Lo and Behold

What it means to behold God's creation

The first speech I ever gave as a schoolteacher was called “Seeing Things,” in which I asserted that “believing is seeing.” I was trying to help the hearers “see” in a way which is shaped with the lens of Christianity.

Calvin DeWitt, Christian environmentalist from Wisconsin and the world, tries to honour the Creator in a way that makes sense in a world of clichés and buzz words. He doesn’t speak of “seeing things” but of “beholding,” a slightly archaic term which offers a way to look at the creation all about us and within us.
A user-friendly way to encounter DeWitt’s perspective is to view a movie, Behold the Earth, in which scientists like de Witt, Theo Colborn and E.O. Wilson speak and show how earth-care starts with simply beholding what is there.

Beholding in the Calvin DeWitt sense includes physical seeing, learning to identify, feeling an affinity to the creation and realizing our relationship with creation and with the Creator. It starts with the wonder of children catching frogs in a marsh, perhaps. In the movie, DeWitt takes a core soil sample from marsh and flakes off “pages” and “chapters” of ecological history from the fossilized pollen grains, enabling us to read nature as a book. Perhaps in this regard, DeWitt maintains, the Belgic Confession’s words are much more literal than we might think: “We know him [God] . . . by the creation, preservation and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book.”

One would not ordinarily expect to see or hear E.O. Wilson in a consciously Christian presentation about the creation. Wilson is sometimes quoted as saying this: “I would say that for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths.” But Wilson is a beholder, regardless of his views about organized religions. Wilson’s career as a biologist started when he was a child busy with examining, seeing, observing, beholding a variety of creatures, ending up by being scientifically-fascinated and awestruck by . . . ants.

LOCAL EDUCATION 
In my own little world of Central British Columbia, my friends John Franken, Anna Gautier and I are trying to help our community in beholding the creation. We’ve participated or sponsored local workshops on topics such as sustainable farming, backyard fruit growing in the north, and are now putting the finishing touches on an educational program for adults and children called “Bluebirds and Tree Swallows in the Bulkley Valley.”

Franken, who also sponsored an interdenominational airing of the movie mentioned above, is a local authority on Mountain Bluebirds: nesting habit and habitats, fledging success, predation, and more. He will give a short presentation about the birds and using nestboxes in the Bulkley Valley, and then all of the participants (50? 100?) will assemble bluebird nesting boxes from pre-cut and drilled parts made by John.  

The purposes of such a project are many and varied: supporting local, popular education by imparting knowledge; raising awareness of how our activities may affect creatures for good or ill; strengthening bonds between adults and children; and learning by hearing, seeing and doing. The local chapter of NatureKids (naturekidsbc.ca) is bringing a group to John’s seminar. “The research is clear,” that organization says. “Kids need nature. They become healthier, happier and more focused when outdoors.”

Perhaps our little project will help people in our region to behold the creation and meet the Creator who in Christ has reconciled all things to himself. 

  • Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc

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