The phrase “creation care” has gained traction in the Christian lexicon in recent years. Is it just another fad? The practices of knowing God as creator and of understanding ourselves as part of creation, not the center of it, are as ancient as our faith. Though modern by biblical standards, bicycles offer us ways to experience the beauty of the earth and humbly care for all God has made.
Scripture and tradition are full of the nature of God’s relationship with his creation and our calling to be involved in its care. The Apostle’s Creed, dating from 390 A.D., begins, “We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” We care for the earth because God is the maker. In Making Peace with the Land, Norman Wirzba says, “When God looks out on creation on the first Sabbath sunrise, He sees a good and beautiful and fruitful world (Genesis 1)… God’s rest is not a departure from this world but the fullest and most intimate immersion in it.” We care for creation because God is actively resting in it. Thomas Keating’s reflection on the ascension of Jesus states, “The ascension is Christ’s return to the heart of all creation…The mystery of presence is hidden throughout creation and in every part of it.” We care for creation, because Jesus lives in it. Finally, Richard Rohr’s reflection on The Canticle to Brother Sun by Francis of Assisi, “We think he’s saying for us to praise God because of them (sun, moon, wind, fire, etc.). No, the proposition is, God is praised through these things; through their very existence.” We care for creation because creation is praising God just by being.
Our caring human relationships are carved out over time, requiring engagement, commitment and the on-going process of shared experience. Riding bikes puts us in relationship with the earth, from which we have so successfully separated ourselves by our use of cars, climate-controlled buildings, and super-market food-gathering that we hardly know God’s creation. One Sunday morning, arriving at Madison Street Church, I gave my friend Drew a hug. He exclaimed, “You’re cold!” I answered, “That’s what the temperature of where we live feels like this morning.” If you ride bicycles, you will be touched by heat and cold. Your ears will hear birdsongs and your eyes will see an endless expanse of clouds that billow like smoke and look like fire at sunrise. Peddling uphill and flying down the other side with wind-driven tears streaming across your cheeks will heighten your sense of the power of gravity. You’ll get to know the sweeping views of watersheds from the snow-shrouded mountains, through the ambling river bottoms, to the sandy spillways into the ocean. You will feel God’s creation unsheltered from what God has made.
Bikes also provide us with a pragmatic way to express our care for the place we live and for our God-given bodies. When we replace a car trip with a bike trip, we use our bodies in ways they were intended, rather than perpetuating sedentary degradation. We avoid contributing carbon pollution to the earth’s air. In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard insightfully tells us the Lord’s Prayer is saying, “Our Father, who art in the heavens all around us…”, in the very air through which we move, which we breathe, and which composes the atmosphere that makes earth home to all plants, creatures, eco-systems and humans.
So, don’t shy away from riding your bike in the winter, spring, summer and fall. Feel the power of the earth’s gravity when you fight to climb hills and when you laugh your guts out on the downhill. Look for God when a headwind smacks you in the face or trees are silhouetted against a pastel sunset. Set up a bike that’s ready to ride to the post office, farmer’s market, dentist, bank, work or school, and let the car sit for trips of less than five miles. While riding through the heavens, get to know the earth. Look for our loving and creative God who is actively resting in the heart of all creation.
John Alfred is a lifetime cyclist in Riverside and beyond, and a member of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in Riverside.