During the summer of 2020, I went on a hiking trip in a national park near my home. One of the most memorable parts of that trip was a 5.5-mile trek to a high and exposed rock outcropping that overlooks a valley. It was a wild, wet, and windy day, and the valley below was filled with fog. As I stood along the edge of the rock face, I could see the tops of the massive trees that filled the valley. It was magnificent. And in that moment, I had the deepest sense of the mystery and wonder of God’s creation.
After this experience I returned home determined to take more notice of the wonder of creation around me. At the same time I started to notice the litter that often lines the highways and streets near my home. It began to bother me in a new way. Not only was it an eyesore — it demonstrated a disregard for our earth, the same earth that had left me overwhelmed with gratitude and awe on my hike. So, to show my care and appreciation for one of God’s most amazing gifts, I started picking up the litter, a practice that I have continued. Not only is it a way to make my community healthier and more attractive, but I’ve started thinking of it as a spiritual discipline. Anytime I am out along the roadside with my trash bag, my mind always goes back to when I was standing on the rock outcropping, and that memory turns what is often a mundane and dirty task into one of joy. It is an opportunity to help care for what God has entrusted to me. Before I start to sound too preachy and self-righteous, however, please know that for many years, I did nothing about the litter. I ignored it and left it for someone else to deal with.
Recently, I was part of a small covenant group, and during one of our weekly meetings we engaged in a lectio divina exercise on the creation story from Genesis 1. (For more information on lectio divina, visit www.upperroom.org/resources/lectio-divina-praying-the-scriptures.) As I listened to this familiar passage of scripture, I was struck first by the magnitude of God’s creative acts and then that God gives it all to us for our stewardship and care (see Gen. 1:26-31). I have tremendous love and respect for the earth — its beauty and abundance. This love and respect has only grown over time. And more and more I see the connection between the gift of God’s creation and my responsibility to care for that gift.
While any day is a perfect day to do something good for the earth, April 22 is Earth Day in many countries — a day on which people around the world show their support for environmental stewardship. What better time to begin a new endeavor that shows our appreciation for Creation! Perhaps plant a community garden, organize a litter pick-up day, or start a recycling program at your church. If you want to explore other ideas, take a look at this article: “Create a Green Team” (www.upperroom.org/resources/create-a-green-team).
Caring for the earth responsibly is a wonderful way to give thanks to God for the amazing gift we’ve been given. I invite us to reflect on all the ways that we and our communities are being good stewards of creation. I also invite us to think about how we could be even better stewards of the earth and all that God has entrusted to our care.
Questions for Reflection:
1. When have you experienced a deep sense of gratitude for some aspect of God’s creation? How did you express your gratitude to God?
2. What responsibility do you think we have to care for the gift of God’s creation? Name one way that we can be better stewards of the earth.
3. What activities and programs does your church have that support environmental stewardship and sustainability? What ideas for new activities and programs would you suggest?