by Craig Foster
In my role as a deacon and as an engineer I have heard this question asked and discussed over the last several years. Quite frankly, I have allowed myself to get bogged down in this type of debate. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, at a recent Earth Keeping Summit sponsored by Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, did an excellent job separating the concept of belief and fact (http://www.ohipl.org/earthkeeping-summit-2014/). Hebrews 11 tells us belief, or faith, is a “…. conviction of things not seen.” Science, on the other hand, is the substance of reality, the here and now, evidence of what we do see. So thank you Dr. Hayhoe for helping me get out of pointless debates. The facts are that our island home is warming, our climate is changing, and the actions of humans are the tipping point for this change. These are facts, whether I “believe” something or not.
But what do I believe about caring for God’s creation? The engineer in me is totally focused on the second part of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light organization mission statement.
“The mission of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light (OhIPL) is to empower a religious response to climate change and to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. We focus on tangible results in religious communities–putting our faith into action.”
My whole career has focused in one way or another on promoting conservation, efficiency, and the use of renewables. And I get very excited when we go beyond the analysis, and building owners or houses of worship take tangible action.
But the deacon in me (to be honest, the engineer as well) desires to empower a response to climate change that can prevent the more serious ill affects human kind will face. Those of us producing climate change, the USA, China, and Northern Europe, among others, are casing changes that the least of the world is ill prepared t deal with. Why do I have this desire and from where does it come? In some ways, I am not sure. But in a recent sabbatical time, many things did become clear as I reflected on the why of my involvement in creation care.
I grew up in the Episcopal Church and was the youngest child in my family. Since the next oldest was three years older than me, I did spend much time alone with my mother, bugging her, and asking questions. I also have many memories of just wondering around the neighborhood as an eight or ten year old considering these conversations. I remember asking Mom on several occasions “Where is God?”. Her response, without fail was always “God is everywhere”. I can still picture myself standing in our housing development or in the nearby wooded areas considering that and being filled with wonder as I considered the concept that God is everywhere. What a gift my mother gave me by answering in that way.
And now, as life has progressed, I find myself gaining great comfort in knowing that God is right beside me, at all times, in all ways. I find the proof of that presence in the sunshine coming through my window as I write, in the sound of the cardinal singing his spring songs, and in the beauty I see as I travel around God’s wonderful creation we call earth. I find God’s presence next to me when I set the table for communion or pray with a parishioner on a street corner about her addiction. God’s presence is a blessing in my life.
One of the key “outputs” of my sabbatical time was the realization that I pray best while in motion. I realized that in the busy-ness of life I had developed the habit of praying with the radio off while driving the car and that no method of sitting contemplatively still and praying ever worked for me on a regular basis. It also became clear as a remembered my boyhood times, that not only wandering around the neighborhood, but on vacation always on a camping trip, that I love to be outside. I realize I feel God’s presence in my life best when I am in God’s creation without a building wall separating me.
And this returns me to the question, “What do I believe about caring for God’s creation?”.
I focus on Genesis 1:26-27. This is where God gives humankind dominion over all of the earth, fish and birds, cattle and wild animals, every creeping thing that creeps. It is also where we are reminded we are created in God’s image, male and female, God created us. In preparing this reflection I find that sometime in the last twenty-five years I underlined this note in my Oxford Annotated NRSV Bible “Together men and women, made in the image of God, share the task of being God’s stewards on earth.” And that says it all. I have felt, I have survived by the knowledge and faith that God is beside me, ever present to me, all day, every day. I love God for that. And God calls us to respond in love by caring for God’s creation, by caring for the fish, the plants, the birds, the cattle, all things creeping, and even our fellow humans.
Said another way, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-38).
I find no better way to show my love for God, for my neighbor, and for myself than by caring for God’s creation. That is how I respond to the two great commandments on which hang “ all the law and the prophets”. Thank you Lord for giving some few gifts to do my small part in caring for your creation.
The Reverend Craig Foster is Deacon and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio and Technical Consultant for Ohio Interfaith Power and Light
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