Nov 3 2010

Hitched to Creation

BIP 048On Sunday I shared with you some thoughts from Leonard Sweet’s book, Out of the Question…Into the Mystery, and noted how he makes some bold claims there concerning the Christian’s relationship with Creation.  Here is another one of his bold claims: “Our relationship with God by necessity includes our relationship with all that God created.  If the creation joins in praising God and joins in the sufferings of Jesus, how can we disregard the importance of what God has created?  If we are not in right relationship with God’s creation, then we are not in right relationship with God.”  Sweet concludes this discussion by saying, “If we love God, we have to also love what God has made.”

It would indeed help us to contemplate the idea of being in relationship to Creation.  Even better would be to consider what it means to be in a good relationship with Creation.  All of us, whether we realize it or not, are in a relationship with Creation.  As John Muir pointed out long ago, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  What is important for us is to make sure our relationship with Creation is a good and healthy one.

BIP 982The Bible talks a lot about relationships and indicates that, ideally, love should be the basis of our relationships with others.  I would argue that this includes our relationship with Creation.  Just as Christians are called to love God and love others, we are also expected to love Creation.  In the Scriptures love is not some sentimental feeling; it is, in fact, more about actions than feelings.  Love is something we show, something we demonstrate.

If love is going to be the basis of our relationship with Creation it means we must respect the earth and show concern for it by doing everything we can to preserve and protect it.  Loving Creation will mean we spend time getting to know that which God has made and hopefully also spending time in its presence.  If we are to love Creation we will certainly not take it for granted or do anything that will harm it.  If we truly love Creation we will never forget “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalms 24:1)

How would you describe your relationship with Creation?  If Sweet is correct (and I believe that he is) then the answer to this question will reveal much about your relationship with God.  I sure hope it’s a good one.


(I took the two images above last week at Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia.)

Oct 31 2010

Exegeting Nature

BIP 989On 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.

BIP 090In 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.)

Sep 12 2010

Our Relationship to Creation

CR-mountains-and-aspens-302Tonight I begin teaching a small group study at our church based on Leonard Sweet’s book, Out of the Question…Into the Mystery.  In the introduction to this book Sweet writes, “To save the world we need something more biblical than higher standards.  We need higher relationships.  We need less to be ‘true to our principles’ and much more to be true to our relationships.  To save the world we don’t need the courage of our convictions.  We need the courage of our relationships…especially the courage of a right relationship with the Creator, the creation, and our fellow creatures.  Our problem in reaching the world is that we’ve made rules more important than relationship.”

Sweet feels we have neglected our relationships far too long.  I agree, but the idea of having a relationship with Creation intrigues me.  Obviously I’ve always known there is a relationship between humans and the earth but I guess I’ve pretty much thought of it in mechanical terms.  Perhaps we would benefit from beginning to think of our relationship to Creation in more personal terms.

If I want my relationship to Creation to be a good and healthy one then that relationship must have some of the same characteristics as my personal relationships.  In all human relationships there is give and take.  This is true in our relationship to Creation.  The earth, for its part, is very giving.  The world we live in provides for our needs, physical and spiritual.  Apart from Creation we have no life.  So the question is what do we give back?

If we really care for the earth—and care is essential for any healthy relationship—we will give Creation our attention.  We will not take it for granted or fail to monitor its health.  Second, we will give Creation our assistance when needed.  In many areas Creation suffers today and looks to us for help.  As divinely ordained stewards of Creation we are called to tend to its needs.  Third, we will give Creation our protection.  Just as we strive to protect those we care about we will also seek to protect the earth.  We will not exploit or degrade it, nor allow others to.

There are plenty of ways both the earth and we ourselves would benefit if we came to think of our relationship in more personal terms.  Considering what is at stake, it truly is a relationship worth working on.


(The image above was taken in September a few years ago in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.)