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Ash and Oil: March 23

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Rom. 8:22)

God uses creation to speak to us. He put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant, he pointed Abram to the stars to illustrate his numerous offspring, he called out to Moses from the burning bush. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” he questioned Job.

God’s communication through creation doesn’t end with the Old Testament either. Jesus regularly used earthy settings and metaphors to teach his followers. Vineyards and fields and mustard seeds make their way into important lessons about God, his kingdom and his people.

Many of us have felt the presence of God in the world around us. Though we probably haven’t talked to God through a burning bush, we may have felt praise come up in our throats at the sight of a glorious sunset, peace wash over us in a stroll through the woods or wonder at God’s work at the sight of a magnificent creature in the wild.

Praise, awe and wonder for God’s creation are, of course, appropriate responses. Yet a creation that groans also has something important to say to us during our solemn Lenten reflection.

Creation can be a mirror of sorts. Our wounds from sin and brokenness, our groan for redemption and renewal, are reflected in bulldozed mountaintops and hills of waste. Where we find lakes and ponds too acidic for fish to swim, we might see our own hearts, too poisoned with anger to forgive. Where we find air so toxic it makes people sick, we might see our own addictions or compulsions, choking out a productive and healthy life.

And we don’t need to stay on the metaphorical level either. A groaning creation can tell us, quite plainly, that we have problems with having enough. That we are satisfied with the disposable instead of the permanent (and what could that tell us about our spiritual lives?) That, though we sing, “this is my Father’s world,” maybe we don’t really mean it--not completely.

Sometimes what God is communicating to us is not what we want to hear. But that’s what Lent is about--humbling ourselves, facing our brokenness, and hearing God’s hard truth’s for our lives.

Pray: Lord, we ask forgiveness when we have turned from your voice. Tune our ears to your creation, that we might hear what you have to say. Motivate us to respond.

Take the next step: Come together with your family or a group of friends and learn more about a particular environmental degradation (mountaintop removal, ocean acidification, species extinction, etc). Listen closely to what it has to say to you about your own brokenness and need for forgiveness and restoration.

[Image: Flickr user CamellaTWU]

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