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Spiritual Growth

Care of the Earth: A Reflection

By Glory E. Dharmaraj

“Most of us talk “green,” and act “brown.” –Sallie McFague, Life Abundant

Scripture Genesis 9: 8-17, Proverbs 8: 22-31.

Hymn # 122 (United Methodist Hymnal)

Butterfly Effect

  • Care for the whole is a God-thing.
  • Connectedness of all creation is a God-thing.
  • Seeing this connection is a stewardship thing on our part.
  • Celebrating this connectedness is a call for earthlings such as we are.

Madeleine L’Engle, a writer, mother, and a grandmother, has captured this connectedness in an awe-inspiring simplicity from her country house in Crosswicks in Connecticut. In her book, A Stone for a Pillow, L’Engle says, “In a recent article on astrophysics I came across the beautiful and imaginative concept known as 'the butterfly effect.' If a butterfly winging over the fields around Crosswicks should be hurt, the effect would be felt in galaxies thousands of light years away. The interrelationship of all Creation is sensitive in a way we are just beginning to understand. If a butterfly is hurt, we are hurt.”

Creation is connected to the heart of God.

  • God is the God of the sparrow
  • God of the whale
  • God of the rainbow
  • God of the Cross
  • God of the empty grave (United Methodist Hymnal 122).

No little sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge of God, the Creator (Matthew 10: 29). The sparrow, the whale, the rainbow, the cross, the empty grave, and the butterflies are a host of symbols to the signature of God, writ across the connectional chain of creation. 

Rainbow: Love in Action (Genesis 9:8-17)

  • A new creation is a sign of hope.
  • A new heaven and a new earth are signs of faith. 
  • The rainbow covenant is the Eternal Lover’s love in action.
  • The rainbow is God’s promise of peace at the wake of a climate disaster.

Genesis 9: 8-17 is the story of how God uses the rainbow as God’s promise of peace that never again will God send a flood for a total annihilation of human kind and created things. It is a story of God’s renewal of love with God’s creation and created beings. 

The rainbow covenant is God-initiated. It is a covenant that reminds us, earthlings, of how God brings into this rainbow arc, the birds, the animals, every living creature, and human beings. It is a reminder also that we take our place in this home called earth, along with other non-human living beings.

In his sermon, “The New Creation,” John Wesley lifts up the image of a new creation, a restored and renewed image where God makes all things new. It is a newness we have not yet seen, but those who are in love with God can see through their baptized eyes.

Building the Ark for Climate Healing (Romans 8:19-22)

For the renewal of the earth, we are called to be co-workers with God in a time such as this.

  • It is a. time to hear earth’s groaning
  • A time to feel the climate crisis
  • A time to see the earth at risk.
  • A time to come out as children of God
  • And to stand in solidarity with the groaning earth.

 A Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament story of the rainbow covenant reinforces that, for the sake of climate healing, we take a stance on behalf of the earth at risk. Today, the flood of fire is overtaking us, in the form of global warming, the melting polar ice caps, snow caps of mountains, gorgeous glaciers, the rising of seas and oceans. This interpretation calls for an accompanying action saying, “All of us must build the Ark to save humanity and all endangered life-forms. The Rainbow Sign calls us to do this work of transformation,” says Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

We need to take actions in order to avert destruction and disaster, and save the web of life, so complexly and delicately created and sustained. The connected creation is the handiwork of God. As stewards of this creation, care for the whole is our shared responsibility.

Woman Wisdom & Human Folly

Read Proverbs 8: 22-31.Woman Wisdom is presented as the beloved child of God engaged in a shared task of creation work. Woman Wisdom is presented as assisting God, the Great Architect. Wisdom builds, along with God. So should we, co-workers with God. While the Book of Proverbs lifts up Woman Wisdom, it also places the damaging work of Woman Folly. The personification of human folly in this figure is meant to be a warning to us, the readers.

Human folly destroys. It sets us against the universe, and the community of living beings. Today, the earth’s atmosphere holds about 385 parts per million of carbon dioxide, a high level brought by the emissions of heat-trapping gases from cars, industries, power plants, and other factors. Folly traps us in the carbon emissions of our own creation, in the only one home given to human family, the earth. The number 350 stands for the amount of carbon dioxide that climate crisis experts consider a safe level in the atmosphere. We have a chance to limit human folly’s destruction of the earth, and set a cap to the limits to the damage done to the atmosphere.

End Times & Today

Some tend to think that the end times are near, and even around the corner, so why take actions now. Martin Luther, the reformist, once said that even if he knew that the world was going to end the next day, he would go out into his garden today, and plant apple trees.

Till the earth’s rhythm comes to an end, it is our mission of hope and love in action to sow seeds of life, and build the ark of this world in order to make it a better place for women, children, and youth.

  • Today is the time to listen to the cry of the earth, and amplify its cry. Not tomorrow. 
  • Today is the time to extinguish the fire that human folly sets to the house we live in. Not tomorrow.
  • Today is the time to set a cap to the reckless carbon emissions. Not tomorrow.
  • Today is the time to interpret the Rainbow Covenant for the sake of life. Not tomorrow.
  • Today is the time to commit ourselves to be evangelists of shalom in defense of creation. Not tomorrow.

On October 24, a day of global observance to global climate healing, as stewards of creation and caretakers of the earth, let us show our faith witness to the healing of the earth. 

“God’s kingdom is creation healed.” –Hans Küng

*Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D. is director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division.

Last Updated: 03/17/2014

© 2014 United Methodist Women