Picking up Trash on the Road to Creation Care

We live in the country, and we got into the business of picking up trash by keeping our own road cleaned up—something we’ve done for many years. Now we’re in our mid seventies and retired, and to keep ourselves active we walk on nearby country roads, and we figure that if we’re going to walk, we may as well take a trash bag or two and a “grabber” (which lets us reach into semi-inaccessible places) and pick up trash along the road.

 

After we’ve picked up a road, we load up our bags (and sometimes an old battery or motor that we find), take them home, and sort the stuff—recycling most of the plastic, all the glass and aluminum, and disposing of the rest in the orange bags our Monroe County Solid Waste District provides. If we find some trash with an address on it, we’re just ornery enough to mail it back to the offender, with a reminder to dispose of it properly next As a horoscope libra born on September 29th, your personality is defined by your refined diplomacy, romanticism and imagination. time. On Mondays after one of these collecting binges, we often have a “dump date”, loading the trash and recycle into the car and heading for the collection center.

 

Frankly, we’re offended by trash along the road. It’s a symptom of the greater trashing of our planet that goes on in so many ways. We encourage our politicians to do the right things for the environment; we try to minimize our carbon footprint. We drive a VW TDI diesel which gets 50 mpg. We have a geothermal heating/cooling system in our house, and try to get by using it as little as possible (in the winter we burn a lot of firewood). We hang out our clothes to dry, and grow tomatoes and corn in our garden in sufficient quantities to preserve a bit each year.

 

And we keep Sabbath—we’re old-fashioned sabbatarians, observing Sabbath on Saturday, in the Jewish manner (as good Seventh-day Adventists should). We do use our computer on Sabbath—it was on the National Cathedral website that we got acquainted with Matthew Sleeth. But we don’t buy things or do business or work—unless you call it work to pick up an occasional can in the nearby state forest.

Somebody asked us once “what’s the point of caring for this earth if God is going to make all things new?” Our answer was, “why would God give a new earth to people who trashed the original one?”

 

A big thank you to Blessed Earth for encouraging us in this humble work. There’s a huge contradiction between what Jesus taught and the practices of a lot of people who call themselves Christians. You are making a connection that a lot of people desperately need to make.

 

Don & Jean Rhoads

Bloomington, IN

 

His Good Work is Everywhere!

“There came to St. Anthony in the desert one of the educated men of that time and he said, “Father, how can you endure to live here, deprived as you are of all consolation from books?” Anthony answered, “My book, philosopher, is the nature of created things, and whenever I wish, I can read in it the works of God.”

It has been such a beautiful Spring! A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to photograph at one of the most beautiful farms in Bourbon County, located in central KY. I was permitted to get out in the pasture with some mares and foals. I just sat down in the middle of the field. There was one particular foal who was only two weeks old. Even though he was a little afraid of me, curiosity got overrode all of that and he could not stay away, allowing me to touch his soft nose.

Shortly after this brief encounter, Steve, the owner of the farm came out to visit them too.  I love the tenderness and care that he exhibited over this little guy.  It kind of reminded me of a scene where Adam named the animals.  Later, we talked about how this farm owner sees and appreciates God, the Creator, at work each day, while at work on the farm. The next time you are having a hard time sensing or connecting with God, just look around you. His good work is everywhere!


Jeff Rogers – With twenty years of nature photography experience as well as a lay pastor background, Jeff brings an appreciation for God’s creation as well as spiritual guidance. His wife, Melissa, an emergency room physician, shares his passion for serving God and preserving the beauty of nature.

Back to the Beginning


Painting: “The Garden of Eden” by Thomas Cole, 1828 (public domain)

Often to truly understand an issue, we need to look backward before we can look forward. That is always the case with biblical theology. To get your brain around the goals and purposes of redemption, you are going to have to cast an eye back to Eden. As regards creation care, looking back to the design of Eden is much the same as reconsidering the blueprints of an historic building. Regardless of what has deteriorated or decayed, what has been added or removed, if a renovation is in the works, the original blueprint will provide the guidance needed to get that building back to what it ought to be. So if we, the redeemed community, want to understand our relationship to God’s creation, we’re going to need to start at the beginning.

In Genesis chapter one God reveals his original, perfect plan for his creation. Here the interdependence of the cosmos is laid out within the literary framework of a perfect “week.” On the seventh day, God is enthroned above his creation, and He rests. This communicates not only His complete satisfaction with what has gone before, but also that the perfect balance of God’s ideal plan is dependent on the sovereignty of the Creator. The penultimate climax of the piece is the sixth day. Here a steward is enthroned—under the Creator but over the creation:

Then God said, ‘Let us make humanity in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule . . . .’ (Gen 1:26)

By this we learn that the outworking of God’s ideal design in creation is dependent on the sovereignty of the Creator and the leadership of the Creator’s stewards. To be more specific, it was the privilege and responsibility of the Creator’s stewards to facilitate God’s ideal plan by living their lives as a reflection of God’s image. This was the blueprint.

The role of the human stewards within the created order is described further in Genesis 2:15: “Then Yahweh Elohim took the human and put him into the Garden of Eden to tend it (‘ābad) and guard it (šāmar).” The larger message of these accounts is clear: the garden belongs to Yahweh, but ’ādām (a collective term meaning “humanity”) was given the privilege to rule and the responsibility to care for this garden under the sovereignty of their divine lord. Note in particular the vocabulary chosen regarding humanity’s role—God’s intent was that humanity would ‘ābad (“serve; honor; till”) and šāmar (“guard; supervise; watch over; protect”) the garden. This was a world in which ’ādām would succeed in constructing the human civilization by directing and harnessing the abundant resources of the garden under the wise direction of the Creator. Here there would always be enough, progress would not necessitate pollution, expansion would not demand extinction. The privilege of the strong would not demand to the deprivation of the weak. And humanity would succeed in these goals because of the guiding wisdom of God.

But we all know the story; humanity rejected this perfect plan and chose autonomy instead. And because of the authority of their God-given position within the created order, humanity’s choice cast the entire cosmos into disarray. The curses of Genesis 3 make it clear that in addition to the breached relationship between humanity and their creator, there is a breach in the relationship between humanity and their world as well. The natural inclination toward fertility within the created order, the appropriate placement of each species within its native context, and even the land itself feels the repercussions of Adam’s sin. And whereas each aspect of the garden’s ecosystem had been placed in productive relationship one to the next, all is cast into disarray as humanity’s rebellion echoes through the cosmos (see Epic of Eden [IVP 2008], chptr 4 for a more detailed treatment). And as Romans 8 details, because of ’ādām, even “the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom 8:20). Moreover, as Romans 8 states, the goal of redemption is to reverse this present truth with “the glory that is to be revealed” (v. 18).

So now for the question to the Christian. We readily recognize the results of ’ādām’s choice in the arena of human relationships: poverty, greed, oppression and violence. And we just as readily recognize and embrace the role of the redeemed community to stand against these societal norms by living our lives as an expression of Christ’s character in the midst of a broken and fallen world. But how often do we reflect on the impact of our rebellion on the garden? Have we ever considered the idea that the poisoned waterways, growing lists of extinct and endangered species, rampant human disease, and denuded landscapes of our current world are the result of sin? And if so, have we ever considered how the reality of redemption in our lives should redirect our attitude toward the same?

Sandy Richter


Sandra Richter is Professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary and Affiliate Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University’s Near Eastern Language and Civilizations department. She is a popular speaker and has published on an array of topics. Her most recent book is The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (InterVarsity Press, 2008).