“Keeping” creation at Laurel Heights

by Thomas Sanders

       When I was a kid, I lived next to the Olmos Basin. On some summer nights, the air was so thick with the light of fireflies you could find your way in the dark without the aid of a flashlight. There was something magical about the way they lit up in what appeared to be synchronized patterns — like white Christmas lights. Unfortunately, over the years I have seen fewer and fewer of those twinkling insects, to the point that it is now a rare treat to see just one. And their disappearance is not just anecdotal; firefly populations are in serious decline, due primarily to habitat destruction, light pollution and insecticides.

The decline of insect populations is, of course, not limited to fireflies. Over the last few years, there have been countless reports and studies on the decline in the bee and butterfly populations. Indeed, several recent studies have found that 41% of the earth’s insect species are in decline, 31% are threatened, and 10% are heading towards extinction. I will skip any alarmist hysteria and just say that fireflies, bees and butterflies are far more than just something interesting or beautiful to look at — they are extremely important to the food chain and our entire ecosystem.

So, what do we do? Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden to till and keep it.” The translation of “keep” is based in the Hebrew word shamar, which means a loving, caring, sustaining keeping. The same word is used in the blessing, “May the Lord bless you and keep you,” (Numbers 6:24). In other words, humanity was not put on earth to use its resources as we see fit, for our own gain. It is just the opposite. Just as God “keeps” us, our purpose and responsibility is to love, care for, and sustain the world around us.

It’s a pretty big job and the weight of the responsibility can seem daunting, but little changes matter. Adding a water feature to your yard, cutting the grass higher, reducing the use of pesticides, planting a flower garden, lettings logs rot and leaves compost, and turning out the lights can all help bring back bees, butterflies and the twinkling fireflies. At Laurel Heights we routinely use real dishes and silverware for meals and receptions and optimize the use of our facilities by hosting myriad community groups and ministries. This month we are undertaking a campus-wide energy audit in partnership with the Texas Methodist Foundation. Our church tends to build things that last, and then to keep them for a very long, long time. In small ways — and sometimes very significant ways — we are doing our part to lighten our footprint, to “keep” creation by the ways we share life together.

This way of living out our faith is just one of the reasons I am grateful to be a part of the Laurel Heights family. When Jill and I support the church financially, we are supporting a congregation that strives to honor God not only in our worship and other ministries, but also in the ways we care for creation as God cares for us.

Remember, “to God, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far beyond that which we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).