Saturday, February 25, 2012

Creation's Glory

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. – Psalm 24:1
When I sit down to eat a meal that includes some sort of meat, I often pray the following: “I thank you, God, for the life of this creature, given for me. May I always remember that I am sustained by creation, and may I continue to grow in my respect of it.” Honestly, it feels a bit silly. It does. I wonder what people are thinking when they hear me pray that prayer. Is it bothering them? Confusing them? Grossing them out? Thus far, no one has ever made a comment about my prayer. But, there’s a part of me that wishes someone would, hoping that it might be a witness to them. Perhaps they might be led to contemplate how profoundly we are sustained by creation.
Yesterday and today, my Lenten reflection on non-violence was the task of “respecting Mother Earth by making good use of her resources.” We live in a society that celebrates “Green initiatives” and organic foods. Arguably, the National Parks System is our most valuable national treasure. It seems as if, on the surface, we understand the profundity of natural beauty.
Yet, within me is an unsettled feeling…a feeling that appreciating natural beauty is fundamentally different than understanding how truly we depend on nature for our survival. I say unsettled because I don’t think a society that thrives on factory farming has truly embraced the profound beauty of all that is in nature. I don’t think a society that razes whole swathes of forest understands that the oxygen we breathe comes from those very same trees now lying on the ground, stripped of their bark and waiting for the sawmill.
I don’t say this to indict the employees of those industries. I am complicit in this degredation as well. I’m guilty of wasting paper by the truckload, scribbling notes on scrap paper and tossing it in the bin rather than recycling it. I’m guilty of enjoying the taste of a warm and rare steak that I’m certain came from a cow that sat in a tiny cell waiting for a pressurized gun to jam a slug into its skull. I’m guilty of subjugating nature for my own needs. Let me say it again: I’m as guilty as anyone.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Not only does the Incarnation of Jesus teach us about the way God loves a good paradox, but it teaches us about the way God loves material things. God loves the dust of the earth so much that God decided to put on sandals and get those sandals dirty. God loves the smell of grass and the rhythm of the wind so much that God decided to become a human being and bask in the glory of creation.
I suppose that’s the question I should ask myself: am I basking in the glory of creation? Not in some idolatrous sense, but in the sense that creation comes from God and it is really, really good! So far, the scientific community tells us that there is nowhere else in the entire universe where there’s so much life and vitality. We live on a planet where Orca whales launch themselves out of the water to feel the warmth of the sun, and where chameleons can change the color of their skin on a whim. Cheetahs propel themselves faster than any Olympic athlete, and a little miniature dachshund will nuzzle up to you when you’re feeling sick and tired.
Am I basking in the glory of creation?
Two days ago, I was walking to get a cup of coffee at the hospital when I noticed a fallen blackbird. It had flown so forcefully into a plate glass window that its neck was broken. It was dead, lying there on a slab of concrete. I walked by, thinking, “Can’t stop. Gotta get to class.” And then a voice in my head said, “Dignity.”
It doesn’t matter what form of life we encounter, whether the smallest mouse or the most powerful person in the world. All life having its origin and sustenance in God deserves to die with a certain kind of dignity.
I picked up the bird and placed her in some bushes. Pulling out my Prayer Book, I adapted a prayer for the time of death and offered some words, surrendering this beautiful creature to the grace and mercy of God.
This isn’t to say I’m going to immediately become a vegetarian, sell my car, and live as a hermit in the woods. You don’t need to abandon your life to appreciate how your life is sustained by creation. Transformation begins right where you are.
What I am saying is this: I’m going to be more intentional about appreciating the dignity of what I am eating, or walking on, or driving through. I want to find and meet God in the beauty of a blackbird or a gentle breeze that rocks my body as I walk.
Am I basking in the glory of creation?
Are you basking in the glory of creation?
May Jesus lead you this Lenten season towards a greater appreciation of creation.

That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:21
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen - Prayer for the Conservation of Natural Resouces, BCP 1979.

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