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The Well-being of All Creation

This week in my church’s “video quilt” (a way we worship virtually to prevent transmitting COVID-19), we prayed for the well-being of all creation—the air, land, and water—all that God has made. Yet, in such a time as this, when a pandemic has changed all of our lives, when racism has reared its ugly head (yet again), and when we prepare for an election only a few months away—are we remembering our duty to the well-being of this creation?

Prayer ought to lead to duty. Duty, after all, is sister to love. The love of God. The love of this created world.

203_co2-graph-061219(Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

Creation is suffering

One way is through climate change. The facts are established now. Beginning in the 1950s, carbon dioxide began increasing rapidly. NASA says the increase is unparalleled in millennia. This surge in CO2 is trapping heat in earth’s atmosphere.

As result, the average surface temperature has risen dramatically. We have faced the six “warmest years on record” since 2014. “Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year — from January through September, with the exception of June — were the warmest on record for those respective months” (NASA).

Ice sheets have shrink, glaciers have retreated, sea levels have risen—none of this is conjecture. All of this is occurring today. Bigger heat waves, more frequent category 4 and 5 hurricanes, loss of once habitable land—all will intensify if humans fail to act now for the well-being of all creation.

What are we doing?

The air, land, and water–all are at risk.

me birds 3 0803182032-1Birds, which I watch daily at my feeders, with joy, live among each of these three realms.

In one of my favorite documentaries, “Winged Migration,” I’ve watched repeatedly as the film follows terns and ducks, sand hill cranes and sage grouse, Canadian geese and migratory penguins around the globe, flying south in the fall and then north again in the spring. I am transported; immersed in this world above and about us, and awakened to new obstructions to bird migrations as human communities expand.

800px-Sand_Hill_Cranes_over_Lake_Pasadena_(FL)_(22909763321)

This image was originally posted to Flickr by joiseyshowaa at https://flickr.com/photos/30201239@N00/22909763321. It was reviewed on by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

One of the most important laws that helped these creatures—the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)–is being gutted. The law was put into place about a century ago. The National Audubon Society says that the MBTA protects nearly 1,100 bird species. But key provisions are now being changed. And the authors know these changes will lead to the death of birds, and they suggest that the world (humans) will be better off with less of these creatures.

I know that changing this law in this way is wrong. We are better off with more birds, not less.RB blue bird 30713408_10213452036388460_184333558188343296_n

Air, land, water, and the creatures that live in them: all are at risk.

In such a time as this, when our attention is justifiably diverted to so many other urgent matters, can we remember this prayer for the well-being of all creation, the air, the land, the water, and all that God has made?

We are failing to address climate change. We are destroying essential Acts that seek to protect nature. We must not pray for the well-being of creation while failing in our duty to protect it. In such a time as this…

Will we act for the well-being of creation?

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The God of Other Worlds

My children groan when I mention the documentary “Winged Migration,” which I’ve watched several times. Each time I see it, though, I’m reminded of a world that coexists with ours but is out of sight—often beyond our imagination. In this world high above myriad bird species fly thousands of miles from north to south and back, circling the globe, year after year. Like ephemeral beings, a few enter for a short while into our sight, then disappear. But the world they inhabit in this other sphere is as real as ours, filled with birthing, tending, gathering, singing, exerting, enduring, living, and dying.

sea CaptureAn air world. One of God’s other worlds, intersecting our own.

I discovered a similar world undersea, snorkeling in the warm waters off the Hawaiian Islands. Coral reefs drew sea species to feed. I was mesmerized by this world—where yellow sea snakes slithered; tang and butterfly fish glided by; green sea turtles emerged to investigate and descend again; and damselfish swarmed. I only fingered the fringe of this undersea world, a world of a million species, many yet unknown to human kind.

A great underwater world. One of God’s other worlds, intersecting our own.

Humans are big, and powerful, and violent. We destroy bird species for pleasure, like the passenger pigeon lost long ago. We pollute coral reefs, draw birds to destruction with our lights, chop down forest cover, and over fish the seas. Sometimes we do so unawares, forgetting how big we are. Sometimes we do so out of selfish ends.

The creatures in these worlds are mostly out of our sight. But we are everywhere in theirs. We drain their nesting grounds, dump our rubbish in their waters, and fish their kind to near extinction. They cannot comprehend what we are doing; they cannot stop us. They only know that it is harder to find a mate; their resting place is gone; their coral reef is dying.

Ian L. McHarg called humankind “A planetary disease … an epidemic, multiplying at a super-exponential rate, destroying the environment upon which he depends, and threatening his own extinction.” When we act like a disease, we imperil other worlds.

We imperil other worlds when we forget who we were meant to be. Like Tolkien’s Ents, we were meant as creation’s caretakers, not “takers” for our personal pleasure.

We imperil other worlds when we forget what the other creatures are. God is a God of other worlds. These worlds are His handiwork. They are His creation. They give Him pleasure.

We live on a beautiful planet, home to 7.6 billion humans. But it is also home to others—in the air, on the land, and in the sea—with billions of other species living lives of their own. We should ensure that these other worlds, ephemeral to us but vital, can continue.

We think we are the dominant species, but we are nothing without the other species with whom we share this planet. We live in a world of intersecting worlds. God’s worlds. Doom these other worlds, and we doom ourselves.

Cherish these other worlds, though, and joy upon joy! Now and then, we intermingle—ephemeral encounters with a world of winged migrations and swarming creatures of the sea.