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Posts Tagged ‘creation care’

It is hard to not be effected by what has been happening in Japan over these last several days. Coupled with other recent events such as the cyclone and subsequent flooding in Queensland, Australia, and the ongoing political tension in Libya and the Middle East, it brings me down to earth about the hard reality of this world. In particular it makes me wonder about the future, the Kingdom of God, and what God has planned for the earth.

Searching for ideas about what to make of all this, I stumbled across a blog post by Daniel James Levy on the American Evangelical Environmental Network website.

Growing up he had a “view of the world which in turn will one day end in some kind of cataclysmic explosion, which of course included some kind of nuclear missiles, huge machine guns, and the death of trillions of people and animals. After this, God will one day blow up the entire cosmos, just as He spoke it into existence.”

Yet as a youth Levy explains that struggled to reconcile this picture of the future with the call for Christians to spread the Good News and make the world a better place.

Levy writes,

“I remember vividly leaving my youth group one Wednesday night when I was 15 years old, the youth pastor talked about trying to lead people to Christ, to make the world a better place, and so on, but it never made sense in my head. “Why if this world is getting dramatically worst day by day (as his theology taught) would I labor to bring a difference here and now, if it will ultimately do nothing”, I said to myself. So when Jesus said He feeds the birds of the air, I could never make sense to why He does. The only reason it could be, was of course, for me.”

Levy explains the journey he has been on to reconcile this tension.

Drawing on what Stassen and Gunshee in Kingdom Ethics call a covenantal perspective – where covenants such as God’s covenant with creation after the Flood, and the laws of the Israelites which included duties involving non-human creation – Levy explains that we are invited to participate with God in the care of creation.

He writes, we “…are supposed to be a reflection of His nature in the world, which includes His care for the creation.”

While I was hoping that Levy would fill out more what this means and involves (I suppose we have to read Kingdom Ethics for more) he finishes with a beautiful illustration from New Testament scholar N.T. Wright.

Wright describes that for a person moving into a foreign land it is best that they know the language of the locals before they arrive, rather than learning when they get there. That way, when they arrive, they feel at home and a sense of place. He then compares this to us in the here and now and the future Kingdom of God in its fullness.

I don’t know exactly what this means for Queensland and Japan, but it does give me a sense of purpose, something to set my mind to, in an orientation of hope and expectation. In the face of floods and cyclones, I can still all be learning a language of love.

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This morning on my way out, I rode past a vacant plot of land that has just been cleared of trees. An apple tree had been cut down, and green apples were strewn around and lay in the morning sun – to rot or be eaten by birds and insects. No one had claimed the apples, and no one was cheeky or daring enough to scoop them up. Perhaps also, no one had the inclination?

We live in such a rich society here in Australia. Even with the devastation of recent floods, fires and cyclones, there is an abundance of food around us so that none should be going hungry in the next few months (despite the price hikes in some fruit and veg).

The reality around us plays into our understanding of the wider world, and can influence how we consider this question:

“How do Christians choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation?

This is a frequently asked question directed to Scott Sabin, the Executive Director of Plant with a Purpose, by curious Christians.

In Caring for the Earth Is Caring for the Poor, Flourish authors argue that we don’t have to choose one at the expense of the other.

In Caring for the Earth, Sabin is quoted as saying that his care for the earth grew out of concern for the poor.

While we in the West have more than enough food waiting for us in our supermarkets, the quality of life of the poor is acutely tied to the quality of life on the land around them.

Sabin explains:

…serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator.”

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What does a green bag, a wheelie bin and mound of compost have to do with God?

What does my care of water have to do with my faith?

According to Margaret Feinberg and Wendell Berry (see here), quite a lot.

In More Than a Trend: Why Creation Care is Good for the Christian Soul Feinberg reflects on how caring for creation requires a change of heart in how we see ourselves and the surrounding world (and, I’d add, better understanding God’s love for all of creation).

Feinberg celebrates the learning we’ve all been doing about caring for the world, and for the changes that we’re making in our daily lives.

Yet she probes deeper into what drives our care (or lack of care).

She draws on Berry to highlight the way that we’ve put ourselves first, and that creation has suffered for it. This isn’t to say that we have to worship trees. Rather, Berry – and Feinberg – argue that caring for ourselves and the world can and should go hand in hand. They should compliment each other.

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Restoring Eden, a US/Canadian based Christian environmental network, has come up with 10 Ways to Honor the Creator this Christmas.

They write: “‘Tis the season to remember the birth of our savior, and the weight of his love for us.  Yet the holidays can end up being a peak time for over-consumption, excessive waste, and frivolous spending instead of a time that honors our Creator.

Restoring Eden and Renewal have put together a list of 10 very simple things you can do this season to help focus our minds and hearts on God’s immense love and sacrifice for us.”

While some of the ten ideas are heavily biased towards a cold, Northern Hemisphere time-of-year, and while some of the links are for Americans only, they could be an inspiration for you and your family as you think about the meaning of Christmas.

What are some alternative, Australian – appropriate ideas?

Donate money: TEAR Australia, a Christian aid and development organisation has a Useful Gift Catalogue.

Make a gift: there’s not much time left before Christmas this year, but be inspired…turn off the telly tonight and get crafty!

Shop locally: at craft markets,such as Launceston’s Civic Homespun Market.

Shop ethically: support fair-trade, such as visiting an Oxfam shop (in person or online).

Do you have other ideas? Please share them with us!

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What drives our environmentally friendliness?

Why do we care?

Why act?

Check out this mini-film, based on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14.

Director Emily Manthei is a young Christian artist based in California. She’s passionate about

creating words, images, music and films to challenge and inspire the audience.”

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What can a puppet teach us? What story can a puppet tell that leaves us inspired? You’ve got an opportunity to find out…

The Man Who Planted Trees is coming to Australia:

Melbourne Arts Centre: 20th and 21st November.

Sydney Opera House: 23rd November to 5th December.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a performance of beauty, telling a story of a humble old shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, who, accompanied by his dog, wants to bring trees back to the desolate valley which is his home.

The Puppet State Theater Company brings this classic French story by Jean Giono to life.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a story of hope and inspiration…  Of how normal and rather plain people can do extra ordinary things in normal and rather plain ways. It is simply beautiful and something that greenFish personally recommends.

The story is played out using a delightful combination of puppets and actors. The Puppet State Theater Company has a great knack of keeping both children and adults captivated.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a favorite at the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival.

“An unforgettable story that shows us the difference one man (and his dog!) can make to the world.”

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I’ve been in a state of shock for the past few weeks. A state of disbelief.

When the water bill arrived, I had to look at the figures at least twice. Then, still doubtful, I walked out to the front yard to check the water meter.

The water company had got the reading correct. How could this be?

I’ve been having five-litre bucket-baths since July 14. Our water usage should have plummeted. And it hasn’t. So, since the bill arrived, I have been trying to figure out how our household’s water-use has changed, and why it hasn’t dropped despite my committment to using less water for personal hygiene. This is what I’ve come up with:

Less water:

Showers:

I’ve replaced my long showers with five-litre bucket-baths. In addition, my partner’s work moved to a new building with better facilities, and, because he rides to work, he is able to have a shower when he arrives at the office in the morning, instead of when he gets home at the end of the day.

Garden:

As it’s been a wet winter, we’ve not had to water our vegetable garden very often.

More water:

Bath:

Our little girl outgrew the baby bath and she has been washing in a few inches of water in our big bath two or three times a week.

Laundry:

Our child has also been responsible for a big increase in our washing.  She has been churning through cloth nappies, bibs, face washers and other clothes, the outcome of her eating “solid” food and turning into a pint-sized explorer.

Cleaning:

Now that baby is entering the toddler phase, our house needs cleaning far more than it used to (sigh). That means mopping the tiled areas, cleaning the bathroom and wiping down surfaces in the kitchen (and everywhere else in the house that little fingers can reach).

So despite my committment to having bucket-baths, I haven’t managed to reduce our water consumption. But does this mean I have failed?

I’d answer: no. I’ve learnt several valuable things from this challenge.

First, I’m taking it as a great demonstration of how quickly water usage can change, as well as an opportunity to better appreciate these changes. If I hadn’t undertaken this experiment, I wouldn’t have seen the impact of our extra water use (mostly caused by our baby). I hope that in the future I’ll be more aware of how our behaviour can have a big impact on our overall water use.

At the same time, I’ve become more conscious of a continually running tap, wherever it might be (kitchen, bathroom sink, etc).

Second, my perspective on showers has changed – I appreciate them far more than I used to. While I’ve gone back to having normal showers, I reckon that they’re shorter than what they had been. A few minutes under the flowing spout seems luxurious after bathing in a meagre five litres of water.

I used to tell myself that I needed to have a long shower for a variety of reasons, including:

… to wake up in the morning.”

“… to get clean.” (How clean do I really need to be? And am I going to be drastically cleaner after a 12-minute compared to a two-minute shower?)

… to soothe my soul after a long or hard day.”

And beyond these reasons, I’ve been good at telling myself that I deserve a long shower. It’s my little treat. Sure, water is precious, but this is just a little reward for “this” or for “that”. Never mind that what I “deserve” has steadily grown over the years, and never mind that I’m also good at giving myself other little rewards during the day (another cup of coffee, a second helping of cake…). This exercise has shown me how easily I can fool myself into indulging in luxuries, in putting myself on a pedestal, of setting up a little kingdom for myself within my home. It’s all too easy to make myself Queen “for a day”, which quickly becomes every day.

As a Christian who believes that every bit of of life belongs to God, and that I can worship God in every part of my life and living, there is another dimension to this issue of my water use.

I’ve realised that my primary relationship with water isn’t about me as a consumer. Matthew Farrelly in “A Covenant with the Earth” explains that God wants my place and role on earth to be characterised by humble service, which is described in a similar way to a priest’s service in the temple.

He explains: “We have been placed within creation to mediate God’s presence, embody God’s posture, and enact God’s purposes on the earth.” Said differently: I’m not supposed to possess water and value it for how I can use it; I’m called to offer it back to the Creator in worship. In his great book, “For the Beauty of the Earth” Steven Bouma-Prediger in explains that a big part of my worship is about me being thankful to God for creation, including water.

So, what could this worship and service response mean for me? From washing and cleaning, to work and play, all of these form part of my worship of God. Said differently, I can serve God in the humble example of Jesus in everything I do.

Farrelly writes:

…we ought not to regard any of our earthly labors as profane or secular, but as sacred service to God on behalf of the world.”

God cares about how I live in the world. From how I scrub our floors, to how I write this article.

As if Farrelly knows of my once private weakness, he goes on to ask a question that cuts to the core of my thoughts and behaviour about water, and succeeds in making me squirm:

What we do with creation [i.e. water] matters to God. Do we seek to work and shape it faithfully and beautifully in relationship with God and his purposes for the world, or, perversely, to satisfy our selfish desires?”

Do I shower for my own enjoyment, for my own selfish ends? Is it all about me? Or in humility and gratitude, can I be thankful for the clean, sparkling liquid that comes out of my tap, praise God for the opportunity to have a wash, and be more careful with it in response?

And in Australia, when I remember the scarcity of fresh water, (with the ABS reporting that “most of Australia is classified as semi-arid or arid”) I am even more thankful and humbled at this gift from God.

This is important, because God isn’t saving us out of the world. I hold onto the ancient words of the Prophets and the hope of Jesus who began the work of bringing in God’s Kingdom. In this I can believe with Farrelly that my care for water, as with everything else, can take place:

…at the foot of the Cross, where we grasp that the old is passing away, and that all things—people, creatures, and the land—are becoming new.”

This isn’t an easy or clear-cut story. Tomorrow morning when I go to have a wash, I’ll again face the choice between my own greed and selfishness, or taking another Way. While the immediate enjoyment of a self-indulgent shower could entice me to luxuriate, it’s my hope that in this and other ways I’ll choose to learn of the joy and peace that comes with worshipping God through my actions of savouring and saving these drops.

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