Saturday, December 8, 2012

Faith Reflections on Caring for the Creation

Faith Reflections
Forum on Clean Energy, Climate and Health
Concordia College—November 26, 2012

On behalf of the NW MN Synod of the ELCA, I add my welcome to you all this evening.   We are pleased to be one of the co-sponsors of this important forum. 

The program calls for me to offer “faith reflections,” so here goes….

God is always up to more than the eye can see.

Whatever we might say about God in relationship to anything….chances are we will say too little…we’ll stop short of thinking and speaking as expansively, as breathtakingly as the Bible invites us to do.

That certainly applies to our relationship with the whole created order, the cosmos, the universe itself.

So let me name briefly some of the basic convictions that arise out of the biblical witness and help us think expansively about the topic of God and the wondrous, fragile environment in which the Creator has wrapped all things.

First, it all belongs to God.  It is God’s doing.   It is the object of God’s lavish attention and gracious sustaining.

Second, the environment is given by God for the benefit of all God’s creatures---of the past, the present and the future.

Third, we human creatures have a special place in the whole scheme of things—a place of both honor and responsibility.  Hence the “thick” language about us being created in the image of God.    This is not so much something that we have or possess as it is something that we are constantly empowered to do, at the behest and in the strength that comes from God.  Just as kings in the ancient world staked out the boundaries of their territory by setting up images of themselves, so God stakes out God’s claim on the created order of things by placing us here—men, women, old, young, people of all races and colors and nations….called to reflect the Creator of all things and to enact the Creator’s good will for the Creation.

Fourth, we therefore need to delve deeply into the oft-misunderstood notion of “having dominion” over the earth.    In the Bible “dominion” is never about doing what we darn-well please with the creation.  “Having dominion” is antithetical to exercising selfish, exploitative power over the planet and its purported resources.  Dominion is instead always about exercising loving care for all that God has made, for the sake of all God’s creatures past, present and future.

Fifth, God holds us accountable.   To whom much is given, much is required.   God is not amused, God does not overlook our nonchalance, our geo-political squabbles, our rhetorical game-playing when it comes to fulfilling our callings to be loving caretakers of all that God has made.   If we wonder what makes God’s sad, at the top of our list of responses is surely our degradation of the creation, our inability and unwillingness to take those steps that would leave this world as good if not better than we have found it.

Sixth, it is in the context of these convictions that we will arrive at a fuller, richer understanding of the saving work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not come among us, live, suffer, die and rise again to make a deal with individual sinners regarding their eternal salvations.    That whole “take” on the Jesus-story is truncated and grossly insufficient.  We will be wise, rather to draw deeply from the wellsprings of books like the Epistle to the Colossians that speak of a cosmic Christ and a cosmic salvation, a global healing of all that God has fashioned, a re-making, a renewal, a piecing back together of all the parts and facets of the Creation that have been torn asunder by human greed, short-sightedness and apathy.   Even in John 3:16, the gospel-in-a-nutshell, the word for “world” (“God so loved the world”) is cosmos, the “whole enchilada,” all that is, “seen and unseen.”

So we gather this evening, mindful of God’s ownership of the whole creation, stirred by the awesome responsibility God has handed over to us, mindful of all the ways we fall short, but hopeful that the God who even now is refashioning all things into the New Creation in Jesus Christ—hopeful that God has further use for us, in giving birth to and lovingly tending that New Creation, even now.

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