Be More Than Thankful
via Restoring Eden -
This Thanksgiving, Be More Than Thankful
By Peter Illyn
Thanksgiving is a ubiquitous North American holiday, especially here in the United States (Canada also celebrates in October). Gathering together as families and communities to thank God for each other and the bounty of the earth, most people spend a few extra minutes as they say grace, going over a list of things they are thanking God for.
Now I don’t want to grouse, but for me, the problem is not in our thanking God for the bounty of nature, but the belief that the abundance of creation is solely dependent upon God’s providence. Not so. I would counter that the fruitfulness of nature also has a direct correlation to our faithfulness and environmental stewardship. When we hurt the earth, we hurt ourselves. Thus the need for both thankfulness AND responsibility…AND self-control AND wisdom...
Over the past 150 years, as the new science of ecology emerged, it revealed what most subsistence cultures have long known – that the abundance of nature is directly related to our care of it. While God gave humanity power over nature unlike any other creature, along with that power we also bear the consequences of our choices. My non-Christian friends take insult at the idea of dominion – but it is really a moot point. Whether God gave it or we took it, we have it. When we log entire forests, deplete the fragile few inches of top soil, drive species to extinction we exhibit dominion. Asphalt pavers, bulldozers, chainsaws, deep sea scrappers are tools of dominion. The debate, therefore, is not “do we have power over nature,” but “how will we use it?”
Humans are the only part of creation with a free-will and God-given dominion; the free power to choose to tend and keep the goodness of creation and to rule and subdue the parts corrupted by the Fall. The fruitfulness of nature is not guaranteed, but is related to our choice of faithful and wise stewardship. At Restoring Eden, we believe that faithful and wise stewardship means protecting the biodiversity, the interconnectedness, the interdependence and the carrying capacity of an ecosystem. As soon as we harm any of these ecological systems we see the fruitfulness of nature begin to falter and fail.
The abject poverty of ecologically devastated countries like Haiti reveals the conundrum eventually facing all of humanity – that we are utterly dependent upon that which we have power over. While we were called to be Servant/Kings, instead we became Tyrants. Mountaintop removal coal mining is the ultimate expression of heartless dominion framed a necessary and beneficial form of doing business.
Back to Thanksgiving. The early banquet feasts were celebrations of the autumn harvest that used to emphasize formerly wild food – wild geese, ducks, turkey, deer, fish, corn, bread, potatoes, dried berries, nuts. The early pilgrims, knowing that Massachusetts sits almost parallel with England and Holland, thought they knew what would grow. They did not account for the tempering of the Atlantic Ocean on the European climate and suddenly realized how long and harsh the winters in New England were. During the first year, the harvest celebration, however, was a particularly thankful time because there had been a drought for most of the summer and the crops had failed to grow. Without some kind of a miracle, the harvest would be inadequate and by early spring, the pilgrims could expect mass starvation as their stored food ran out.
Reportedly, an unexpected August rainstorm gave their crops an unexpected late-summer growth spurt, and the plants were able to prosper to maturity. They were saved. That year, for sure, their prayers of thanksgiving really were about the providence of God.
Enjoy some feasting and fellowship, thank God for the wisdom and goodness embedded in creation – and then do your part.