Honoring God's Earth Day
Welcome to Today's Worship ServiceApril 18, 2010
Honoring God's Earth Day
Open your Bible
Light a candle
For the Beauty of the Earth
"You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing." (Psalm 65:9-13)
Apocalypse Revealed (Rogers) n. 290
290. And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying. (5:13) This symbolizes a confession and glorification of the Lord by angels of the lowest heavens.
That it is a confession and glorification of the Lord by angels of the lowest heavens is apparent from the series, because the preceding confessions and glorifications of the Lord were made by angels of the higher and lower heavens (nos. 275ff., 286ff.). For there are three heavens, and in each countless societies, every one of which is called a heaven.
It is apparent that angels are meant by every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, for we are told, "I heard (them) saying," and they said "Blessing and honor and glory and strength be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
The Divine is the largest and the smallest of things.
It was May 1st, 1893: Opening day of the Columbian Exposition. It was to be the most elaborate world's fair ever, and hosted by Chicago. As the gates opened, people streamed in, taking advantage of the free admission for this day. There had been a lot of press about how far behind the building had been, and people weren't sure what to expect. There were gasps of amazement as the crowds took in the first sweeping glance of the 640 acre fair. An entire city had been created in Jackson Park! It was a city filled with the scents of flowers instead of the stench of the stock yard. The streets were clear; not filled with garbage. The buildings were aesthetically pleasing, and served useful purposes. The water was clean; the food was plentiful.
It offered a new vision of what kind of community could exist in a city. It became the start of city planning and landscaping, it was a statement about the integration of the environment and social justice.
Swedenborgian Daniel Burnham was the primary architect behind the "White City." The city inspired Burnham's Plan of Chicago about 15 years later.
This past year, Chicago has had a centennial celebration of their 1909 Plan of Chicago. Many Chicagoans learned for the first time that Burnham had been raised in an active Swedenborgian home, and that he felt his religion inspired his work. He wanted the plan of Chicago to reflect Swedenborg's concept of heaven on earth: the New Jerusalem.
Researcher Dr. Kristen Schaeffer has discovered that Burnham’s draft of the plan contained many ideas about the New Jerusalem that were taken out before the final version. I’m fascinated by this, and have been exploring digital versions of his drafts to try and learn more. I don’t know if this section is one that Schaeffer was referring to, but I find it fascinating in terms of Burnham’s Swedenborgian faith:
It is only within comparatively recent times that people have begun to realize the imperative need of organizing the forces of honesty and decency, for better physical conditions, for broader charities, for the prevention as well as the cure of evils. Slowly it is beginning to dawn on the American mind that the rights of the individual must be subordinated to the general good, that the price of civilization is provision for the health and happiness of all the people, and that the really prosperous city is one that education and morality, by inculcating high ideals, unite all the people in the common endeavor to make their city preeminent.
In this newly-awakened civic consciousness lies the hope of the regeneration of the American city. The merely animal growth will no longer suffice. Pride in mere numbers or area is seen to be unworthy. The newer ideals comprehend good order and convenience and even beauty. In short, the city is developing within itself a soul.
In such a spirit, this report is conceived.
It is also in such a spirit that we can see the deeper meaning in Earth Day. How? Look again at the Swedenborgian readings for today, and this crucial statement of Swedenborg’s:
The Divine is in the largest and the smallest of things.
This gives us a complete theological understanding of Earth Day. God is not just in humans, but in all animals. God is not just in animals, but in plants. God is not just in plants, but in rocks. Everything that t in our world contains the Divine. To ignore the needs of our earth and our vegetation ignores God.
Daniel Burnham grew up with that concept embedded deep into his soul. He knew that people had to have parks in their city, because they could experience God in the parks. He knew that the shores of Lake Michigan needed to be available to all people, because those shores contained God – and God belongs to everyone.
Burnham knew that God’s plan for us was not just heaven after we die, but heaven right here and now in our cities. The health and happiness of all people – and all of nature – is in that plan.
Another Swedenborgian of the past for whom the earth was sacred is Johnny Appleseed. When he distributed apple seeds to pioneers, he was giving them a piece of the Divine to plant in their soil. He also left them the writings of Swedenborg so that they could understand that the divine is in the largest and smallest of things.
This is an important week, as the world celebrates Earth Day on Thursday. Take time this week to reflect on the reality that God is within everything that exists. When we care for the earth, we honor God.
Find one useful thing you can do this week to honor the earth. Remind yourself, that in doing so, you worship the Lord.
This is My Father's World