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Lent 2024: Week 4 – Restored Creation

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Lent 2024

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Tony Rinaudo

Contributor: Tony Rinaudo

Tony Rinaudo’s life work has been in the environmental and humanitarian spheres, focusing on forest and landscape restoration and helping farmers to become self-sufficient through natural farming approaches. Tony is World Vision’s Principal Climate Action Advisor, promoting reforestation initiatives globally.

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Psalm 104, John 14:6-24

I had been feeling a great weight of responsibility for the reforestation work I was doing and I acted as if success all depended on me. And I was failing. Despite my best efforts, most of the trees I planted died and the people, who couldn’t understand why I would want them to plant trees on farmland, called me the ‘crazy white farmer’. I was very discouraged and wanted to give up and go home.

One morning my scripture reading included Psalm 104:30. When you send your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.

It struck me that this could be significant, but I was in a rush and didn’t reflect on it. Later that day I was driving to a new village and came across a very large area of land that had been stripped bare of vegetation and had become severely compacted. It would have made a good car park. I thought, ‘this land is beyond repair.’ But, as I was about to leave, I noticed a very small seedling pushing up through a crack in that hard ground and immediately recalled my reading.

The meaning I took from this verse was that God was not only in the business of saving lost souls and healing broken humanity. God was also in the business of restoring and renewing the earth. In that moment the weight was lifted off my shoulders as I realised that restoration was actually God’s work and that he will joyfully and willingly partner with us if we humble ourselves and are willing to listen and learn from him. From that point I had a deep conviction that I could go to him for wisdom, insight and courage to persevere and to make a difference.

Do we see Jesus modelling care for the environment? It’s not as if there are gospel stories of Jesus planting trees or walking peacefully, surrounded by doting wild animals and birds. But when we see Jesus, we see the Father. At the time of creation when God saw all that he had made, he said “it was very good.” The psalms repeatedly express God’s delight in creation, and creation’s response in worship. The Proverbs (8:30-31) and book of Job (38:7) tell us that at the time of creation there was great rejoicing and delighting in heaven, and that wisdom, (which is a type or prefigurement of Christ) “was beside him, like a master workman, and was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.”

As bearers of God’s image, humanity is to reflect the character and purpose of the God who describes creation as very good. Rule and dominion are related to the biblical ideal of kingship: the shepherd king who nurtures and cares for his flock.1

Christians should care for creation firstly because creation belongs to God and is important to him. The 2010 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization report, The Cape Town Commitment, contains this statement: “’The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.”2

John Stott writes, “Christian people should surely have been in the vanguard of the movement for environmental responsibility, because of our doctrines of creation and stewardship. Did God make the world? Does he sustain it? Has he committed its resources to our care? His personal concern for his own creation should be sufficient to inspire us to be equally concerned.”3 Further, in a forward to The Care of Creation, Stott writes that “our care of creation will reflect our love of the creator.”4

Secondly, knowing that environmental destruction leads to human suffering, we care for creation as an act of love towards our neighbour, and incidentally, towards ourselves, since we are not immune to the impacts of environmental destruction. With the knowledge that through environmental restoration we can reduce hunger, lift people out of poverty, and reduce the risks of environmental disasters, surely it is imperative that Christians be at the forefront of environmental protection and restorative action. Such actions, depending on the context, increase availability and quality of food and water, reduce the likelihood and impact of severe storms, landslides, flood, and drought, and both mitigate against and help people adapt to climate change. People living in proximity to healthy, functioning ecosystems tend to have more livelihood options and are more resilient to climatic shocks and natural disasters. In this light, loving our neighbour as ourselves is inseparable from caring for creation. In this era of climate change and global degradation of the natural world, loving our neighbour is indivisible from loving and caring for God’s creation.

The biggest challenge I see is the church’s indifference and abrogation of biblical responsibility for creation care. I believe that until Christians repent of not only passively watching others destroy the earth, but of also actively participating in destruction through our purchases, pollution, waste and investments in destructive enterprises, we can hardly expect the world to behave any differently.

I propose six key actions for churches:

  1. Pray. Prayer can break through in world views and theological positions, which can become strongholds.
  2. Be the change you want to see. Take action yourself first and others will follow your example.
  3. Make available theologically sound creation care literature written by respected authors such as John Stott, Chris Wright, Dave Bookless and others to pastors and seminaries.
  4. Provide creation care materials for Sunday schools that are interesting, tactile and active.
  5. Tell stories through the spoken and written word and through film. Stories are a very powerful way of convincing others of our responsibility to care for creation.
  6. Reach out to youth, many of whom are angry and feel cheated of their future. Those of us who are adults need to show repentance for sins of environmental destruction and demonstrate sincere, authentic commitment to creation care.

Many times I’ve been so discouraged that I have wanted to throw in the towel. After several years of trying and failing to convince my organisation of the need to take the threat of climate change and environmental degradation seriously I’d hit a very low point in my life. Knowing I couldn’t go on, I took annual leave to search my heart and the heart of God.

I asked –

  • Had my original calling changed? And was convinced – No, it hadn’t.
  • Had my deep passion died? Certainly not.
  • Am I mistaken, or am I exaggerating about the benefits of the restoration work I was doing? No – there is amply independent evidence that it was all I was saying and more.

With that, I determined that despite everything, I was still in the right place, and that my job was to simply continue to be faithful calling, doing whatever I could despite the limitations. The very next year, I won an international award for my work and from that point on, the groundswell of support has overflowed to a flood.

We can sustain the work when we know our calling and know that God has gifted us and put passions in our heart for a purpose. We can sustain the work through faith that creation care is God’s work and he is faithful.

What gives me hope? Too many Christians are waiting to get to heaven to see God’s goodness. However, the psalmist (27:13) says “I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”. While the earth is not perfect, and this side of heaven there will be tears and sorrow, I have assurance that we can still see his goodness in life today – and so I have hope and am encouraged to keep making that goodness visible to others through my example.

Lent 2024 week 2 1a

Restoring Creation

I learned about integral mission and creation care for the very first time... I really felt that I need to practise what I preach and I want to work for justice and the poor. I also learned about why, as a Christian, I have to care for creation.

India

Mr Kennedy is from south India, and has been involved in children’s ministry for more than 25 years. His team conducts children’s media programs on television and training to raise children’s ministry leaders. He was invited to attend a training of trainers program run by EFICOR.

“I learned about integral mission and creation care for the very first time,” he says. “After the class, I really felt that I need to practise what I preach and I want to work for justice and the poor. I also learned about why, as a Christian, I have to care for creation. It was a new learning. We were taught about the harmful effects of plastics and pollution, the effects of global warming, and the urgency of the situation calling for action. I also understood my role in destroying the earth so I made a decision to stop using plastic bags and bottles. I carry my own cloth bag and we have stopped using plastic cups and plates in all our programs.”

Kennedy has a heart for children and when he learned about creation care, he was immediately motivated to include creation care in all his future engagements with children. He has developed a creative module to teach children the importance of creation care.

“I started using creation care lessons in schools, and found the students and teachers were impacted and started to play a good role in creation care,” he says.
“I have covered more than 1,000 students from different schools so far and they are planting trees and forming teams in schools to protect and save the earth in several aspects such as waste management and water conservation. The training has been a great blessing for me and changed the course of my ministry.”

Solomon Islands

Lent 2024 week 2 3a
Luke Lua Senior
Lent 2024 week 2 2a
Luke Lua Junior

In the Solomon Islands, Tearfund’s partner Ola Fou is also empowering people across generations to see God’s creation restored. Luke Lua Senior is an Elder in his village, and through Ola Fou has learned more about climate change, received training in first aid, leadership and youth development, and learned new techniques for organic farming, including how to grow cabbage, taro, potato, peanuts and ginger.

“With the effects of climate change, crops in gardens can’t grow well,” he says. “When the seasons change the sun is very hot. They teach us how to adapt in the way we plant crops.

His son, Luke Junior, says: “The training from Ola Fou has helped me to support the ideas I have, my dream and vision as a young person growing up; I feel more prepared to approach my future. I’m empowered with leadership, engaged with other young people, so I can support others. Now I am coaching other young people with the skills Ola Fou has taught me.”

Reflect

Use our discussion guide, Faith in a Changing Climate, to reflect and respond to this week’s theme of Restored Creation.

Pray

Dear Father,

Forgive us for destroying the gift of your creation, as a consequence of which

  • the lungs of the earth are disappearing and the very air we breathe is killing us;
  • water which brings life, today brings death – because there is too much, or too little, or it is too contaminated.
  • 10% of the world’s population can scarcely access their daily bread, and the world’s food systems are in jeopardy.
  • 69% of wildlife populations have been wiped out since 1970 and 2 million species are at risk of extinction today.5
  • we are on the precipice of a climate catastrophe.

But we take courage because you still love us, and you love your creation, For God so loved the world [Kosmos in Greek] that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16), through whom all things hold together (Col 1:17) and who is reconciling all things to himself (Col 1:20).
Help us, open our eyes, show us what to do to make a difference. Give us the courage to take action.

Amen

Pray with us

  • Pray for protection for communities who are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and for resources and solutions to help these communities adapt to the changing climate and protect them from harm. Pray for justice and for fair policies to be implemented to support these communities.
  • Pray for leaders in government and corporations to acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and take bold action to tackle it. Pray for Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign to continue to build in momentum and effectiveness during negotiations on the Global Plastics Treaty throughout the year ahead.
  • Give thanks for churches who are recognising and responding to the urgent need for collective action to combat climate change, and pray for opportunities for education and discussion within the church community to raise awareness of the climate crisis.

Want to go deeper or involve your church in ongoing prayer for climate change? Download our free resource, How to Pray for Climate Change.

The availability of safe water is under threat for as many as 1 in 3 people in East Africa.

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1. I have drawn from teachings of Rev. Dave Bookless.
2. “The Cape Town Commitment,” Lausanne Movement
3. P. Harris, Under the Bright Wings
4. R. J. Berry, ed., The Care of Creation. Focusing Concern and Action
5. Living Planet Report 2022, WWF and Zoological Society of London