By Gina Gaudet
over a week ago, we observed Earth Day. And just over a week
from now, we will celebrate Mother’s Day. So it seems
appropriate to explore our Biblical and theological call to
honor our Mother Earth.
Even with no actual Biblical precept for calling the Earth our
Mother, our scriptural history calls us to treat this beautiful
planet with love, respect and honor. And now more than ever, we
come to understand that loving our Mother Earth is fundamental
to fulfilling our Biblical call to justice and compassion for
the least among us. From the start we must understand that we
are participating in the great story of the Earth, and not vice
versa. Earth came first. Nature came first. Animals came first.
We came last (Gen.1:1-2:3).
To be clear, the first chapters of Genesis actually contain two
creation stories from different sources. And in the second
story, the garden (“Eden,” meaning “delight”) is established,
and then God forms the man (“Adham”) from the dust of earth (“Adhamah”)
and breathes life into him. God brings the already created
animals to the man, who gives them names. Adam is then put into
the garden and given a partner, created from his rib. In both
stories, the implication is clear: the man is the resident
caretaker of Eden. He is not the owner.
It is important to clearly remember and understand this.
Furthermore, in the second story, Adam is quite literally made
from the Earth, so in a sense, Earth truly is his Mother.
It takes very little time for this story to go downhill: The
second generation shortly brings woe to the family line, pitting
nomadic herder Cain against his agrarian brother Abel.
Eventually the human situation degrades to a time of serious
violence and destruction, so as to cause God to decide to
destroy the earth. However, this is not an ultimate end; it is
more like a do-over, in that Noah is chosen by God to build a
“rescue ship” of sorts, not for humans, but for the animals.
Noah saves not only his family, but mating pairs of all the
animals on earth. He shelters them, feeds and cares for them,
and ultimately releases them to multiply and re-inhabit the
earth. In short, his job was preserving biodiversity.
Through the life and personhood of Jesus, God takes a different
angle in the ongoing effort to redeem the human experiment.
Jesus is a God-descendant, and a God-self: a sign of immediate
presence and unending love sent directly from Heaven to Earth.
Images and stories of nature are predominant in his stories and
Jesus spends much of his time in nature; by the Sea of Galilee,
in the small towns and countryside of Judea. He often seeks
solitude in nature for prayer and meditation. Jesus also teaches
the way of service and compassion. We are always to think of
others. To love one another. Nearing the end of his ministry and
his life, he tells a parable of goats and sheep, how they will
be separated at a time of judgment, and the goats do not fare
well in this telling.
The sheep, however, will reap rewards for their acts of
compassion: giving food and water to the hungry and thirsty,
clothing to the naked, welcome and shelter to the foreigner,
care to the sick, and company to the prisoner. Consistently, the
call is to care for those more needful of it.
World leaders are in agreement that the climate crisis will only
make things much, much worse for the poor, the refugees, the
sick, the racialized and disenfranchised. When we rescue our
Mother Earth, we rescue ourselves. When our Mother Earth is
allowed to flourish, we ourselves flourish as well.
Most importantly, we must change our relationship to Earth – we
do not own her, we love and care for her, for she gives us our
life. This year, for the first time, I saw Earth Day referred to
as Mother Earth Day. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we
seek to truly love our Mother! And to understand that in doing
so, we love and honor our Creator in powerful new ways.