Prayers for Earth

9550 year old spruce, Old Tjikko, in Sweden
9550 year old spruce, Old Tjikko, in Sweden

“Jesus shows us how to live with the Creator, with creation, and with creatures.”

That’s a line from my sermon this past Sunday, in which I compared the kind of Lord Jesus is to the kind of Lord we’ve too often made him into. I contend that – based on his birth, life, death and resurrection – Jesus as Lord is the giver of life. One implication of Jesus as giver of life is that all the world is good, important, sacred. All life matters to the Lord because the Lord is the giver of life. All life must also matter to we who strive to follow that Lord.

Too often that has not been the case. Too often we’ve taken the beautiful poetry of Genesis and tried to make a modern science textbook out of it. That has led us to claim crazy ideas such as the universe is only about 6000 years old. Sunday I offered Old Tjikko (seen above) as a contrary thesis, if you will. Searching around, I discovered there are even more amazing, ancient, living organisms than I even imagined! I don’t know about you, but I discovered that the more I read on that page, the more my reading morphed into praying. What a surprising, incredible world we get to inhabit! What wonders surround us!

Here are a few others’ thoughts on the intersection of faith and ecology:

New paradigms for saving earth by Philip Clayton

Why Christians are so bad on the environment by Tim Suttle

Discipleship, Worship, and Earth Day by Adam Hamilton

Sunday’s communion prayer included a significant amount of cosmology. (e.g. “You are the longing within the atoms for communion, the urge within each molecule for self-expression, the knowing within each cell of its dignity.”) That was, of course, on purpose. Sunday’s prayers were adapted from one of my favorite resources, If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics by Bruce Sanguin. Here’s another prayer from that book that I offer for this Earth Day week:

Living Earth’s Wisdom

We tune our ears to the wisdom of Earth. It is deep prayer, this listening to her cries, as Spirit’s sighs, too deep for words.

Unborn generations call to us from the future: what did you do when the planet could no longer bear your foolishness and began to break?

The growl of the grizzly – caught in the crosshairs of trophy hunters and policy makers, who seem to prize extinction – is a plea for the rights of all the disappearing ones.

Hear the bawl of the caribou asking us for room enough to roam and arsenic-free water to drink.

The cardinal’s whistle, once joy’s message, is now a haunting lament for the dwindling chorus of songbirds.

The topsoil – living organism and not lowly dirt – clears its thinning, chemical-burned voice, and speaks out for the biotic kingdom teeming within this dark body.

Mother Ocean beckons us to return to Her womb, that we might be born anew and know our salty tears to be Her own.

The willow drops her loving arms around our shoulders and brushes us with grace, whispering that it’s not too late. It falls to us, Wisdom’s pupils, to turn this dirge into a dance of the cosmos.

Let those with ears to hear, rise up.


Bad debate

Last week we were treated to excellent content on the relationship between faith and science, first from Deacon Beth’s column and then the music, prayers, and Pastor Jim’s sermon in worship.

In our youth ministries we spent the month of January examining that same relationship, utilizing the experiences of some of our congregation’s scientists (THANKS Richard, Kathy, & Wally!). Add to that all the response to the recently televised “debate” between Bill Nye (TV’s The Science Guy) and Ken Ham, the young-Earth creationist and president of the Creation Museum, and you wind up with a whole lot of words shared on the topic.

My favorite blogger, Fred Clark has an extensive rundown of the Nye-Ham coverage.

Along with all these thoughts, I want to add an image, a quote, and a thought.

First, an image (from James McGrath) to sum up the Nye-Ham “debate”:



Now, the quote. I don’t always agree with the UMC’s Book of Discipline, but on this topic I find it exactly right:

science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.

The UMC also has a 2008 resolution opposing using “faith-based theories such as creationism or intelligent design” in public school science curriculums.

See, all this faith versus science stuff really comes down to how we understand (or misunderstand) the bible. UMC pastor and blogger, Roger Wolsey has a terrific post on how we read the bible. I think he describes my position very well.

The accounts – yes, plural – of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 aren’t trying to offer first-hand reporting of how the universe was created. That’s, of course, impossible. Also, those accounts were written millennia before the scientific method. It’s unhelpful, unfair, and, frankly, ridiculous to try to impose scientific standards on pre-scientific material. We just end up looking dumb when we do so. For instance, Genesis 1, when read (il)literally like Ken Ham does, would have us believe that plants grew before the sun was there. Even Middle School students know that’s impossible.

But I’m very glad we have the witness of Genesis 1 & 2. They may not be scientific statements, but they are significant in their own right.

They are very significant statements – by real people who lived in a particular time and, inescapably, had a particular understanding of how the world works – about what the world is like (spoiler alert: it’s good!) and what the Creator God is like. For instance – and I believe this is paramount – unlike the creation stories told by basically every other nation around them, our faith ancestors left us a creation story noticeably absent of war and rape. Instead, we have  that rare depiction of a god who can create without violence of any kind. It is that rare depiction of a god who is intimately involved in, and related to, the world. It is that rare depiction of a god who wants not slaves, but lovers. And not just any kind of lovers, but lovers “made in our image.” That is, lovers in the image of the Triune God: engaged in mutual, egalitarian relationship.

A loving, egalitarian relationship extended to themselves, each other, all people – confoundingly, even their enemies – and to all of creation.

How’s that for a Valentine’s Day tie-in?