Read: Genesis 2:8,15
And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
God’s command to the first human was to “keep” the garden. “Keep” is from the Hebrew word shamar, which can also be translated as guard, take care of, or look after. The writer Calvin B. DeWitt reminds us that the word shamar is also used in the Priestly Blessing, given to us in the Book of Numbers (6:22-27):
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
We are to do to creation as the Lord has done to us. We are in relation to the land as the Lord is in relation to us.
Reflect on the distance between our actions such as mountaintop removal and God’s command for us to keep this “fragile earth our island home.” How can we balance our need for reliable energy in this day and time with this command to take care of creation? Perhaps one step is to think about how to redefine ourselves. Perhaps we are not here to be consumers but keepers. Perhaps our calling in the holy season of Lent is to reorient ourselves in relation to the world around us and to remember who we are and our true calling to be agents of God making the world new.
While this reorientation will require work, it will not be hard because it returns us to right relation. We began Lent being reminded that we are dust. God made the first human out of the earth. Our connection to nature is embedded in us. As we learn to keep the earth, we come into right relation not only with the environment but with ourselves. We bless and in turn are blessed. We keep and remember how the Lord keeps us.
We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of the 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.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 840)
Porter Taylor serves as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.