Romans 8:18-27

Rev Rainer Schack

March 7, 2004

Friends,

Joining the Clean-Up Australia Day is not just about showing that we prefer a tidier Footscray or a cleaner Australia. Joining Clean-Up Australia Day serves as a practical reminder for us that as Christians we have a responsibility in caring for the world we live in.

In Genesis 2:15 we read that “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” The root of the word “to till” means “to serve”, and the root of the word “to keep” means “to preserve”. Thus, when God gave Adam the task to work the land, God did not encourage the exploitation of the land, but to work with the attitude of a servant who preserves the land, and responsibly looks after the land.

In the fascinating text from Romans 8, Paul makes the point that creation is included in God’s plan of salvation. Paul says in verses 19-21:

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

It is God’s will that all of creation will be liberated from the various destructive forces at work in our world. It is not just human beings who are meant to be saved. God’s saving act in Christ and God’s ongoing work of salvation through the Spirit includes all of creation, the land, the polluted air and water, and the animal world.

Now, if God has created the world with all its beauty, the mountains & valleys, land & sea, plants & trees, mammals, insects & fish, and fresh air to breathe, how on earth can we destroy, exploit and pollute what God enjoyed creating saying “it is very good” (Gen 1:31)?

We might be tempted to defend ourselves, saying: “I don’t destroy God’s beautiful world, I live in it, and yes, in some small way I create some (unavoidable?) waste and pollution. It is the great industries which pollute the air and the water, and cut down the forests.” It is easy to blame the system for the destructive forces at work in the wider world, and to ignore our own responsibilities within our small world of every-day life.

As citizens of this country, we are responsible for the policies of our government. Do we care what our governments position is on the protection of the environment? Do we care whether our politicians sign the Kyoto Protocol committing us to cut back on greenhouse gases? Will we make an effort to understand which parties are going to work for peace, justice, and the protection of the environment when it comes to the next election?

What can we do in our every-day lives to protect the environment?

With the current water shortage in Australia, are we able to keep our showers short? This is very “painful” if you like long showers like I do! Do we save water by rinsing the dishes in a bucket rather than under the running tap?

With regards to pollution, do we make an effort to support public transport rather than rely on our personal vehicles? Is it possible for us to use a push bike or walk for short distances?

When we go shopping, can we live without plastic bags which take years & years to break down, some of which will never completely break down? Are we able to bring our own shopping bags to the super markets?

There are many practical ways we can look after our environment. They might cost us time & effort and maybe even money. While we might not be able to change our habits all at once, let us take our responsibility as Christians seriously and commit to changing one bad habit to glorify and worship God by caring for God’s beautiful creation.

When Paul reminds us that it is God’s plan not just to save humanity but all of creation, we should remember that as Christians we are called to join God in his work for salvation & reconciliation. As we are called to reach out to the people in our neighbourhood, sharing God’s passionate love with them, so we are called to move beyond our comfort zones in caring for the environment, in helping to set God’s creation free from the destructive forces at work in this world.

I invite you all to join us in the Clean-Up Australia Day after the service and to consider our cleaning of the neighbourhood as part of worship. Let us celebrate the creator of this beautiful world by protecting the environment from exploitation and pollution, and by using the world’s resources responsibly.

After God created the world, God said: “It is very good.”

Rev. Rainer Schack