Perspectives: Appreciating nature and our stewardship of the world
Published 3:19 pm, Friday, May 19, 2017
What about global warming? What about the environment? What about creation?
These are questions of the moment from a political perspective, a personal perspective and a theological perspective. In the traditions of Judaism and Christianity, there is a strong commitment to the meaning and stewardship of the creation. The Book of Genesis tells the story of creation in a poetic and hymnic way. The psalms continue the tradition of singing about the glory of creation. In the New Testament, Jesus often uses agricultural and creation images about the goodness and growth of the Kingdom of God.
In the Christian year, tomorrow is a Sunday that has been devoted to the creation, thanksgiving for its bounty and the responsibility of its stewardship. It is called “Rogation” Sunday and emerged in the very early Middle Ages.
On this Sunday, people would march out into the fields to give thanks for the bounty of creation, pray for protections from famine and disaster and bless the newly planted crops. All of this was a way of reminding ourselves that creation is a gift to which we must pay attention and for which we must offer thanks.
This has continued through the centuries, although the processions tended to be minimized by Protestants at the time of the Reformation. In our own time, awareness of and concern for the creation has accelerated. We know the effects of pollution and violation of the environment. It’s science, but if I might use the stock phrase — “It’s not rocket science.” We know firsthand about droughts, deluges, floods, fires and rising waters, even in our own community.
Yes, this has important political and policy ramifications to it. But right now, I am thinking more about the faith ramifications. Do we intentionally offer thanks to the creator for the creation? Are we doing everything we can to be good stewards of the creation and environment?
When we are in the midst of the creation, do we have the presence of mind and heart to be thankful and aware that this is truly a remarkable gift and, indeed, that we had better take care of it?
When I attended the American seminary, the whole community would conduct a Rogation procession on the farm that the institution owned as part of its properties. Out we would go in great solemnity, singing psalms and hymns, blessing animals and crops and praying our hearts out.
One year we did all of this, but the farmer had forgotten to lock the gate that kept the resident bull from coming into the other fields. We don’t know what made that bull unhappy… it may have been the singing or the processing (but we actually believed it was the incense that made this bull see red.) At any rate, he charged, we dispersed, and as some of us were catching our breath, one student said, “Well, no one will forget this Rogation Day!”
Whatever tradition of faith or absence of tradition in which we find ourselves, I hope that “no one will forget this Rogation Day.” What I mean is this… I hope none of us will forget the gift of creation, the stewardship of creation, the responsibility of creation and the joy of creation.
We can’t keep wandering around oblivious to the gift, to the dangers at hand or to the responsibility we all share. No, we need to join the procession, walk the walk, move in the march of awareness and action. Here’s an Episcopal prayer for all of us…
“O merciful creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence, and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts… Amen.”