Being Good Stewards of Creation
Preached by George Varghese, author of Our Moral Crisis - Hope in a Troubled World (OMC, 2010)
Genesis chap.1.26. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
Chap. 1.31. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.
Chap. 2.15. Then the Lord God took man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things that men desire shall be added unto you.
Our creator God, we have gathered here to worship you and listen to you. We pray that you speak to us and give us hearts and minds that listen to you. Amen.
After God made the heavens and the earth, He looked at His creation and saw that it was good. Then God made man and put him in God’s garden and God told man to care for it. Today, let us take a look around us to see how we have cared for God’s garden and how we have used our power to dominate.
Last night, one seventh of the people in the world went to bed hungry – while at the same time one third of the food produced in the world is wasted. It is estimated that every year millions children die because of starvation and civil war.
In many cities the air is so polluted that fresh air, often sourced from the mountains of New Zealand, is sold in tins. You have to pay to breath fresh air.
Deserts are encroaching on what was once fertile land.
Every year hundreds of plants and animal species become extinct. Never again shall we see those beautiful creatures.
While we still see the glory of God reflected in the glorious beauty and diversity of His creation, much has been destroyed and lost. A lot of the damage is the result of human activity, abuse and neglect.
We have not cared for God's garden. We have misused our power to dominate. When God made the earth and the heavens, he provided enough resources to ensure that everyone gets their daily bread. The problem is not a shortage of resources but the wrong utilisation and distribution of resources.
In our single minded pursuit of economic goals, we are leaving behind us a trail of destruction that could eventually catch up with us and destroy us. If we don't change our ways, we, like the dinosaurs, could simply vanish from the face of the earth. With global warming now taking place and the existence nuclear weapons, that threat is becoming more imminent.
We seem to be involved in the rather strange process of filling our pockets with money and our homes with possessions while depriving ourselves of fresh air, clean water and healthy food.
What should we do about this.
In the face difficult situations, we should turn to the word of God for answers – for the word of God is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
1. Jesus cared for the earth in the best possible way - by living a simple life. Jesus said, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head".
We should live simply so that others may simply live. We are consuming resources at such a rate that future generations may not have much left to live on.
It is possible to live an abundant and wholesome life without many of the material things that surround us. As Albert Einstein said, “a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest”.
If material wealth was the route to peace and happiness, the Americans should be the happiest people since America is one of the richest country in the world. Instead, however, they have one of the highest homicide rates, the highest divorce rates and the highest drug abuse rates in the so called developed world. Their economic wealth has not brought them the happiness they are seeking. Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
2. We should always use technology which is efficient and non polluting. Though such technology exists today, we are so bound by short term profit considerations, that we don't invest in such technology. We should never compromise the future for the sake of the present.
3. We need to educate people all over the world about the need to care for the environment. People need to know that if we don’t care for the earth, the earth will cease to care for us.
4. We should stop migrating to the cities. Isn't it better to be in the countryside and enjoy God's free gift of fresh air instead of having to buy it in containers.
5. We should plant more trees and stop the destruction of forests. Trees provide us with fresh air, clean water and healthy food. Forests also provide a home to thousands of endangered species. As Swami Vivekananda said, "A tree is the greatest unilateral benefactor. It provides shade even to the axe man who comes to chop it down". The pews on which you are now sitting were once trees. Even in death the tree continues to serve. We must preserve the beauty and diversity of God's creation by caring for the plants and animals that are now threatened with extinction.
6. In one simple, succinct sentence, our Lord Jesus told us how to achieve progress – progress that is worthwhile, long term and sustainable. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things that men desire shall be added unto you”. Upon this basis and upon this basis alone, can there be any worthwhile, long term and sustainable progress. Such progress is not measured only in terms of money and is not dependant on resources. In the absence of peace, goodwill and integrity no amount of resources, money or hard work will bring about progress.
Today we do not face an environmental crisis. Nor do we face an economic crisis. What we face today is a moral crisis which manifests itself as an environmental, economic and social crisis. That is why Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things that men desire shall be added unto you”.
However seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is easier said than done. There are many difficult questions to answer. For example:
· How do we know the will of God?
· How can we be motivated and inspired to do God's will?
· Should we, like Mother Theresa, sell all that we have and become homeless people? All of Mother Theresa's possessions would have fitted into a bag not much bigger than this shoulder bag.
I don't have the answers to those questions, but as we ponder on those and other questions, may God be our guide and our inspiration.
A long time ago the psalmist echoed similar sentiments when he said, "Behold how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." In the present context of environmental destruction, it may be more appropriate to say, “Behold how good and joyful a thing it is for all of creation to dwell together in harmony."
Such a vision may seem like an utopian dream – hopelessly unattainable. The challenges on the way may appear insurmountable and we may be led to despair and disappointment. In the face of such fears, we have four reasons for hope.
The first reason for our hope is that many people all over the world are realising the importance of caring for God's garden and are doing something positive about it. For example:
· The Anglican Diocese of Auckland has committed to operating in a carbon-neutral manner by offsetting the carbon it generates through travel by planting trees in Fiji.
· Countdown and other supermarkets plan to eliminate the use of plastic bags.
· Personally, I drive a hybrid car which consumes one third the petrol of a conventional car. Not only is it good for the environment - it also saves me money. But there is more that I can and should do to care for God's garden.
The list could go on and on about how people all over the world are beginning to care for the earth and we, as a church, have an important role to play in it.
The second reason for our hope is that God has given us the freedom to choose and the power to implement our choices. Sadly, we have often made the wrong choices. For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could be provided lunch every day for 5 years. The choice is ours. Only a fraction of the money and the resources that are now being devoted to the weapons of death and destruction are sufficient to turn all our deserts green. God has given us the freedom to choose and the power to implement our choices. May He also give us the wisdom to make the right choices.
The third reason for our hope is that a long time ago, Joshua had similar fears and doubts when he was called upon to lead the people of Israel. At that time God told Joshua, "Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Today, in the face of new challenges, opportunities and threats, we have the same confidence and assurance. We are co-workers with God in the ongoing process of creation. We plough the fields and scatter the seeds. Then God makes it grow. With God working alongside us, our labour shall not be in vain.
The fourth, and probably the most important reason for our hope, is that in the midst of conflict, chaos and change, God is still in control and I believe that, God’s love, His wisdom and His might will ultimately prevail over our foolish ways. As St. Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God as revealed to us in His Son Jesus Christ.
Praise be to God.
Caring for God’s garden calls for a change in our values and the way we live. That change must begin with me and with you. Then when our children look at God's garden they would still be able to say, “Behold, how good and beautiful it is”.
Shall we pray. Sovereign God, creator and sustainer of all things visible and invisible, we thank you for giving us your garden to live in. We are sorry for not caring for your garden. We thank you for giving us the power to dominate. We are sorry for misusing that power. We pray for the grace and wisdom to serve you more faithfully and follow you more closely. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.