Christians, pray for the earth and give thanks to your Creator! The Season of Creation has begun. On this first day, I invite you to commit your life anew to environmental holiness. In the Methodist tradition, holiness is not an accomplishment or destination, it is a practice, a way of life. Today can be the first day of that new way of life.
Living into the fullness of God’s goodness is what United Methodists call holiness—personal, social, and environmental. Now is a good time to read Genesis, chapter 1, and Psalm 148. Better yet, read these texts together, following the seven days of creation one day at a time. If folks don’t know much else about the Bible, they know that it says, “In the beginning, God created . . . and it was good.” There is goodness inherent in every person and all parts of the cosmos. It is God’s goodness and the goodness of creation that we celebrate for the next five weeks.
Celebrating a church “season” or “feast day” is not a familiar observance for many Protestants, except those in liturgically-oriented denominations. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christian traditions are accustomed to celebrating special holy days and seasons throughout the year. Many Protestants would be hard pressed to name a feast day other than St. Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s Day (and, even then, might not recognize the celebration as having anything to do with church). Church seasons ring more familiar to Protestant ears.
Properly observed, a liturgical season is a time of preparation. Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas; Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. Both represent hope and new life. However, it is common in Protestant traditions to sing Christmas songs well before December 25, and many folks skip Ash Wednesday services, showing up again only on Easter Sunday. We often do not do a good job of waiting, of preparing.
The Season of Creation begins September 1, the Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. There are many ecumenical and denominational resources for observing this season. Protestants might wonder, though: What is the Season of Creation preparation for? How are we to celebrate a “season” that claims no familiar, commercially-identifiable endpoint?
The Season of Creation can be a time of preparation for living more faithfully as stewards of creation. It is a time to renew and strengthen our relationship with our Creator and all of creation. This year’s theme is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope,” inviting us to consider, among other things, how the earth has enjoyed a reprieve during 2020. The immediate reduction in human travel and industry worldwide as an effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 resulted in cleaner air and lower carbon emissions. Can we, as a global human population, learn to carry forward some of these environmentally healthy practices as life-long commitments?
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, proclaimed the importance of living the faith. Holiness is the word he used for exercising the renewed image of God within each of us. It is not a destination. It is a life-long practice.
To read more about the Methodist tradition of environmental holiness, see my writings on “Environmental Ethics.”