Paper or Plastic
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you, God, you renew the face of the ground. + Psalm 104:30
Out for a morning run, I end up behind the trash guys. I’m amazed at their strength and agility. A hundred degrees and dripping sweat, or ﬁve degrees and frozen ﬁngers, they rush from pile to pile, heaving the trash into the truck.
Worst of all, they deal with the smell. If I’m trapped behind the truck for a few seconds, I turn and run in the other direction, all the while thinking, now why did God make humankind?
From the ﬁrst words in Genesis through the whole Christian tradition, humans are portrayed as the pinnacle of creation. With our higher thinking and moral reasoning, we are partners in God’s creation, helpers who till the earth and keep it.
Running behind the trash truck gives you another view. Humans muck up the world - and then spend a fortune trying to un-muck it. We generate giant piles of garbage: monuments to our overconsumption and thoughtlessness. While some take pains to reduce the carbon footprint, limiting the trash to one sack every other week, others (like me) leave a mess for the trash guys to clean up.
Why did God make humankind? One classical argument is that God wants our help. Honestly, though, sometimes I think we’re not always that helpful.
There’s another answer, though, found in the poetry of the creation stories: God made humankind because God, the mystery behind all life, craved connection, love, community. Even God, especially God, wanted a village.
Wanted it - loved it - enough to deal with our trash.
Try following the Church of England's lead, with their Lent Plastic Challenge calendar. Or try this discipline for Lent, or even just for today, one day at a time: Cut your trash in half. Give up plastic for Lent. Start composting. Think about the folks who have to pick it up and say a prayer for them, too.
God who sees our trash and loves us still, help us to be sensitive, kind, thoughtful stewards of the good earth you have given to us to till and to keep. Amen.