10 Ways to Make Earth Day Count
By Nancy Sleeth
April 20, 2011
This year, Earth Day falls on Good Friday. The synchronicity of the death and resurrection of our Savior with our stewardship role in His Father’s creation offers all manner of theological conversation starters. What I find most remarkable, however, is the shared message of hope. Just a few years ago, the question was, “Should Christians celebrate Earth Day?” Now the question is, “How can Christians take a leadership role?”
Before we discuss practical actions, it is only fair to tell you where I’m coming from. I was raised in a conservative Jewish home, gave up religion when I married a secular humanist/nominally Protestant husband, and did not become a follower of Jesus until my early 40s.
The conversion that my husband, Matthew, and I experienced was anything but lukewarm. At the time, Matthew was an ER physician and chief of the hospital medical staff. We had a big house on the coast of Maine filled with beautiful things and two beautiful children. As we went about pursuing the American Dream, some bad stuff happened to our family, as it does to all of us. Our search for a moral anchor led us to the Gospels. Jesus changed everything: the books we read, the music we listened to, the people we hung out with—even our vocations and where we lived.
My husband was particularly concerned by the changes in diseases he was seeing in the hospital, many of which were related to environmental degradation. Our family took Matthew 7 to heart: get the plank out of our eye before worrying about the speck in our neighbor’s. How much were we part of the problem, and how much were we part of the solution?
After measuring our environmental footprint, we eventually cut back our energy use by more than two-thirds and our trash production by nine-tenths. We got rid of half of our possessions and moved to a house with the same footprint as our old garage. (My husband often jokes, “Don’t feel too sorry for us: have you ever seen a doctor-sized garage?”) Despite my fears, Matthew gave up the work he loved, the paycheck and (hardest of all) the social status of an emergency room physician, and we embarked on a spiritual and environmental journey to “serve God and help save the planet.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that care for God’s creation taught us to care more about God. It also showed us how to live out our faith not just on Sundays, but in our actions throughout the week.
Matthew and I both wrote books—his on the medical and theological implications of creation care, mine on the practical applications—and together we started a faith-based environmental ministry called Blessed Earth. We now speak at churches and campuses around the country, sharing the scriptural call to love God and love our neighbors by caring for creation.
No matter where you are on the creation care journey, this Earth Day offers a new opportunity to interweave love for the Creator with love for His creation—faith and feet, prayer and practice. For Christians, April 22 also marks the turning point in history when God made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. What better way to show our appreciation than by sacrificing a bit of cash, comfort and convenience to tend and protect the world He placed in our care?
So here are 10 ways to make Earth Day a church day:
Tune in for the April 21 webinar for a discussion on poverty, creation care and planting trees with Matthew Sleeth of Blessed Earth and Scott Sabin of Plant with Purpose.
Organize a stream bed clean-up before or after Easter celebrations.
Dye Easter eggs using natural dyes—recipes can be found here.
To spark discussion about how your church can take a leadership role in caring for creation, ask your Sunday school class or small group to show the Blessed Earth “Make Earth Day a Church Day” forum one week and the sermon the following week.
Candy advertising during the Easter season ($90+ million) is even greater than the weeks leading up to Halloween ($61 million). Consider substituting coupons in any Easter baskets you make. They can be for rewards such as “lunch date with Aunt Sarah” or “get out of one chore free.”
Get up early for a sunrise Easter service, celebrated outdoors. It is our favorite worship service of the year, when we feel most connected to God’s creation.
Instead of Easter lilies, purchase a small azalea or pot of pansies that can be replanted outdoors.
Commit to leading a small group study on what Scripture has to say about caring for the earth.
Take an inventory of the I-gods in your life, and consider taking a fast from e-mail, TV, cell phones or Internet shopping not only on Easter, but every Sunday throughout the coming months. Taking a true day of rest will change your relationships with God, family and friends—a gift you can open 52 times a year.