Environmental stewardship has finally become kosher! Recognized as characteristic and pertinent to the nature of God, the author of earth. Conservation has shifted in the eyes of believers from secular hobbies of heretical hippies to finding its infancy in ministry. Trudging through adversative and insensitive audiences, dialogue has languidly grown to a refreshing level of acceptance and presence. We have even adopted new Church-ianity vernacular with the tag name “creation care,” winning the endorsement of even our southern Baptist brothers and sisters.
Now lets move on. We need to look at the earth differently. There’s an interconnectedness and intimacy with divinity we’re missing out on. The mysticism of the spirit has to give weight to our ethics and provide clarity to the complexity and depth of ecology as it relates to God. He has redeemed the earth: “to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20). Our being must live and breath and move in the earth-filled reality of “divine incarnation.” (Richard Rohr)
Inner Change has to drive Action and Intent
Confused in defining the opaque implications and duties of environmental stewardship, we rushed to catch up with mainstream society. The church has always been slow to accept the ways in which the world glorifies God; especially when they do it better, and they have been doing the whole earth-care/green movement thing better for a long time.
We have adopted external change, but not internal change. Organic, local produce fill our pantries from the CSAs and coops who have won our patronage. Recycling has become commonplace, carpools orchestrated, and upgrades to energy-saving lightbulbs now fill our homes. FIrst, let state my gratitude and thankfulness for these acts of intentionality and change; they’re absolutely beautiful and needed. However, inner transformation must precede and accompany our reasoning for living in communion and harmony with creation. Actions have to find their substance and meaning in spirit inspired animation and sensitivity; otherwise, they’re prompted by effort and morality. Lasting change comes from real interactions and encounters with creation ( Leah Kostamo, Planted).
Have Eyes that See Divinity
“Earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” – Emily Browning
Creation merits our awe and adoration. It’s beauty sparks our encounter with the divine. Cast in the language and vision of deeply rooted Hebraic tradition, is the call to have eyes awakened and attentive. Rabbi Abraham Heschel, in his book “God in Search of Man,” radically transformed my perception and outlook on the world. To the Hebrew, walking in reverie and awe was paramount to experiencing divinity within humanity and the inanimate of creation. Sensing the sublime was a posture of receptivity to God, an attitude that kept you present to the reality of the mystery. The reality being that every living entity carries the essence of God: all flora and fauna, animal species and landscape, as well as man.
This is a reality that transforms. This is a reality that changes how we engage life. Day to day living opens up into the bliss and ecstasy of dwelling in heaven here on earth.
In judaism there is no term for “believer.” A religious individual is either called yirat hashem, meaning “awe of God,” or yare hashem, meaning “awe of heaven”. The implications are profound. Instead of an objectified noun with a held set of beliefs, you’re alternatively asked, “What’s your state of being? How do you engage the world? “
Resting in this attentive posture and spiritually reconfigured within, we’re then shouldered with conviction. Escapism no longer creeps up as an alluring, seductive route as responsibility sets in for the present. Environmental injustices and societal inequity plaguing our sister earth then become injustices against us. Individual decisions and choices then begin to hold relevance in the interconnectedness of humanity and earth.
This is where conversation and environmental stewardship become personal and present. It moves from a vocational calling or compartmentalized ministry opportunity, to a way of life. Those that are called into conservation as a profession, deserve and need our respect in seeing their work as essential and tiered on the same level of importance as all other evangelistic endeavors. What a beautiful outlet to strengthen and grow our interdependence and communion across interfaith, socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic lines as we partner in the revitalization of our home. There’s a thread of redemption throughout scripture in relation to earth, and let’s be a part of where it’s going.