Is there a word from the Lord on the day before Earth Day – Monday, April 22?
This year, pastors have a unique opportunity to reflect on and preach about this question the day prior.
As a sermon resource for preaching on creation care, I contacted several Baptist ministers about sharing biblical texts they would use for talking about environmental stewardship.
Genesis 1-2 appeared on almost everyone’s list.
Griff Martin, co-pastor of University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., shared: “This text does exactly what good poetry should do – it ushers us back into the sanctuary of silence and awe … and can one really be in awe of creation without feeling the need to better care for it?”
Stephen Cook, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., noted that God pronounced humankind to be “very good,” commenting: “God never mistook what was very good for being perfect. And because we imperfect beings live in an imperfect world, we have certainly come up short with regard to our commission to be stewards of creation.”
He continued, “By no means will we ever get it all right, but that by no means should imply that we ought not to try for a more attentive, more responsible awareness of God’s intentions for the world.”
Michael Helms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Ga., asserted: “Man and woman … were made to ‘rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ They were to ‘fill the earth and subdue it.'”
Helms continued: “‘Subdue’ does not mean abuse. The word infers that we have a responsibility to creation.”
This, Helms said, begs the question: “Will our impact upon creation reflect what God had to say about it: ‘It was good’? If we discover that our impact on creation isn’t good, then we are not in step with God’s original intent for creation. We should be challenged to do better.”
Keith Herron, pastor of Holmswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., connected actions negatively affecting the environment to Jesus’ description of hell as “Gehenna.”
Noting that it was a place for child sacrifice and disposing of Jerusalem’s trash, Herron stated: “Jesus’ description of hell was a garbage heap! That meaning seems to say that when we destroy the creation, we’re creating a hell on earth.”
Several ministers listed texts from the Psalms praising God for creation’s beauty and grandeur.
Citing Psalm 148, Helms shared a story about a woman who made quilts for her grandchildren that were cared for very differently.
One grandchild’s quilt became a dog blanket while the others “lasted decades and became an heirloom to be passed down to the next generation.”
“When we fail to take care of creation, God’s gift to us,” Helms concluded,” we are acting like the family who allowed the dogs to make a big rag out of a precious gift.”
Martin noted that in Psalm 19 “creation sings the truth of God if we only paid attention to it. So taking care of the earth is taking care of the very voice and work of God.”
Martin also referenced Psalm 23, saying: “If we don’t take care of our world better than we have, our children will not have green pastures and still waters.”
Mike Oliver, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Madison, Ala., shared four texts focusing on care for animals, noting “the need for Christian compassion and aid to be given to animals as part of the glory of God’s creation.”
Matthew 10:26-31 “reminds us that God cares for and finds value in animals;” Joel 2:18-27 reveals that God “has noticed the plight of the animals;” Isaiah 11:1-9 proclaims “a future of peace for all creation including animals;” and Hosea 2:16-18 “indicates God is going to make a covenant with animals so that war will cease and they can live in safety.”
Connie Stinson, pastor of Luther Rice Memorial Baptist Church in Silver Spring, Md., cited 1 Corinthians 12:22-23 for its emphasis on every part of a community being indispensible for healthy, fruitful life.
Stinson urged that we “need to take care of the poor even as we enjoy the riches of our own harvests” because “taking care of our poor is a necessary part of caring for our planet.”
Finally, Cook cited the culminating vision of Revelation 21, saying: “Heaven is not a faraway place up in the clouds to which we will wind up traveling someday… . God’s dwelling is in the real world.”
“One of our tasks is to faithfully care for that which we have,” Cook continued. “If we take seriously the line of the prayer the Lord taught us to pray – that [God’s] will be “on earth as it is in heaven” – then we get to take part in making the places where we have been placed into plots of holy ground.”
I hope these responses prove to be helpful resources for the Sunday prior to Earth Day and in future efforts proclaiming the biblical basis for creation care.
Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com.