Earth Day 2021: Whoever Has Ears, Let Them Hear | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
April 2021

Earth Day 2021: Whoever Has Ears, Let Them Hear

By Chris Wilterdink

Church leaders, you know that Jesus’ parables are fantastic to work with. They are rich, complex, and invite others into a deeper understanding of how God’s vision for the world differs from our current reality. Many of them include a phrase like “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” In preparations for this Earth Day, I read the parable of the sower from Matthew 13. While I still understand that story as a way to describe God’s generous nature, the repeated use of the word “soil” caught my eye. Those who work the land and grow crops know that healthy soil makes all the difference in the world, and microorganisms are what create healthy soil. The very best dirt beneath our feet is alive; and because it is alive, it is able to produce more life. We worship the Living God, the Resurrected Christ; and because God is alive, we can live more fully.

Stewardship of the earth and care for all creation must be part of our personal and communal discipleship. Young people can be key in helping your congregation identify ways to engage in sustainability and creation care. Youth and young adults are learning about the current issues related to climate, pollution, fair access water, and sustainable food, plus they will be the ones living the longest into the future created by our current choices. I encourage you to read Audrua Welch Malvaez’s 2019 reflection, "Teenagers Show Us How to Take on Climate Justice," to review our United Methodist Social Principles, and to embrace young people as leaders on that front.

As Jesus called on those who have ears to pay attention, we can learn from young people and then decide how to best act alongside them for the sake of life-giving waters and living soil. Connect with those in your ministry context who are already engaged in climate and sustainability work, whether they approach the problems from a faith-based perspective or not. Learn what you can do locally as a community in small steps and allow those small steps to lead to big changes.

The availability of educational and documentary programming online is incredible! For inspiration on just some of the current issues related to climate and creation care, check out the following recommendations, based on interest and ministry context:

Have lots of farmers at church? View Kiss the Ground.

  • Kiss the Ground reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize the earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems, and create abundant food supplies. Using compelling graphics and visuals, along with striking NASA and NOAA footage, the film artfully illustrates how, by drawing down atmospheric carbon, soil is the missing piece of the climate puzzle.

Have lots of urban or suburban church members? Watch Sustainable.

  • A vital investigation of the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system, from the agricultural issues we face—soil loss, water depletion, climate change, pesticide use—to the community of leaders who are determined to fix it. Sustainable is a film about the land, the people who work it, and what must be done to sustain it for future generations.
  • The narrative of the film focuses on Marty Travis, a seventh-generation farmer in central Illinois who watched his land and community fall victim to the pressures of big agri-business. Determined to create a proud legacy for his son, Marty transforms his profitless wasteland and pioneers the sustainable food movement in Chicago.

Have people who love animals and travel at church? Watch A Life on Our Planet.

  • One man (David Attenborough) has seen more of the natural world than any other. This unique feature documentary is his witness statement on the changes he has seen in a lifetime of documenting the natural world.

Have water lovers or the church is near the ocean? See A Plastic Ocean.

  • An award-winning feature length documentary that explores the fragile state of our oceans and uncovers alarming truths about the consequences of our disposable lifestyle.

Church members who care about the human impact of unclean drinking water in developed countries? See Poisoned Water.

  • From PBS’ Nova series, what exactly went wrong in Flint, Michigan, and what does it mean for the rest of the United States?
Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.