Thursday, July 19, 2007

God is Green

I was finally able to make it to Mars Hill Bible Church to hear Rob Bell preach the word this past Sunday in Grand Rapids. I have been wanting to go there for many months and have not had the opportunity. Driving onto the street we followed the cars into a parking lot that we assumed was the church because of all the people. Not one sign was displayed. We followed everyone into this huge mall where they conduct their services and it wasn't until reaching the front door that I saw in small letters Mars Hill Bible Church. I read his first book,Velvet Elvis this week, where he says that friends bought this big sign for him when they were first starting the church and he did not like it because he does not believe in advertising or marketing Jesus so they took the sign back.

Walking into the main sanctuary, there was a huge simple room designed in the round and in the center the worship band was playing and they sounded great! The string instruments add such a beautiful element to music. They played an instrumental song until service started. They sang about four or five worship songs. Then they had a simple introduction talking about some things they are doing around the area to help homeless people and talking about some mission work in Africa they are currently involved with.

No offering was taken. They keep boxes in the back if you want to tithe or give an offering, but no mention of it was made. I only knew about the boxes because we met my friends there, Dave and Stacy, that live in Grand Rapids and attend the church. After the intro, Rob Bell stood up and started preaching. He was continuing a series they have been doing called "God is Green".

We studied Job chapters 38-41 for quite a while as God describes in great detail his construction of the earth and the animals. Here are some examples from Scripture of this:

Job 39:5 "Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied his ropes? "

Job 39:13-18 "The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor is in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider."

Job 40:15 "Look at the behemoth, (possibly the hippo or elephant), which a made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox."

Job 41:1, 5, 12 "Can you pull in the leviathan (possibly the crocodile), with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope? Can you make a pet of him like a bird or put him on a leash for your girls? I will not fail to speak of his limbs, his strength and his graceful form."

Rob Bell aruges that the point of all creation is just that it exists and God takes great joy and pleasure in His creation.
He believes God's primary posture for creation is not production (what can it do for me), but pleasure. Not consumption (how can I use it) but celebration. He basks in the order and beauty of creation. He pointed out Proberbs 8, where wisdom is talking about the creation of the earth.

Prov. 8:30 "Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind."

He also believes God created the Earth so it would sustain us and feed us.

Psalm 104:14-15 "He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate- bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to sustain his heart."

He then argued that we are not cultivating the land properly or taking care of it in the way God intended. He quoted current statistics about an acre and a half of rain forest being destroyed every second. 70% of China's rivers of polluted. 4.6 million died of air pollution last year. We lose 50,000 different distinct plant, animal and insect species every year.

He quoted other statistics and then said someone asked last week how we got in this mess and he believes there are two big streams of thought going around that need to be confronted along with these issues; exploitation and entitlement. Deep in the human story and deep in the human heart is a destructive bend to use people and things for our own purposes and leave people worse off than before we first encountered them. In Exodus, Chapter 5, we see the slavedrivers not giving more straw to make bricks and beating their oppressers and the question is asked, why are you treating the servants this way? Sin distorts relationships and instead of living with mutual respect and honor, you see many examples of using and abusing.

Leviticus 25:23 "The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants."

Rob Bell then said we have a deep, sinful bend in the human story of entitlement in which we start to think that what belongs to God belongs to us and we don't take care of it as if we were fully aware that this is God's.

This sermon resonated with me. I do see this attitude about the Earth and am glad to see the Church begin to talk about these things. I am surprised with how much criticism and argument there is against these ideas. It seems like common sense to me, but there is a strong distaste for this kind of teaching. They have had many people coming up after service to tell him the earth is ours to use as we wish. Where is the spirit of gratefulness and meekness in a statement like that?

I have always wondered why caring for the earth seems to be a political issue. Why have only Democrats seemed to be environmentalists for so long? It seems like there is a trend for Republicans to also begin talking about these issues as well and I hope the dialogue continues and fosters more opportunity for others to develop compassion towards creation.

Earth Day is one opportunity to talk about these issues. I love teaching about the earth and animals and celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd each year. Children get excited to learn about the earth, our natural resources, and ways we can make a difference while we care for the planet. Children gravitate towards this when they are young; they still have wonder for all the vastness and creativity on this land we reside on. I always tell them, if we don't take care for the animals, who will?

(I am respectful of families that go hunting and enjoy this activity. I believe that this activity can be done respectfully and when I teach my Native American unit, I take time to explain the respect with which the Native Americans live on the land and have hunted for survival. They try to use every part of an animal if they kill it and not exploit the life that was lost.)

I was pleased to hear his sermon today and experience this place that has brought so many people together in community to hear the word of God. I hope to return again one day and in the meantime I plan to listen to more of his sermons here.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Too Cool! I have heard so many great things about Rob Bell. I need to read his stuff soon!

I regret that there were so many opportunities that I did not afford myself to when we lived out East. I would never leave the West, but we are very concert and speaker deprived. I am happy that McLaren is coming to Boise in February and ML and I are planning on attending.