Cultivating the sustainable, with reflections from Amy L. Sherman’s book, Agents of Flourishing
Celebrating Earth Day & Glorifying God, Together
Caring for creation has been central to humanity’s vocation from the begining
People all around the world will unite in celebrating Earth Day this Saturday, April 22. Founded in 1970 as a day of education and service, Earth Day’s date was initially selected to maximize the number of university students who could participate.
While Earth Day is a relatively recent holiday, caring for creation is a continuation of the work to which God has called humanity from the beginning. In Genesis 2:15 we read: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” As work is part of God’s original plans for humanity, so, too, is caring for the earth and all its creatures. Indeed, God designed creation and humanity to flourish in mutually dependent ways.
God’s concern for the earth is not only so that it might serve human interests, however. The goal of creation care is so that it might fully reflect God’s glory. “The creation has intrinsic goodness because God made it and called it good,” CFB Fellow Amy L. Sherman notes in her book, Agents of Flourishing. “It exists for his glory” (248).
Throughout history, faithful worshippers and scholars alike have upheld the significance of God’s creation in revealing God’s glory. As the psalmist proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps 19:1). Or, as the reformer Martin Luther wrote: “Good writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and the clouds and stars.”
Protecting the earth from pollution and degradation has been God’s call from humanity’s earliest days. In diverse ways, human sin has damaged creation’s original reflection of God’s glory. An essential part of humanity’s vocation is to cultivate creation’s God-glorifying nature.
Offering imagination-stirring examples from Los Angeles and Baltimore, Sherman notes two communities committed to creation care as part of their faithful witness, along with lessons learned. For congregants at The Church of the Redeemer in South LA, responding to God’s local call included leading two major city initiatives: removing a dangerous liquor store whose presence brought crime and violence to their community, and removing an oil company’s drilling operation that was contaminating their neighborhood and its inhabitants. These efforts flowed naturally from the church’s theology of place and commitments to its neighbors, “bringing foretastes of heaven to earth.”
“We pray for God’s kingdom to come to our neighborhood [and] its not pie in the sky. It’s about the shalom and the justice of God and the kingdom here and now. Can we really say we’re loving our neighbors if these kinds of things are happening and we just don’t care about it?” (266).
In Baltimore, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, senior pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, has worked to connect Black farmers throughout New England with food distribution channels to address urban food deserts in Baltimore, disproportionately impacting people of color.
“We do not see [this work] as an optional add-on to our understanding of the Christian faith,” Pastor Brown says. “It is central to who we are as a community” (279).
May the examples of The Church of the Redeemer in LA, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Maryland, and many others around the world inspire new ways of pursuing God’s call to care for the earth and all its inhabitants—this Earth Day and beyond.
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