Feb 27 2011

Creation and Relationships

OR-Barr-Falls-039This weekend I have been reading a book my wife gave me for Valentine’s Day.  It’s called Care For Creation [a franciscan spirituality of the earth].  Here I was reminded that the Greek word upon which the word “ecology” is based is oikos, which means house.  Thus, ecology literally means “study of the house.”  The book’s authors believe that it is important for us to view the world we live in as  our home, but not ours only;  it is first and foremost God’s home. 

One of the implications of viewing the earth as our home is made clear in the following passage: “To speak of creation as our home is to speak of creation as relationship.  The word creation implies relationship, unlike the word nature, which holds no inherent religious meaning.  ‘Creation’ points to a ‘Creator,’ a God who creates.”  They go on to say, “’Creation,’ therefore, means relationships between the human and nonhuman created order, the place of the human person within that order, and the response of the person to the created order in its relationship to God.”

Chipmunk-2I think this emphasis on Creation and relationships is important and worthy of our consideration.  As Christians we know that all of our relationships are supposed to be characterized by love.  We may not normally think of being “in relationship” with the earth or its creatures but we are.  It’s how God has designed His Creation.  Of course the greatest relationship Creation calls for is a relationship with the Creator Himself but all of these are interconnected.

Loving the “house” God has given us is an important part of our spiritual journey.  Failure to do so is dangerous in many ways.  At one point the authors of Care For Creation ask “If ‘home is where the heart is’ then why is our home—the Earth—in peril?”  The answer seems obvious.  Many people today are failing to love God’s precious gift.  They are failing to maintain a positive and healthy relationship with Creation.  In the e-mails Rob Sheppard sends me he has a quote that always appears at the bottom of the page.  It begins with these words: “In the end we will conserve only what we love.”  It would seem to me that it is well past time that as Christians we made sure that “home is where the heart is.”  For God’s sake, for the earth’s sake, and for our own spiritual and physical well-being we must nurture and maintain a healthy relationship with our home.


(I took these two images on a trip to Oregon. The top picture was taken at Barr Falls and the bottom is a western chipmunk.)

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.)

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.)