Ecclesiastes For Earth Day

Ecclesiastes For Earth Day April 22, 2018

Facebook reminded me just this moment that today is Earth Day, inviting me to share my wishes for a greener world. Fortunately for me, yesterday I Instagrammed all my seedlings that I will probably never be able to plant because of it’s being always winter and never anything else. All my virtue, I hope, has been appropriately signaled. Should have stopped there but, being a glutton for punishment, went over to Twitter. There leapt up a meme–a fluffy sort of tree rising out of the earth as a chick out of an egg, and the scolding, “Remember, we can’t survive without Mother Earth, but she would THRIVE without us.”

I like the word “Remember.” It’s really a very Christian word. There’s an evocative poem, right in the middle of the Bible, at least as good as anything on Twitter today, you might remember it. It goes like this.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut-when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low- they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets- before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

I am always surprised by how much more articulate the Bible is than the average tweet. I know it shouldn’t be so, twitter being so laconic, so clever, the pinncacled heights of artistic mortal self-expression. But every now and then I find the Bible measures up.

So what am I to remember? The twitterer wants me to remember the earth, the creation. She, inanimate as she is, can do very well without me, though I can do nothing without her. I have sinned against her, and so certainly I must repent, but there will not be forgiveness, not in its usual sense. I can work my way out of my sin, like Heracles, performing difficult put possible tasks like using appropriate drinking receptacles  and nourishing myself with the right kinds of food. But I mustn’t do these atoning works in secret, I must do them in the light so that I will get credit, so that some of my sins will be shriven off of me. The best thing, though, will be when I die and the earth is rid of my corrupting person. If I feel guilty enough, my life will not have been in vain. I will melt into the cosmic void, perhaps healing the earth, so wounded by my existence, with the dust and ash of my scattered body.

Whereas, Ecclesiastes invites me to remember not the creation, but the Creator. Remember him, admonishes the preacher. Remember him soon, in your youth, when you are young and full of vim and vigor, when you are inclined to rush out and rescue the world by your hard work and proper belief. Remember the one who made everything, who made you. Because eventually you are going to get old, you are not going to be able to do anything but sit in your chair, still, small, lonely, perhaps afraid. And then, before too long, you will die. The silver cord will snap, the pitcher will shatter, and you will go to your eternal home and much younger mourners will go about the streets.

Don’t remember the earth that you worked, that you will work over the whole course of your life, the futility of your inconsequential person against a universe so vast, a ground so hard, a winter so lengthy. Remember instead the one who made it and you, who knows your frailty, your limitations, the purposes of your heart and mind. Remember him, because he will certainly remember you. And it won’t be whether or not you threw away a lot of plastic bottles over the course of your life, but whether you understood that the Creator was God and that you, a human person, was never God, that you couldn’t save yourself, let alone the creation he subjected so precariously under you.

It’s actually a much more terrifying proposition. God created it, and gave it over into the hand of his creature. And his creature, wanting to be like God, corrupted and subjugated that green glorious gift, a world so perfectly made, set into orbit at a felicioutous distance from the moon and sun and all the far flung planets and stars. A world so perfectly fashioned that it renews and restores itself even when the creature digs deep to bespoil its treasures. A world that groans and longs for salvation from human tyranny. There we are caught, the creature and the creation, in sin, in death, in hopelessness.

Remember your Creator, because he remembered you. He provided a way for you to be saved from the terrible sin of forgetting him and corrupting his beautiful world. He remembered you. He died so that you wouldn’t have to. He rose again so that your life could be rescued from the vanity, the futility, the frustrations of mortality. Remember that he will come again to judge, to completely remake the earth, to restore the beauty of the creature and the creation in harmonious comfortable order. For earth day, don’t worship yourself and the wide world, worship God. Go to church.

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