Geologists and cultural theorists have begun calling the era that we live in anthropocene, the era in which the effects of humans upon the geological features, species, and climate of the earth are profound. There is a great debate about whether a whole era can be named on the actions of humans, but the evidence of our lack of stewardship of God’s creation is clear.
As I write this on Earth Day, and in this Easter season, I am reminded of the grief I feel over how the issues of how we care for this beautiful and fragile world that was given to us and to our fellow creatures as a gift of God has been politicized and polarized. This creation is groaning under the weight of our sinfulness, awaiting its restoration and resurrection too. Just this week has seen reports that Oklahoma suffered more earthquakes that California due to oil and gas extraction methods, news of the continuing and worsening drought in the California basins, and the spread of a virulent bird flu in Iowa and Minnesota.
I can only hope that we, Christians, can find the theory and practice to faithfully follow Jesus and join in the work of restoring creation in the years ahead. But it is going to require some difficult choices in the years ahead if places like the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota, will not only be protected, but also allowed to thrive.
Pastor Brian Zahnd, who is one of my favorite evangelical pastors and authors, gets at this well in the reflection he shared today:
A MEDITATION FOR EARTH DAY
Mary Magdalene’s Easter “mistake” of thinking Jesus was the gardener is a poetic hint of how Christ as the Last Adam leads us back to our first vocation. Any understanding of salvation that doesn’t lead us to a deep love for God’s creation is far more Gnostic than Christian. Or perhaps it’s just voracious capitalism dressed up in Christian garb—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If we cannot love the primeval forest I’m not sure we can love either God or neighbor.
The wise Elder Zosima in Fyodor Dosotevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" gives this counsel to the novice monk Alyosha:
"Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love."
If someone says that sounds like "tree-hugger" theology, I say a theologian can do worse than to hug a tree.
Luckily, we Lutherans can lay claim to one of Christianity’s foremost eco-theologians, Martin Luther. Luther himself was an avid gardener, and had a deep love for creation. One of the most famous quotes (even though he likely didn’t say it) that is attributed to him is “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
Now, go forth, spread the good news, and embrace the freedom to do something for the sake of the good world we live in.