Stewards of Creation

Stewards of Creation May 1, 2015

“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth stand in awe of him.” (Venite**)

Before becoming homeowners, Rebecca and I had never gardened—in fact, we had a hard time keeping houseplants alive. But as any first time homeowner will tell you, there’s something different about yard work when you own the land. Our home was built in the 1960’s, and when we moved in there were several bushes in the front yard that, according to our neighbor, were original to the house. The roots were getting dangerously close to our foundation and needed to go. Each spring since we bought the house, Rebecca and I have diligently replaced what had to be removed. We’ve spent countless hours planting trees, shrubs and flowers. In the time that we’ve lived in our home, our yard has been transformed.

Jet Gardening

Caring for our (very, very small) dominion has become a family project – even our three-year-old son has contributed to the work each spring. As parents, we’ve tried to teach him the importance of creation care as we’ve learned the lessons ourselves. 

God’s creation is good and is full of his glory.

We are called to cultivate, steward, and gently guide creation toward flourishing.

We are called to join Jesus in the garden of his creation.

The Goodness of Creation

“All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.” (Te Deum**)

Often our study of the “Creation Mandate” begins too late in the story with Genesis 1:26-28. Any understanding of creation and her care must begin with and move forward from Genesis 1:1; the call to stewardship is meaningless apart from the opening words of human history. In the beginning God created all that is and He called all of it “good.” By the time Adam and Eve are formed in God’s image and given dominion over creation, it is a “good” creation for which they are called to care.

This is important.

Creation was and still is good by virtue of the good Creator. As creator, sustainer and life-giver, God has made his presence known in and through creation. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The whole word is charged with the grandeur of God.” This is the reality of God’s presence in his creation. This is the reality we proclaim during the Eucharist with the words of the Sanctus, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

Prior to the Fall, the whole of creation – the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea, and the plants of the earth – lived into the Creator’s design: it flourished.

The Call to Stewardship

“O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.” (Jubilate**)

Humans were created and called aid in that flourishing of creation through stewardship. N. T. Wright put it this way: “The garden, and all the living creatures, plants and animals within it, are designed to become what they were meant to be through the work of God’s imager-bearing creatures in their midst.”[1]

Adam and Ever were commanded, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,” (Genesis 1:28). The word translated as “dominion” by the NRSV could instead be translated as “reign.” The call from the triune God was for Adam and Eve to reign over creation just as God reigned over all.

Joining Jesus in the Garden

History reveals human neglect of this call. “The abuse of Human’s authority, then, doesn’t abolish its proper use. It doesn’t cancel out the vocation…Humans are to enable the garden to flourish, and to speak words which bring articulate order to the wonderful diversity of God’s creation.”[2]

It is within our current context of Eastertide that I have been reflecting on Mary’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus in John 20. I am drawn to Mary’s suspicion that Jesus was the gardener. Why did John think it was important to include that tiny detail?

Mary finds the Risen Lord “at work” in his garden. The Logos who was active in the creation of the world, the Garden of Eden and the garden tomb continues to be present in his creation, inviting us to join the triune God in the care of his world.

Is it any surprise then that Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener?

Becoming a co-gardener in Christ’s new creation is the call for all of God’s people. To join Jesus in his garden is to care for his people, to become conscious about our use of natural resources and our treatment of animals. It is to become intentional about the stores and companies from whom we purchase and the products in which we invest. A gardener is thoughtful about each seed she plants, the branches she prunes and every crop she harvests.

Where Do You Go From Here?

As you go throughout your daily dealings your guiding question can and should be: am I helping creation to flourish and glorify God? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Plant a garden in your yard or start/join a community garden. Enlist the help of your children, grandchildren, or neighborhood kids to teach them the importance of creation care. If you plant a food garden consider giving some of your harvest to local food banks/homeless ministries.
  2. Purchase the “Better World Shopper” app to begin examining companies based on human rights violations and other criteria.
  3. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guides to learn about food and cosmetic safety and their impact on the environment.
  4. Read about the work of Blessed Earth and consider joining their efforts.
  5. Research ways your home can become a place of production rather than consumption. Let your question be, “Why buy it if I can make it?” If making things yourself feels overwhelming, consider supporting small businesses, cottage industries and local farmers rather than box-stores.

“A Song of Creation”

I’ll leave you with Canticle 12** from the Book of Common Prayer entitled “A Song of Creation.”

Invocation

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 

I The Cosmic Order 

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, *

drops of dew and flakes of snow

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, *

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 

II The Earth and its Creatures

Let the earth glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,

and all that grows upon the earth, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams, *

O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild, *

and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 

III The People of God

Let the people of God glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

 

Doxology

Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Such a song reminds us that creation care is not reserve for one day a year or even one day a week. Creation care is part of our vocation as ones who reign and rule with Christ.

 

** Excerpts from the Venite, Te Deum, Jubilate, Sanctus, and A Song of Creation are all taken from The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church: Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David According to the Use of the Episcopal Church (New York: Church Hymnal Corp., [1979]),

[1]N T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2010), 74.

[2] Ibid, 74-75.

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