Reflections from Pastor Debbie
April 22, 2020 50th Anniversary of Earth Day
“God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” (Genesis 1: 24-28, selected verses)
In the Hebrew, having dominion over and subduing creation does not mean controlling, exercising power over and destroying. It means rather caring for, encouraging life, supporting, and being responsible for the community of God’s creation. Implied in God’s mandate for us to be good stewards of the earth, is, first and foremost, a recognition that it is God’s creation and we are called to live in creation with all of God’s creatures. We have been given the awesome responsibility, as human beings, to be caretakers in God’s creation. And, as caretakers, we recognize our interconnectedness with all of creation/ with God’s community.
Back in March, when the stay-at-home mandate was issued and virtually all public venues closed, a story was reported entitled “Penguins go on a field trip.” The Chicago Aquarium closed to the public. Without humans around, the staff decided to allow 3 of the penguins – Andy, Edward and Wellington (the oldest penguin in the country; he’s about 30 years old) to escape from their glass enclosed home to roam about the lobby of the aquarium. Wellington became particularly interested in the Amazon fish exhibit. I loved this story for several reasons.
First, it reminded me that sometimes we live in our own glass enclosed homes, not venturing beyond our routines and schedules to explore the broader world. Ironically this enforced stay at home time in our lives is prompting us to consider our worlds from a bigger perspective; to consider our priorities, to understand our interconnectedness. We have been forced to change our routines and schedules and learn to adapt. While our physical spaces are limited, we are allowed to roam in bigger ideological/theological spaces and discover a few truths from our own field trips.
Second, I have been fascinated with how our staying at home is impacting creation. In addition to penguins being free to roam in places where humans have previously limited their movement, pollution over our heavily populated areas has decreased. There has been a 60% fall in pollution over India’s New Delhi; a 54% drop over Seoul, South Korea, etc. Cities like New York and Los Angeles can actually see the sun rising/setting on the horizon because of the lack of smog. Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. It begs the question: How are we doing at being good stewards of all of God’s creation, penguins included?
One of my favorite ancient Native American quotes:
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.
Happy Earth Day! Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation outside your door! Consider your own Field Trip in your neighborhood!
Reverend debbie osterhoudt
I am very excited to join in the ministry at Peace Presbyterian Church as interim pastor! I graduated from Vanderbilt University and received my Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA. Before serving at Peace Presbyterian, I served in Triangle area churches as pastor, associate pastor and interim pastor for 33 years. I have a passion for my ministry and study, travel, walking, sailing (which I learned from my father) and gardening.