The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The whole earth is full of God’s glory.”
Tomorrow is Earth Day, a day to educate and mobilize ourselves about our shared human responsibility to care deeply and proactively for the health of the planet. Christians, and many others too, consider the earth God’s creation! It is not necessary to agree on the specifics of how God created the world in order to acknowledge that this is the place where we experience the gift of life and to show our gratitude by taking care of it.
The late William Sloane Coffin, one of my favorite authors, offers this insight into our human responsibility for the earth: “We have learned to soar through the air like birds, to swim through the seas like fish, to soar through space like comets. Now it is high time we learned to walk the earth as the children [trustees] of our God.”
As trustees of the earth, we have responsibility not only for our individual lives, but for the environment and ecosystems we all share.
There is a famous Talmudic story about two men in a rowboat heading toward land. One man suddenly starts to bore a hole in the bottom of the craft. When challenged, he retorts angrily, “This is none of your business. I am boring the hole under my seat!” The Jewish view is that the earth is a boat, a conveyance on which we are privileged to be carried.
Astronaut James Irwin, speaking of his experience of traveling in space, once said, “The earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament, hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away, it diminished in size. Finally, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.”
Most of us, of course, will never travel in space. However, as we walk upon this fragile earth, and experience its innate and diverse beauty, we come to understand our place as stewards, entrusted with the care of this interconnected ecological system we call home.
As the psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). May we act as though we believe it!