Earth and Word: Classic Sermons on Saving the Planet

David Rhoads (ed), 2007, reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        ‘The degradation of nature is not a problem with a short-term solution…. The ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis…. Most of us no longer have a sense of belonging to the earth, an experience of solidarity with plants and animals, such that we deeply desire for all forms of life to thrive along with us.’ (p xiv) With this as the prompting issue, Earth and Word presents a spectrum of sermons that force us to look again at the bible and its message to and for us. There’s a richness in the spectrum of presentations here; virtually none of the ‘sermons’ are superfluous: Wendell Berry (‘Christianity and the Survival of Creation’), Ted Hiebert (‘First Things First’), Cynthia Moe-Lobeda (‘Dry Bones’), Larry Rassmussen (‘First and Everlasting Covenant’), Rosemary Radford Ruether (‘The biblical vision of Eco-Justice), Joseph Sittler (‘The Care of the Earth), Barbara Brown Taylor (‘Rest for the Land’), to name only a few entries.

        It is impossible to summarize the riches of these sermons, but typical is Ched Myers’ ‘The Cedar has fallen: the Prophetic Word versus Imperial Clear-Cutting’; Myers traces the ecological disaster of the clear cutting of Lebanon’s cedars with a moving litany from the bible itself, with the political implications (‘there was blood on the cedars that figured so prominently in Solomon’s temple and his own royal house’ (p 217), the cedars a metaphor for empire itself. ‘The bible takes sides on behalf of the trees’ (p 222).

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.