In the Beginning: Caring for Creation

Audio will be coming along shortly. Until then, you can read the manuscript after the jump.

Caring for Creation
Genesis 1:26-28
September 13, 2009

This past Thursday evening was Open House night at Cowan Elementary. Growing up, Open House was a big deal. We got to show off our classroom and introduce our parents to our teachers, even though it was very likely that they already knew each other. And we’d show off the special things we made for our parents in recognition of their visit to Open House.

The same thing happened Thursday. The kids were so excited to show off their desks and their classrooms. Alyson’s class spent time working on introductions earlier in the day. And when we were there, we were introduced to her teacher. Aiden’s class dressed up the chairs at their desks with their own clothes and drew pictures of their faces to make it look like they themselves were sitting there. It was a pretty cool concept. Both of them bounced around through their classrooms, excited to give us the grand tour.

Although I know there are other school districts that have more funding and have much more technology, but walking around Cowan reminds me that things have come a long way technologically since even I was in elementary school. Each classroom has a computer and there’s also a computer lab where the students are taught reading and comprehension skills at their own pace and older students are even allowed to do guided Internet research in the new computer lab. Several classrooms even have their own TVs.

It’s amazing how accessible technology has become today.  The biggest piece of media technology we had in our elementary school classrooms was a film strip projector. And it was the highlight of our educational experience. When you had a film strip presentation in your classroom, it was a good day at school, regardless of the rest of the events of the day.

If you’re not familiar with film strips, it’s literally a strip of 35mm film that would have about 30-50 images on it. You’d thread the strip through the projector and would have to manually advance the film to the next image.[1] And it was always a big deal to be chosen to be the one to turn the knob that advanced the film.[2] Some of them were just images and text. But the more advanced film strip presentations were synchronized to an audio tape with a narrator and background music. If you were the lucky duck who got to run the projector, you had to pay attention for the loud “beep,” telling you it’s time to move on to the next picture.

Film strips would cover a wide range of topics. Some were about nature. Others were about health and personal hygiene. Sometimes they were merely copies of storybooks, but the images were larger than life, flickering on the screen. And you wouldn’t have to squint to see the pictures like you would if the teacher was merely reading from a book.

One film strip I remember in particular was from the First Grade. Well, I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but I do remember the message. There were these giant insects, including big red ants that had taken over the Earth. And humans were forced to search the stars, looking for another world to call home. This was all because we had trashed our planet and made it uninhabitable.

That was the message at one point in the last few decades: we’re going to overfill our landfills and have nowhere else to put our trash. We’re eventually going to have to relocated to Mars or the Moon because we didn’t take care of our planet.

I also remember that there were times when we were told that the pollutants we were releasing were going to make our atmosphere so thick that we weren’t going to be able to get enough sunlight and it was going to cause a massive global cooling. There might even be another great ice age.

Then there was the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer. Because of the products we were using that were made with chlorofluorocarbons, including Styrofoam cups, we were causing this big hole over Antarctica. And if we didn’t do something quickly, the entire ozone layer was going to disappear, leaving us exposed to dangerous doses of sunlight that is usually filtered through our atmosphere.

And now there’s the global warming debate. Some argue that if we don’t do something quickly, the polar ice caps are going to melt. And it will rain less, leading to the expansion of subtropical deserts. The decrease in rain will also lead to lower farm yields and the extinction of many species. It is also argued that it will also lead to an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events, like hurricanes, blizzards, and typhoons.[3]

We’ve heard so many different stories about how we’re destroying the earth. Some of these stories and theories certainly contradict each other. I mean, can we really have global warming and global cooling at the same time? All of the hype and discussion about “Save the Planet” and “Go Green” has led to many to one of two different reactions. Some have jumped on the bandwagon, so to speak, and have dedicated their lives to slowing the rate of global climate change. Some of these people have elevated the planet and nature to a level of god-like status, worshiping creation more than the Creator. On the other extreme, some people have tuned out the discussion altogether. Whenever they hear something about the climate or “green” technology, or recycling, or anything like that, they want to go grab they chainsaws and a big Styrofoam cup of coffee, hop in their gas-guzzling clunker and drive to a forest and cut down a bunch of trees…just out of spite.

I get it. Talking about care for God’s creation leads to a broad spectrum of reactions. And we can get things out of proportion and lose perspective. When we do that, it can lead to either abuse or worship of the very thing God created.

So let’s take a few moments and attempt to keep things in the proper perspective. If you have your Bible with you, please turn with me to Genesis 1:26. If you don’t have your Bible with you, you’re welcome to use the one in the pew in front of you. Genesis 1:26 is found on page 1 of those red Bibles.

We’ve been looking into the opening chapters of the story of God that continues to unfold. Last week, we were reminded that we were created in God’s image. And because we were created in the likeness of the Creator, one of the things we were made to do is use the creativity that is within us to glorify Him. After God created man in His image, He gave them this charge:

Read Genesis 1:26-28

This isn’t about global warming or global cooling. It isn’t about whether the landfills are going to overflow or how much damage we’re really doing to the rainforest. I don’t care if you believe the recent conclusions about climate change are rock-solid or if you believe they’re nothing more than junk science. It’s not about fear or scare tactics.

This is about stewardship. God made all of creation for His pleasure and His glory. And He placed us here as caretakers of that creation. We are here, not just as citizens of the planet, but to maintain it and make use of it, joining creation in singing the praises of the Master Creator.

What does it mean to be good stewards of God’s creation? First, it means we respect our fellow human beings. Remember, your neighbor was also created in the image of God. It means appreciating the gifts we have in creation and not wasting or exploiting them. We cannot honor the God of creation if we dishonor what He created. We must accept creation as a gift and guard it as a precious treasure, investing it for the glory of God. [4]

When God placed creation under the direction of our ancestors, He put them and their descendants (including us) under the obligation to value His gifts and use them carefully for His glory. God created everything for His glory and for our enjoyment and use. We must always see ourselves as stewards in God’s world – not the owners of it. To destroy creation and waste its bounties is to sin against God.[5]

We’re commanded to worship God, love others, and use things for God’s glory and the benefit of others. When we get this order confused and out of whack, then God’s creation suffers. We cannot elevate creation to the status of God, creating an idol of the very thing He created. But we also cannot view God’s creation in a status lower than it was intended. We cannot allow ourselves to abuse and take advantage of the beautiful gift that God has given us.

Today’s Grandparents Day. And Grandparents, you know what this is like. Children are a gift from God. And you know that you only have them with you for a very short time. During that time, you’ve been given the responsibility to train up your children in the ways they should go and to be lifelong followers of Jesus Christ. You have been given a responsibility to take care of them and provide for them and love them. But they’re really not yours. They’re God’s children. And as parents and grandparents, you’ve been given charge of caring for His children.

In a very similar way, we’ve been given charge of caring for creation.  God loves His creation. He said it was good. He wants us, as stewards of His creation, to use it lovingly. The Psalmist reminds us in the 145th Psalm, “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made…The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made…The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.” As those placed in charge of caring for God’s creation, we cannot exploit and destroy the creation that He loves.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be concerned about environmental issues. Not out of fear. Not out of some desire to “Save the planet.” But because we’ve been charged for caring for this creation that God called good.

Followers of Jesus Christ should be the most concerned about the rate of pollution in our world and we need to be doing our part to help solve the problem. We have been given resources, but we cannot waste them. If the world sees that we are careful about looking after God’s creation, then they will see that we are making a statement and are testifying about our God. They will see that we love Him and all that He has made.

So what does that mean for you? It really can be different for each person. I’d imagine that most of us could conserve more power. Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room. Keep the television and radios turned off when not using them. I know our family needs to do better at practicing these little things.

And although it got a lot of grief as a poor energy policy back in November, making sure your tires are properly inflated will help your fuel efficiency.

Reusing and recycling are buzz words right now, but they’re good buzz words to follow. The average American will spend 8 full months of his life going through junk mail. The amount of junk mail you receive in one year amounts to about 1 ½ trees. Why not recycle that junk mail instead of throw it away?

These are just a few simple things. They’re not the answer to the end of the abuse of God’s creation, but it can be a start. And as stewards of God’s creation, we’ve got to start somewhere, right?

God’s creation is singing praises to Him. Let us join their song by caring for His creation the way He intended for us to do.

Proper care and concern for God’s creation stems from your relationship with our Father in Heaven. If you are here this morning and you have not begun a relationship with Him…if you haven’t acknowledged that you’ve tried to do life on your own for far too long and that Jesus Christ truly is Lord over all…including your life…then you’re invited to make that confession today. You’re invited to come forward during this hymn of invitation (Hymn #     ) and take the first steps of being obedient to His call. If you’ve never taken those steps and participated in the symbolic death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism, you’re invited to do so today.

If you’re already a follower of Jesus and you’ve been looking for a church home and you know that Cowan Christian Church is the community where you should be plugging in and getting involved as a member of this body of believers, you’re invited to come forward during this time as well. We will welcome you with open arms and we will join the song of creation together and praise His name together.

[1] Here’s a picture of a film projector



[4] W. Wiersbe, Be Basic, p. 31-32

[5] Ibid. 49-50

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