Loving where we are
I hope to begin a discussion about how we talk about… for now let’s call it ‘caring for creation’.
Miranda and I have been greatly blessed by reading Ellen Davis’ wonderful commentary Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. So it was a great privilege to speak alongside her in Shanghai, in November, at the Bible and Environment seminar hosted by the Academy of Social Sciences. We took the opportunity of many conversations over meals, and on buses and trains, to ask her to apply her deeply biblical mind to the question of finding good language that would do justice to the work of A Rocha and all those who care for creation, whether at home, in business, or in farming, and in all our relationships with the good material world of the Lord’s making.
‘Stewardship’ isn’t a biblical word, and although ‘creation care’ is now generally accepted, like all terms, it has its limitations. We will always need a range of phrases and words anyway, as no one description will always work. That is certainly one reason why Jesus taught in ‘many parables’ about the Kingdom of God.
During the seminar, Ellen suggested that people in creation care are given a dance that is choreographed by the Creator, but that image could seem a bit aesthetic and ethereal for some of the business people I work with! So overnight she wrote us some notes, and then as we waited for a train in Nanjing station we walked around and talked some more. The station is larger than any airport terminal I know so there is plenty of room for a quiet walk!
At the end of our conversation, the word that best seemed to describe the very nature of A Rocha’s mission was gardening. You may remember that Margaret Atwood tweeted her six hundred thousand followers that she had found “God’s gardeners” when she met Markku and Leah Kostamo and first encountered A Rocha Canada.
The picture of us gardening reminds us that God is the one giving the growth, and not us. Gardening, even in a groaning creation, is good hard work, restful for the soul and body. And it is work in which we see both frustration and fruit. Even so, while we are gardening the earth (and apparently human ‘gardening’ over thousands of years has contributed to the remarkable biodiversity of Brazil’s rainforests) we cooperate with our loving Creator God who alone gives all the conditions under which we can ‘produce’ anything.
Whatever we call our work − gardening, earth-keeping, nature conservation − we need to pray that we will be faithful and grateful in blessing creation and not be fretful or restless in our creatureliness.
Could we start a debate about how we can best describe our task and be intentional about our language?
Please let me know if you have some new descriptions to offer. Some of us work in English, but in other languages, and not least Chinese, the emerging movement to care for creation needs to find new language. We require a wide and rich vocabulary to sustain and inspire us.
I quite like ‘Love where you are’ as a call to action, but it may have been taken already!