Yesterday, I attended a lecture by Dr. Matthew Sleeth, author of Serve God, Save the Planet. I read the book several months ago so the lecture was a good review on what our responsibility is as Chrisitians and as citizens on planet Earth.
I will try and recap several ideas Dr. Sleeth shared.
Dr. Sleeth touched on the Parable of the Good Samaritan and how we are to be like the Good Samaritan towards our neighbors in regard to the enviornment. It's easy for us to think of our neighbors as those in our neighboorhood, city, state or even our country. However, Dr. Sleeth challenges us to go even further and consider our neighbor across the ocean in Africa or Europe or Asia. He asks us to also consider our neighbor as the young children who have yet to grow up on this Earth or the unborn of future generations. The choices we make concerning the environment will affect all of these "neighbors" and we can choose to either use our current resources to satisfy our wants or use our resources to aid those without.
Part of the lecture touched on the references to trees in the Bible. Sleeth asked what most have in front of their comfortable chair in their home....most answering the TV. He then pointed out that in Revelation, it states that in front of God's throne is a tree. He was drawing on the fact that part of God's Creation are trees and how much we can gain from their existence as well as our responsibility as stewards of this Earth is to care for these trees (many of which are no longer around....like no more Oak trees on Oak Street).
A question from the audience (that I appreciated) asked how do you address a church that is willing to discuss the environmental concerns of today but is unwilling to make changes like no longer buying styrofoam cups due to budget issues. Sleeth boiled it down to how can you spend $1200 on biodegradable cups vs. using that money for the starving people in the world (which is what it usually comes down to). Sleeth's first comment was (the lecture was in Benton Chapel at VU), "No one had any concerns about using money to build a building like this." We all seem to easily appreciate attending a "pretty" church and even justify raising funds for a bigger church building but when it comes down to being environmental stewards, then other issues seem to take precedent (my interpretation). He suggested having a group just go out and buy the replacement cups or finding other ways to cut costs around the building (like maybe reducing electricity use) to find this extra cash flow.
One more topic that I will touch on from the lecture: keeping the Sabbath. Sleeth addresses this topic in his book and I appreciate his concern living in the culture of America. Sleeth touched on how God created a day of rest and throughout the Bible draws on periods of rest....like resting the land where crops are grown (which Sleeth does in his own garden). It's important for us to rest our bodies from work and our minds from the clutter of this consumeristic culture.
If you would like to read more about Sleeth's work, you can visit his webiste. http://servegodsavetheplanet.org/?page_id=2
Two of my friends attended this as well (and I would love for them to leave their comments on what impacted them the most, since I was somewhat distracted during the lecture while trying to entertain my 10month old. :)).