Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Mission and Ecology

Yesterday we celebrated “Ecology Sunday” and I decided to devote my sermon to the ecology. In 1991 I attended a conference of the Southern African Missiological Society which had the theme: Mission and Ecology. There were some really excellent papers which were read at the conference. Thinking back to that time (seventeen years ago) I’m still amazed that this society had the foresight to have a conference about the topic, long before people started speaking about holes in the ozone layer, global warming and other issues concerning the ecology.
I took my Scripture reading from Genesis 2:4-3:8. I then started my sermon by showing a short excerpt from Al Gore’s documentary: An Inconvenient Truth. Some time ago I read a book written by one of South Africa’s leading Old Testament scholars (who unfortunately died some years ago at a very young age), Prof Ferdinand Deist. He had the ability to tackle huge theological issues and discuss it in such a way that anybody could understand it. In his discussion about the story of creation, he made the following remark: After God had created the man and the trees and plants, God told the man that he had to protect the garden. Obviously the man had no idea what to protect the garden against, because he had never encountered any danger. The man wandered around this beautiful garden. Coming to the tree of knowledge in the garden, God told the man that we shouldn’t eat from this tree because, should he eat the fruit, he would die. And then Deist comes to the conclusion that the man then realised against what he had to protect the garden. The garden had to be protected from his own death, because if he should die, then there would be nobody to take care of the garden.
The story continues about the creation and naming of the animals and eventually the creation of the woman. And then they ate some fruit from the tree of knowledge and immediately things start happening. The relationship between the man and the woman become tense. The relationship between them and God is broken. And in the garden thorns and thistles starts growing. This was the start of the ecological crisis which the world is facing today.
Deist then ends this discussion by saying that we are called to care for and protect God’s creation, because every time that we fail to do so, it is as if we are eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge once again – trying to be God. Helping people to understand that we can never be God and that we have to protect what God has given us to enjoy and to use it in the way that God intended, is possibly one of the greatest contributions the church can make to protect our environment.
Because, if we don’t do it, we are going to face severe ecological problems in a few years time.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Ecology, Mission, Theology

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