Kenosis – The Spiritual Heart of Creation Care

Kenosis” is one of those first century Greek words we use in our Christian spiritual life and worship, like “epiphany” and “eucharist.” Kenosis means “self-emptying” as praised in the ancient hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11
So kenosis is the Christian work of emptying oneself to become like Jesus in losing ourselves in the service of others. And the paradox is that in losing ourselves we find ourselves and are filled with grace and find union with God.
What does kenosis have to do with Creation Care? Theologian Sally McFague writes that self-emptying is the key virtue in transforming a culture built on the notion that the good life consists in satisfying the ego through self-aggrandizement. We are taught from childhood that the key to happiness is having things. Our culture of consumerism promotes the myth that our search for the meaning of life can be fulfilled by having many possessions. That will make us happy and content.
The problem, of course, is that this is not true. When we live into adulthood most of us start to realize that all the stuff we have accumulated does not make us more happy than the relationships we have formed, the help we have given, the sacrifices we have made for others.
Not only is the myth of consumerism not true, it is destroying our earthly home. In attempting to satisfy our consumer culture, the earth is being over-exploited and abused. It reacts to this attack by undergoing fundamental ecological change, the change we have labeled “global heating.” This is why it is imperative that people of faith of all religions must form a counter-culture based on our ancient religious heritage of kenosis and begin to live as Jesus lived, simply, sustainably, and self-emptying in the service of others.
How do we do that? As they say in broadcasting, “Stay tuned for next week’s episode….”

You can find this and all the Creation Care blogs for the church website I have written at

Thanks for your commitment to caring for God’s creation!

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