In the previous part of the blog series (Part 1: Between the Smudges.), I explored how we often see ourselves as distinct to and separate from the soil, skies and seas of creation. However, the bible story emphasises that we're made of the earth. We're of the soil, the land - dust with the breath of God breathed into our lungs.
We are 'the 'earthlings'.
Genesis 2 goes on to say:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
So there's at least two fundamental tasks of this Genesis earthling:
1) To: "work" (abad) the garden: means to work / serve / cultivate / dress this garden of delight.
2) to "take care of" (shamar) is to keep / watch /preserve it.
These words in Genesis are so simple and elegant and concise that it is easy to skim through and overlook the depths of what is being said. Think about this for a moment. Even if you know this verse well. Especially if you know this verse well.
This bible story is an ooooold story. People have been telling this story for thousands of years. It's a story about then, but it's also about today. It's about 'adam' but it's also about you and me. It's trying to show us something. It's introducing us to us. It is reminding us about something deep and personal and communal and central and fundamental to every human being who has ever lived.
It's about what it means to be human.
Have a look out the window for a few seconds. I want you to actually look at and notice a particular tree, or plant, or cloud, or patch of grass....
(really, pretty please... go on... do it!)
Do you know, but also feel in your bones, that you have a responsibility for what you're looking at out the window?
You, as a human being, as an earthling, as one who is created by God with his breath of life in your lungs. He's asked you, and me, to work and serve and cultivate and dress and keep and watch and preserve this incredible garden we call earth. All of it! This big beautiful planet we call home.
Reflecting on this bible story helps me see that that project Eden - the stewardship and cultivation of creation - is not just for those environmentalists, or that political party, or those 'tree-huggers'. This basic primal instruction is is for every one of us. Honestly, I find that hugely challenging.
Those of us who profess to be following Jesus can often spend so much time on other commandments and moral and ethical issues in the bible, and forget that in this very second page of the story, before the bible gets to any other "do's or don'ts', before there's any talk of Israel or covenants.... we're given the incredible task of shouldering the responsibility for this creation of delight that we've found ourselves in.
This brings me to... Pocahontas.
Yup you read that right. Stay with me.
While on holiday recently, my wife and I were driving through the magnificent Scottish Highlands. We were genuinely amazed by the raw, rugged beauty: the autumnal oranges and reds contrasting starkly against blues and greens; mossy, jagged steep mountains climbing to the cloudy skies towering over streams and brooks and lochs.
After finishing our very grown-up audiobook, we listened to what all self-respecting mature adults would listen to....
The entire Greatest Showman soundtrack. Full blast.
(btw, which is your favourite TGS song? It's so hard to choose...)
By the end of that whole album, our voices were warmed up and ready for a pretty full on Disney sing-alongathon.
(don't judge me. You know would have been loving it too).
At some stage along this Disney-fied Scottish expedition, we got to the Pocahontas songs. And something struck me.
It might be because of this Genesis/Eden/earthling stuff that's been bubbling away in my head... But I started thinking a little about the Pocahontas story. I realised that this endearing movie contrasts two opposing ways of viewing creation. On the one hand, some see earth as something to be exploited and conquered and owned and mined (eg, the English colonialists in the movie).
But on the other hand, Pocahontas and her family and community viewed creation as something to be loved and respected and cared for and cherished. Granted, the film probably endorses a type of pantheism (the belief that creation is God, or is part of God) beyond the realms of the biblical worldview. But, there's something in the lyrics that really grabbed me....
"You think you own whatever land you land on The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim...."
"You can own the Earth and still, all you'll own is Earth until, you can paint with all the colours of the wind."
Ok, maybe the idea of 'painting with all the colours of the wind' is a bit ethereal and weird. Yeah... I hear you.
But I still feel struck by the challenge in this song. It speaks to our relationship with land and the continents and the soil and the gold and the trees and the air.
We're going to move on in following blog posts to the big report in the news and what this means for us, and for our children's children... But, if we just go there first, we might approach things from the wrong angle. I really want to invite you to explore your relationship with creation.
Have a quick think about your life and lifestyle and attitude.
Moved by these Disney lyrics, I'm choosing to explore the genesis call to see this world as something more than a dead thing to be claimed and owned and mined and used. I want to explore seeing this creation as a priceless gift - something that I'm a part of and dependent upon. Something that I'm responsible for 'serving' and 'dressing', for 'keeping watch over' and 'preserving'.
Do you feel a sense of personal ownership and responsibility for this glorious bundle of earth hurtling through the universe? Or is it just a dead thing to be claimed?
This is Part 2 in a mutli-post series/rambling. Here are links to the other posts:
Part 1: Between the Smudges (what it means biblically to be made from the earth)
Part 2: Unearthing Responsibility (the biblical mandate for caring for the planet)
Part 3: The Railroad Switch (the two options we have for the future of our planet)
Part 4: The Report (exploring the IPCC report and what it means for us)
Part 5: In Our Hands (what can we all do to solve this problem?