Wednesday, April 16, 2008 12:00 AM
Kathryn M. Schifferdecker
Caring for creation is a moral and spiritual matter, not merely a scientific or political one.
To address this pressing issue, a preacher must speak to people's hearts, not just their heads. Most people already know at least some of the facts about environmental problems, and know what they should be doing to address them. A sermon that becomes simply a list of do's and don'ts, or a load of guilt put on the shoulders of the congregation, is not effective. What is needed is a sparking of people's theological imaginations, a vision of what creation is and is meant to be. A preacher is to preach both Law and
Gospel--holding up a mirror to show us the sins we commit against creation and its Creator; but even more, holding up a vision of what God wills for that same creation. We have rich resources in Scripture for doing both these tasks.
There are, of course, many biblical "voices" on creation. The most well-known texts are undoubtedly the two creation accounts found in Gen 1 and 2, with their vision of an ordered and beautiful cosmos. In Gen 1-2 and in Ps 8, humanity is given a royal vocation to care for the earth; keeping and caring for the earth, the text implies, is a sacred duty. The prophets assert that humanity's sin affects the earth: humanity's sin defiles the earth, and the creatures that inhabit the earth suffer the consequences (consider Isa 24:4-5, Hos 4:3, Jer 9:10). Many of the psalms paint a more joyful picture of humanity's relationship with the rest of creation (consider Psalms 104 and 148).
The wise preacher will take his or her context into account when choosing which creation texts to explore. A pastor in a rural context, for example, will necessarily speak about ecological concerns and the land differently from a pastor whose parishioners have no close connection with the soil. In the lectionary texts there are ample opportunities to speak about creation--about the God who made, ordered, and sustains it, and about Christ, in whom it all holds together (Col 1:15-17). God created and still cares for the earth and all it contains. As we proclaim this biblical truth, we also call on our listeners to join in that creative and redeeming work, in the name of Christ, and for the sake of the world.
The full text of this article, "'And Also Many Animals': Biblical Resources for Preaching About Creation," is found in the Spring 2007 issue of Word & World, Luther Seminary's theological journal. Schifferdecker's full article gives particular attention to sample lectionary texts that lend themselves to theological reflection on creation: the story of Jonah, Pss 96 and 98, and Job 38-41.
Word & World - Spring 2007