And God Saw That It Was Good
(Genesis 1: 1-31)
Earlier this year I read a book by historian Douglas Brinkley entitled: Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America. In a book review by The New York Times, they open with the observation, Franklin D. Roosevelt was many great things: our greatest economic president, pulling the United States out of the Depression; our greatest foreign policy president, leading the country to victory during World War II. But he was something else, too: our greatest environmental president, leaving a larger mark on the warp and weft of the American landscape, for good and ill, than any chief executive, before or since. During his presidency, Roosevelt created 140 national wildlife refuges; established 29 national forests and 29 national parks and monuments; and enrolled 3.4 million men in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built 13,000 miles of trails, planted more than two billion trees and paved 125,000 miles of roads. Roosevelt saw where society was headed if it did not learn to respect nature. He fought for clean air and water regulations and for continuing to fund the C.C.C. as a way of instilling a sense of ecological responsibility. And he envisioned global environmental stewardship as a core mission of the United Nations he was putting in place at the time of his death. In a 1940 speech in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Roosevelt implored: We slashed our forests, we used our soils, we encouraged floods, all of this so greatly that we were brought rather suddenly to face the fact that unless we gave thought to the lives of our children and grandchildren, they would no longer be able to live and improve upon our American way of life. Roosevelt saw what God had created and saw that it was good.
This is where we find ourselves in today’s scripture reading. We find ourselves at the beginning. When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters. God said, Let there be light. And so light appeared. God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. God named the light Day and the darkness Night. There was the evening and there was morning: the first day. Then, God, in a very orderly and methodical fashion, went about creating what we affectionately refer to as “Mother Earth”. On the second day God separated the waters and created the sky. On the third day God had the waters come together so dry land could form. God named the dry land Earth, and the gathered waters Seas and he saw how good it was. God then let the earth grow plant life, plants yielding seeds and trees bearing fruit and saw how good it was. God then said, Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days and years. And that’s what happened, God created the stars, sun and moon and saw how good it was. Then on the fifth day God created all the creatures in the sea and all the birds of the air, each according to its own kind. When he saw how good it was he blessed them and said, Be fertile and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth. On day six God said, Let the earth produce every kind of living thing: livestock, crawling things, and wildlife. When God saw how good it was he then said, Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth. And that’s what God did, he created humanity in his own divine image, creating both male and female. God blessed them and said to them, Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground. Then God said, I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground, to everything that breathes, I give all the green grasses for food. And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made; it was supremely good.
What is amazing to me is that if you look back at the logical progression of how God did all this, it fits in nicely with how the scientists say the earth was created, yet this biblical account was written thousands of years ago. Although we may not understand the complexity of just how God did it, it is clear that God did create all life.
When God delegated some of his authority to the human race, he expected us to take responsibility for the environment and the other creatures that share our planet. Did you catch that? The creatures share the planet with us, and it is our responsibility to maintain their environment. We must not be careless and wasteful as we fulfill this charge. God was careful how he made the earth and we must not be careless about how we take care of it. So, where do we fall as Methodists on the issue of taking care of God’s creation? Well, in the Social Principles section of our Book of Discipline, paragraph 160, it says, All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all God’s creation.
So how do we do that? Well, first we start at home by thinking green and making those simple lifestyle adjustments that are less wasteful and reduce our carbon footprint. We then, as a local church, think of ways we can create an attitude of good stewardship of God’s magnificent creation. We do what we can as a church to be more energy efficient and conscious of our environmental impact. As the Book of Discipline implies, we have to get political in our thinking. We must convince those who seek office to make the decisions that affect us all to base their decisions on what is best for the environment and not the bottom line or what some special interest wants. This starts locally with our county officials, port commissioners, and the public utility district commissioners. It then rises to our state officials, the people who represent us in Olympia and then on to the national level to those who make the decisions as to how our natural resources are regulated here and around the world. We need to take every opportunity to make our voices heard that as Christians and United Methodists we are very concerned about the only planet we have and that we are serious about the charge God gave to us to be his overseers of all he created that he saw was good.
The words and admonition of Franklin Roosevelt ring as true today as they did 78 years ago, when in the face of all they had done to harm the environment, they were forced to face the fact that unless they gave thought to the lives of their children and grandchildren, they would no longer be able to live and to improve upon our American way of life. It’s not just for the good of America. The whole of God’s supreme creation depends on it.
Please pray with me.
Most wonderful God, creator of the universe and all that is in it, keep us mindful of the responsibilities we have as the stewards of all that you have created for not only our benefit but for the benefit of the creatures that share the planet with us. As we are a part of that creation that you saw was good move us to live lives that are respectful of your creation and to do all that is within our power and capabilities to protect and preserve the beauty of this earth and all that is within it. Instill upon us the duty to manage our resources in such a manner that our children, grandchildren and future generations will be able to marvel at the wonder of your creation as we have been so privileged. In the name of all that is good and holy we pray, amen.