Creation Groans

The Book of Psalms offers a universal vision of worship and praise. It is not just God’s people who praise the Lord. The chorus of praise is joined by all the nations, every ruler, and very loudly, by creation itself.

Praise the LORD!
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds! (Psalms 148:1; 3-10)

Stars give praise by shining, waters by being wet, and bees by buzzing. Cows moo, apples are tasty, stormy winds do their part, and even sea monsters are, well, awe-inspiring and scary! Joined to the hymns sung by the faithful, the cacophony of creation joins the praise to sing to the Lord!

This may be a strange image for us. We don’t think this way or notice creation as beauty and signs of grace. We see creation as ore to be mined, trees to be cut down, and food to harvest. The evidence of our objectification of everything (even other humans) has led us to God’s creation in crisis. Instead of songs of praise, creation moans and groans under the weight of consumption and human sin. Paul pronounces:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;  and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)

As London bakes and the Pacific Northwest prepares for temperatures higher than ever, creation groans. As wildfires ravage Europe and the western United States, St. Louis floods, and sea levels continue to rise, creation cries out. As Lake Mead, the source of water and electricity for a vast swath of the Western United States gets closer and closer to being a dead pool (only 150 feet to go), creation gasps. And what do we do? Nothing.

One lone senator who is looking out for the coal money that supports him derails efforts to do something in congress. Countless people around the world, and especially here in the United States, still think there is no problem. AP reports:

“The tragedy of this is that all over social media, you can see tens of millions of Americans who think scientists are lying, even about things that have been proven for decades,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University who has written about the history of climate change disinformation. “They’ve been persuaded by decades of disinformation. The denial is really, really deep.” And persistent. Just last month, even with record heat in London, raging wildfires in Alaska and historic flooding in Australia, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a pro-fossil fuel thank tank, said all the scientists had it wrong. “There is no climate crisis,” the group wrote in its newsletter.

There are biblical parallels to this kind of response to an approaching disaster. The prophets pleaded, called, cried, and yelled at the people of Israel and Judah to open their eyes to see the coming destruction that would result from turning away from God. They would not listen. Judgment came.

Now, I am not suggesting that God, like some Hollywood tough guy, is going to use some terrible miracle to punish. No, God’s judgment comes by our own hands. God has established creation and its balance is maintained through faithful love and stewardship. When we go crazy (as we have) the consequences of nature will be our doing, and God will weep. It is, nevertheless, judgment.

The science is clear. When the global average temperature rises by 1.5 – 2.0 degrees Celsius, things get bad. In theological terms, judgment comes. All our denial, all our claims that it costs too much or that it isn’t the right time will be laughable testaments to our foolishness and genuine lack of love for creation and the humanity of the next generations.

So, is there a word of grace in all this? Certainly. Note that Paul has named the children of God as those who bring about hope and redemption to the creation. The world in agony is waiting for Christ to redeem it, and that redemption is, at least in part, in our power. None of us can, by ourselves, solve these massive problems. Nor can we see a way ahead that will not bring changes, and even pain. But, together, with the cross and resurrection clearly in view, we can do what is within our reach today and work toward the coming reign of a God who brings life instead of the death we have wrought.

Image by ELG21 from Pixabay

Previously published by Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 2022

copyright 2022 by Timothy V. Olson. All rights reserved