Are you looking for a Creation-centered Lenten devotional? For the Beauty of the Earth helps your congregation connect faith and caring for God’s Creation.
“How often does Jesus make references to nature in his teaching?”
That question was asked by a participant in a Bible study I once led. I knew Jesus had made several references to aspects of Creation, but when I began reading through the Gospels I was surprised just how many times nature is referenced either by Jesus himself (over 50), or in the accounts about him and his birth, ministry, death and resurrection (over 55).
What is undeniable is that both Jesus and the Gospel writers saw Creation in all its aspects as imperative for giving witness to God’s Kingdom and the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Jesus was present at the beginning of Creation. He used images from nature to illustrate his teachings. He interacted directly with many aspects of Creation (rivers, lakes, seas, winds). And he sought prayerful refuge in the wilderness, on mountains, and in gardens.
Reciprocally, nature gave witness to the personhood and divinity of Jesus from the time of his birth announced in the heavens, to the darkness that enveloped the land at his crucifixion. Earth took Jesus into itself and gave witness to the resurrection with earthquake, sunrise, and the beauty of a garden.
If Creation is this important to Jesus and the Gospel writers, shouldn’t we regard Creation with equal importance?
If Jesus heeded Earth’s teachings and learned the lessons of God’s ways from his time spent in nature, shouldn’t we afford Earth and Creation the same status as sacred teacher? Especially as followers of Christ, we must include the voice of Earth in our decisions about how we live, work, build, consume, and minister to others.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Christians have an opportunity to reflect on how caring for God’s Creation is connected to our faith.
Drawing on the beloved hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” each week will focus on a different aspect of the splendor of nature, how our spirit can be nurtured by God through Creation, and how we can protect our precious home. As we walk with Jesus along shorelines, through gardens, and among trees, we will learn from the “birds of the air” and “the lilies of the field.” When our Lenten journey takes us into the heart of Earth itself at Jesus’ tomb, we will anticipate the eco-resurrection with eager longing and active hope.
My hope is that this Lenten devotional will help you listen for the voice of Earth and Earth’s inhabitants through the witness of scripture.
Each devotion has either a set of questions to ponder or a spiritual practice to try. As you undertake this journey, may you be moved to take up the task of honoring, preserving, caring for, and learning from our Earth-kin as part of your ongoing ministry.
May God bless your Lenten journey!
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).