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Adopt-a-Highway Cleanup
10:00 AM
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A Message from the Pastor
Pastor

Greg Kintzi

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LEARNING TO PAY ATTENTION
TO GOD’S GOOD CREATION

“We are now living in the dawn of the future life;
For we are beginning to regain a knowledge of the creation,
A Knowledge forfeited by the fall of Adam. . .
By God’s mercy we can begin to recognize his wonderful works
and wonders also in flowers when we ponder his might and goodness. Therefore we laud, magnify, and thank him.”
-Martin Luther (Table Talk)

There’s a song by Ten Shekel Shirt which reminds me why I enjoy summer so much. The lyrics to the song are as follows:

“Something about the ocean makes me rise up and praise,
Something about the heavens makes me stand in awe again.
Something about the sunrise reminds me of your faithfulness.
Something about the ocean (your presence)
And I’m lost in love again.”

Being in the midst of God’s good creation can certainly foster feelings of love for the creator, but what about fostering feelings of love for nature itself? Should Christians look at nature as a living thing worthy of our highest affections? Most have not over the last 2000 years and many today still don’t. Of course, Christians should respect nature, use it carefully as good stewards, and even protect it, but isn’t loving it a bit extreme?

In answer to the question – “Should Christians love nature?”, Sallie McFague makes this response: “My answer is a resounding YES! Christians should love nature because the Christian God is embodied. That is what the incarnation claims. God does not despise physical reality but loves it and has become one with it. The Christian tradition is full of body language: The Word made Flesh, the bread and wine that became the body and blood of Christ, the body of the church. Physical reality, earthly reality, - bodies and nature – are central to an incarnational theology.”

“But how should we love nature? That is the more difficult and interesting question. Most people love nature in a general way and some even in a religious way. Most of us get a high from spectacular sunsets and cute panda bears, many of us have religious feelings in a cathedral of the pines. We all like to fuse with nature, enjoy oceanic feelings of oneness with it. But that is, of course, just another use of nature, a higher use than eating it or using it for recreational purposes, but a use nonetheless. Some Christians have loved nature – loved it as a way to God. . .

“I would like to suggest a different way that Christians should love nature – a way in keeping with the earthly, bodily theology suggested by the tradition’s in-carnationalism, a way that allows us to love the natural world for its intrinsic worth, to love it, in all its differences and detail, in itself, for itself. Francis of Assisi epitomizes this sensibility in his praise of the sun, moon, earth, and water as his brothers and sisters. . . Emily Dickinson suggested this way of loving nature when she wrote to a friend that the only commandment that she never broke was to ‘consider the lilies of the field’ – not to use them to decorate her yard or pick them for her table, but just consider them. How Christians should love nature is by obeying a simple but very difficult axiom: pay attention to it. . .

“We must pay attention – detailed, careful, concrete attention to the world that lies around us but is not us. We must do this because we cannot love what we do not know. This profound truism is contained in the phrase we have all uttered at some time: ‘If they really knew me, they wouldn’t love me,’ implying that only love based on real knowledge is valuable. We must, as [Iris] Murdoch says, try to see ‘The world as it is’ in order to love it. To really love nature we must pay attention to it. Love and knowledge go together, we can’t have the one without the other.”

If you are wondering how a person might do this, the simplest way to go about it is to find a comfortable spot outdoors and set about a chunk of time to observe what it going on – say ten to fifteen minutes. You will be surprised to see how much activity is taking place right under your nose when you are paying attention. Or you could invest in a pair of binoculars and do some bird watching. Join a club where people who are more experienced can show you the ropes. Before long you will be able to pick out the species which are common to your area and know from firsthand experience where to track down their habitat. Or you might try taking a photograph or painting or a picture or drawing a sketch of some place outdoors. These creative ventures will help you see anew what has always been right outside your door or window. The key is to make the activities regular parts of your routine not occasional or in frequent attempts at observing the natural world.

The earth and its waters support an estimated 8.7 million species (many of which we are losing at a most alarming rate). This 8.7 million includes almost 10,000 species of birds and more than 200,000 species of sea life.

All of these creatures live on about 57 million square miles of dry land surrounded by about 140 million square miles of ocean and 165 major rivers. It amazes me that our island home can support so much life, much of it, completely invisible to us. I am amazed that so much life came from a single organism, changing and multiplying and coming to fruition as creatures as diverse as finches and tigers, sharks and bacteria, fruit flies & human beings.

It is worth reflecting on these vast numbers of species from time to time to gain a better sense of our place in the wonderfully complex web of life we call planet earth. Only if we are willing to take the time to pay attention to the natural world around us will we be able to know what to do when the environmental crisis’ all around us begin expanding and multiplying. As Peter Parker said so profoundly in the Spiderman series of comics – “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

Your Fellow Pilgrim on the Journey,
Pastor Greg Kintzi