Season of Creation Worship Series, week 5 — BLESSING ALL CREATURES: Bring It!
September 30, 2018
One of the hardest things to do is to start. In his book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work that Matters, Jon Acuff details how most people want to make sure they have all their ducks in a row before they start. They want to make sure they have all the information, strategies, and resources they need to be successful before they start. Because of this mindset, many people never get started. Acuff says, “Fear and doubt’s calendar always begins with yesterday or tomorrow. You’ve got today, and today is all you need to start.” His theme throughout the book is that often the most important thing you can do is begin. This is not an excuse to not prepare or to not build systems and strategies for success or to align resources, but those are things that can be done as you start. Starting will always take us out of our comfort zones, and that is not a bad thing.
There are two typical reasons that people do not start on this journey of creation care. Either the task and needs seem overwhelming, or people question whether what they do really matters. . As we have said, “you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run.”
To a seasoned practitioner of creation care, changing out a few incandescent light bulbs or setting up recycling in the garage may seem too simplistic or not enough. Here’s the thing though —it is a start!
The staff at Blessed Earth point out that Scripture emphasizes care for God’s creation, and they help people start the journey. Once people begin the journey, God works through the efforts and helps them along the journey of faithfulness around stewardship of creation.
People inevitably learn how interconnected humans are to the created world. Nothing in creation is isolated. Human life is dependent on trees and the oxygen they produce. When we deforest lands, we cut the earth’s oxygen-producing capacity and harm humanity. We are still learning today the impact that pesticides have on the ecosystem. Pesticides are produced to “kill off” a specific type of “pest,” but pesticides also kill helpful insects. The world’s bee population has been drastically reduced due to pesticides, which, in turn, has hurt crop production worldwide. Bees are counted on to pollinate the plants that produce the fruits and vegetables the world needs. We are all connected. Care for creation and all creatures ultimately comes back to care for humanity.
When we exercise our dominion in a way that does not demonstrate good stewardship, then all of creation suffers, including humanity. When we are poor stewards of the air around us, the most vulnerable among us, specifically children and seniors, suffer the consequences with asthma, emphysema, and many other health issues. Similar dire consequences can result if we do not protect our food supply and water supply and other living creatures. We are all connected.
Consider the text:
In reflecting on Psalm 124, we know this is a psalm of David written in difficult circumstances. David uses language of an unsettled creation to describe his difficulties. “Their anger was kindled against us” brings to mind a forest fire. “Waters...streams...raging waters. . . engulfing us… sweeping over our soul” makes us think of flooding. “Snares” and “trappers” catch birds. David’s plight is in line with the plight of the rest of creation. We are interconnected.
David’s imagery in this psalm brings to mind Jesus walking out on the stormy water to a boat where Peter stood on the side. Peter asked Jesus to allow him to come out on the water, and Jesus allowed it. While Peter remained focused on Jesus, he was able to do the impossible, walk on water. Once he focused on the storms around him, he began to sink. David saw the storms around him. He felt the waves crashing around him and felt like a bird caught in the snare. Yet, as he reminded himself, “had the Lord not been on our side.” He had hope that the storms would not overtake him, that the snares could not hold him. As long as he kept his focus on the Lord who was with him, then who could be against him?
There are so many things we need to be doing in our care of creation. The storms and waves and poor stewardship feel overwhelming. In the midst of it, though, we have to keep our focus on the Lord. The Lord is on our side. As Christians, we need to understand that care for creation is a faith issue — a stewardship issue. It is not a political issue, although there are political differences about how we handle the care for creation. We need to quit focusing on the waves and snares and focus on the Lord . . . and start!
Consider a sermon direction and application:
As we wrap up this series, offering a call to action is appropriate. The problem, though, as a people, we are as divided about what the response should be as we are on who should be our elected leaders. As leaders of the church, we need to navigate around the impasse of the storms and focus on the Lord. Some of our people’s politics will direct them toward activism and a desire to influence legislation that benefits the environment. Others will feel that personal responsibility is key and that creation care should start from the ground up. It can be either or both, but it has to start. A person who has never taken a step to help care for God’s creation will likely never advocate for better policies. If we practice stewardship in all aspects of our lives, then businesses will shift to reflect our beliefs.
To be effective, however, we need knowledge about what the Bible says about care for creation and how we live it out in practical ways. It means starting, or as the theme for the week suggests, “Christians must bring it!” We must also remember to bathe our teaching and practice with grace, so that others feel they can begin this journey with us.
Rev. Ryan Bennett is an elder in The United Methodist Church and Senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, TN. He also works with Blessed Earth and Blessed Earth Southeast helping clergy and lay persons practice Sabbath. Heather Bennett earned her M.S in Sustainability from Lipscomb University in 2014. She started the first chapter of Blessed Earth in 2015. Blessed Earth Southeast inspires and equips Christians to become better stewards of the earth.