Reflection September 11, 2022 (Creation Time 1)
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28/ Psalm 14/ Luke 15:1-10
Healing Starts with Repentance
The Giving Tree
Once, there was a boy and a tree that loved him. He played on the tree, took a nap under it, and they were happy together. But then, the boy grew up and lost interest in the joy he shared with the tree. He wanted money, so the tree let him pick its apples and sell them for money. Then, he wanted a house, so the tree let him cut off its branches to build one. When he wanted a boat to take him far away, the tree let him cut down its trunk to make a boat. When the boy came back as an old man, too weak to do much, the tree, which was only a stump by then, let him sit and rest.
This is the story of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s a story of a human child who grew up to be selfish while the tree remained loyal to him. The tree gave everything to make this boy happy, even when it was only a stump.
To me, this heartwarming story seems dark and bitter, because we humans have been selfish and greedy throughout history. We considered ourselves rulers of this planet and used God’s creation for our selfish purposes.
Where did it get us as family members of this planet? We destroyed the balance of the ecosystem. We polluted our planet with wastes that won’t decompose. We caused a lot of plants and animals to die by taking their habitat, and caused deforestation and draught. Then, fresh water is running out because we have been wasting it on non-essential things and bad habits. We have already started suffering the consequences of our collective sin, but it seems like a lot of us are still not doing anything about it. Let us just sit for a few moments with this.
Jeremiah’s Vision of Desolation
And now listen to Jeremiah who argues that all God’s creation suffers as a result of human wrongdoing:
“I looked on the earth, and, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this, the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.”
Of course, when Jeremiah speaks of the earth becoming desolate, he is not concerned with the environmental issues. Back then, the people of Israel believed that disasters were God’s punishments for their sin of not living as God’s faithful people. However, reading this text while living through environmental crises, it feels extra chilling. The damage to our earth is also due to our sins of not living out God’s command to take care of all God’s creation, God’s warning against greed and selfishness, and God’s command to love our neighbours as ourselves (because damage to the earth includes damage to all God’s creation). This text reminds us of the consequences of our actions.
Environment and People
We have sinned by causing our planet and God’s creation to suffer. Remember that God’s creation includes humans. We not only disturbed the balance of the ecosystem, causing nature and animals to suffer, but we also caused human suffering through unjust social systems. All creatures are suffering together and environmental justice is connected to people’s justice. The good news is that God is gracious, loving, and forgiving.
Gracious and Forgiving God
We read two parables teaching us about the gracious and forgiving God. In these two stories of “lost and found,” the target audience is not the lost but the never lost. The never lost are self-righteous people who believe that they are faithful to God because they observe the Law. However, Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and rebuked them.
How can one be justified when one doesn’t even observe the most important law to love one another? The lost have been told that they are sinners whether have actually done evil or they couldn’t observe their law due to poverty. You see, some parts of the Jewish Law requires money to observe, such as offering animal sacrifice.
To the pompous and hypocritical never lost people, Jesus proclaimed that God is happier with the lost who come back than the never lost who are self-righteous. To those who already hate him, Jesus makes things worse by telling a story in which the loving shepherd just abandons the ninety-nine in the wilderness to look for the one lost sheep.
God doesn’t compliment the hypocritical oppressors for their good job observing the Law; God abandons them to save those they oppress. And God invites us to receive God’s love and to live in that love with one another.
Forgive Our Foolish Ways
As the psalmist sang, let us ask for forgiveness for our foolish and corrupt ways. Let us make God our anchor and be guided. We caused the ecosystem to be destroyed, causing plants and animals to suffer. We polluted the air and water, causing our fellow humans to suffer. With our pride and greed, we marginalized groups after groups of people, causing them to suffer.
Our whole world is full of damage and suffering. It is time we started the healing process for all creation, and healing starts with repentance. Repentance is not about saying sorry and moving on. It’s about going through a spiritual surgery process to remove the cancer cells of greed and hate, and feeling the pain that one has inflicted on others.
Let the Healing Begin
As we start the Creation Time, let us learn about the environmental damage and how we might fix it before it is too late. This process will be tricky because even scientists suggest different solutions. Some argue that veganism is the way to go. Others argue that veganism will require more land to plant more crops, taking more land from animals, causing them to die.
I think all we can do is do our best. The point is that we must do our best. However, Creation Time is not only about the environment and its plants and animals. We humans are an integral part of God’s creation. Therefore, Creation Time is also for us to reflect on and repent for the suffering we cause each other. During this Creation Time, and all other times, let us remember God’s commandment to love one another, which supersedes any other laws. Let us start the healing of all God’s creation.