Field Guide Home Study: Week 3
Creative Living in a Consumer World
Caretakers of Creation
Thus far on our now three week journey of Creative Living in a Consumer World, we have walked through doing the work of believing that we are made of sacred worth and named beloved, and training our eyes to see those truths in others. We also have been working into our tasks as co-creators. Because we have been created and so loved by our Creator, from our gratitude, we are invited to become co-creators of love in this world. This means that we do not prioritize or give privilege to insatiable consumption or competition to perpetually out-do others, but rather, our eyes are on creating a beloved community that functions with interconnectedness.
To this end, theologian Sallie McFague, suggests that kenosis should be a part of our everyday living. Kenosis, she defines, is a “self-limitation so that others may have place and space to grow and flourish… [kenosis] is the way that God acts toward the world and the way people should act toward one another.”
A friend of mine taught me a South African phrase, which is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a Xhosa word which represents a deep belief and practice of interconnectedness; it essentially means: I am only because you are. Think about who you are and who helped form you in becoming you. Whose shoulders do you stand on? It is very good to think about these things because it reminds us that we do not exist in a vacuum. We are because of so many people. So many people are because of us. We are made to be deeply interconnected with each other and with the One who created us to be so. We are also made to need and be needed by nonhuman creation. The way that we live deeply affects other parts of creation because we are so connected.
Genesis 2:15 reads: “The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.” This is a powerful command that we must take very seriously as co-creators. In his book, Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, Fred Bahnson wrote: “Give back to the soil more than you take. An addendum to this credo might be this: goodness in people, like goodness in soil, must be preserved and nurtured. Give people more than you take. Tend not just the soil, but the soil people. Avad and shamar them.”
Sidenote: Avad and shamar are Hebrew words; they are found in God’s first command to the Adamah or “grounding”– the groundling should “avad and shamar” (Gen. 2:15) the fertile soil. It often gets translated to “till and keep” but a better translation is to serve the soil and watch/keep/preserve it.
Bahnson continues: “Give people more than you take. Tend not just the soil, but the soil people. Avad and shamar them, working and watching, serving and preserving them as if you own life depended on it. Which, of course, it does. Our role in creation is to offer everything back to God.”
Our role in creation is to offer everything back to God. May it be so.
Scripture Readings: (CEB Bible)
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth! You made your glory higher than heaven! From the mouths of nursing babies, you have laid a strong foundation because of your foes, in order to stop vengeful enemies. When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made– the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—what are human being that you think about them; what are human being that you pay attention to them? You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. You’ve let them rule over your handiwork putting everything under their feet—all sheep and all cattle, the wild animals too, the birds in the sky, the fish of the ocean, everything that travels the pathways of the sea. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!
Genesis 1:1-5, 2:15
1 When God began to create the heavens and the earth— 2 the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— 3 God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. 4 God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God named the light Day and the darkness Night.
There was evening and there was morning: the first day.
2:15: The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.
26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Creator feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?
Questions to Consider:
- How will we handle this holy assignment of God, our Creator, entrusting the planet to us? What sort of stewards will we be? What do we owe the tigers and turtles that the Creator declares as part of a supremely good work of art and engineering? What legacy will our consumption leave for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren?
- What practices do you engage in which may be inconvenient but you do them for the betterment of others?
- What does it mean to be responsible for creation? How easy could it be to pass it off, saying “someone more qualified will handle this”?
- What does it look like in your life for you to create space for others to live?
- How does living kenotically (self-emptying) change you? Does it detract from your life negatively or does it add beauty to your life?
+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:
Created and known,
invited to co-create with our Maker
Creation cries out for our attention,
we have work to do.
+At the dinner table with your family or with a friend, consider the food that you are eating. Do you know where it came from? Think about the farmers who farmed what you are eating for dinner. Consider their livelihoods and stories. You may not know them, but if they are growing the food you are eating, you are connected to them.
+If you can, make time to watch a sunrise or sunset this week. Soak it in. Consider how deeply you are connected to the earth and how much the creation is connected to you because we share the same Creator.
+Consider practices that you can add or eliminate from your life because of your responsibility to care for creation. Dedicate these practices as holy practices for they honor God in doing them and help you put feet to your faith. Consider how the community of Belmont UMC can encourage each other in these practices. Are you part of a small group at Belmont who could share these holy commitments together?
Prayer for the Week:*
Creator God, we thank you for the beauty of your Creation, and for giving us the privilege of caring for it. We confess that we have not cared for the earth with the self-sacrificing and nurturing love that you require of us. We mourn the broken relationships in creation. We repent for our part in causing the current environmental crisis that has led to climate change.
Faithful God, show us how to be faithful with the creation you gave us. Help us get creative in caring for it. Change us for the better, O God, as we seek to be faithful in this way.
Loving God, help us to turn our lives around to be people of restoration. Help us build just relationships among human beings and with the rest of creation. Help us to live sustainably, rejecting consumerism and the exploitation of creation.
God of justice, give us courage and persistence to work for justice for those most affected by environmental degradation and climate change.
God of mercy, hear the cry of the poor who are already suffering and will continue to suffer water and food shortages and who will be displaced by climate change.
Creator God, give us Your Spirit to work together to restore Your creation and to pass on a safe environment and climate to our children and grandchildren. Let our care for creation be our act of worship and obedience to You. Your kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
*Adapted from Pray Act 8 Days posted on the Micah Challenge website.