Through Genesis 1, we learn that God created the heavens and the earth, just as he did, to serve as the perfect context for a covenantal relationship of freedom and love with us his human creatures. He created it as he did so that we human creatures might also enjoy a relationship of freedom and love with him, one another, and the rest of creation.
Consequently, we may witness to Jesus, through whom all creatures, including ourselves, came into existence, when we ably praise and thank him for the creativity he demonstrated in creation. We may do this best by developing, as Christians and churches, a lively appreciation especially for our local creational context.
Air. The heavens. There are stars across the night sky that have been imaginatively associated and named as constellations since ancient times. By learning their traditional names and associations, we may affirm that our ancestors lived under the same heavens created by God that we do. We may also use these stars to locate ourselves on God’s good earth and note how some of these constellations move across the heavens according to the seasons while others don’t. Most importantly, we may praise God, nightly, for the sheer beauty, scale, permanence, and originality of his creativity.
We may also note how sun, moon, and planets move in relation to constellations, each other, and us. How low is the sun above the horizon at noon in winter where we live? How long does it shine in summer? What phase will the moon be in tonight? Perhaps if we Christians familiarized ourselves with the Jewish calendar, we could track the phases of the moon more meaningfully. We could recall, more intentionally, how the moon witnesses to Christ’s light in our lives even in the night.
Faithfully witnessing to Jesus Christ is a way of living. One aspect of it? Rather than watching TV, surfing the internet, or playing video games, we Christians may develop the slow, quiet, odd, but edifying habit of sitting outside at night to marvel at the combination of constancy and change in our creator’s moon and stars and praising him for them.
The sky. God daily sends us wind and rain, heat and cold, sunshine and clouds. What different kinds of clouds exist? What can they tell us about tomorrow’s weather? Do we know the climate of where we live; that is, averages in sunshine, temperature, humidity, and precipitation? How do these vary seasonally? Annually? How much snow falls each winter? How long is the ground frozen? Does God send us such extreme weather events as hurricanes or tornadoes? Why? Lovingly learning, even noticing, and not resenting these variations allows us to praise and thank God for both nurturing us through all these improvisations of his as well as teaching us humility through their challenges.
Birds. Biblical witnesses refer to “birds of the air” dozens of times. Do we know which species God has blessed the air above us with? We may witness to God by lovingly learning the identity of all these species: Who are they? What are they like? Why are they here? How do they differ from one another? We also witness to Jesus by being mindful of the individual birds that he brings into our daily life: all those individual sparrows, robins, pigeons, crows, ducks, or swans that God always remains mindful of (Luke 12:6).
While the Bible does not often mention them, let us include in this category of flying creatures to lovingly learn about all those insects that buzz about us, even the bloodsucking ones.
Land. Ground. We could look at the land in scientific terms such as crust, upper mantle, tectonic plate, lower mantle, and outer and inner core. I don’t think that’s of primary importance.
One goal we have as Christians is to lovingly learn what we need to know to nurture and protect the vitality of every human being, all species, and the complex ecological whole in which we participate together. Learning plate tectonics is not so important in doing this.
There are aspects of the land, however, we need to know to nurture and protect our local ecological community. What’s are the landforms in our area? The bedrock? The soils? Soil is composed of minerals, water, gases, organic matter, and innumerable microorganisms. We may praise and thank God for the infinite forms and complexity of life in the dirt beneath our feet which we otherwise so easily take for granted. In appreciation, we may also ask ourselves how we might best conserve the soil and its life-bearing qualities.
Plants. We rightly marvel at Yhwh’s unimaginable creativity when we consider the myriad plants he chose to surround us with. What were the major and minor plants placed by God in the area we now live in? Which ones remain? Which ones have we humans added? What are all these plants like?
Animals. We have already spoken of birds. In a moment, we will speak of the waters of the earth and the animals which inhabit them. Now we can simply pause and affirm the prodigious creativity of God revealed in all of the amphibians, reptiles, insects, arachnids, and mollusks he created out of nothing. Not to mention mammals: domestic, such as dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and horses; and wild, like rodents, bats, wolves, big cats, deer, elk, moose, and bison.
Water. God gave us both fresh and salt water as well as standing and running waters. He has perpetually blessed all types of water with teeming plant and animal life including algae, plankton, fish, anemones, coral, dolphins, and whales.
Ecosystems. Putting it all together. We live under the heavens and have the opportunity, most nights, to marvel at the moon and stars. We also live in a particular ecological context: that unique combination of air, land, and water, and of plants and animals, that our creator enables us to call home. We honor him by lovingly learning about how our creational context nurtures and protects life as a whole as well as about the species, and individual creatures, we share that context with.
Sympathetic imagination. There are many ways of lovingly learning about our context and its creatures. One important guideline: learning in ways that do no harm. This would include no trashing the context; exploring lakes and rivers, for example, in a canoe rather than on a jet ski. Another: keeping technology to a minimum; sleeping, for example, in a light tent after a long hike rather than in a recreational vehicle, complete with TV, after a short drive. A third: seeking an understanding of our creational context and fellow creatures through a sympathetic understanding that aims at liberating rather than at controlling.
Vital participation. All of us humans, both as individuals and societies, participate in our broader creational context. As faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to do so in mindful ways: ways which actively appreciate our fellow creatures and the boundless brilliance of their creator and ours.
Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.