11.16.2007

Another bite of the apple?

For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists,
nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works;
but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air,
or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water,
or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods,
let them know how much better than these is their Lord,
for the author of beauty created them.
And if people were amazed at their power and working,
let them perceive from them
how much more powerful is the one who formed them.
For from the greatness and beauty of created things
comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
Yet these people are little to be blamed,
for perhaps they go astray
while seeking God and desiring to find him.
For while they live among his works, they keep searching,
and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.
Yet again, not even they are to be excused;
for if they had the power to know so much
that they could investigate the world,
how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things? - Wis. 13:1-9
I have spent the first days of this week with colleagues at our synod's Bishop's Convocation focusing on a wonderful interplay of the creation story, the peril we have placed that creation in, and our own self-care (or lack thereof) as created beings in the image of a Creator. With that conversation rolling through my brain, this reading from the apocryphal Book of Wisdom seems both prescient and, well, wise.

Few of us today view the earth and its elements or the inhabitants of the cosmos to be gods -- if we did our planet would be in far less peril. I have to admit that I have often viewed the environment as the sets and lighting for the stage on which my life unfolds -- when I think of it at all. American culture has tended to look at the environment as a background, with little intrinsic value, and at our society's worst we have seen nature as a conquered land to plunder.

Wisdom reminds us that creation is a sign of the Creator. The complex interplay of species and habitats, the self-renewing cycles of nature, the abundance of resources and the creativity to use them wisely all point to a God who provides lavishly for his world and people, who seeks wholeness and interconnectedness.

In his Bible study this week, Bob Robinson of LTSP reminded us that there is a connection between our status as creatures in the image of God and our charge to exercise dominion over the earth. As God's reflections our call is to respect the order and harmony of the creation, and to remember our interconnectedness -- humanity was not created in its own "day," but we are connected with all creatures on land, and our fates are inextricably tied to theirs and to the creation we live in. While the words -- dominion, subdue -- reflect the behavior of victorious kings, which wasn't pretty in the time the text was written, he noted that God, through Jesus, exercised a very different kind of kingship that must flow over into our relationship with the earth.

Unfortunately, many of us - myself included - think of care of the creation as something that we add on to our existing lifestyles rather than as a call to radically reform our behavior. The plundering of Africa and other colonies for precious resources, the developed world's addiction to oil, my (and our) ever expanding carbon footprints -- all point to the fact that we all are tied into an economy that sees no limits to what it will do in order to grow. Brian McLaren points out this refusal to live within our environmental, moral and social means in his latest book, Everything Must Change, and goes so far to call the system "suicidal." And in terms of the effects, he is right. Most of us don't have a conscious desire to kill our planet and ourselves, but we behave in ways that make that outcome likely.

At this late date, so long after the Fall, you and I remain in the Garden. Though it is no longer pristine and perfect, it is still God's. We're still choosing every day -- purchasing, heating, cooling, driving, lighting, disposing -- whether to take on God's role of determining what is good and what is evil, or living as creatures in the image of God who respect the order and beauty that we have been placed in the midst of. The apple is sugared over in American pie, and the serpent is you and me, our desire to consume and control. How much longer will we keep gorging ourselves?

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