Environmental Studies
August 31, 2023 Creekwood United Methodist Church

Perceived Value - Deep Thoughts

Posted in Deep Thoughts

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Environmental Studies

(and what the Creekwood pond can teach us about Sunday mornings)

“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made…”

-Romans 1:20 NRSV

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

-Romans 8:28 NRSV

Yellowstone National Park Entrance Signage

It’s The Environment!

It was surprising for me to learn that the first degree awarded as a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies wasn’t awarded until 1956 at Syracuse University. I realize that academia often creates new courses of study that coincide with new terminology or patterns in scholarship, but the knowledge that humanity and the natural world are inextricably linked was hardly a new concept. It was 84 years prior that Yellowstone National Park was dedicated as the United States’ first national preservation park, a move documentarist Ken Burns labeled as “America’s best idea.”

But what we often think of as beautiful land to traverse and explore, or unique natural formations to take selfies in front of; people like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt held as much more important. Consider that back east, America was coming out of the Civil War and industrialization was rapidly progressing. We may admire Niagara Falls today as a mix of majesty and power but take a look at old photographs from the Industrialization Era and you’ll find a waterfall whose only purpose was human industry and the smog to match it.

What I’m getting at here is that some very wise people realized that the fate of humanity is tied to the fate of the environment that we inhabit and chose to make a practice of preserving vital lands to ensure the natural world not only displayed God’s glory but could sustain God’s creation. As one anonymous quote put it, “God created this world that functioned perfectly, and we failed to notice each ramification of every river we dammed and lake we dried up.”

What does this have to do with Sunday mornings? Or church in general?

Besides the humility we should have as stewards of God’s creation for more than just our immediate pleasure, let’s take a journey to the Creekwood pond, shall we?

If you are new to Creekwood, this is not the pond we’re used to. This is result of no rain and 100-degree days for nearly 2 months. If you walk along the pond in the morning, you’ll see an egret looking for its breakfast, alongside ducks that make their home on the pond. With such shallow water you can see the silhouette the fish that the egret is seeking and the bugs that the ducks enjoy. As I walked by this morning, watching the egret fishing with no intention of releasing, I wondered to myself, “I wonder where it will get its food if all the water dries up?”

Where we might just see a beautiful pond, God has designed an entire ecosystem that relies upon the water from that pond, and environmental studies show us that anything from human involvement to dry spells can alter that environment slowly but permanently. Essentially, if the environment isn’t welcoming anymore – everyone goes elsewhere.

Anyone catch the turn towards Sunday mornings there?

Pond with surrounding trees

Sunday Mornings

Imagine with me that I put a call out for greeters, let’s just say (hypothetically) for before the 8:30 worship and the 9:45 small group hour (hypothetically, of course). Now, imagine that no one says “yes” and we have no greeters or anyone specifically looking to provide a welcome to those who may not be engrained currently with a peer group at the church. Imagine with me that the friendly environment isn’t sustained and, science tells us, there will be a shift in the ecosystem.

If the environment becomes unwelcoming, everyone goes elsewhere.

While we do need greeters at those two hours, and you should contact Tonya Vining to sign up right now, the environment is larger than even our very important greeting team.

Romans tells us that God loves creating environments that share God’s love and glory. Paul believes the natural world expresses God’s power and beauty as it sparks our imagination and feelings well beyond the scientific rationale for a sunset. Yet, it’s in those scientific details that we see how God works all things for beauty and good. And all of those little details combine for something greater. In a Sunday morning church environment, we have to ensure we aren’t rushing industrialization and personal gratification at the expense of the environment that exists so that all species thrive.

Your presence affirms someone else’s decision to be present.

Your voice in singing combined with everyone else’s will be the most joyful noise, regardless of your musical talent.

Your welcome to someone around you will set their expectations of how friendly they should be treated that week.

And each word you speak around town this week will impact the blessings that others receive.

We are all individually gifted to be a part of God’s big ecosystem, and we have to continue to nurture our environment so that anyone and everyone will know their is a place for them in God’s design.


David Lessner

PS – if you want to know two other examples of ecosystems that depend on the parts working together well? Explore being a part of our Choir for Traditional Worship and/or Handbell Choir for Traditional Worship. Both are environments ready for you to join!

Handbells with brown/orange sweeping background

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