The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Worship

March 24, 2013

Craig Tally: Stewardship applicable to churches

JOPLIN, Mo. — Historic hurricanes and snowstorms seem all too common. "The Perfect Storm" is the title of a movie, but it became reality when Hurricane Sandy hit. One year we might have devastating flood waters, and the next year the Mississippi River could be at near-record low levels.

"Epic" is a frequently used term when reporting weather. The one consistent weather report amidst all this inconsistency is the melting of the arctic ice caps. Internet maps reveal the relentless backward-pedaling of the ice, year after year.

Something is happening with the weather, and we're uneasy about it. In recent years, climate change has shifted from an occasional topic of conversation to a hot political issue -- powerful enough to threaten the outcome of an election.

We the people line up on three sides: those who see climate change as a hoax, those who see it as a problem with devastating potential, and those who are uncertain about what they see.

Why the change, we wonder? Is it a natural, cyclical weather pattern ushering in conditions we have never before witnessed? Is it the result of our neglect of the planet and its atmosphere? Might it be a combination of the two?

Do we Christians leave this conversation to the politicians? Or is there, somewhere in this debate, buried deeply within the word of Scripture, an idea that calls us into the fray?

I believe there is. We call it stewardship.

Unfortunately, stewardship has become more identified with church finance than with its true meaning. As Jesus said about the giving of the tenth for tithing, "This you should have done without neglecting the weightier matters."

Stewardship has its beginning in the story of the world's beginning (in Genesis), when God saw the earth and its inhabitants as good. He handed it over to mankind, along with the purpose of keeping it good.

Farm it, develop it, draw from it in a responsible way its valuable, life-enhancing resources, and this earth will be good to us. It will feed us, warm us, clothe us and provide an atmosphere that will enable us to evolve remarkably and creatively. Abuse it, and who knows what will happen.

Easter Island is a small, sparsely populated island in the Pacific Ocean about 1,200 miles west of Chile. Easter Island is the setting of a historical novel in which author Jennifer Vanderbes, incorporating history, science and imagination, weaves together believable and interesting stories of human life in all its goodness, innocence, frailty, greed and tragedy.

The Island holds tightly to an unsolved mystery. Rather than trees, the island is speckled with Moai -- huge stone carvings that appear to be either ancestral monuments or religious idols. They were sculpted from volcanic rock and then moved to various places on the island.

How were these massive sculptures transported, and what happened to the trees?

One theory suggests that the islanders devised a plan using rollers to move the monuments. The forests were cut and the logs were used to roll the monuments to their intended places. That the land was stripped bare did not seem to matter. After all, the trees would grow back. Or so they thought.

Had those long-ago Easter Island residents known, would they have obeyed the principles of conservation? Had their scientists warned them of the potential consequences of stripping the island of its trees, would they have risked ecological disaster? Did they even consider the possible impact of their decision upon future generations?

More to the point, will we? If God did indeed make us stewards of this earth, which is what we teach, then dare we take this matter lightly? I think not.

Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at ctally7740@gmail.com.

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