For many of us, Lent begins with those sober words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
This echo of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden cautions us that death is inevitable, and we must make the most of the life we have been given.
But there is more to those words. They tell us that, just as Adam was formed from a handful of clay, we are not made of nothing.
We are composed of mineral dust of exploding stars, atoms that once formed dinosaurs and ancient cave-dwellers, and water that has recycled from stream to cloud for billions of years.
The world in which God has placed us is a wondrous, interconnected place.
From Genesis we learn that the God Who is love, created a world of relationship. Each day of creation is another layer in a great mesh of interdependence.
With each, God saw that it was good.
Then God made man in “the divine image.” God gave this creature “dominion” over this exquisite creation.
Dominion over creation has made life easier, healthier, more enjoyable and more meaningful.
Unfortunately, in subduing nature, we often forget that we are also made in God’s image — called to recognize and preserve the goodness of that world.
To fulfill our role of dominion while acting in the image of God, we must nurture a reverence for creation.
We must learn to see it in all its beauty, not just in color, shape or power, but in the mysteries of astronomy, physics and chemistry.
Only in awe of creation, in deeply relating to it, will we find our own place in it. Only then will we understand that we are recipients of its natural grace, but also contributors who can either strengthen or threaten this web of life.
Nowhere is this more evident today than in climate change.
Over 200 years ago, Alexander von Humboldt provided evidence that everything in nature is interconnected. He warned of the effects of human action on our physical world. Yet here we are, on the cusp of a planetary disaster.
Environment and climate change have become highly contentious. Maybe that’s because we try to address them without first understanding our relationship to the natural world and the responsibility that bond implies.
We might start this Lent, like von Humboldt in the llanos of Venezuela or like God in Eden in the “cool of the day,” and simply go for a walk.