SERMON

CREATION CARE IN A CARELESS WORLD

It was Ludwig Feuerbach who claimed that, “Nature, the world, has no value, no interest for Christians. The Christian thinks only of himself and the salvation of his soul.”1 On the contrary, “a recent college graduate observes that,

‘[Christians] claim that we have something worth living (even dying) for here:

we believe in a God who created this world, loves it and calls us to take care

of it; and the world today is in a mess.’ Might not creating a sustainable

society be a worthy goal for a church, a nation, the international global

community, as well as for individuals?”2



It would do us much

good to start thinking about the concepts of creation care and sustainable

living for biblical and environmental reasons, but also to answer the question,

“Why should we care?” Well, we care because:



Nature, the world, has no value, no interest for Christians. The Christian thinks only of himself and the salvation of his soul."

Ludwig Feuerbach

God

Cares

Genesis 1:1 tells

us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This dual

expression indicates that, “the heavens and the earth and everything that is in

between—all things—come to be as result of God’s creative Word and energizing

Spirit....“Through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made

that has been made” (Jn 1:3), i.e., both the regions of the cosmos (days 1-3)

and their various inhabitants (days 4-6). God cares for creation (Job 38 and

39) and sustains it.”3 “[Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and

the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful

word” (Heb. 1:3). Furthermore, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps.

19:1) and, according to Psalm 148, the sun, moon, stars, water, mountains,

hills, vegetation, animals, birds, and sea creatures all praise the Lord.



To such

‘creation-care’ by our God, the material environment responds. It gives glory

to God. It sings to and delights in God’s love for it: “…The meadows are

covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with corn; they shout for joy

and sing” (Ps. 65:9-13).

When we realize how

much God cares for the earth and all its animate and inanimate inhabitants, we

cannot purposefully destroy it or even hurt it without directly hurting our

Creator who delights in the worship, shouts of praise, and joyful noise of the

meadows and the grasslands. As Bouma-Prediger points out, “From the

environmental perspective, by caring for the non-human created order we are

also worshipping God by allowing it to give glory to God as he intended it to.”4



We

Are Part Of The Earth

We are cognizant

that we are also a part of that same creation, moreover, of the very ground

that we walk on daily. The substance that we humans were created from is the

very soil that the earth is made of, and upon our death we return to this dust.

The opening chapters of the Bible teach us about the commonalities human beings

and the rest of the creation share. In Genesis 2:7, the same word is used to

describe how animals, birds and humans were ‘formed’ from the dust of the earth

(see also 1 Cor. 15:47). Humans and animals were created on the very same day.

Humanity also shares the same food given to the animals (Gen. 1:29-30) and the

same breath of life is given to all the new creatures alike (Gen. 1:30; 2:7;

6:17; Ps. 104:29.). The most extraordinary description in Psalm 104 shows how

humans and animals have the same needs and how God provides abundantly for all

creatures. As it is concluded by the authors of Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living, “To care for creation is therefore to care for a system of which

we are a part and upon which we utterly depend.”5



Anderson concludes

that, “In view of the overall pattern of the [creation] account, it is apparent

that the emphasis falls not so much on anthropology, that is, on the supremacy

of humanity, as on ecology, that is, the earthly habitation that human beings

share with other forms of ‘living beings.’”6



We

Care For Our Neighbor

We care for our

environment because, alongside our God, we care for our neighbor. Christians

are invited to love their neighbors and such love is not restricted to those

with whom we share ethnic, geographic or national identities. The Samaritan

story illustrates this well. We love our neighbors who are close and also who

are very distant on other continents or in abject poverty. “Space is not bar to

neighborly love. Nor is time.” As helpfully described by Spencer, White and

Vroblesky, “Just as those living on the other side of the planet are our

neighbors, so are the unborn, the men and women of future generations whom we

cannot see but who will inherit from us the consequences of our actions, and

flourish or suffer accordingly.”

We love people genuinely “from the other side of the planet to the other

end of the century.”7 Francis of Assisi, 700 years previously, said:

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of

compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow

men.”8



The

Sabbath Teaches This

The Sabbath has a

clear environmental scope and impact. It is a reminder of the creation (Exodus

20:8-11), God’s ownership of the entire earth and that we are His stewards.

Deuteronomy chapter 5 indicates that God is interested that all of His creation

should find a Sabbath rest: “your son or daughter … male or female servant … ox

… donkey or any of your animals, … any foreigner residing in your towns, so

that your male and female servants may rest, as you do” (verse 14). The Sabbath

should be a way to protect the vulnerable as the Israelites remember that they

“were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there,”

(verse 5). This implicit inclusion of the livestock might seem odd unless we

recognize the environmental implications.



The Sabbatical

principle and its environmental impact is further clarified in the passages on

the ‘Sabbath of Sabbaths’ and the Jubilee principle by corresponding

legislation of the Sabbatical year in Exodus 23 and especially in Leviticus 25.





‘For six years you

are to sow your fields and harvest the crops,  but during the seventh year

let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get

food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your

vineyard and your olive grove. ‘Six days do your work, but on the seventh day

do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest.9



Spencer, White and Vroblesky

insightfully conclude that, “These verses make clear, there were environmental

and social concerns behind the Sabbatical Year. The land was not to be

exhausted by overuse. The poor were to be given access that would not otherwise

have been theirs. The law even allowed for wild animals to consume what the people left,

thereby suggesting that agriculture (and other human activities) should not be

permitted to destroy non-human life, ascribing value to non-human ecology, and

implying that awe and respect for God’s creation should not ‘give way to an

exploitation and managerial approach to nature.’”10



These verses make clear, there were environmental and social concerns behind the Sabbatical Year. The land was not to be exhausted by overuse."

Spencer, White and Vroblesky

Leviticus 26:34-35

shows how seriously God takes comprehensive creation care. If the Israelites

will not allow the land its Sabbath, “Then the land will enjoy its sabbath

years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your

enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.”  God cares about

the Earth to the point of destroying those who destroy the Earth.11 If one truly observes the Sabbath, one

cannot remain satisfied only with one’s own redemption, restoration and

liberation. One must show concern for one’s neighbor spiritually and physically

along-side expressing genuine love toward the non-human created order.



Our

Salvation Draws Near

In The

Irresistible Revolution,
Shane Clairborne said: “What

the world needs is people who believe so much in another world that they cannot

help but begin enacting it now.”12



God’s plan to

“reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven”13

speaks volumes about God’s desire and plan that will have its final fulfillment

in the eschatological sphere. Our desire needs to be to work closely with God

for the restoration and flourishing of creation (which is groaning for that

fulfillment and final redemption as much as our bodies are groaning),14

as part of our work for the kingdom of God in order to see that fulfillment of

the Lord’s prayer become a reality, that God’s “will be done, on earth as it is

in heaven.”15



The new earth,

restored at the final consummation of history will be the pristine garden of

delight in which there will be unsurpassed beauty and which will flourish with

continual crops of fruit and whose river and trees will continually produce

life giving leaves that will heal the nations and make the original vision of

God effective and real.16 This is not a far distant place on another

galaxy, or in far away ‘heaven’, but a place on the very earth we now live on

that will be purged of the sin—and all its consequences— and renewed. And the

dwelling for God’s people will be sustainable and healthy for eternity, just as

God desired it in the first place. We need to allow that kind of Kingdom of

Glory to penetrate into the here and now of the already inaugurated Kingdom of

Grace which, by proxy, we live in today and, furthermore, anticipate soon to be

fully realized in the second appearing of our Lord Christ Jesus.



A Christian would

do well to repent from the way s/he has thought at times about the

responsibilities towards God’s creation and to pray the prayer of Walter Rauschenbusch:



“…Grant us, we pray

you, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from

being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and

unseeing when even the thorn-bush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of

God."17   



1. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity

(New York: Harper & Row. 1957), 287.

2. Nick Spencer, Robert White and Virginia Vroblesky, Christianity,

Climate Change and Sustainable Living

(Hendrickson

Publishers, 2009), 219.

3. Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh, Truth is Stranger Than

It Used to Be, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 153.

4. Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of

the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care
(Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Academic, 2001), 95.

5. Nick Spencer, Robert White and Virginia Vroblesky, Christianity,

Climate Change and Sustainable Living

(Hendrickson

Publishers, 2009), 86.

6. Bernhard Anderson, From Creation to New

Creation
(Minneapolis:

Augsburg Fortress, 1994), 139.

7. Spencer, White and Vroblesky, Christianity,

Climate Change and Sustainable Living
(2009), 91.

8. Saint Francis, In “Quotation Archives, All-creatures.org. http://all-creatures.org/quotes/francis+saint.html,(accessed April 6, 2013).

9. Exodus 23:10-12a.

10. Spencer, White and Vroblesky, Christianity,

Climate Change and Sustainable Living
(2009), 139-140.

11. Revelation 11:18.

12. Quoted in Ben Lowe, Green Revolution:

Coming Together to Care for Creation
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 11.

13. Colossians 1:20.

14. See Romans 8:18-24.

15. Matthews 6:10.

16. See Revelation 21 and 22. Furthermore, see more elaborate

exposition on this issue of the Adventist eschatological vision in Zdravko

Plantak, “For the Healing of the Nations: Repairers of Broken Walls and

Restorers of God’s Justice - Adventist Society for Religious Studies Presidential

Address 2009”, in Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol 48., No. 1. (2010): 1-11.

16. Walter Rauschenbusch, cited in The

Communion of the Saints: Prayers of the Famous
, Editor, Horton Davis, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990).

Zdravko Plantak
Dr. Zack Plantak, Chair of the Religion Department and Professor of

Christian Ethics and Theology at Washington Adventist University for 14 years,

also worked as administrator and pastor in the South England Conference for10

years. He holds a BA in Theology (Newbold College), an MA in Religion (Andrews

University) and a PhD (King’s College, University of London). Among his

published works is Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist

Social Ethics.

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