With or From?
You brought a vine out of Egypt … and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. – Psalm 80:8-9 (NRSV)
You probably know parsnip as a sweet root vegetable, good for roasting and stews. What you might not know is that it’s not native; it was brought here by European colonists. Also that if you get its sap on your skin and then expose it to sunlight, it will burn and blister and discolor your body for months.
Parsnip escaped from colonial gardens pretty early, but it took a long time to spread far, because it only thrives on disturbed open ground. For the last several hundred years, however, we’ve been turning the whole place into disturbed open ground, and now wild parsnip is naturalized in almost every American state. I spend weeks each year pulling it up on cloudy days while wearing the gardening equivalent of a hazmat suit, and our kids still can’t safely play in the field in front of our house.
God really should have known better than to take that vine across international borders. Invasive species tend to take over and cause all kinds of problems, and there’s no species more invasive than humans. We’ve left no corner of the planet untouched—wild parsnip in my yard being the least of it. There’s nothing we’ve left undisturbed. Nothing we can’t destroy.
Nothing, by the same token, that we can’t potentially fix.
Is this power we have part of God’s plan for a new earth? Did Jesus come to save us so that we could save everything else? Is God planning to save the planet – make a new earth – with us?
Or is God planning to save it from us?
God, we know we’ve changed the garden you gave us so thoroughly there’s no going back. So instead, show us how to create the garden you intend for our future. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.