Reflections on Earth Day
There was a time when I believed that our commands in Genesis 1 to care for the earth merely meant to use it for our purposes. I allowed arguments like "recycling doesn't really work" or "caring for endangered owls costs jobs" to get me off the hook of my own stewardship of God's good gifts to us.
Now I feel the weight of the command enough to attempt even small ways to conserve and uses resources rightly. We try to avoid a disposable lifestyle, buy in ways that produce a sustainable, healthy land and cultivate the small plot of a yard we've been blessed with. When did this change occur? Well, it was obviously brought on with the birth of my children. I wanted them to live healthy lives free of harmful chemicals and toxins. I wanted them to be able to enjoy the beauty of God's creation without pollution. But really this attitudinal change began much earlier than my will to follow through with it. A change that began with our prayers Sunday morning in church.
Sadly, most of my church experience on a Sunday morning had little time set aside for corporate prayer. Yes, we sang praise songs, we heard His Word and good teaching, we prayed for our souls and our sins and those of the lost. But there was not time for much else.
Praying the "Prayers of the People" from the Prayer Book during our Sunday service then was a big shock to my system.
At first, I was attracted to the beauty of the prayers but at the same time a bit frightened. Isn't this "the vain and repetitious prayer" warned of in Scripture? Slowly, I realized what was most often vain and repetitious were my own prayers. When I prayed, I focused on what popped into my head, often blinded by own sin. Being led in prayer actually allowed the Holy Spirit to break through these walls to convict and open my eyes to others' needs, as well as my own. And when I was convicted of these needs, sins, desires, praise, or adoration, the prayer book also gave me the language to express them.
One of the first examples of this was the inclusion of prayers for God's creation. I remember wondering if these prayers were just for those crazy environmentalists in the crowd! But week after week of praying for the earth (along with our work, the work of our church and our missionaries, the work of our country; our sins, the sins of the church and our country, for those sick, in danger, suffering from hurt, loss, poverty), I began to love God's earth more, to be convicted of my careless waste, to see ways my indulgences hurt others.
And so, while many of us, are a bit skeptical of movements like "Earth Day," now extended to "Earth Week," where we get to pay Disney lots of money to see a movie and feel good about their effort to plant a few trees or spend $20 for a cool t-shirt and save the world. The prayers below have taught me that doesn't mean that I am off the hook. As Christians, we are called to "reverence the earth as [His] creation," ask him for "the wisdom and will to conserve it," to realize our right use can free others from "poverty, famine, and disaster."
These prayers are worthy of our consideration on Sunday mornings as a community and each day as individuals. Not just one day of the year, but until we are brought into the fullness of His Kingdom.
...Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
From Form IV (BCP, p. 388)
...For the good earth which God has given us, and for the
wisdom and will to conserve it, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
From Form I (BCP, p. 384)
... For a blessing upon all human labor, and for the right use
of the riches of creation, that the world may be freed from
poverty, famine, and disaster, we pray to you, O Lord...
From Form V (BCP, p. 390)