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Worshipping God the Creator: The good creation

Lynne Baab • Wednesday June 29 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: The good creation

The heavens and the earth were created by God. At the end of each day of creation, God looked at what he had made and declared it “good.” The description of creation in the first two chapters of Genesis is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature ever written, emphasizing God’s power to create and the wonder and beauty of his work in creation.

Ron Sider, in a sermon entitled “Tending the Garden without Worshipping It,” argues that the Bible teaches that the "material world is so good that the one who created all things and pronounced them very good actually became flesh. The material world is so good that Jesus rose bodily from the tomb. The material world is so good that all believers will be resurrected bodily to dance and revel in a renewed creation when the Lord returns. That’s how good the material world is. Consequently, God wants you and me to rejoice now in the good earth’s bounty." [1]

Sider goes on to call us to a passionate commitment to Jesus Christ that manifests the truth that nothing in life is more important than our love of Jesus. This kind of love, he believes, will result in care for the poor as well as care for the environment.

Soon after God created humans, he gave them the task of “tilling and tending” the garden (Gen. 2:15). For those of us who live in an urban setting, it may be hard to imagine what those commands imply for us. At times I have grown vegetables in my back yard. Is that what is meant by God’s command to “till and tend” the garden?

Calvin DeWitt, a theologian and professor of environmental studies, points out the range of meaning of these words. The Hebrew word translated “till” can also mean dress, work, or serve. The word translated “tend” can also be translated as keep, take care of, guard, or look after. The root word that lies behind “tend” indicates a loving, caring, sustaining kind of keeping. DeWitt asks, “How on earth can we serve creation? Shouldn’t creation serve us instead?” [2]

DeWitt, like Sider, believes that the first call is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and out of that discipleship will come concern for the care and sustaining of creation. Serving and taking care of the garden, which he takes to mean the whole created world, will mean careful use of resources, striving to find our contentment in God rather than in things, and enjoyment of creation without destroying it. DeWitt also argues that as a part of caring for creation, we need to give animals and plants the kind of Sabbath rests that are proscribed in the Old Testament. All of this is necessary because of the human propensity to use things up, rather than use things carefully in a way that protects the earth for future generations.

In a sermon entitled “This World is Not My Home?” Howard Snyder lays out some helpful principles to guide our thinking about the earth.

So we see, then, these four great truths in the Bible concerning our earthly home:
1. The earth is good, not bad.
2. The earth is diseased and disordered because of sin.
3. The earth is our responsibility as God’s stewards.
4. The earth will be judged and restored.

How should this make a difference in the way we, as Christians, live?
1. We may enjoy God’s good creation and praise God for it.
2. We may live before the world as good stewards of the earth. Christians should be at the forefront of modeling good stewardship principles, including care of creation. Minimally, this certainly includes recycling, healthy eating, and supporting sound environmental policies in government and business.
3. We may honor and support those Christian whom God calls to a ministry to the earth.
4. We can teach and model earth stewardship to our children.
5. We can continue to study Scripture to learn what it says about the earth. For too long, many vital texts have been overlooked by the church. We can correct this blind spot by searching out God’s vision for the earth.[3]

These straightforward principles can stimulate a great deal of pondering and discussion.

This is the fifth post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. Earlier posts:
     Nature calls us to worship         
     The Creation invites us to join in praise         
     The Bible and Creation         
     Some thoughts from midlife interviews         
(Next week: more on earth stewardsip. This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. Illustration: Coromandel sunrise by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column.)

[1] Ron Sider, “Tending the Garden without Worshipping It,” The Best Preaching on Earth, Stan L. LeQuire, ed. (Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1996), p. 37.

[2] Calvin DeWitt, “Creation’s Care and Keeping,” Simpler Living, Compassionate Life, ed. Michael Schut (Denver: Living the Good News, 1999), p. 176.

[3] Howard Snyder, “This World is Not My Home,” The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons on Caring for Creation, p. 52, 53.

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