The whole earth is full of God’s glory
by Deacon Christine Maddux
On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we wax nostalgic for the days when a Democratic senator and a Republican congressman could unite to launch an environmental protection movement that has since spread to more than 190 countries. According to the official Earth Day website, “Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders.”
That broad appeal is understandable, since respect for the natural world is a universal ideal, infusing both ancient and contemporary cultures with the sense that the earth is a gift worth cherishing. Among some, the earth has even been seen as a goddess; today, there are those who worship “Mother Earth”, seeing it as a sentient being. But this confuses the creation with the Creator, a matter readily sorted out in the Bible, where the divinely established order is explained in the opening chapters.
There we see that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Man came later, formed from the dust of the earth and given life by the breath of God (Genesis 2:7). The garden, containing trees “pleasing to the eye and good for food”, was mankind’s to work, to care for and enjoy (Genesis 2:8-15). It was God’s gift to cherish, indeed.
But when man damaged his relationship with God, his rapport with the earth suffered, too. As a consequence of pride and disobedience, he was banished from the garden to the place where the ground was now cursed: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food, until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:17-19). Clearly, man brought a knottier connection with the earth upon himself, which remains to this day.
But still, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26). And since “the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth” (Numbers 14:21), it continues to reveal Him as it has always done: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without an excuse” to dismiss Him (Romans 1:20). So, we still do well to honor his divine command: “Do not pollute the land where you are…Do not defile the land where you live” (Numbers 35:33-34).
On Earth Day we ponder how we pollute the earth with our careless or willful practices, and resolve to do better. We can also reflect on the ways we defile all of life as Adam and Eve did, through pride and disobedience, and ask God for forgiveness. Yet we can put our hope in the beautiful remedy God has in store: “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), “where no longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22:3). And we have his open invitation to live on the new earth forever, where the pristine river of life flows, by faith in Jesus Christ: “Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17; John 4:10-15).
The Rev. Christine Maddux serves as a deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers and lives in Sapphire. Send your questions and comments to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Crossroads Chronicle, April 22, 2020.