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Ecological Christianity Through The Ten Commandments

The 1st Commandment: You shall have no other gods.

What is this? We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.

Think! Read Matthew 5:45. Jesus makes a promise of sun and rain, that this is always around us—good or bad, human or not. How does this promise of needs of life help you love and trust God? What leads you away from the promise, leading you to place trust in other things?

Act! Give thanks for 100 things you encounter in creation today as a way to remember that God is source of everything, working forever to bless us all with what we need to live.

The 2nd Commandment: You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use that very name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.

Think! 2 billion people (1/3 of the planet) are Christian. What a huge difference our prayers could make in this place! Still, we often think “heaven is my home,” as if we don’t have a part of this world. How does that view take God’s name in vain for this life?

Act! Say a prayer, calling on God presence to be with you today. Ask this same thing for five kinds of other creatures around you.

The 3rd Commandment: Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s Word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.

Think! Read Leviticus 25:1-12. Not only humans need sabbath. Why does God want soils also to rest and “all inhabitants” of a place to have the chance to return?

Act! Learn about or visit a place that has been used and had a chance to rest – a vacant lot, a Superfund site (http://www.epa.gov/superfund) or Conservation Reserve Program farmland (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CRP/)

The 4th Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.

Think! It doesn’t just take two parents, or even a village. Our lives are birthed and nurtured by this whole world. How would we treat Earth differently if we really honored her as our Mother?

Act! Water a plant, bow to the soil, or delight in a weather forecast today. Serve, love, and respect the planet!

The 5th Commandment: You shall not murder.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all life’s needs.

Think! Climate change is already causing what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction, greater than what killed the dinosaurs. Why might our destruction of biodiversity—of God’s great variety of creatures, from polar bears and coral reefs to dwarf crocodiles and others we haven’t even discovered—why might that be of concern?

Act! The impacts of burning fossil fuels are also hurting our poorest human neighbors worst. Go to http://www.lwr.org and search “climate” for stories of how Lutheran World Relief is working to help communities around the world mitigate and adapt amid changing weather patterns.

The 6th Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we lead pure and decent lives in words and deed, and each of us loves and honors his or her spouse.

Think! From the last commandment about not harming a creature, this extends to not harming its closest relationships. We could think of it as a ripple effect through the ecosystem. Many orchids, for example, evolved to be pollinated by a single species of insect or bird. How might our world be different without bees to enable plants to reproduce?

Act! Author Michael Pollan says humans have historically eaten 80,000 species but today products of four (corn, soybeans, wheat, rice) amount to 2/3 of our calories. Spread the love—and the genes! Buy food or plant a garden with something you wouldn’t normally—especially an heirloom variety.

The 7th Commandment: You shall not steal.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.

Think! If all 7.3 billion people of the planet consumed like Americans, we would need the resources of more than four planets to sustain us. Using or abusing in this way, how are we stealing the planet’s resources—and from whom?

Act! Do an online search for “environmental refugees” and learn about how climate change will cause millions of people to be without food, water, or homes.

The 8th Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

Think! In a harsh climate, it can be hard to speak kindly, with self-righteous tree-huggers versus global warming deniers. What way today can you gently but firmly encourage care for creation?

Act! Become a defender of wildlife and an advocate for justice. Lobby your government officials to speak out against threats and speak up on behalf of creation, from children to polar bears to clean air. Or contact the media and ask that climate change be presented not with skeptics’ perspectives but according to the overwhelming scientific consensus.

The 9th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors our of their inheritance or property or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it and the like, but instead be of help and be of service to them in keeping what is theirs.

Think! This one we could take pretty directly. According to the US Census, the average house was 1660 square feet in 1973 and 2519 square feet in 2008, more than 50% bigger. Why have we become accustomed to feeling we need so much and aren’t satisfied without more?

Act! Find ways to make your home simpler and less cluttered. Give something you don’t need to a secondhand store or put it on Craig’s List. Make your home better with an energy audit or Energy Star appliances and Water Sense products when needed.

The 10th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not entice, force, or steal away from our neighbors their spouses, household workers, or livestock, but instead urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to our neighbors.

Think! Let’s think of habitats others need to survive: For most of 4 billion years, other creatures didn’t need to compete with us wanting what they’ve got. Now, whether urban sprawl or using resources, we are changing habitats in our world. Agricultural land is drifting toward higher latitudes because of warming. Desertification affects over 2 billion people. A swath of plastics twice the side of Texas floats in the North Pacific Gyre. What is the problem with treating this whole planet as if it is here only for us?

Act! Fight deforestation by using shade-grown coffees (and eco-palms!). Look for the Forest Stewardship Council label for sustainably harvested papers (www.fscus.org/). Plant trees from the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org/).

What then does God say about all these commandments?

God says the following: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those that reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

What is this? God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore we are to fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments. However, God promises grace and every good thing to all those who keep these commandments. Therefore we are also to love and trust him and gladly act according to his command.

Think! Even if we stopped adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and oceans immediately, today’s CO2 would still be affecting the climate for a hundred years. How does it feel that God would leave us to suffer at least that long, and perhaps irreparably, the devastating consequences of our actions?

Act! Find a way to talk to somebody about how relevant (or how unimportant) you feel your behavior amid creation is for your faith.

 

 

Ecological Christianity through Luther’s Small Catechism

We marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with the occasion of Martin Luther writing his 95 Theses. For those of us living with the Reformation heritage, however, another of his writings has likely been more influential in shaping our identity: his Small Catechism of 1528. The occasion for this handbook was that Luther discovered the need to teach the basics of the faith after visiting the evangelical or protestant congregations a decade in to the Reformation.

This exercise takes Luther’s back-to-basics approach, and also sets it in a broader ecological perspective.  As a church that is “always reforming,” we know that the good news of God continues to encounter us in our life.  Just as the papacy and indulgences (the focus of the 95 Theses) are not our central concern, so we also attend to contemporary threats and current events, recognizing the need in our times for Eco-Reformation.

Here, each piece of Luther’s Small Catechism is followed by a learning question, then by a suggested participatory action.  You may use this personally, or print one section each week in your bulletin, or adapt it for confirmation classes.  This is only one way to try seeing the entirety of our faith as permeated with creation care.

The 10 Commandments

The Creed

The Lord’s Prayer

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

The Sacrament of the Altar

 

 

Sample resolutions to edit and submit at your next synod assembly

Sample Transition to Clean, Renewable Energy Resolution

Sample Fossil Fuels Divestment Resolution

Sample Synod Resolution on Eco-Reformation

Sample Resolution Regarding Inclusion of Stewardship of Creation in Worship

Sample Resolution to Become a Lutherans Restoring Creation Synod

 

 

Sing Out! Celebrating with Creation: Songs in Support of Ongoing Earth-Care 

Sing Out! Songs written to known melodies, for use in association with the Eco-Reformation, the Season of Creation, or occasions for celebration with creation. Click here to download “Celebrating with Creation: Songs in Support of the Eco-Reformation in 2017 & Ongoing Earth-Care” by Norman C. Habel.  

St. Andrew’s Environmental Stewardship Team: Nine Years Old and Still Going Strong!

The Environmental Stewardship Team (EST) at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, MN (a congregation of some 6,000 people on a campus of three sizable buildings) was founded nine years ago.

Jim Malkowski, a retired naturalist who started a large nature/environmental center and served 21 years as CEO of two centers, is co-founder of the group and was its chairman until recently.  He reports on the work of EST:

“A few of our achievements over the years have been co-sponsoring a wind generator on a co-campus with a high school, converting our 3 buildings to all LED lighting, an annual week-end devoted to a church-wide environmental messaging (called “Caring for Creation Weekend” – “C4C Weekend”)  including exhibits, music, literature and a sermon.  

“We have met monthly for nine years, formulated on-going 3-Year Planning Projections integrated into the church’s 10-Year Plans, and recently applied a $10,000 grant into a comprehensive recycling/composting program.  We are now in our second year working toward solar energy for St. Andrews, conducting walk-through planning estimates from contractors.  So, it’s been an active nine years.

“While we have the basic support of pastors’ leadership, we have yet to achieve comprehensive support to declare our church as a “Green Congregation,” a goal we continue to calculatingly pursue, vis-a-vis the Lutherans Restoring Creation Manuals. As the church’s EST, we are on the verge of much more fully integrating our work into the full mainstream of this Church’s worship and outreach.  Truly, it is a “Lutherans Restoring Creation” movement.”

See the webpage for the St. Andrews Environmental Stewardship Team, and download the EST brochure here.

 

Companion Sites

Lutherans Restoring Creation greatly appreciates the volunteers who keep the following resources updated. We are also blessed to have a ELCA Stewardship and Advocacy teams who manage a standing library of resources ranging from public policy how-to’s to every social statement in entirety to study guides to talk about holistic stewardship practices in your church:

LetAllCreationPraise.org
Lutherans Restoring Creation Blog
ELCA Care for Creation
ELCA Advocacy

The following sites are great for referencing material and tracing the history of this work. However, there are many broken links and out-dated contact information. Please use these resources with that in mind and ask info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org for any updates.

www.webofcreation.org
www.bibleandecology.org

Working their Beliefs into the Public Sphere 

On Earth Day 2016, a small group of people of faith visited Massachusetts’ Senator Ed Markey’s office in Boston to detail their hopes for the protection of a special part of the Atlantic ocean habitat. Months later, these advocates, and thousands of their peers, were grateful to hear that the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts area was declared the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts area was declared a Marine National Monument by President Obama as part of the Antiquities Act
 
While some faith leaders had been in the activist role before, there were a couple young people initiated into the practice of public involvement for the first time. Lydia Holleck, an 8th grader from Harwich MA and, Thea Morad, an 8 year old from Braintree, MA were at the table, as people of faith, proclaiming the moral imperative to steward our oceans. 
 
Upon hearing the news of the President’s determination from her science teacher earlier this fall, Lydia was blessed with a feeling few citizens get to have in their lifetime. Read her story (and make one of your own). 
Over one million comments were submitted to the Dept of the Interior know what National Monuments in 2017 in support of keeping our national, natural treasures. Read more details about how people of all faiths have stressed our obligation to care for God’s good earth in this way and hear from our youth who have been working locally to defend it. Share an opinion piece with your local papers or online outlets. Read Pastor Jeff Conlon’s piece on the moral imperative of this action.

Tool Kit on Climate Change Connections

Take yourself, your class, or your congregation on a journey that explores the intersections between climate change and hunger. These toolkits are designed to be a program-in-a-box or customizable segments of information and activities for use in many congregational or educational settings. [Read More Here]

 

 

Reflections on Swedish Bishops’ Letter on Climate Change

On May 19, 2015, LSTC Professors Kadi Billman, Barbara Rossing, and Vítor Westhelle, reflected on A Bishops’ Letter about Climate Change published by the Church of Sweden in 2014. The Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén, archbishop of the Church of Sweden, concluded the session presented for the LSTC Board of Directors and faculty. Click here to watch the four videos.

Click here to read “A Bishops’ Letter about the Climate” from the Church of Sweden.

 

 

 

Stewarding the Gift of Water: ELCA Advocacy Fact Sheet

Theological background and information on water stewardship globally, nationally, and locally. Under the “Find Your Watershed” section of the Factsheet you can click on the link to the USEPA site and input your zip code and you will be able to locate your watershed.
or go to the ELCA Advocacy Resources page.

Our Watershed Moment, a toolkit from the EcoFaith Network of the Minneapolis Synod

Our Watershed Momenta toolkit from the EcoFaith Network of the Minneapolis Synod, introduces the concept of a watershed and includes resources for theological reflection, worship, youth, education, advocacy, and water stewardship in the home.

2016 Churchwide Assembly Resolution Urging Stewardship of the Gift of Water 

Noting “the many biblical themes of renewal and liberation that water affords,” and the importance of watersheds for environmental justice and creation care, the Assembly resolved to promote awareness, appreciation and stewardship of watersheds and water.  Click here to read the resolution

Lutheran Study Guide to Pope Francis’ Letter on Climate Change

This is a four week study intended for church adult education, college, or seminary classrooms. The study takes up the theme of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming that happened in 2017. Please consider adapting this this curriculum for use in your adult educational opportunities.
You can download the study guide from the links below:
Week 1: 
Introduction: Climate Change and Faith
Week 2:
Claimed By God, Claiming our Calling
Week 3:
Gathered into an Integral Ecology
Week 4:
Sent: Eco-Reformation

 

Larry Rasmussen’s Lecture for the Bonhoeffer Lectures in Public Ethics at Union Seminary

Voices from science, ethics, and theology on Eco-Reformation.

Veni, Creator Spiritus!
An Ecological Reformation

Veni, Creator Spiritus! Once a World Council of Churches program theme, “Come, Holy Spirit, renew your whole creation!” surfaced again in an ecumenical gathering in Greece in March 2016, this time as a “Manifesto for an Ecological Reformation of Christianity.” The authors note the Reformation Jubilee of 2017 as the opportune moment for the manifesto. The backstory is the urgent call of Christians from areas most vulnerable to the constellations of economic power, whether in the Pacific, Africa, Asia, Latin America, or from minority populations in Europe and North
America. Add the Pope’s ringing encyclical, Laudato Si’ , and Protestant countries in the North keenly aware of the environmental degradation of their consumerist life style, and we have an ecological cry that is as clear, strong and emphatic as
Beethoven’s Ninth. [read more]

 

Congregational Covenant and Organizing Kit

What can you do? 

AFFIRM: Personally, with your church council, or entire synod, review our ELCA’s 1993 call to action and commit to engaging in steps to live into that calling.  Sign and submit the Covenant with Creation to be part of our accountability and celebration network.

ACT TOGETHER:  Reach out to all church members and share the ideas listed specifically for the area/committee they already work on: Action Plan Ideas.  Goals without specific people and dates may remain elusive. Use this form and our ELCA network to help make a path.

Use the online version of the Organizing Kit to the right or download the pdf here: Congregational Self-Organizing Kit

NOTE: We often make updates in the resources and connections. Please refer back online often and let us know if you have any suggestions!