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Horizons 7: Creation laments

“Into the Light: Finding Hope Through Prayers of Lament”
Lesson 7: Creation Laments
Isaiah 24:4-6,8, 19; Romans 8:19-23

Plastic pollution in the oceans is enormous. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to contain 80,000 tons of plastic in an area twice the size of Texas. Plastics are not biodegradable. They break down into smaller and smaller pieces, which are ingested by turtles, fish and birds. Eighty-four percent of plastics contain toxins, which pass into animals and our food chain. There are four other garbage patches in oceans around the world. The oceans are sick and life is endangered.

According to the United Nations report of May 2019, there are now one million species under threat of extinction. Using input from 445 experts and 15,000 governmental and scientific reviews from around the world, the “culprits are in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution; and (5) invasive alien species.” The birds, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, fish, coral and mammals raise up their voices for help. Creation laments.

There are a host of environmental problems that we could list, almost all caused by human behaviors. We are threatening our very existence on the earth.

The earth dries up and withers,
 the world languishes and withers;
 the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted. (Isaiah 24:4-5a)

In contrast, God calls us to a life-giving vocation. Genesis 1:26
reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to 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 wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ ” The word “dominion” does not mean abuse or exploitation. According to scholar Walter Brueggemann, the biblical meaning of dominion is “to secure the well-being of every other creature and [bring] the promise of each to full fruition.”

In the second creation account in Genesis 2, human beings are also given a vocation. God puts them in a delightful garden and they are to till the garden and keep it — that is, to care for it (Genesis 2:15).

Presbyterians have been concerned about environmental issues for decades. The Confession of 1967, section 9.17, states that “people are free to seek life within the purpose of God: to develop and protect the resources of nature for the common welfare, to work for justice and peace in society, and in other ways to use their creative powers for the fulfillment of human life.”

There are churches involved in projects that restore creation. For example, Parsippany Presbyterian Church in urban Parsippany, New Jersey, transformed neglected property into Meadow Garden. Garden plots were staked out. Bee hives were built and native flowers were planted to provide nectar for bees and butterflies. Today, chickens scratch in the soil for bugs. Classes are taught about pollinators and plants. The garden yields abundant harvests of vegetables and herbs. The eggs and honey are packaged for use by church members and the community.

As part of its mission to be responsible stewards of God’s creation, The Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program offers Restoring Creation loans. The low-interest loans help local congregations to reduce the church’s carbon footprint, which lowers their energy bills. The church loans can be applied to the purchase of high-efficiency HVAC systems and water heaters, solar panels, insulation and energy efficient roofing systems.

Eight hundred million people do not have access to clean water. Yearly, nearly two million children die because of contaminated water and lack of sanitation. Living Waters for the World, a mission of the Synod of Living Waters, trains volunteers to partner with communities where the water is polluted. Unlike other organizations who install water filtration systems and leave, the Living Waters for the World volunteers train local people to build and maintain a water filtration system. One volunteer from Tupelo, Mississippi, said: “When you see all of the small children laughing and talking and playing and coming up to you and thanking you with their small hugs, you can’t put words to what you feel. Knowing that you are helping to give the children health and with that life, it makes your eyes water.”

The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city where there are 12 trees for the healing of the nations. Until God creates a new heaven and a new earth, we are called to help clean up the mess that we humans have made.

You can purchase the PW/Horizons Bible study book through the PC(USA) Church Store.

Given that many of our congregations continue to conduct Bible study and Sunday school classes virtually, we would like to make some of our resources normally accessible only to subscribers more widely available. Our commentaries on the Presbyterian Women Horizons Bible study and the Standard Uniform lessons are normally found in print or behind the paywall on our website. For a limited time, you may access them online and share the links to class participants at no cost. We would ask only that if you able, you would consider a donation to the Presbyterian Outlook so that we can continue to produce these resources. We give thanks for you and your ministry, especially in these challenging times.

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