Sustainability

October 2010 Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article

sustainability (sә-stān-ә-bĭl-ә-tē), from sustain and ability. 1. of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods. 2. capable of being sustained. 3. capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.

You won’t find the word “sustainability” anywhere in your family Bible, but it is popping up almost everywhere else these days. Our human family is living with a growing awareness that we can’t continue the patterns of consumption that have been set over the past few generations, and still pass on to our heirs an environment that is as healthy as it was when we first inherited it.

Sustainability may not be a Biblical word, but it certainly is a Biblical concept. In the first chapter of Genesis, as six days of creating drew to a close, God created human beings and charged them with caring for the earth. Made in the likeness of God, they are to “have dominion” over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28b)

Dominus, of course, is the Latin word for the lord or master of the household. It is also the word used to describe Jesus Christ: Our Lord. Non-Christians may take this verse as an excuse to dominate the world to our best (short-term?) advantage. Faithful Christians, however, ask what it means that the same word for Jesus’ rule is used to describe how we are to care for the world. Jesus lived with great wisdom and intentionality. Jesus was concerned about even the most vulnerable. Jesus was willing to sacrifice – even die – for those who had been entrusted to him. What does that say about our lordship over the earth?

At Saint Peter, we employ conservation practices that are consistent with God’s charge for us to care for the earth. How can we thrive as a congregation, and not leave this world in worse shape than it was when our predecessors entrusted it to our care? That, of course, is a complicated question, but we think a faithful and thoughtful answer would include at least:

  • Being wise about what we purchase, reusing as often we can, and with what is left over, recycling as much as is possible.
  • Purchasing and using recycled materials whenever they are available.
  • Turning off machines, electronic devices and lights when not in use.
  • Limiting our use of air conditioning.
  • Meeting over the telephone or internet when feasible, to avoid unnecessary driving.
  • Bicycling to worship when possible, and resisting the urge to arrive in multiple vehicles.
  • Designing and maintaining a physical plant that uses as few natural resources as possible (using compact fluorescent light bulbs in light fixtures; using native shrubs and grasses in our landscaping design...).

God calls us to be wise and faithful stewards of all that has been entrusted to us. This includes our time, our talents, our treasures... and the world that surrounds us. I invite you to join us in exploring how we can become even better stewards of God’s world – in our life together as a congregation, and in our personal households. What ideas do you have that might help us? I’d love to hear them.

God’s peace to you all, David J. Risendal, Pastor