DSC4328The first chapter of Genesis makes it clear that the earth is “good.”  After each day of Creation God declared that what He had made was (is) good.  Later the Psalmist would declare that “the earth is the Lord’s.” (24:1)  The fact that God made and owns the earth would indicate that it is quite special.  But realizing that God actually came to earth and for a time made His dwelling here (John 1:14) makes it clear that the earth should also be viewed as holy or sacred.  This planet of our was blessed to be visited by its Maker.  That fact alone sets the earth apart.  We should learn to view this place we live as holy ground and treat it as such.

Jesus would also change the way we look at the earth when he repeatedly used the world of nature as teaching tools for spiritual principles.  The earth, for him, contained a repository of divine lessons.  He told us to pay attention to the birds above us and to the flowers at our feet.  In his parables he often pointed to plants and other natural objects as divine indicators.  The way Jesus looked at the world should change the way we look at it too.  Like him, we are to see the earth as a school of higher learning—much higher learning!

_DSC8035The one born at Bethlehem not only used the natural world as object lessons in his teaching ministry, he also sought the presence of his Father there.  We know that Jesus did attend the synagogues of Palestine and visited the Temple in Jerusalem on a number of occasion but we also learn in the Gospels that it was his custom to find solitude with God on lonely hillsides and in the stillness of garden enclosures.  Later some of Jesus’ followers would come to view the world as evil.  He, however, found it to be a place where God can be found and encountered in a multitude of different ways.  We should look at the earth in the same way.

Today I am very thankful for the many changes the baby born in Bethlehem has made in my life.  I, and hopefully others too, now see God, myself, others and the earth itself differently because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

–Chuck

(I took the three pictures used above not far from my home in Henderson, Kentucky.)


Sep 14 2014

Blessings and Responsibility

_CES0629With gift comes demand and with blessing comes responsibility.  These were truths that were repeatedly noted in a class I took under Dr. Frank Stagg many years ago in seminary.  His words have had a huge influence on my life.  They helped me learn early on that there is indeed a price that comes with blessings.  When we receive God’s blessings we must use them wisely and responsibly.

ASP0294I have thought about these words in recent days as my wife and I prepare to move into our new home.  Owning a home is an incredible blessing, something a lot of us unfortunately take for granted.  The blessing of home ownership however also comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility.  There are monthly payments to make, occasional repairs to be made, regular cleaning to be done, yards to keep up, and from time to time improvements to make.  In the end you cannot enjoy the blessing of home ownership unless you are willing to take on the responsibilities that come with it.

As I spent some time thinking about these things my mind began to drift in other directions.  I thought about how the earth is also our home and how incredibly blessed we are to have a home that meets our needs and at the same time contains so much beauty.  This home is God’s gift to us; that is something the Bible reminds us of over and over again.  What many fail to realize is that with this gift comes demand and with such a blessing comes great responsibility.

Over the years I’ve heard some Christians say that we needn’t worry about the earth too much as it is only our temporary home.  I see no wisdom whatsoever in such an attitude.  I certainly realize that the Bible speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth” to come but that does not in any way minimize the responsibility that comes to us now with the blessing that is our current home.  We must tend to the needs of the earth just as we must tend to the needs of the homes we live in.

Cumberland-Gap-fogIf I do not do the things I mentioned above at my new home I will either lose it or its value will be severely diminished.  A great price is paid when we fail to take care of and be responsible with our homes.  That is true when it comes to caring for the earth as well.  We have already paid a tremendous price for our failure to care for God’s Creation and that price will only grow exponentially if we do not begin to live with the understanding that with gift comes demand and with blessing comes responsibility.

Chuck_Summers-09036Christians who see no need to care for the earth because it is only our temporary home exhibit a selfishness they seem to be blind to.  They fail to realize, first, that this world does not belong to us, it belongs to God (Psalm 24:1).  Since we don’t own the earth we have no right to trash it or fail to care for it as our Landowner desires.  They fail to realize, second, that there will likely be a number of generations that will follow us and that how we treat the earth now will determine the kind of home they will inherit.  One of the first books I read about Creation Care was Robert Parham’s Loving Neighbors Across Time.  As the title implies, by caring for the earth we show love for neighbors who have not yet even been born.  We cannot think about only ourselves, not if we intend to be followers of Jesus.  Even when it comes to caring for the earth we must be thinking of those who will follow us.  That is our responsibility!

I hope you will give some thought to the invaluable lesson Dr. Stagg taught me almost thirty-five years ago–with gift comes demand and with blessing comes responsibility.  It is a truth that applies to all areas of our life, including the God’s gift of the good earth.

–Chuck

(I have owned three homes in my life.  The pictures used above were taken near each.  The top two are near Henderson, KY; the third one near Middlesboro, KY; and the bottom one near Pikeville, KY.)


Feb 2 2014

How Noble Are You?

e_DSC0863In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul gives a list of things he encourages us to think about.  He writes, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praise-worthy—think about such things.”  I preached a sermon this morning based on this passage.  When I did research for it I discovered something very interesting.  The word Paul used for “noble” has a long history.  It eventually came to mean what we think it does but in ancient literature it was used to refer to the gods and the temples of the gods.  William Barclays says “when used to describe a man, it described “a person who…moves throughout the world as if it were the temple of God.”

In my estimation someone who can move throughout the world as if it were the temple of God is noble indeed.  It has been noted at this site numerous times that the earth ought to be viewed as the temple of God.  The Psalmist boldly declared that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (24:1)  For this reason we should understand that the ground beneath our feet is sacred. The whole earth is a holy temple because it belongs to God and due to the fact that God inhabits it.  A new heaven and a new earth may await us down the road but here and now we are standing on holy ground.

e_DSC0897If we recognize that the earth is the temple of God we will be more open to the presence of God in our lives.  It will likely lead us to live with a greater sense of gratitude.  I also have a feeling that if we moved throughout the world as if it were the temple of God that we would be far more prone to treat it with respect and attempt when we can to protect it.  For all of these reasons I think we should all strive to be “noble” men and women.

–Chuck

(I took the two images above this past Friday at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.)