Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pigeon Holes, Stewardship, and the Holy Trinity

This coming Sunday I plan to be at St. Matthew’s, Alliance, to preach and to see in person some of the parish’s work toward “going green”. I’m looking forward to this visit and others through the summer and early fall. Several parishes in our diocese have made some changes to be better stewards of creation, and some are looking for ways to do more now that they have found the initial changes to be workable and worthwhile. It will be exciting to see what sorts of grassroots efforts are in progress, and to help make connections between these parishes so that we can all learn from one another.

As I’ve talked with others recently about some of the places I’ll be visiting and about the creation care work I’m doing, I’ve noticed the way some folks immediately (and wrongly) pigeon-hole various communities – expressing surprise that some would have any interest in environmental stewardship, sure that others must already be fairly sophisticated about creation care. These stereotypes are based for the most part on the perceived economic interests along with the average citizen’s economic class and educational level in each community. Along with the community stereotypes there also seem to be some assumptions about the traits of people who would care about God’s creation, about people who would be “environmentalists”.

Of course, faithful stewardship of our time, talent, and treasure isn’t bound by geography or socio-economic level, and faithful stewardship of creation – our dearest treasure, which makes all other treasure possible – isn’t any different. Perhaps it’s the political climate of recent years that makes us so ready to label one another and to view the world in an oversimplified, black-and-white sort of way. However, as people become more and more aware both of the environmental challenges we face and of the things we can do to ensure environmental stability, it becomes obvious that a desire to help care for creation is part of being human. People from all sorts of communities, all sorts of socio-economic groups, and all sorts of political persuasions and religious groups are changing some habits and doing what they can to contribute to the health and wholeness of our natural environment.

Trinity Sunday reminded us that God is a Trinity, a relationship among three Persons: God the Father/Creator; God the Son, incarnate God yet fully human; and God the Spirit, pure spirit. Any attempt to simplify God to any one of these three Persons keeps us from a whole and healthy relationship with the Living God. Similarly, there is a rich and complex web of relationships among God, humankind, and the rest of creation. To be whole and healthy human beings, we tend carefully to our relationships with God and creation as well as with one another. Part of the goodness of stewardship – environmental or otherwise – is that in taking care of all that God has given us, we end up taking better care of one another and of ourselves, and we grow closer to God.

As our understanding of the complexity of environmental stewardship grows, it will become clearer that this is a task that touches everyone and work that belongs to everyone who lives on this planet. In healing the Earth, we may very well come to understand and better appreciate the richness and complexities of one another, to heal our human relationships while we heal our planet.