|Christian Ecology Link|
|CEL home > Links + Internat >||October 2006|
Season of Creation 2005 and 2008
|First Sunday in Creation 2008||Second Sunday in Creation 2008||Third Sunday in Creation 2008||Fourth Sunday in Creation 2008|
|Forest Sunday||Land Sunday||Otuback/Wilderness Sunday||River Sunday|
|Readings and Notes||Readings and Notes||Readings and Notes||Readings and Notes|
|Possible links to the other readings|
|Quotable Quotes||Quotable Quotes||Quotable Quotes||Quotable Quotes|
|Possible Applications||Possible Applications||Possible Applications||Possible Applications|
Theme: Forest Sunday
Trees are essential to life on earth.
They absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
They also contain much of the world's biodiversity.
The man, formed from the dust of the ground and animated by the breath of life, was placed in the Garden of God to till and keep it.
(According to Von Rad, Yahweh is here pictured as 'owner of the park'.) (Ref 1)
Trees grew in the Garden, valuable for beauty and sustenance.
Two trees were special: (Ref 2)
the tree of life in the midst of the garden;
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The latter was forbidden to the man ( 2:17 ).
These verses should be read in conjunction with chapter 3.
The fruit of the tree appeared to offer comprehensive knowledge and power (3:5).
'[The tree] presented the alternative to discipleship: to be self-made, wresting one's knowledge, satisfactions and values from the created world in defiance of the Creator'. (Ref 3)
The gift of creation contains an ethical dimension; living in God's garden requires discipline.
Not everything that can be done, should be done.
In the end, freedom to eat from the tree of life is given, not by human demand but by God's grace in Christ (Revelation 2:7).
In Revelation 22:1-2 the tree of life is planted on both sides of the river of the water of life, that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The tree produces fruit every month, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Thus virtually the whole Bible, from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22, might be seen as a kind of 'inclusio', bounded by the Tree of Life in the Garden of Creation .
The Tree of Life has often been connected to the Cross, which is sometimes called a tree ( xulon ) in the New Testament (Acts 5:30 ; 10:39 ; 13:29 ; Galatians 3:13 ; 1 Peter 2:24 ).
The 8 th Century English poem The Dream of the Rood celebrates the tree which became the Cross of Christ.
Possible links to the other readings
God, who gave us our first birth (Psalm 139:13-16), and designed us for himself (Acts 17:22 -28), in Christ offers us new birth (John 3:1-16). This rebirth should be expected to issue in a turning towards God's original plan for humanity in relation to the earth and its vegetation.
'At the time that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created the first man, He took him and had him pass before all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I created was created for you. Think about this and do not harm or desolate the world: for if you harm it, there will be none to fix it after you.' (Midrash Koheleth Rabbah). (Ref 4)
'Humanity has failed in what was its noble vocation: to participate in God's creative action in the world. It has succumbed to a theory of development that values production over human dignity and wealth over human integrity. We see, for example, delicate ecological balances being upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources.' (The Patriarch Bartholomew I). (Ref 5)
During 2004, an area of Amazon rainforest equivalent to six football pitches was flattened every day; this amounted to 10,000 square miles during the year. The land was used for cattle farming, soy production and logging. (Ref 6)
Fires in Siberian forests (the largest in the world) increased tenfold in the last twenty years. Often these fires are started deliberately - the timber is then sold. (Ref 7)
Visit and help to protect your local woodlands.
Plant a tree and nurture it to maturity.
Support an organization that campaigns for the defence of forests globally.
Buy timber only from fairly-traded and sustainably-managed woodlands.
Second Sunday in Creation
Theme: Land Sunday
Genesis 3:14-19; 4:8-16
3:17 -19: The relationship of humans with the land is disrupted so that work
becomes toil: irksome and discouraging (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:8).
'Human wilfulness and human sin have in innumerable ways embittered
toil'. Ref 8
3:19 : The human being comes from the soil, tills the soil, and will return to the
4:8-16: As the story of alienation progresses, the judgment becomes more severe.
The ground is cursed because of Adam ( 3:17 ; compare 5:29 ; 8:21 );
Cain is cursed from the ground because of the shed blood of his brother ( 4:11 ). He has to leave the land where he is at home, which will not sustain him ( 4:12 ).
He becomes a perpetual wanderer - an outcast, not a nomad. Ref 9
Even in our alienation, we are not beyond the reach of God's grace.
"...the work of Jesus Christ has restored 'those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness' to their proper role as truly human beings... Adam's sin and its effects are thus undone, and God's original intention for humanity is thus restored in the Age to Come, which has already begun with the work of Jesus Christ (v.21)." Ref 10
The 'new start' in Christ includes the Church's vocation to live at peace with the land, and so to bear witness to God's purpose for humanity.
The fact that Jesus not only shared the life of earth, but was actually buried in it between death and resurrection, shows the extent of his involvement with our earthly home.
A report prepared under the chairmanship of the chief scientist at the World Bank has warned that 'Because of human demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, more land has been claimed for agriculture in the last 60 years than in the 18 th and 19 th centuries combined. An estimated 24% of the Earth's land surface is now cultivated.' (Tim Radford, The Guardian , London , 30 March 2005 ).
'... Mathis Wackernagel and his colleagues measured the ecological footprint of humanity and compared it to the "carrying capacity" of the planet. They defined the ecological footprint as the land area that would be required to provide the resources... and absorb the emissions... of global society. When compared with the available land, Wackernagel concluded that human resource use is currently some 20 percent above the global carrying capacity'. (D. Meadows, J. Randers, D. Meadows, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (London/Sterling, Va. , 2005) p.xiv.
Interact with the soil: grow plants and vegetables - in pots or gardens.
Protest at pollution or destruction of the land.
Support local agriculture, especially producers who nurture the soil.
Third Sunday in Creation
Theme: Outback/Wilderness Sunday
Joel 1:8-10; 17-20
A horrifying picture of the devastation caused to human society as a result of locusts (4) and drought (20).
The devastation is seen as a judgment from God - a foretaste of the ultimate judgment of the Day of the Lord (15).
The connection between natural disaster and human sin appears in a startling new light at the present time. We dare not, now, discount the idea of divine judgment in God's government of the world.
In the Old Testament the devastating presence of God is often pictured in the symbolism of natural convulsions - earthquake, volcano and storm.
God is the God of natural forces.
A keyword here is 'wait'.
The creation waits eagerly for the revealing of God's children (19).
The human children of God, saved through Christ (11), as earthly creatures share the groaning of creation in its futility and corruption (22-23).
They wait for the completion of redemption, when they will have bodies fully responsive to the Spirit (23-25).
In the meantime the Spirit of God groans within us for the fulfilment of God's purposes (26-27).
Matthew 3:13 -4:2 or Mark 1:9-13
Like Israel of old (Exodus 14-15), Jesus passed through water to the trials and blessings of the Wilderness where he was with the wild beasts and was sustained by God's messengers (Mark 1:13 ).
Wilderness is a strangely ambiguous idea.
In the Bible it means geographically
The area through which the Israelites journeyed from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land - a land of steep hills and barren plains and oases, crossed by trade routes.
The Judean Wilderness or Negeb - not arid desert, but subject to meagre and fitful rainfall, with wadis that tend either to run dry or to flood; a land where flocks could be tended. This was the land of David's military campaigns; the setting for the ministry of John the Baptist and for the Temptation of Jesus, the place where Jesus prayed and where his divine power was often revealed - think of the feeding of the multitudes, the stilling of the storm, or the Transfiguration.
In a neutral sense, an aspect of the created world, within God's care (Job 38:25-27). In a world overly dominated and exploited by humans, wild areas are vital for the safeguarding of natural processes and biological diversity.
Spiritually the Wilderness has both positive and negative connotations. It is
'a desert land,... a howling wilderness waste' (Deuteronomy 32:10) and at the same time
a place where God's glory is seen, God's provision and guidance are experienced, God's judgments are suffered, and God is made known as a God of holy love.
God's saving power will transform the arid desert into a fertile and fruitful place of fountains and springs (Isaiah 41:17-20).
In the history of the Church the Wilderness idea has been applied to the deserts of Egypt , the rocky hills and valleys of Wales , and the fruitful land of America as experienced by the first European settlers. Its meaning for us will be affected by our geographical location. In general it means a place where natural processes operate relatively free of human activity.
Sometimes wilderness language is used symbolically, without any direct geographical reference. But this is a development from the primary meaning of wilderness as place.
Overgrazing, deforestation, and depleted levels of underground water, all lead to the creation and spread of deserts - including in Africa , Central Asia , the United States and Australia . In North China villages are said to have been abandoned because overgrazing, deforestation and droughts have caused desertification.
Human-induced climate change may increase desertification in some areas through forest fires and reduced rainfall.
'In wildness is the preservation of the World'. (Henry David Thoreau, 1817-62)
The Church and individual Christians must support the safeguarding of Wilderness - vast areas of wilderness as well as local wild places.
We should also be concerned to resist the increase of desertification.
We should show in our words and actions that wilderness areas are also of spiritual value as places where, in the absence of human support, God can become more real to us.
Fourth Sunday in Creation
Theme: River Sunday
Genesis 8:20-22; 9:12 -17
In the Flood story water is destructive, an instrument of judgment.
The 'Cosmic Covenant' includes the promise that God will not repeat this wholesale destruction ( 8:21 ; 9:11 ).
G. von Rad draws attention to the connection between 8:21 and 3:17 (compare also 5:29 ).
He calls 8:21 'a profound turning point in the Yahwistic primeval history.' Ref 11
The indelible corruption in humankind which led up to the Flood (6:5) is now passed over ( 8:21 ).
'The era of patience is to begin now' (F. Delitzsch, referring to Romans 3:26 ). Ref 12
'The assurance... does not abolish disasters, but it does localize them, so that the human family may overcome them by forethought such as Joseph's and by compassion such as Paul's (2 Cor. 8:14 ).' (D. Kidner, Genesis , p.93).
The earth endures as a home suited to its non-human as well as its human inhabitants.
The Old Testament roots of this passage are in Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8; a river was of course also present in the Garden of Eden, together with the Tree of Life (Genesis 2).
The river containing the water of life, pure and uncontaminated, derives from the throne of God and of the Lamb (1).
The Resurrection of Christ's dead body is the first instalment of the renewal of all things (Revelation 21:1, 5) as well as the firstfruits of redeemed humanity (1 Corinthians 15:20 ).
Rivers in the Old Testament
Rivers are places of assembly (Ezra 8:15 , 21; Psalm 137:1; Ezekiel 1:1).
Dry watercourses are seen as a judgment (Nahum 1:4; Joel 1:20 ), their restoration a blessing to all living creatures (Joel 3:18 ).
One's native river could be a matter of some pride (2 Kings 5:12 );
but to claim rights as the owner and even the creator of a river was the height of arrogance (Ezekiel 29:1-10).
The waters are in fact God's possession and God's gift (Psalm 46:4; 65:9),
his supreme blessing (Isaiah 41:18; 43:19-20).
A river is a simile of peace and prosperity - shalom (Isaiah 48:18; 66:12; compare Psalm 1:3; 36:8).
In the New Testament
The imagery of the water of life finds its ultimate expression in baptism;
it is also a symbol of the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit in believers in Christ (John 7:37 -39).
Facts and Figures
'Human use of fresh water has quadrupled since the 1940s and is still growing fast, driven by population growth and more affluent 'water-hungry' lifestyles with household appliances, golf courses to tender and a taste for year-round fresh food....
'One-fifth of humanity - 1.1 billion people - has no access to safe drinking water. This, together with lack of sanitation for 2.4 billion people, causes a child to die every 15 seconds and five million deaths a year.
'But the environmental cost of providing more water has been devastating. Six out of 10 of the world's biggest rivers have been seriously or moderately fragmented by dams, diversions and canals.
'Half of the planet's wetlands were lost during the twentieth century, in part due to these pressures, while ground water supplies are becoming polluted and running out.
'Look anywhere in the world and the crisis is laid bare. Britain is the most 'water-stressed' country in Europe and an official drought was declared this winter. In other countries, the situation is more drastic.
'Five times in the last decade the Yellow River in northern China has failed to reach the sea and some underground stores in rocks have lost 90 per cent of their reserves.
'Widespread drought in southern India two years ago caused huge political pressure for national action, the Aral Sea in the former Soviet Union has dried up and Lake Chad has dropped 90 per cent since the mid-1960s.
'In America , the Government wants to buy the contents of Canada 's Arctic rivers for Los Angeles and other desperate cities.'
(Juliette Jowit, Environment Editor, 'This Parched Earth', The Guardian , London , 15 February 2004 ).
'[In Pakistan , t]he flow of river water is dropping precipitately, at nearly 7% a year. The country's vast irrigation network is silting up and agricultural output will reach a crisis by 2010..., with two key commodities - food grain and cotton - badly hit.' (Randeep Ramesh, 'Rivers Run Through It', The Guardian , London , March 16, 2005 ; referring to the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group's report, The Final Settlement. )
'... pollution or contamination of the waters of the river damages the entire ecosystem of the broader region , which receives its life from the unceasing flow of water through the river's surface and subterranean arteries.' (The Patriarch Bartholomew I, Cosmic Grace , 268; italics original).
If you live in an affluent part of the world, take action now to use less water.
Donate to a charity which helps to bring fresh water to the poor, using environment-friendly technologies like 'micro-hydro' (small dams that cause no environmental or human damage).
- G. Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary , tr. John H. Marks (London: SCM, 1972), p.77.
- Some scholars think that at some stage in the history of the text only one tree was present; but we work with the finished text as given to us.
- D. Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (London: Tyndale Press, 1967), p. 63.
- Koheleth Rabbah 7:28, quoted from Lewis G. Regenstein, Replenish the Earth (London: SCM, 1991), p.187.
- Encyclical Letter, September 1, 1994, quoted from John Chryssavgis (Ed.), Cosmic Grace; Humble Prayer: The Ecological Vision of the Green Patriarch Bartholomew I (Grand Rapids/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2003), p.46.
- Daily Telegraph , London , 20 May 2005 .
- The Guardian, London , 31 May 2005 .
- S.R. Driver, The Book of Genesis with Introduction and Notes (London: Methuen & Co., 1909) p.49.
- C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary , Tr. John J. Scullion (London, S.C.M., 1984) p.308.
- N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology , (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991) pp. 38, 39.
- G. von Rad, Genesis , p.122.
- Quoted from C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11 , p.456.
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