Honoring Mother Earth

I remember when Earth Day was first established. It coincided with my 18th birthday. As my graduation from Wenatchee High School drew near, our senior class of 1970 was invited to contemplate the sacred nature of creation in an outdoor assembly. Crowded against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, the Kent State shootings and other anti-establishment protests, Earth Day mattered little to me. It was lost in the plethora of politically-charged initiatives.

Now fast-forward 37 years. Living on Mercer Island, I am keenly aware of the natural beauty Father God has birthed around us through Mother Nature. Spring is a season that heightens that beauty. The flowering rhodies and blossoming trees punctuate the theological doctrines of new birth and resurrection. Old things pass away. New things come. We are blessed to live in a virtual arboretum envied by the rest of the world.

Experiencing spring on our Island causes you to wonder if Elizabeth Barrett Browning wasn’t walking through Pioneer Park when she was inspired to write “Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God.”

My friend Michael Medved claims with a twinkle in his eye that Mercer Island is the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Daniel Lapin told me he views this corner of God’s Kingdom as remarkably sacred.

Now, I know that not everybody sees the Creator’s fingerprints in His handiwork that surrounds us. Did you happen to read that degrading description of our Island in “USA Today” a couple months back?

Describing the former home of Alan Mulally (new head of Ford Motor Company), the reporter called Mercer Island “a microcosm of millionaires, a verdant city littered with mansions, with Lake Washington serving as a moat on all sides.”

Fortunately, such a jaded opinion is far from common. But for those of us who celebrate the incredible beauty of our community, we would do well to pause and consider our role in honoring the land that brackets our daily life with a sense of the Almighty.

Recognizing the mystery of the Creator’s natural order does not automatically equate to taking responsibility to preserve it. Truly seeing the beauty of creation calls for an appropriate response. Browning’s poem moves beyond simply acknowledging the glory of God in nature. She quickly adds, “…only he who sees, takes off his shoes — The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

No wonder Michael Medved isn’t content to simply praise our island as the crown jewel of God’s creation. His knowledge calls him to action. Sincerely believing it is a pristine garden of sacred beauty, Michael can be seen picking up litter throughout Mercer Island. His determination to keep our Island clean is almost obsessive-compulsive. For Michael it is a spiritual mandate.

Recently, I was strolling down a trail near our home. Taking my cues from Michael, I was gathering all the garbage strewn alongside the path and in the bushes. Among the trash I accumulated was a crumpled and stained Starbucks cup. On the side of the cup was one of those “As I See It” quotes. This one was by former news anchor Tom Brokaw.

“It will do us little good to wire the world if we short-circuit our souls. There is no delete button for racism, poverty or sectarian violence. No keystroke can ever clean the air, save a river, preserve a forest. This transformational new technology must be an extension of our hearts as well as of our minds. The old rules still apply. Love your mother — Mother Earth.”

I couldn’t believe it. The disconnect was laughable. Brokaw’s words obviously had fallen on deaf ears. The very thing he was calling for had become part of a growing dilemma.

Fortunately, we can make a difference. While the earth IS the Lord’s and the glory thereof, He has entrusted us with privilege of being caretakers (and litter gatherers) of that which contains his glory.

Why not make this month’s commemoration of Earth Day a holiday worth celebrating?

Pastor Greg Asimakoupoulos is the head of the Mercer Island Covenant Church and a regular contributor to the Reporter.

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