April 8, 2008


“Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.

Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.

God preaches, - a noted clergyman, -
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I’m going all along!”

- Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

In polite company the subjects of religion or politics are avoided. Just this once, however, I want to share with you my views on religion and the environment because I believe that this is so important. Although I am a Baptist boy with very deep roots in the American Baptist Convention, I must admit that my attitude towards going to church can best be summed up by Emily Dickinson’s poem. On a goodly number of Sunday mornings I can be found in the woods where I feel much closer to God than I do in my own congregation. I also come from the long tradition of New England transcendentalists. Henry David Thoreau is my hero.

Generally, when we hear the word stewardship in the sermon we assume that we are in for a long lecture about church finances; blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I have long thought that the word stewardship stood for something far more important. For I take stewardship to mean looking after the precious environment that God gave us. For me, it all comes down to how you interpret Genesis 1:26-31 which says:

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

I firmly believe that we all have a moral obligation to safeguard the environment. Further, I believe that as Christians we are directed by God to exercise stewardship over the world around us. In recent days more than 40 leaders of the very fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention have signed the Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change. This is a truly remarkable step in the right direction. Imagine how far we can go if the church puts its authority behind responsibility for climate change. Imagine what could happen if we restore stewardship to its rightful place.

Today’s photograph of a jonquil is inspired by my dear friend Helen’s mother-in-law’s daffodils which are now blooming in her backyard.

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