Joan Chittister’s “The Monastery of the Heart” provides much wisdom about our need to care for and preserve creation.
Her reflections in a chapter called “Co-Creation” are particularly insightful and needed in a world that too often sees creation as a resource to be exploited rather than preserved and cultivated.
“We know now in new ways that the earth and all its fruits are not for our exploitation, they are for our care,” she writes. “We are co-creators with God of what creation has left unfinished … Co-creation … requires us to tend the land and conserve the waters, to till the garden and protect the animals, to use the things of the earth in ways that enhance all life now – and preserve them for later generations as well.”
Chittister later asserts, “The human-centered view of creation is a stunted one. It fails to recognize … [that creation] reflects the full face of God rather than simply our own.”
This last line I find particularly insightful. How we choose to care for the earth and look at it will, in the end, determine what others see.
Obviously, creation is meant to be a reflection of God’s face or glory, not ours. By failing to take seriously our role as co-creators with God, we have marred or dimmed the reflection that is meant to be seen.
Too many people have looked at the earth and its resources as something to be exploited. The earth is not viewed as sacred or understood to be God’s other book of revelation.
Instead, it is basically seen as something to be consumed or used for financial gain.
I remember once being at Camp Denali in Denali National Park with a group many years ago. After a day or two, we were asked what we thought of the park.
Most people spoke of the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and how blessed we are to have such a place to visit.
One person indicated that what he saw was a whole lot of land that could be developed. Apparently, some people just don’t get it.
We desperately need more people today who will accept their God-given role as co-creator.
For people willing to do so, Chittister offers this advice. “We are called to listen to nature as well as to one another, to hear its groans and till its gardens, to nurture its young and maintain the purity of its air, until we ourselves become the voices for life in everything everywhere.”
She adds, “To do that, we must become part of the liturgy of life, treating as holy everything we touch, regarding as sacred every being alive, intent on preserving the best of what is – while we use our science and technology to protect, defend and enhance them all.”
It seems obvious to me that so many of the decisions being made by the U.S. Congress, and by government officials in other nations, do not take into consideration the sacredness of the earth.
They either do not know or do not care that the Scriptures say, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
The earth is not ours to do with as we please. We do not own it; it belongs to God. Our task is to be co-creators with God and stewards of the world we live in.
Until more people come to understand this and act upon it, I fear that the face many people will see reflected in the world will continue to be not God’s but our own.
Chuck Summers is a pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Henderson, Kentucky. He is also a photographer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines and calendars; he has published three photography books. A version of this article first appeared on Seeing Creation, a blog Summers co-authors with Rob Sheppard, and is used with permission.
Chuck Summers is a pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Henderson, Kentucky.