Over the course of the next 3 Sunday’s, we will have an opportunity to engage with the theme of Creation & Stewardship, beginning this week as we look at the basis of our role and responsibility as Christians in this world which God so lovingly created. This will focus on our engagement with the flora and fauna that are so vital to ecology. In next week’s All Age Worship service, the focus will be on how as Christians we are to engage with one another, thinking especially of the nurture of children and young people. The final week will introduce some suggestions for faith in action as we seek to do theology and apply Biblical teaching.
The Bible begins by declaring that God is the Creator of all that exists. We see that set out so clearly in our reading from Genesis, and the logical order of creation with days of forming and days of filling. We see that in how Genesis celebrates everything that God created as being “good”, and how God wanted to lovingly bless everything that he created. We see that re-emphasised in Psalm 24:1 which states “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
The astonishing fact is we are called to be stewards of God’s creation. In Biblical times, it wasn’t unusual for landowners to appoint a servant to manage and oversee their assets. These people were in effect stewards. We are called to be stewards and overseers of God’s creation – and that responsibility is implicit in being a Christian and the outworking of our faith. So, what does stewardship mean in our context today? Stewardship is a God-given responsibility with associated accountability. It is something that applies to every aspect of our life – we are called to be stewards of our time, our talents, and our resources – whether financial or otherwise. Equally importantly, we are called to be stewards of this planet. That isn’t something we do in isolation – instead, it is something that is integral to being Church and, in the family, or community of Church. We are responsible to God, to one another and to the world of which we are part.
As stewards, humankind was given 3 specific responsibilities in creation:
- To provide, through the command to “tend” or “work” the garden, an indication that work was a part of God’s plan from the beginning (Genesis 2:15)
- To protect, through the divine directive to “keep”, “guard” or “take care of” the garden; and
- To lead, through the decision-making responsibility (Genesis 2:16-17) – but in a way that is consistent with us being made in God’s image and likeness.
The responsibility we have in caring for and nurturing the environment as we demonstrate Godly leadership can be missionally compelling. That responsibility hasn’t ended. Yet history shows us that we have failed to fulfil that responsibility, and not surprisingly we now begin to suffer the consequences through Climate Change making droughts, floods and storms more frequent and severe, the terrible problem of plastic pollution and extinction of many species. Climate change is actually hitting people in poverty the hardest. We have abused our power and responsibility in exercising dominion over and subduing creation, because of our lack of understanding of that responsibility and because of sin.
The science is clear: the climate crisis is being caused by us, especially us in developed nations, and the impacts are accelerating. We are running out of time to prevent the worst effects. We have to act fast and change the way we live, and governments have to be much more ambitious. But right now, we have a unique window of opportunity. How the government chooses to rebuild after the pandemic will shape our economy, climate and society in the decades to come. This is a crucial moment. In the Bible, Jesus tells us the most important commandments are to love God and to love our neighbours. Tackling the climate crisis is vital to both of these – honouring God by protecting his creation and loving our global neighbours who are hit first and worst by what is now a climate emergency.
It isn’t surprising that the Anglican Communion has established “Five Marks of Mission”, with the last of these stating our goal is, “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. In simple terms, the way that we as Christians engage and interact with the created world is missional. As a Church, collectively we have a moral and theological obligation to review our lifestyles to seek to fulfil our responsibilities as stewards of creation. How are we striving to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?
There is a plethora of guidance available online about how we can reduce our energy and plastic usage, live more mindfully of the impact we have on this planet, and learn to become good, wise and effective stewards. Amen