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Support for Earth Day from hundreds and thousands of years ago

Tuesday April 25 2017

Support for Earth Day from hundreds and thousands of years ago

Earth Day has been important to me ever since I was an undergraduate student majoring in biology. I fell in love with the beauty of God’s creation and felt sure that humans were called to care for the earth simply because God made it and entrusted it to us. Earth Day 2017 was last Saturday, April 22, and the science marches around the world were scheduled to coincide with Earth Day.

Sometimes we fall into the error of thinking that the notion of caring for God’s creation is something new, unique to our age. Not so!

Psalm 104, which dates back well over 2,000 years and maybe a millennium more, expresses tenderness about the beautiful world God made, and shows God’s intimate involvement in it. John Stott called Psalm 104 one of the earliest ecological documents we have, and C. S. Lewis referred to the writer of Psalm 104’s “gusto for nature.”

Here are some selected verses from Psalm 104. If these verses are true, how can we not take care of this precious world created and sustained by God?
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
   O Lord my God, you are very great. . . .
You set the earth on its foundations,
   so that it shall never be shaken. . . . 
You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
   they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal;
   the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
   they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
   the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
   and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
   In wisdom you have made them all;
   the earth is full of your creatures.
These all look to you
   to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
   when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
   when you take away their breath, they die
   and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
   and you renew the face of the ground.
            (Psalm 104: 1, 5, 10-14, 24-30, NRSV)

And here’s part of a poem from two centuries ago, Auguries of Innocence by William Blake (1757-1827), which expresses the rage and concern in heaven when God’s creation is violated. I love the passion in these words:

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage . . .
A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood
Each outcry from the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.

Here are some suggestions for responding to God’s call to care for the beautiful world he created:

  1. Each day this week find something in nature that you enjoy, and spend some time praising God for it.
  2. Ponder the ways you care for God’s creation, and commit those actions to God in prayer.
  3. Ask God to help you figure out one more way you might manifest your concern for the creation, one more action you might do consistently.

(Next week I'll start a new series called “My new spiritual practice: Separating thoughts from feelings." Watercolor by Dave Baab. If you’d like an email update when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)



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