devozine

For Youth Workers Post

EARTH CARE

Dixon Kinser

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Genesis 3—in which Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden of Eden—is a picture of how our relationship to the earth is fractured when sin and death enter God’s good creation. Things are not as they should be; and we, as God’s image-bearing creatures, have a responsibility to work with God to make them right. Teenagers seem to relate to the message of scripture, but they may get stuck when they try to make it concrete in their lives. This lesson addresses the issue of earth care with theological reflection and practical ideas.” —Dixon

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Dixon Kinser


Dixon Kinser
is a husband, father, speaker, author, amateur filmmaker, and Episcopal priest. He has worked in youth and young-adult ministry for 20 years, rides his bike when he can, and takes movies and TV way too seriously. Dixon publishes on his blog a series of movie-based Bible studies called “Film School.”

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • Bibles
  • note pads
  • pens
  • a picture of the earth or a video of the earth taken from space
  • small sticky notes
  • scraps of paper
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

A myriad of resources are available for Christians who are looking for creative ideas on how to care for God’s creation.

  • Earth Care Inc. also has a great (if a little dated) resource and idea list (PDF) covering everything from books and magazines to holiday and family activities that care for the planet.
  • Cool People Care is a social action non-profit that hosts aggregate calendars of local opportunities for service and social action. One of the best things they do is their blog that suggests simple things you can do to make a difference in the world. Not all of the suggestions are related to the environment, but many are. One year, I led a small group through these ideas as a Lenten discipline; the results were great.
           Sam Davidson, the co-founder of Cool People Care, has also published two books that offer a host of great ideas: New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours and 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need.
  • Ecological Footprint offers a quiz to help you determine the impact you have on creation and how many earths would be needed if everyone in the world lived as you live. My answer: four.

CHECKING IN

Ask people to sit in a circle (or in several circles, if your group is large). Ask each person in turn to say his or her name and to answer this question:
       If you had a whole day to yourself and you had to spend it outside, where would you go and what would you do?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 25:14–30, Ezekiel 34:17–19

In the book of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth and then charges human beings (Adam and Eve) with the stewardship of God’s good creation. To be a steward is to be entrusted with the care of something that belongs to someone else and to watch over that something in ways that will please the owner. The God-given role of people is to care for all of God’s creation as God would care for it. But what does that mean? Matthew 25:14–30 and Ezekiel 34:17–19 offer a few ideas to consider.

In the parable from Matthew, Jesus challenges those who would follow him to do something with the gifts God has given them. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is creation. The parable means that we cannot leave creation as it was when we arrived—or worse. We have a God-given responsibility to help it flourish, producing what its inhabitants need; in so doing, we leave the earth better than we found it.

Ezekiel, in his prophecy to God’s people, picks up on the same thread. He says that it is OK for God’s people to eat and drink the food and water that the earth provides, but it is not OK to ruin them for everyone else who wants to eat and drink.

Distribute Bibles, note pads, and pens. Ask one of the youth to read aloud Matthew 25:14–30, Jesus’ parable of the talents. Then ask another person to read the parable a second time. This time, encourage people to write down words or concepts in the text that stand out for them. These may be words, phrases, or ideas that are troubling, confusing, or even cliché. Then ask these questions:
       What questions does the parable make you want to ask?
       Why does the master in the parable become angry with the servant who buries his talents (or sack of gold, depending on the translation)?
       How does our responsibility to grow and develop the gifts God leaves in our care relate to the way we care for the earth?
       What are the ways we nurture the earth so it will flourish? What are the ways we fail to do this?
       How does this parable challenge our current behavior as a youth group? as a church? as individuals?
       (Extra credit) What are some potential misinterpretations and misuses of this parable?

Ask one of the youth to read aloud Ezekiel 34:17–19. Then invite people to discuss these questions:
       When have you seen people muddy the waters and trample the fields today?
       Have you seen God’s people destroy food and water meant for everyone? Have you done this?
       Does God seem to like our care of the earth? Why? Why not?
       What can we do to keep the pastures of our world healthy and the waters clean?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Before you start, you may need to spend some time priming the pump, helping the youth come up with good “Creation Care” ideas. Use the resources listed in “Plugged In” to find ideas. If you have wi-fi, lead the whole group through the ecological footprint quiz and use it as a springboard for this prayer exercise.

Post on a wall a picture of the earth; or if you have a video image of the earth, project it.

Ask the group to gather in front of the picture, and place a trashcan under it. Provide small sticky notes, scraps of paper, and pens.

Invite the youth to consider their actions that work against the wholeness of creation. Then ask them to write on scraps of paper brief descriptions of these actions and to throw them away as acts of confession and repentance.

Invite everyone to write down on a sticky note a description of one concrete action he or she can do, as an act of worship, to care for creation. Invite each person, in turn, to read what he or she has written and then, as a prayer, to stick the note on the picture of the earth.

Conclude the session with one or more of these prayers from The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church. The prayers may be said in unison or as bidding prayers.

> For Knowledge of God’s Creation

Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

> For the Conservation of Natural Resources

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

> For the Harvest of Lands and Waters

O gracious Father, who openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let thy Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show thy loving‑kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what thou givest, that men and women everywhere may give thee thanks; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

> For the Future of the Human Race

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

> For the Beauty of the Earth

We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and forever. Amen.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Take an inventory of your own creation-care habits. What are you doing well? In what ways do you need to grow? Check out one of the websites or books mentioned in “Plugged In” for creative ideas about what you could do next.

Consider your church community. What are some simple things your congregation can do so that your common life reflects the God-given call to care for the earth? How could you get the youth involved?

 

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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