There’s an old story about a farmer who receives a pastoral call by his minister. The
farmer loved his farm and was delighted to give his pastor a tour. He loaded his pastor
into his jeep and off they went. Fields of corn as high as an elephant’s eye and golden
wheat swaying in the breeze as far as the eye could see. The Pastor, amazed by the
beauty of the sight surrounding him said, “I have never seen anything like this. You and
the Lord have a wonderful partnership on this farm!”
They continued on to see landlaying fallow, rich, black soil plowed in a way that the minister had never seen before.The farmer shared with him that he was using the newest plowing techniques andtechnology to apply to the problems of erosion and soil care. The amazed minister once again said, “Oh yes, you and the Lord have a wonderful partnership on this farm.” And so it went. They toured the barns, the silos, all the other outbuildings, and finally the farmhouse itself. As they were sitting on the porch chatting and sipping coffee, the
farmer said, “ you know pastor, I agree with you that ‘the Lord and I have a partnership
on this farm. But you should have seen this place when the Lord was running it by
(Genesis 1) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And God saw
everything that God had made and indeed it was very good.” (Psalm 19) along with many
others: “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s
In commenting on this Psalm, William Sloan Coffin has said that while the heavens
continue to tell the glory of God, the firmament today proclaims some very bad human
handiwork: smog, acid rain, an immense hole in the ozone layer. The danger to the entire
world is very, very serious. More than two decades ago, scientists told us that we were in
deep trouble because of the damage the we were doing to this world that God so loved
and continues to love.
It’s time for us to understand how our abuse of God’s creation ultimately impacts almost
every aspect of our lives: deforestation, soil erosion, water depletion, air pollution, rising
seas, global warming. The list goes on and on. The problems overwhelm even our
But, there is some good news. Almost everyone – environmentalists, ecologists,
physicists, theologians, philosophers, housewives, educators, doctors, “lawyers, Indian
chiefs”- is coming to a common mind these days. We have so many studies, facts, polls -
so much information and knowledge. We have more than we will ever need, more than
we can ever fully understand or absorb.
The critical need is for spiritual conversion of people and nations of this world if creation
is to be restored. The task before us therefore is to be radically evangelical - Repentance,
conversion, and baptism into a new commitment to hallow the whole earth. To say it,
mean it and live it: “The ground on which we stand is sacred ground!”
I want to share with you in this blog just one episode in my own process of “conversion”.
It was in 1966. I was a campus minister at New Mexico State University. I left my wife
Judy and our three small children at home in Las Cruces for two weeks to join a group of
campus minister colleagues from all over our country in Cuernavaca, Mexico. It was the
first time for me to be immersed in a 3rd world experience. I learned a lot about
Liberation Theology. I tearfully listened to story after story from refugees from El
Salvador, Honduras, Nicagua of oppression, the killing of priests, the slaughter of entire
villages; we visited with folks living in squatter settlements in squalor and abject poverty.
The whole experience blew me away. The tint of the glasses through which I viewed my
world had changed. It had a profound and lasting impact on me. My intellectual
understanding of what was going on in Latin America was enflesheds by the sights,
sounds, tastes, touches of their culture, of their lives. I found myself being pulled out of
my spectator role. I felt myself coming under some strange kind of judgment as I began
to feel my own complicity in the pain and suffering and evil I saw and abhorred. There
was a new dimension of my life.
Upon returning home as a “convert” in the making, after lots of kisses and hugs, and
taking in the loveliness of our home, I said, “Honey, we can’t live this way! We have to
radically change our lifestyle. blah, blah, blah” Well, that went over like a lead balloon
but it did begin a long and very helpful lifestyle conversation which over the years has
had a significant impact on our lifestyle.
We must then move to, radical repentance. This is where most of us get stuck. It’s
certainly where I get stuck. We have to confess and acknowledge that we are responsible
for the deep wounds that the world and its inhabitants suffer from. We have so deeply
internalized the values of our world: where greed is so deeply imbedded and wealth is
identified with blessedness and economic stratification as being ordained by God as being
more important then living by the values of God’s world: love, justice, equity, equality,
Our society is addicted to economic growth and to overconsumption. The prevailing
concept of “the good life” is excessively materialistic.
How do we generate serious discussions of lifestyle changes that would entail a move of
comfortable people, like most of us, to look seriously at our own lifestyle with the intent
of making some changes? Such changes would have to be combined with a trust that a
loving, caring community has more to do with fulfillment than the abundance of
possessions. It’s even more difficult to generate discussion of the basic changes in the
economic system necessary to affect the sharing and redistribution whereby all people
might participate. Is this just wishful thinking or is it indeed possible? There are hopeful
signs popping up: the growing number of “earth” focused groups, organizations,
corporations and individuals, committed to bringing these really hard issues to the fore,
because they lie at the heart of a faithful response to God’s call to restore creation.
In the words of Chief Seattle, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we
borrow it from our children.” What kind of world will your children inherit?
God so loved the world...Do you? Let’s roll up our sleeves and restore creation for our
children and out children’s children!
I am deeply grateful to the Presbyterians for Restoring Creation for providing some of the resources, facts and
data used in this blog