Stewards of God's Creation

How many of us have enjoyed nature this summer? Where have you gone and how have you enjoyed nature? At the beginning of the summer our family went up to the White Mountains in NH for a few days, and enjoyed incredible scenery. Then we went to Greece and saw the most magnificent beaches along the Ionian and Aegean seas, together with breath-taking scenery. Even nearby, Pres. Faith and I recently had a picnic around Webster Lake, and then went out on the water in kayaks. We just soaked in the beauty of God’s creation.

When we look around and see the beauty of the world, we can understand the Psalmist who rightly exclaimed, “O Lord, how magnificent are your works, in wisdom you have made them all!”

God created our beautiful world out of His wisdom and love, and as we read in Genesis, he created it all “very good.” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew puts it this way, “We believe in and accept a Creator, who fashioned the world out of love, making and calling it “very good.” Tending to and caring for this creation is not a political whim or a social fashion. It is a divine commandment; it is a religious obligation. It is no less than the will of God that we leave as light a footprint on our environment."

God created our beautiful world, and He called each one of us to become faithful stewards in caring for this world! That is why every year on September 1st, which marks the beginning of the new Church Year, our Ecumenical Patriarch designates this day as the Day of Prayer for the Protection of our Natural Environment.

He wants to remind all Orthodox Christians of our responsibility to keep all creation beautiful. We are challenged to reflect upon our own actions, and the actions of humanity around us, and think about whether we are being good stewards, or careless stewards in our care of the world. Remember, a steward is one who is given something, and one day the Master will ask us what we did with that loan. Did we protect it? Did we preserve it? Did we allow it to grow and flourish and fulfill its potential?

We often talk about being stewards over all that we have in our lives – good stewards of our finances, good stewards in our families, good stewards of any blessings we have received. Today, however, the Ecumenical Patriarch is reminding us that we are stewards over the entire earth, and one day, we will give an accounting to our Creator and show whether we have respected this great gift, or if we have abused it. Listen to some reflections the Ecumenical Patriarch has to say on caring for the environment:

"The way we respond to the natural environment directly reflects the way we treat human beings…We need to understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and a sin against God."

"If we treat our planet in an inhuman, godless manner, we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above. Our original sin with regard to the natural environment lies in our refusal to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and neighbor on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that divine and human meet in the slightest detail contained in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust."

"It should not be fear of impending disaster with regard to global change that obliges us to change our ways with regard to the natural environment. Rather, it should be a recognition of the cosmic harmony and original beauty that exists in the world. We must learn to make our communities more sensitive and to render our behavior toward nature more respectful. We must acquire a compassionate heart – what St. Isaac of Syria, a seventh century mystic once called a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation: for humans, for birds and beasts, for all God’s creatures."

"The fundamental criterion for an ecological ethic is not individualistic or commercial. It is deeply spiritual. For, the root of the environmental crisis lies in human greed and selfishness. What is asked of us is not greater technological skill, but deeper repentance for our wrongful and wasteful ways. What is demanded is a sense of sacrifice, which comes with cost but also brings about fulfillment. Only through such self-denial, through our willingness sometimes to forgo and to say “no” or “enough” will we rediscover our true human place in the universe."

“To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For human beings to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests, or by destroying its wetlands; for human beings to injure other human beings with disease by contaminating the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances – all of these are sins.”

As we begin the new ecclesiastical year on September 1st, let us reflect upon this as a Day for Prayer for the Protection of the Earth, and let us think about how conscious we are about noticing and caring for this beautiful gift which God has given us and over which God has made us stewards.

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