One of the many blessings I have been given through a seminary education is a greater
understanding of how theology applies to the "real world." One of those theologies, "Caring for God's Earth," has been gaining momentum in my life, thanks to a couple of classes I have taken at McCormick Theological Seminary. As some of you are aware, I performed my field studies experience at St. John's United Church in Chesterton this academic year. As part of my experience, I developed and coordinated an Earth Day Cleanup in Chesterton as about 25 people of all ages picked up litter with a special emphasis on recycling plastics. The project was extremely successful and provided great awareness of our responsibility as servants of God to be "ecologically friendly" - not just on Earth Day - but every day.
As Christians, we need not look any further than the first chapter in the Book of Genesis to find our direction from God: "Let us make humankind, in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion..." (Gen 1:26). Many of us have heard these divine words and have taken our stewardship of the Earth seriously. But the challenge is ongoing. The Earth's ozone is burning as a result of the excessive release of carbon from fossil fuels, thus compromising our protection from the powerful rays of the sun. Scientists attribute the extreme temperatures, massive flooding, more frequent earthquakes (recently in Japan) and erupting volcanoes (Hawaii) to global warming.
When I was a youngster, one of the TV commercials that made an impact on me was a public-service announcement titled, "Keep America Beautiful," where a native American had a tear roll down his cheek after witnessing the pollution in the air, the waterways, and, by eventually having trash thrown at his feet by somebody driving down the road. That commercial was made in 1971 and here we are, nearly five decades later and we still have the same problem with humans selfishly polluting God's Earth. The next time you drive on Highway 49, look to the right and look at the center strip and you will see cans, plastic and glass bottles, bags and various paper wrappers blanketing the landscape. Fortunately, I have recently noticed filled trash bags on the side of the highway as some effort is being made to clean up northwest Indiana.
As individuals, we can make a collective difference in our everyday lives. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are the three "Rs" to live by as less consumption results in less need for fossil fuels. Reusing our plastic cups and water bottles will lessen the volume of pollution and recycling maximizes our current resources so that our grandchildren's children can live sustainable lives.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans (8:20-21), "for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay."
At First Presbyterian Church and as representatives of the Valparaiso community, we also have hope - a hope that our efforts to clean the environment and live efficiently to preserve the resources of God's Earth will become copied by others and responsible caring for the Earth becomes the norm rather than the exception. Through Jesus Christ, we live by a fourth "R" - a "Rebirth" of our commitment to care for the Earth. The goals for our "dominion" to God are to provide healthy drinking water, efficiently utilize the sun's amazing energy, maximize our food resources, and keep the landscape clean in Valparaiso and across the globe for all creatures... All of God's creation.
McCormick Theological Seminary student