Summary: The Sabbath has an impact on our relationship with creation.
Sabbath and the Environment Earth Day, April 22, 2007
Introduction – the Goodness of Sabbath keeping – poem Wendell Berry p.5
Sabbath is founded in God’s Creation
Out of all Ten Commandments, the Sabbath is the only one that is connected to creation – we are to rest and keep the Sabbath holy because God created for six days and rested on the seventh.
– to keep the Sabbath is to stand in solidarity with creation, and to proclaim the truth of creation to the creation! – Just as we celebrate on Sundays to proclaim the resurrection every week, we observe the Sabbath to proclaim that God created all that there is. If someone asks why we rest on one day a week, we can respond that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh he rested.
God invites us to care for creation
Keeping the Sabbath is actually the second command that is connected with creation. The first is the command to care for creation – it is found in Genesis 1:28
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Difficulty of that word “subdue.” – Way back in 1967, Lynn White Jr. wrote an article in Science Journal that said that all of our ecological woes can be attributed to this command to subdue and Christian’s obedience of the command. – rather ethnocentric way of looking at the earth’s troubles, but Christian have had to respond to White’s remarks ever since.
That said, the word “subdue” has lead to a great deal of bad thinking about our relationship with the earth among Christians.
James Watts, the minister of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, and an evangelical Christian was quoted as saying that when Jesus returned he would be angry be cause we hadn’t used up all the earth’s resources. – this quote might be apocryphal, but it points to a very strange attitude toward creation that is based not in creation or God’s commands, but in an understanding of the end times that I believe is unfounded. Audubon Magazine described this understanding of ruling over creation in this way: “This view holds that the earth is merely a temporary way station on the road to eternal life. It is unimportant except as a place of testing to get into heaven… the earth was put here by the Lord for his people to subdue and use for profitable purpose on their way to the here after.”
I believe that we have misunderstood this creation command. If we are to take dominion over creation, we need to understand the type of reign that God desires. In the gospel, Jesus describes how he intends for people to exercise authority.
Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
We are to rue over creation the same way that Jesus rules over us: Jesus rules by serving. In this way we need to rule over creation by serving it: caring for it and doing what it takes to keep it safe and beautiful.
God commands a Sabbath for the Land
Last week I talked about how it is not just us who needs to keep the Sabbath, but we should make sure that everyone under our responsibility has the opportunity to enjoy the gift of Sabbath rest as well. This includes the Earth. In fact, the Israelites were commanded to give the Land a Sabbath year every seventh year.
the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.
Sabbath is very connected to the Land.
God is so serious about giving the land its Sabbath that he warns the people that if they do not obey his commands, he will give the land its rest.
34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.