In the Biblical tradition, and in the faith of the people of God, there is a strong, recurring emphasis on the role of God in creation.
Creation declares the power and the greatness of God. The beauty and complexity of nature bear witness to the existence of God.
I lost count long ago of the number of conversations I have had with people who have testified to their experience of feeling God very close and very real in the context of nature in the beauty of flowers, birds and butterflies, the vastness of desert or wilderness, the ruggedness of mountains, rocks and valleys, the sound of waves, or waterfalls, or running streams and the stillness of a starry night.
As they encounter the wonder and amazing complexity of creation, many people sense the presence, the power and the peace of God in a personal and compelling way. It nurtures their faith, calms their spirits and helps renew their zest for life.
Many Christians have discovered a fresh and creative sense of encounter with God through the engagement of their senses with the wonder, the beauty, the complexity and the sheer awesomeness of the world God has made for them to live in.
In Australia many people have been led to a real appreciation of the spirituality of our indigenous people, with its strong emphasis on the earth and the central place of story.
For others, it has been the recognition that in the vastness and ruggedness of this great island nation of ours, with its deserts and mountain ranges, rivers, rainforests, sweeping plains, and beautiful beaches, we have a gift from God to awaken our senses and encourage a new appreciation of the divine presence in our world.
Scripture declares that the world God has made is a gift entrusted to our care. We are called to be good stewards of the earth and all its resources.
The use of the words “subdue” and “have dominion” in the creation story found in Genesis 1 do not infer the right to ravage, exploit or destroy. They are words that establish the biblical notion of responsible stewardship. God not only saw that everything he had made was “good”, God entrusted what was good into the care of the human race.
Sadly we have not always been good stewards of the earth and its resources. We have polluted the atmosphere to the point that global warming is now inevitable. We have filled rivers with chemicals and heavy metals and have decimated forests.
Thousands of species of birds, animals and fish are now extinct because their habitats and their natural sources of food have been destroyed. Huge oil tankers sail our oceans and periodically are the cause of ecological disasters of immense proportions.
In the beginning, God saw that what the divine wisdom had brought into being was “good”. We, as the stewards of creation, are entrusted with the responsibility to ensure that it remains so.
In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus is the Lord of creation. As Son of God he was present and active in the creation of the earth. As the risen Christ he will be present and active when God brings everything in heaven and on earth to its ultimate and perfect fulfilment.
It is for that reason, in relation to the world in which we live, that our responsible stewardship of the environment is part of our Christian discipleship.
It is one more profound and important way in which Jesus gathers every dimension of our human existence into the relationship we share with him.
Rev Dr David Pitman is Moderator of the Queensland Synod