On May 9 an important milestone was passed in the interaction of God’s people with the earth that God created for them. At Mauna Loa Observatory, Hilo, Hawaii, which houses the oldest monitoring post for atmospheric carbon emissions, the reading of carbon dioxide in the air reached 400 parts per million. It’s significant because most scientists agree that sustainable life on earth needs the CO2 reading at or below 350. Sadly, that number is on a growth curve, increasing by several points each year.
In Genesis, from the very beginning, we are called on to be good stewards of the earth that God created. We haven’t been very kind to the place that God made with great intricacy and balance — this Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, many Christians equate caring for creation with a political or social movement that focuses on the environment. This has left many church people on the sidelines when we should be taking the lead. We have the clear urgency from the word of God to protect and, yes, even nurture creation, which has been entrusted to us. For people of faith, the issue is not political but a clear mandate from the word of God.
Jesus could not have been more precise when he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Clearly, that compels us to protect and sustain what God has provided for us — not abuse it, wreck it, pollute it, hunt it to extinction or use it until it is uninhabitable.
My congregation, Spirit of Joy Lutheran, Orlando, Fla., is taking a long look at how we can claim this issue for our own. We are neighbors to Walt Disney World, which has been one of the most aggressive corporations in clearly defining a sustainable business model. It has long practiced a broad range of environmentally sensible practices, including recycling, composting materials, using energy-efficient buildings and generally trying to step lightly on the earth. The last park it built as part of the Walt Disney World complex, Animal Kingdom, is focused on sustainable practices, especially preservation of the earth and all who live here.
Our congregational leadership has done an extensive review of how creation care affects each of our members and how the church body should react. We chose to embark on a two-year journey to bring creation care to the forefront of our worshiping community. This will include bringing greater emphasis to the biblical mandate of caring for God’s creation by including our practices as a church and as individual members. How can we reduce our energy usage (and free up more money for other ministry work), how can we be a model for our community to show how Christians live out their daily life with biblical principles?
We invite you to find partners as we did in Lutherans Restoring Creation, Interfaith Power and Light or Green Faith and take this step in your congregation. It will be hard to carry out any other ministry work if we can’t survive in the Garden of Eden.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers