Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Green Message at the Baptist Building

The following is an edited version of the message I shared at the weekly chapel service at the Missouri Baptist Convention building this morning in Jefferson City.

Baptists and the environment recently became a hot topic when a seminary named Jonathan Merritt began to call out leaders of the SBC claiming that we have been too timid on environmental issues. He started a movement called the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative. The goal is to prompt Southern Baptists to be more active in creation care. This young man’s work has gotten attention in the AP, MSNBC, and Time Magazine. It has been signed by the present SBC president, several past SBC presidents, some college presidents (SBU’s Pat Taylor) and the Missouri Baptist Convention president Gerald Davidson.

We have to acknowledge that conservative evangelicals have come to this awareness late. We have been put off by too many of the pagan, mother earth, hippie types to join in the ecological movement. This is shameful because they have moved to the forefront of this issue because evangelicals have abandoned the leadership role God gave them to take care of his creation.

I am going to provide a biblical perspective to taking care of the environment:

As we look at the creation story, we hear the same refrain over and over, as God looks at an aspect of creation, he declares that it is good, it is good, it is good, the whole thing is very good.

1. This creation declares the glory of God.

Ps. 96.1, 11-12 – Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth…
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.

Ps. 104 – [God] stretches out the heavens like a tent…makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind…He makes the winds his messengers…He makes springs pour water into the ravines…They give water to all the beasts of the field…He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth (I’ll skip the part about wine that gladdens the heart of man)…How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small…These all look to you to give them food at the proper time.

You can see how intimately related the Lord is to his creation, the elements and the creatures.

2. From the beginning, God has allowed man to be a caretaker of the creation as well.

Gen. 1.25-6 – God made the wild animals, each according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground…

If we see the example God sets for us as he cares for creation, and he gives us the responsibility of “ruling” over the creation, how could we not take good care of God’s creation.

3. Creation also experienced the affects of the Fall

Gen. 3.17 – Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

We see how the sin of the first couple damaged God’s perfect creation. “Cursed is the ground because of you…”

Isaiah 24.5-6 – The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt…

Hosea 4.3 – discusses the sinfulness of rebellious humanity and then says, “because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.

Romans 8.19-For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

4. God showed care for creation through the Law – in case humans did not feel responsible for taking care of the creation on its own, God put several provisions in the Law to make sure it happened.

In Exodus 23.12, we see that the Sabbath pertained not only humans, but to their animals as well. In Leviticus 25 we see that the Lord gives provision for the land to rest as the land is given a sabbatical year after six years of planting. Thus God is telling the highest point of his creation to take care of his animals and his land.

5. Christ’s work is also related to redeeming his creation.

1 Cor. 8.6 - …for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Col. 1.15-20 – verse 16 states that for by him all things were created (thus Jesus was involved in creation, he was the creator…verse 20 God was pleased that Jesus is to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Here me, I am not saying the Christ’s reconciliation of the earth is more important than Christ reconciling humanity. Humanity is the crown of creation. And yet, as we have already seen, the earth longs for redemption. Christ is bringing reconciliation not only to humanity but to the earth as well. We are called to be agents of reconciliation, bringing people into the kingdom of God. We should also keep an eye on the creation that God, through Christ not only created but also sustains.

I closed with some practical "baby steps" we all could take to provide better care of the creation God has entrusted to us. I may share those later.


The Missional Position said...

Brav-freakin'-O, bravo!

Good stuff, I would like to see the baby steps that you mentioned as well.

Green and Baptist

I wonder if anyone knows of some churches that are currently building green or have green initiatives?

billy v said...

There is a church outside of Denver who has used the green issue as an outreach to the area. Tri Robinson wrote a book I referenced in the message called Saving God's Green Earth. He is pastor of a Vineyard Fellowship in Boise, ID.

WHP said...

Here's the question
As God's people do we take this upon ourselves, or do we hand it over to "Caesar"?

billy v said...

Whp, you ask a great question. Most of the social services provided by the government should be performed willingly by faith groups. I personally would much rather my offering go to help people through faith based groups who I believe can do it more efficiently than give it to a bureaucracy.