Go

Lombard CRC

God Cares for Creation So God's People Should Care for Creation

Calvin and Hobbes are in the backyard and

Hobbes asks Calvin why he’s digging a hole.

I’m looking for buried treasure, he answers.

What have you found? asks Hobbes.

Calvin answers:

a few dirty rocks, a weird root,

and some disgusting grubs.

On your first try? exclaims Hobbes!

There’s treasure everywhere, echoes Calvin.

There’s treasure everywhere,

creation is good.

 

We laugh because

we judge that only a boy like Calvin

would think rocks, roots and grubs are treasures.

But we laugh again because the joke is on us;

we who have weathered storms

like Harvey & Irma;

who live with illness and face mortality,

and put our hope

in money and power and control,

have lost the treasure of creation

along our human-made way.

 

Psalm 104 helps us remember.

The psalm is praise to the Creator God.

It surveys all creation

from sunshine to storms,

from life even to death,

and comes to the conclusion

that what God has made is good.

We read words like:

thirst is quenched

birds sing

the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work

human hearts made glad

faces shine with health

hearts are strengthened with God’s nourishment,

even the LORD rejoices in the work of creation.

 

The overwhelming sense of the psalm

is that God delights in and cares for creation,

so God’s people should

delight in and care for creation, too.

 

Belden C Lane examines our Reformed faith

and says,

‘The focus of environmental concern

and of the spiritual life

is not so much a matter of clutching and acquiring,

but of relishing and savoring . . .

It involves the honing of our ability to delight.

We will not be able to save

what we have not learned to love.’

Then,

‘Any Calvinist spirituality worth its salt

will make its way from aesthetics to ethics,

from the celebration of God’s beauty

to the communication of that beauty to others.

Making the world beautiful – and just –

is part of the proper work (the liturgy)

of giving glory to God . . .

For God’s covenant keeping

extends thru Abraham to salvation,

but also thru Noah and care for the earth,

to Moses and care for justice.’

 

Giving glory to God

extends beyond worship on Sunday

and personal faith on Monday

to a stewardship of life and wealth

and of creation, too.

And creation means more than nature,

it means our neighbors in the land as well.

 

God’s glory shines

in the Lord’s careful attention to creation.

The Triune God looks over nature,

molds the topography of the earth,

measures out the breath of each creature,

the moon and sun mark times and seasons,

so that all creatures great and small may flourish,

and each human being may

participate in the work of giving God glory

while rejoicing in the Lord’s works.

 

When Jesus came as God-in-the-flesh,

as God-with-us

fully human and fully divine,

he cared for all creation as well.

He taught us to consider the birds of the air

and the lilies of the field.

He turned water into wine.

He even showed the disciples

the best places to fish!

He longed to create in us a delight

in creation like he had,

even tho there is illness

and hunger and poverty and storm.

Because the wisdom of God says

those who love creation

will love God and their neighbor,

and those who love God and their neighbor

will care for creation.

 

So what exercise will you take up

in order to increase your love for creation?

Gardening?

Taking care of a pet?

Hiking or backpacking or biking?

Is it time for a road trip?

How about simply playing outside?

Psalm 104:25-26

takes the time to see the great ocean creatures at play:

Here is the sea, great and wide,

    which teems with creatures innumerable,

    living things both small and great . . .

    and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

Too often this is what happens:

parents enroll their children into sports,

then on Saturday (now too much even Sunday)

the kids play and the parents watch.

There’s something if not wrong,

at least limiting about this.

If the Creator provided room for the whales to play,

we can be assured there is room for us to play too.

How about it?

 

Richard Louv in his book

Last Child In The Woods,

encourages parents and grandparents

to get kids outside

and go out there with them

to nourish our sense of wonder.

He talks about that first experience

of wonder when as a kid

you turn over a rock

to expose unknown invertebrates crawling underneath

and as a child you realize

for maybe the first time

that you are not alone in this universe.

He thinks that moments of wonder like these

become the terrain for our spiritual growth.

For as the psalmist wonders here in Psalm 104

about the ordered beauty

and providential experiences

in the world

his wonder leads him to praise

our Creator and Provider.

 

Cal DeWitt encourages the

forgotten and ignored practice of beholding.

Do you know what that is?

From simple observation

to deeper disciplined study of nature

by taking time to

just sit by a pond in the park

for 15 minutes:

no phone,

no other distractions.

Or to go bug hunting with your grandchildren.

Or to take the kids on a nature walk

when they’re over for a birthday party.

Then deepen your beholding

by studying a science topic or concern

that interests you:

get a book out of the library

on that subject,

enroll in a community course.

 

When we delight again in God’s creation

we are moved to repent of our misuse and abuse

of what the Lord has made.

 

There are some nature stories involving Jesus

that link nature and repentance:

Jesus cast the legion of demons

out of a troubled man

into a herd of pigs

causing them to rush to their drowning

in the sea.

He cursed the fig tree and it withered.

His crucifixion brought darkness and earthquakes.

What are we to make of these episodes?

Despite our questions

one thing we do know

from the book of Romans

is that all creation is groaning

under the consequences of sin,

and each of these accounts shows destruction

that happened as Jesus encountered sin

and brought God’s salvation.

So could it be that we are to see

in these accounts a cause to repent,

to confess that our sin

has such far-reaching effects

to cause even nature to hurt, grieve,

even at times to rebel,

until that great day of judgment and redemption?

 

Cal DeWitt again reminds us

that nature is not a bag of resources;

it is a revelation of our Creator.

The stakes are high as he shares

his wonder about the lesson given us today

in the story of Noah’s ark.

In that story the Lord makes sure

to save every creature,

clean and unclean,

as pair of every unclean animal,

and seven pairs of the clean animals.

Yet only a few people are saved:

Noah and his sons and their wives.

Scripture records that everything else perished,

‘. . . and all mankind.’

So what is the covenant lesson?

Because preserving the lineage of the species is  important enough to be faithful at spending

an enormous amount of resources to do so,

when we ask what’s more important,

saving people or saving species,

the answer in this story is,

it depends on what kind of people you are.

The story tells us this,’

because only the faithful people are spared.

 

What do you think of that?

 

Central to our repentance will be

taking up our call to be faithful stewards

of the environment,

which includes both people and animals,

the land, the air and water also.

Genesis 2 teaches our task:

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

The word translated as ‘work’

is a deep and rich word in the Old Testament:

abad – it is variously translated as to work,

or to till, or to cultivate, or to tend,

but it also translated to serve

and even in certain contexts to serve the Lord.

So it has overtones of worshiping God

by our actions, by our work,

by our serving in creation.

 

Here in Psalm 104 that word is used twice.

We can’t really see it in the English

because it is translated differently

to fit the context of the verse.

But it is there is verses 14 & 23 –

14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock

    and plants for man to cultivate,

that he may bring forth food from the earth.

23 Man goes out to his work

    and to his labor until the evening.

 

If we pay attention to that one word abad,

we get a clue to our repenting and rejoicing.

It’s not that the world is just a broken, scary place,

for God provides and cares

and brings deliverance in Jesus.

But it’s not just that we selfishly grab

God’s provisions for ourselves

and live just worrying about our own

comfort and care.

We are to be careful in our use of

and generous with God’s gifts

so that we tend creation,

keep it and care for it,

looking out for those whose well-being

is threatened by the greedy

misuse of the natural world by others.

Psalm 104 fits us into creation this way:

The LORD makes plants and animals flourish

in service to human beings . . .

Then humans go out to serve

in bringing out creation’s best thru their work . . .

 

Why does all this matter?

What do these responses do to our witness?

 

John Calvin:

The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures

on high and below,

but never more brightly than in the cross,

in which there was a wonderful change of things . . . in short, the whole world was renewed

and all things restored to order.

 

Our stewardship matters

because our witness of the grace and truth of Jesus

is tied to our stewardship of God’s creation.

Calvin warns:

“If now I seek to despoil the land

of what God has given it to sustain human beings then I am seeking as much as I can

to do away with God’s goodness.”

 

John Calvin understood that

when we pollute the land,

or abuse the created order,

or hoard what is good

so that our neighbors or the land must do without,

or harm by action or inaction

God’s creatures or those made in the Lord’s image,

we diminish humanity’s awareness of

the presence of Christ,

and so make it more difficult for

unbelievers to find faith and assurance in Jesus.

 

And haven’t we seen this?

Haven’t we felt it when

those around us are confused

when Christians are silent

when it comes to environmental issues?

Haven’t we marginalized the gospel

by insisting on the wrong things

when it comes to nature and the environment?

 

This week my wife and I

have been in daily communication with my daughter

down in Florida

as she and her neighbors

shelter from Hurricane Irma.

With her neighbors she is scared

and with many my wife and I feel helpless

as parents to help.

Two major hurricanes,

100 year weather incidents

like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,

have struck our land within days.

There are those who point to this and see again

instances of climate change and global warning.

There are those who dismiss such claims

saying no weather event proves or disproves anything.

To engage in such debates is to miss the opportunity

for care and witness.

 

For there are a few understandings

that we should fully accept,

especially as those whose hope

is in the Lord and his kingdom.

The synod of our church has stated:

we do live in a time of climate change,

many of the problems associated with this change

are the result of human beings and governments

preferring profit and material wealth

at the expense of the biosphere;

and, regardless of whether

human beings can do something

to address climate change,

each one of us is called to be a steward

of creation,

making sustainable decisions

regarding our lifestyles

from possessions to energy use.

Our witness is tied to our stewardship.

 

Jimmy Carter said this week:

 when the waters rise we should rise too,

in help and care for one another.

‘Get busy helping someone else and see

-- over time -- the things you might have in common,

instead of only the things that might divide you. Remember what can happen

when we love our neighbors as ourselves.

There are storms that bring us together

and storms that divide us.

We have a chance now to choose.’

 

The Creation Stewardship Task Force

in the Christian Reformed Church

highlights how we are to apply our faith

when it comes to creation with the term:

‘conservancy.’

The word conservancy refers to conservation,

but the root meaning of the word is

‘to serve with.’

Made in God’s image,

cared for in the Lord’s providence,

our faithfulness includes

a thankfulness for creation’s service to us

with service of our own.

 

So what are we to do?

I will highlight just a few possible responses,

maybe we can share a few more afterwards

as we meet in the fellowship hall:

The Holiness principle:

to be holy means to be different for Jesus’ sake:

it is to live and to act differently

because Jesus Christ

lived and acted differently for my salvation.

He gave up his life for you and me,

he shouldered sin and creation’s brokenness

in order to fill our emptiness

and free us from our sin.

He served instead of living to be served.

He gave instead of living to get.

He loved even those he did not like.

He sacrificed in his work and in his relationships.

His joy gave him strength to endure the cross.

In power he rose from the dead

as a guarantee of our resurrection

and the making of all things new.

 

All this tells us that a significant participation

in our tending of creation

is to tend to the deeper things of creation

like our covenant promises,

peace-making,

the preservation of life,

the protection of human rights,

and the needs of the poor.

 

Belden C Lane concludes:

Because fallen human beings

still retain the image of God within,

creation needs to be revitalized, not destroyed.

We are still to reflect God’s glory

in what we do and say,

particularly in gratitude for our salvation.

 

To keep the marriage bed pure

and honor your marriage vows

is a tending of creation

and the relationships God has made.

To fulfill our promises to nurture

the children of our community

in faith is earth-keeping.

To eat more simply and more locally,

to respond to the needs of the poor

with generosity and justice;

to protect the elderly;

to make peace in our relationships;

to preserve the sanctity of life;

to keep the Sabbath day holy

by making choices that allow our neighbor to rest

and nature to rest also –

all these holy acts bless creation

and the precious life which God has given.

 

I can’t help but notice the huge contrast

between this Psalm 104

and how it pictures life on earth,

nature and all creation,

as compared with

most of the movies and TV programs today

that have a story to tell about our earth.

Movies like Wall-E and The Road,

TV shows like Zoo,

paint us a picture of doom and gloom

regarding God’s creation.

 

But we pray that God’s will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

We recognize that our limited efforts

to care for creation will not bring in a new creation.

We also recognize that there are

many challenges in our world to God’s rule,

but we believe that we should

confront those challenges

by seeking to obey God’s will,

and follow the lead of our Savior

who is making all things new.

We must be responsible for our lives,

for our lifestyles,

for our choices and our desires,

reflecting the care of God

towards those we love

and the stranger among us 

and even our environment.

We can trust God in this,

and live in the hope of Christ’s return

to judge the living and the dead.

So our motivation in creation care

is not a secular notion of saving the planet, says the Creation Task Force report to synod,

for salvation is thru Christ alone.

Our motivation for creation care is

love for God and neighbor.

 

Because for all the beauty we see in nature,

there is One more beautiful still,

Our Savior.

The Lord Jesus who walked on water,

who stilled the storm,

who was with the wild animals in the desert

in defeating Satan’s temptations,

who fed the hungry,

who became one of us

as God became a human being

in order to save us from our sin,

and who will come again to make all things new.

We care because he cares for us.

 

Read More