My theology includes a belief that God calls all of creation, not just humans, to the best that it can be.
Moreover, I believe that all is in God - as the Apostle Paul indicated, God is what we live and move and have our being in. This matches up with a number of other Bible verses. Genesis tells us that all of creation is made of the very words of God, and that living things have God's very own breath in them. Coming from God all of creation is a part of God. Indeed, the Bible indicates we are words God speaks.
Psalm 19 (1-4) takes off on the word of God being in all things, noting:
"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night-to-night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (NRSV)
Psalm 139 has a beautiful question-and-answer section, declaring God is absolutely everywhere:
"Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast." (NRSV)
Jeremiah (23:24) sums this up quite succinctly: "Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them, says the Lord? Do I not fill heaven and earth, says the Lord?" (NRSV)
The Apostle Paul says it even simpler in Ephesians 4(6): "[There is] one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." (NRSV)
And Paul connects it all up nicely for us Christians, with respect to Christ, God incarnate on earth, he writes in Colossians (1:15-17):
"[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Col 1:15-17 NRSV)
The theological word for this is "panentheism," which means all-in-God. The bottom line being that that we float in and are soaked by the sacred. The point of the verses set out above is that not just humans, but all of creation floats in and is soaked by the sacred.
And that pull that we feel to be the best we can be is felt by every molecule and atom, every proton and electron in the universe. It's an act of the God particle calling everything to fully shine the sacred.
This month, we commemorate Earth Day, a day set aside to reflect on this fragile planet and how we relate to it, or from a theological perspective, how we relate to God in it.
The truth is, we humans, interfere with the planet's ability to fully shine the sacred by dulling the water and air and earth with pollution and depletion, by threatening and endangering the earth's flora and fauna.
If we treated the earth as if it were the very God whom no less than the Apostle Paul declared we live and move and have our being in, just imagine how much better off the earth (and we!) would be. As it is, we are violating our sacred duty to be the good stewards of creation God has appointed us to be in Genesis. The consequences of our violation of duty can be heard to be eerily laid out in the 24th Chapter of Isaiah:
"The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant." (24:3-5 NRSV)
Maybe this year's Earth Day will cause us to reflect on how our actions might change the outcome of human interference, with creation's call to shine God's presence from every atom and molecule, every animal and plant, every person and waterway.
My prayer is that we care more for God in creation than we do for profits or momentary ease made by not caring. Amen.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org. and his vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/AGodVlog?feature=guide
Editor's note: "NRSV" refers to the "New Revised Standard Version" of the Bible.