As Pastor Joy mentioned previously, “Earth Year” has begun here at LSTC. “Earth Year” is a year in which the LSTC community will focus on greater theological engagement with ecological concerns. Throughout the year there will be many opportunities in our communal life to consider how we are being called to care for God’s creation and how the life of the seminary can further that mission. On the line, you can keep tabs on earth year with twitter (EarthYearLSTC) and a facebook group (Earth Year at LSTC). On the Seminarian’s Sojourn blog, we too will engage in this green year with some earthy blogging. Throughout the year we will wrestle and blog our way through ecological questions raised and insights gained.
Our terrestrial year kicked off this past Wednesday with a lecture introducing the theme from LSTC Professor of New Testament, David Rhoads. It was a powerful lecture. There were profound insights as Dr Rhoads articulated a theology of the earth, a theology grounded in our understanding of creation, justification, vocation, the cross, and the Holy Spirit. It was a lecture filled with beautiful imagery, in particular as Dr Rhoads described a vision of all of creation gathered around the table at the Eucharist. And it was a lecture filled with emotion. This topic is clearly a passion for Dr Rhoads, but the emotion in the room provided support to his assertion that “the signal issue has changed.” From the time of Luther and anthropocentric or human focused salvation, the signal issue in our current context has moved to a focus on the survival of humanity and creation. This issue and this year of green focus clearly resonates with our current context in the world. It was an inspirational lecture; those in attendance were filled with energy and excitement to begin this themed year. To borrow a phrase from my favorite college football coach, it seemed that everyone was “All In” with earth year. And to borrow an addictive theme song from one of the most memorable cartoons of my childhood, everyone was ready to sign up to be an official Planeteer.
As we walked out of the lecture, it seemed that we were of one mind and heart. And so it occurred to me, what’s next? If in response to God’s call to care for creation we all shout “Amen!”, then what is the goal for earth year? What do we hope to get out of this themed year? What’s next?
For me, what’s next is some sort of green Lutheran ethic. For me, in this year I hope that our community will wrestle with how God is calling us to respond in action to God’s love of all of creation. If there’s anything that really bothers me about the environmental movement, it’s in this ethics department where we figure out exactly what to do. A popular green ethic seems to place most responsibility and power of ecological justice on the individual. It’s even at the end of the seemingly innocuous and catchy outro from Captain Planet above. It ends as Captain Planet tells us all, “The power is yours!!!”
Especially from a Lutheran perspective, when we speak of creation in a theological frame work this focus on the individual makes me a little leery. Because if the signal issue of our time is an understanding salvation not on just an anthropocentric level but in a way that embraces the salvation of all of creation; then I think the basic Lutheran insight still applies. It’s not me or I or we that have the power to bring about the salvation of creation, but Christ and the cross.
I can almost hear echoes of Captain Planet’s call of “The power is yours!” in the theology of our more evangelical brothers and sisters. If we are to reject this kind of semipelagianism in regards to anthropocentric salvation, then I think we must do so in regards to a salvation embracing all of creation.
I’m not trying to say that we are called to sit back and relax in our SUV’s while rockin’ CFC laden hairspray and let Christ and the cross take care of ecological justice and concern. Rather, I think our ethic must be connected to our theology. We must also beware of that great western heresy that locates all power in hands of the individual consumer, and tempts us to think that ecological justice comes when the individual consumer makes a single green choice. My undergraduate degree was earned in environmental engineering, and I spent several semesters co-oping as an environmental engineer. From this past life, I have retained enough knowledge of environmental science, to know that I don’t know enough. I must humbly confess that despite what Captain Planet says, I don’t have the power. I don’t have the knowledge or power or perhaps even the will to make choices to bring about ecological justice. But that doesn’t mean I’m not called to act and move for it.
Perhaps the most memorable part of Dr. Rhoads lecture for me was some of his remarks on community and salvation. He said that in the New Testament, “there is no salvation outside of community, and no community without creation.” I find these remarks instructive on how God is calling us to respond to God’s care of creation. It is a place where our theology can inform our ethic. I hope that this year at LSTC we are able to wrestle, as a community, with how we can respond to God’s call as a community. I find hope, that even as individuals without “the power,” perhaps as gathered together as a community listening to God’s call together we can find ways to respond together to help bring about ecological justice.
Again, this is not easy; especially for a community like LSTC. As we begin the year, we are reminded of how our community is diverse and dynamic. We are reminded that at least 2/3 of the folks on campus this year, weren’t here last year. We are reminded that a major part of our community is scattered across the world on internship. We are reminded that our community at LSTC is continually being reshaped and remolded. This diversity and dynamic nature certainly enriches our communal discernment of how God is calling us to ecological justice, but it also makes it more difficult. It is my hope and prayer that during this earth year our community engages in the difficult but necessary task of asking the hard questions and engaging in communal discernment of how to respond to God’s grace.
So, I guess my question for you other bloggers, commenters, and community members is, “What’s next in Earth Year for you?”
PS - I finally have a post that rivals Matt in word count.