Whooping Crane Video

Published on Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Reflections on a Soil Motif

Published on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

soilNot too long ago scholars spoke of the story of salvation in the bible as “salvation-history.” In part this phrase meant that God carried out his work of salvation in history through a historical people and through historical events. This distinguished Christianity from so-called nature religions that too closely identified their gods with nature. We called that pantheism. So we spoke of God’s work in terms of “salvation-history.” And so we should. Yet that distinction between history and nature is pushed too far when they become an antitheses or are placed in opposition to one another. For God’s work in history does not take place apart from His creation. Our creatureliness, our bodies, our connection to the earth (creation) binds us to that story. Conversely, God’s curse and blessing, judgement and restoration, all take place within and through creation, through what Norman Wirzba calls, “the drama of the soil” (Paradise of God)

In reading the story of Cain and Abel again, I was struck by the parallels, the repeated patterns of sin and curse that we saw a chapter earlier with Adam and Eve. I was also struck by how the differences seemed to highlight the intensification and hardening of human sin as human history unfolds. And it all happens via the soil, the land, the earth. Consider the following:

God created Adam (that means you and me) from the arable, farmable soil. Adam from the Adamah. Humans from the humus. God blessed the earth so that the fruits of the earth nourished and sustained Adam and Eve and provided the place/home where they lived with God and each other.  When they sinned, God cursed the ground. Now the soil, from which God formed them and fed them, would resist their efforts to receive its fruitfulness. It would now wear them down until they returned to the soil from which they came. The sin and the curse on the earth resulted in estrangement from God, from each other, and from the earth as their home (place) even as God’s blessing upon the ground had bound us to him, to each other, and to place. The soil that had been the instrument of their being and life now becomes the instrument of their death—and ours.

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Arand’s Stopover

Published on Monday, October 11th, 2010

It’s fall. And the Fall migrations are underway. Birds and butterflies alike are heading south from their summer breeding grounds to their winter havens. Warblers are harder to find. Monarch butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most visible visitors. Even in my own backyard, a fairly small backyard (1/8 of an acre) that borders a road. Yet we have some woods on the common ground behind our house, shrubs, and bird feeders.

monarchMonarchs are rather amazing. Upon coming out of hibernation in Mexico, they fly north and east. They lay their eggs and the first generation emerges in March and April. The second generation in May and June. The third generation in July and August. The fourth generation in September and October. This fourth generation then lives for eight months, migrates down to Mexico, hibernates in oyamel fir trees over the winter, and then migrates north where a new (first generation) emerges again. So the first three generations live 2-6 weeks while the fourth generation lives 6-8 months! I didn’t realize this when as a kid in Cuba City, WI we would capture monarch caterpillars and raise them until they emerged from their chrysalises. Never too late to learn. It’s also fun to now track them.

Hummingbirds offer similar marvels. Attending a Hummingbird festival in West Virginia this past August we learned a number of fascinating items. (It turns out that the delightful guy who led it is a member of the ELCA and has a helpful website on the topic).  One of them pertained to their migration.

hummer31On their way down they load up on nectar and carbohydrates. Once they reach the shores of the gulf of Mexico, they shift their diet to insects and load up on protein. This then must carry them as some of these tiny marvels continue their migration by flying nearly 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.  A good place to track their migration can be found right here in my own backyard, Fenton, MO!

So its amazing to think of how one’s own back yard fits within a migratory flyway that links up with habitats and feeding areas extending north into Canada and south into Mexico! So we’ll keep watering those flowers that the butterflies like and keep fresh our five to six hummingbird feeders.

Frankenfish Salmon

Published on Monday, October 4th, 2010

salmonSo, what do you think of the genetically modified salmon that has been nicknamed Frankenfish? Various news agencies reported last week that the company AquaBounty is asking the FDA to approve as safe the farm raised genetically modified salmon. It apparently grows much faster and much larger (2-3 times) than your average salmon. See the picture here. I’m not quite sure what to think of this yet. Most things that I’ve read highlight two issues that need to be considered.

First, is it safe to eat? It appears that the FDA may be ready to say that it is safe to eat. I suppose only time will tell. Carl Safina, a prominent environmentalist, writer, and advocate for the health of our oceans seems to be somewhat ok with it. BTW, I have found that his Blue Ocean Institute has a very helpful seafood guide (in terms of safety and abundance). The EDF has another.

Second, is it safe for the environment? Several factors seem to come into play here. Could it escape into the wider ocean? If so, what would it do to the food supply (it eats more) and what would happen if it bred with other salmon? AquaAdvantage says that these would be raised inland with no chance of getting into the ocean. But that may simply raise other problems. As one report noted, what will happen to all the poop?

We might add a third issue that pertains to the salmon themselves. Are they little more than commodities and machines (the language of genetic engineering would seem to imply that)? Now I’m not against eating salmon. Grilled salmon is one of my favorite foods. But Salmon are also our fellow creatures. As God’s creatures, they are marvels (I’m learning). According to Steven McCormick, “Salmon are among the most beautiful of fish; stream-lined, silver and graceful. They are powerful, too, among the greatest fighters in the fishing world.” They spawn in freshwater streams, navigate thousands of miles of ocean in chase of prey, and then return to the streams where they bring forth the next generation.

So I don’t know. I need to do more research and thinking about this. Among other things is the bigger question, namely, “why do we need such genetically engineered fish that grow faster and larger in the first place?”

It’s Out!

Published on Friday, October 1st, 2010


A month ago or so, I mentioned that a “small catechism” version (about thirty pages or so) of Together With All Creatures: Caring for God’s Living Earth appeared in time for our church’s National Youth Gathering (on right and below).

Well, this past week the “large catechism” version (on left) is now out and has been sent to our pastors and congregations. It provides a more thorough treatment of the subject. The first half explores where we fit within creation by providing brief historical overview and then developing a theology of our place within creation for today. The second half then explores how we might live within creation by suggesting that we rediscover our connection with creation and by asking how we live within our creaturely limits.twac-sc-small2

So what distinguishes this document from other books? As I stop to think about that, I’d probably say several things stand out. First, it develops a theology of human creatureliness that emphasizes our responsibility to care for God’s earth as creatures among fellow creatures. Second, it places our common creatureliness and our responsibility for creation, within the context of God’s entire story, a story that stretches from God’s creation to Christ’s rescue of all creation, to the Spirit’s renewal of creation. Third, it stresses the importance of rediscovering our connection to creation so that we delight in it as a wonderful gift from God. Finally, it concludes with the importance of caring for creation so has to enhance the beauty and glory of God’s handiwork in anticipation of Christ’s return.

This latest report is available from Concordia Publishing House for only $3.00 (item no. 09-2621)! The smaller version is available for only $2.50 (item no. 09-2622)!