Yesterday marked the 50th annual Earth Day, upon which people all over the world joined together in celebration to demonstrate their support for environmental protection.
2019 was the hottest year on record, so who would have imagined this time last year that the price of oil would actually drop to minus figures, meaning that companies were actually being paid to take storage of it! And that of course is because demand has dried up in the face of this pandemic, with many businesses closing and people staying at home. 80% of global flights have been cancelled, and here in the UK there are now fewer vehicles on our roads than most of us can ever remember. It almost feels like Christmas Day every day in terms of the traffic on our streets!
The once murky waters of Venice have cleared up, and some Indians for the first time in their lives are able to see The Himalayas on their horizon as the thick blanket of smog that once blocked their view has faded. It is a fact that carbon emissions have fallen dramatically, and in a national poll conducted last week the majority of those questioned said that they have noticed that the air seems cleaner. A quarter even stated that they are seeing a resurgence in wildlife.
There seems to be a growing appreciation for our natural world in the wake of Covid-19. Lots of us are enjoying the lovely weather in our gardens or during our daily exercise. And many of us who can’t get out are admiring the view from our windows. I’m so grateful to live near Sutton park. This week my family got to see beautiful flowers, rabbits, ducks, and even cows! In our live streams every Sunday we get to share some stunning photos and videos of God’s creation!
Like many of you (I’m sure), I try to consider the environment in my daily life. I follow the guidelines for recycling (though I’m still not 100% on which bin to put certain plastics into)! I pay the extra to buy free-range eggs instead of caged. And to people’s surprise I don’t drive a car – I like to walk places if I can because it’s healthy as well as green, and on times when that’s not feasible I use public transport, however unreliable it can sometimes be!
But I won’t claim or pretend to be an environmental warrior. In all honesty if it weren’t for the Calendar on my computer I wouldn’t have known about Earth Day; I’ve never chained myself to a tree; when I saw the cows this week I immediately thought of hamburgers; I don’t always buy Fair Trade products because sometimes they are rather expensive; I often forget to turn the lights off even if I’m not in a room; “If it’s yellow let it mellow” gets flushed down the pan in our household; and to be quite honest I find it peculiar when Christians seem more passionate about the environment than they do about evangelism!
But this week God has been convicting me that I should reconsider my concern for the natural world, and maybe some of you will feel the same.
When we look back to the Creation account in Genesis we are reminded that God not only made humans – He made everything else too! For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). And He said it was all very good (Genesis 1:31) and gave Adam and Eve the responsibility and the privilege to care for Eden, and (by extension) His world (Genesis 2:15). Isn’t it interesting that the very first occupation of the very first person was a gardener! John even makes refence to God The Father being The Gardener!
And Psalms talk of His love toward all that He has made (145:17), of creation declaring His glory (19:1), and of the heavens rejoicing and the earth being glad in Him (Psalm 96:11-13). Scripture is teeming with references to God’s tending to nature.
With all the rainbows on display at the moment I’m often reminded of Noah and The Ark. Not only did God ensure that two of every kind of animal went into the boat to protect their species, He even made a promise to all the animals along with Noah, to never again destroy everything by a flood:
Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you (Genesis 9:9).
Animals are more than just food for us; we wouldn’t dream of eating our pets, and hopefully people won’t dream of eating undercooked bats ever again either.
Elsewhere in the Bible we are reminded of God’s love for His creation:
You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain (Deuteronomy 25:4);
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight (Luke 12:6);
If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them (Deuteronomy 20:19);
You shall not pollute the land in which you live (Numbers 35:33);
In his hand is the life of every creature (Job 12:10);
And in Hosea, God laments that the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying (Hosea 4:3)
If God is so concerned about this world, then shouldn’t we be, also?
Perhaps you are wondering if I have forgotten that today is Saint George’s Day. Some of you may be disappointed (but I expect more of you will be delighted) to hear that I’m not going to perform a Punch and Judy show or a Morris Dance for you, but I do want to point us to something significant. Aside from the myth of the dragon slaying, we don’t know much about George other than the fact that he was martyred for not recanting his faith in Jesus.
Though we don’t face much risk of having to die for being a Christian in the UK, Christ calls each one of us to daily take up our cross, to die to our selfish tendencies, and to follow Him.
It’s easy to compartmentalise our faith and to consider some things as being spiritual and everything else as separate from our relationship with God. But all of life is to be a living sacrifice unto Him – this is our spiritual act of worship – everything we say, think, and do, from big things to small things – making disciples to mowing the lawns – everything should be done to love and to honour God and people, and for the good of this world and all that live in it.
So if you see any Saint George flags flying from windows, think about what that cross symbolises, and perhaps we can each pray and ask God to reveal to us what he would have us do to better care not only for people, but for the world that He loves and will one day return to in order to set it free from it’s bondage to decay and to restore it to perfect harmony.
The world faces an enormous challenge when the lockdowns come to an end in taking drastic measures to try and reverse or at least minimise the effects of climate change. And though we cannot make the big choices on behalf of governments we can each fine tune the way that we live and the decisions that we make. So in what ways do we want to better steward and appreciate God’s beautiful creation? Together, we can make a difference.