To Live With Respect in Creation
In 1968 something happened to change the world. Well the world did not actually change, how we perceived the world changed. What shifted was how we looked at the world – up until then we saw the earth as an infinite object that could continue to provide new resources to fuel our human consumption. […]
[…]Our culture, especially viewed the earth as a vast resource to use as we saw fit to meet whatever needs we had. But something changed that year and the beginning of the idea that the earth was finite and that resources could run out began to enter into our consciousness. What caused the change in the way we saw the world was a photograph, it was taken by Bill Anders who was an astronaut on Apollo 8. I am sure you have all seen it. It is the one the photo of earth, floating there against a deep blue sea of stars – It was the first time human beings had seen the earth from space, the first time we had seen earth as it is – a smallish, marbled globe, floating in space, holding all that we know and will ever know here. That one photo changed the way human beings understood the earth and because of that understanding it changed how we live on the earth. The first Earth Day was one of the direct results, in 1970. Anders said, “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”
The earth that we inhabit, this creation that we live on is a remarkable incredible thing – it is completely unique and even after years and years of scientists staring out into the galaxy, with high power telescopes, no one has ever seen a planet like this one that can support life, what is found instead are giant gas balls and floating rocks at temperatures too hot or too cold for life or planets without any atmosphere at all. This unique planet that we inhabit is also a closed system, that is to say that everything that we are, everything about every living creature, from mammals to bugs to fish to microscopic organism, everything exists only on this planet – and all the air that we need to breath, and all the water that we need to drink, and all the resources that we need for food and shelter – it is all here, there is no other place, no other resource that supplies this planet. And it is a closed system right from the beginning so the air that we breathe is the same air that was around when the dinosaurs were and the same air that Jesus and Peter and Mary and James breathed and also breathed by Queen Victoria, Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi, you and me our children and all who come after us as well.
There is a reason our Bible begins with the story of God breathing across the void creating the heavens and the earth, breathing across the earth calling into life the night and the day, plants and animals; breathing to life humankind imprinted with the image of the Creator. There is a reason that Creation is the first story and in it we witness the love that God has for the earth as each of it intricate parts are being born – and it was morning and it was evening and God saw that it was good, very good – it was good and it is good this amazing, incredible earth, our fragile complex, connected home.
“Scripture will go on to explain to us that we cannot be in right relationship with God unless we are in right relationship with the land. In the Hebrew, the “land” means all that is: the ground, the trees and plants, the rivers and seas, the animals and all other human beings, even the air we breathe. All of it. God imagined an astonishing world of beauty and plenty for all of us; it is our gift.”
So what does it mean to not love this earth as God loves it, what does it mean to squander this gift of creation to take advantage of this gift – a fellow preacher shared her struggle with the groaning of creation as she reflected on the thought that one day creation would have an opportunity to tell us how it feels to be treated so thoughtlessly. And she writes:
“I imagined hearing the ocean weeping as it was clogged with billions, literally billions of pounds of trash I had helped dump into it; the air choked with pollution I had pumped out; I would hear the pain of trees being clear-cut and mountains being reduced to sludge; I would hear icebergs melting, ground water rotting and I would have to hear the cries of animals being eaten into extinction. I would hear the hunger of mothers and fathers and the thirst of small children, 5000 who die every day for want of clean water while I let the tap run just so the water I drink will be colder. I was devastated.
Truthfully, I was also completely overwhelmed. How could I do anything about this, I wondered? Was I being asked to change my whole life? And anyway, what could one person like me really do that would make any difference at all?” I like her find it difficult to get my head around the issues which plague our planet in 2015, I have seen the pictures of poisoned waters and air filled with so much smog the people where masks when they are outside. I have heard the statistics about raising temperatures and melting sea ice. I know that are many, many species of animals and birds and fish and bugs that are on an endangered species list. Every day I drive to work I pass through areas of land that used to be used for growing food that now houses a new subdivision. The irony of the names of the new subdivisions does not escape me: Riverwood, Hawksview, and Deer Run Estates. I hear stories about droughts in California that have lasted for four years and some people no longer have running water in their homes. Rivers are damned for hydro electric power, and whole ecosystems are forever changed. The hole is the ozone layer is growing that we are now putting SPF 50 on our children to protect them from the sun’s damaging rays. The list goes on and on and on and I find myself overwhelmed with the enormity of the problem – not even sure what to do, where to start, how to respond to such overwhelming issues.
“Maybe the first step is to really wrap our heads around the reality that we are all connected; everything is connected, all of it. What I do matters to people I will never meet; the choices we make will affect countries we may never visit; the chemicals we pour down our kitchen sink will sour our neighbors water years from now. Simply waking up to the ways that each of us affects just the ground around our own homes is a start. And I believe that actually, we can do something and that something can make a difference.” and as people of faith, the place to start is with God, the Creator. Because just when things seem like all is lost, just when it seems like there is no hope – just when it feels like it is over – God gets in, resurrection happens and the world is transformed. Take this morning’s story for instance.
We never can know fully what God is going to do next – the disciples think they know – they think that God is done with their story – because didn’t they just witness not 36 hours ago – the death of their friend, the death of the Christ on the cross, and as all rational human beings – they know that things end with death. Even though the woman had witnessed the empty tomb, even though the woman had told them about their encounter a few hours ago with risen Christ – it is still too hard to believe – and as they speculate, and wonder about what is going on I bet you a large part of them are refusing to believe the signs… and then Cleopas and his friend who had gone to Emmaus just that morning have returned with this amazing story of their encounter with the risen Christ – first the woman and then now the two men who went to Emmaus – sharing these stories that seem so farfetched, so unreal, so unbelievable – but then into this moment of disbelieve and confusion, into this time of speculations and hope – the Christ comes – the Christ comes to the disciples and they are transformed – the Christ comes into their midst and nothing is the same again. And the wonderful thing that Jesus does in this time is he reminds them of how it all worked – that the signs were there that God had this in mind. And he shared food – isn’t it interesting that Luke thought that the very act of Jesus eating fish was important to report – it seems at first glance as a small insignificant moment and yet when you really thing about it reminds you just how truly human the risen Christ was. And from this place and from this time – where it seemed like there was no hope – where it felt like all was lost – from that place after the Christ comes and God got in – the church began – this moment 2000 years ago is part of what we are doing here this morning, our gathering here is thanks in part to that group of mixed up men and woman in that room being transformed because they encountered the risen Christ.
And this story gives me hope – for is these people, these ordinary people who were probably a lot like you and me, and they were transformed by an encounter with the risen Christ, so can we. And if the feeling of helplessness and not knowing what to do can shift after an encounter with the Christ – well it can for us too! And if their situation seemed hopeless and overwhelming to those first disciples and the Christ appeared and they were transformed, like our situations as well, the risen Christ can transform it too!
And it gives me hope that this story is that it marks a shift in thinking, and a shift in understanding for the disciples about who they are and what they are about. When Jesus appeared to this group of people, they came to a new understanding about how they were to live in the world and what their life purpose was. And it was with this newly enlivened group of disciples that the Christian movement began. And it gives me hope to know that it took some time – the disciples did not form the Christian church in a couple of days after Jesus appeared – nor a couple of months, not even a couple of years – forming the Christian movement that leads us to the church of today took decades, and centuries to create and it is still shifting and changing today.
It is amazing what a small group of people who have had an encounter with the Risen Christ can do! It is amazing what a group of highly motivated cohesive group of people can do together! So what do we do? How are we called to face the challenges of the generation? How are we called to care for Creation? What is our responsibility to the earth and all its creatures?
I think that as complex as the issues are as complex as the response is – but just because it is a big issue does not give us the pass on the response. I think that we are at another shift in human conscious, much like the one in 1968 – where we realize that the choices that we make today, from the simple things such as what shampoo to use, to what fresh produce we place in our grocery cart and the complex choices about fracking and wind energy and nuclear power and urban development– these choices matter now more than they have ever mattered before – because if we do not change how we live and how we treat this earth, we may create a planet that is no longer able to sustain life and this beautiful, glorious, amazing creation that we live upon may cease to exist in the form that we know it.
And our hope – well you are the hope – we are the hope – each of us have the opportunity to allow the risen Christ to come into our lives, come into this time and this place and enliven and mobilize us. There is enough people in this room to change the world. We have enough resources here in our midst to make a difference. The people that are needed in this time to save the planet are right here, they are you and they are me – and when we allow the Risen Christ to enter in and transform us we can transform the world. Amen.