Genesis, Chapter 1 – Chapter 2, verses 1-3. (NRSV)
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness was called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together was called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God they were created; male and female God created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that had been made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that had been done in creation.
Every day God saw that it was good and claimed it so. And, indeed, it was very good. Is God boastful? Nah, just honest. God’s good creation is indeed very good. I grew up in the Lady Bird Johnson era of bluebells and litterbugs. There was something about her call to us to not be litterbugs that always stuck with me, and as a youngster rather than throw wrappers on the ground, I’d stick them in my pockets and take them home. I’d not always remember to remove them from my pockets, but no one could accuse me of being a litterbug. In fact, decades later when I worked as a park ranger the other rangers made and presented me with a litterbug badge. I still pick up litter when I can, but seeing things thoughtlessly tossed out of cars and litter strewn areas just breaks my heart.
Maybe some of you remember when we only used paper bags to cart home our groceries. Those days were revolutionized by plastic bags and we were so happy that we were saving trees. Who knew the threat of those plastic bags and how they now choke our waterways, oceans, lakes, are a danger to those who live in those waters. It is also troubling to see so much plastic blowing in the wind caught in trees and bushes and fences like unintentional flags dotting our roadways.
Many, many years ago I learned about the importance of recycling and was diligent about looking for that important triangle on products and was careful about my sorting. I would go to recycling about every two weeks and always felt rather righteous doing so. I am still rather religious about that rite because it is a sacred responsibility for us as God’s creatures to take care of this good, good earth that has been entrusted tous.
The scripture we heard this morning tells us that God gave human beings dominion over the land and the ocean and the skies and the animals and mammals and insects and reptiles and all those things. My understanding of this scripture is that it was a covenant of care and respect between God and us – and is not a green light for destruction or exploitation. But I think I may be preaching to the choir.
Another character many of you may remember is Smokey the Bear who has been with us a long time, who reminds us that “Only you can prevent forest fires.” We are all aware that lightning can strike and begin devastating fires, but many of them are because of human carelessness by not drowning out a campfire, and sadly, many are deliberately started. But more importantly, Smokey the Bear was pointing his finger at us to take responsibility for the care of our share of the planet. Only you …
Creation care is something we are all called to. Creation care is theologically sound. We were handed the gift of this beautiful, wondrous world that God declared was good, and what in the world are we doing to it? Some sectors and nations only see the earth as a commodity and one that is in need of constant exploitation regardless of its negative impact now and for future generations. Decades of environmental laws to protect all of us living on this planet are being gutted. The rain forest has been called the lungs of our world yet we strip the rainforest of all that makes it so to care for us. Sadly, the devastating forest fires are helping that destruction along.
I never even heard the word fracking until a few years ago and learned how damaging that is to the land. Governments have struggled to balance environmental goals with economic and political concerns and often do so to the detriment of the earth and our lives. Care for the earth has gotten much more political than spiritual.
The Faithful America Facebook site notes: “Every single issue Christians care about is affected by climate change: Immigration. War and peace. Poverty. Race. Disaster recovery. Food. Sadly, the church has often been complicit in climate change, supporting fossil fuels and looking the other way as God’s biodiversity disappears. That means Christians have even more responsibility to speak out and act today.”
In another Facebook article I was struck by the question:
“Can religion save us from a global environmental crisis?” I liked the sound of this article because it was asking the question of all people of all faiths.
As with the other article, there is criticism pointed at people of faith. The author wrote: “Despite mounting evidence of climate change, religious people remain divided. Some question involvement while others are driven by their faith to protect the planet.” The articles highlight the efforts of religious people through the world to preserve the environmental conditions that sustain life.
The article continues: “Most major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, have doctrine that points to the sanctity of earth. And yet, humanity’s reckless abuse of our planet’s resources has led to a global environmental crisis. Still, the term ‘climate change’ is taboo in some circles. While the scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that the human-induce release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere is responsible for changing climate conditions, debate rages in our communities.
Some religious people question scientific evidence that humans are to blame because they believe these changes are God’s will and part of a natural cycle. Others are driven to protect the planet by a belief that God created the earth and gave humans a sacred responsibility to care for it.” (Erica Evans, Deserert, August 14, 2019, Salt Lake City.)
Voices of faith are needed more than ever. The son of an Imam, Fachruddin Majeri Mangunjaya from Jakarta, Indonesia sums it up this way: “To me, the ecological crisis is the result of a moral crisis. God is not just in the text of the Quran, but in the context of the world we live in.” Lawrence Stowe, Director of Science and Technology at Lighthouse Legacy Foundation wrote: “We are special because we were created to be special. It is a free will choice what humanity does with its dominion and stewardship. Now only we can choose our destiny. For me science is the study of creation. Faith is the study of the Creator. Perhaps we need more people involved in exercising their righteous dominion to be faithful stewards.”
A few weeks ago I mentioned Greta Thurnberg and her advocacy work. Have you seen the picture of Greta and Jane Goodall making the rounds? They are staring into each other’s eyes with great admiration. It’s a beautiful, telling photo of an older generation seeing hope in a younger generation. “Since last September, when Greta began her one-woman campaign for school strikes this past May, the students asked adults to join them, and so on Sept 20 the first all-ages climate strike will take place across the planet.” (Bill McKibben, Sojourners, Sept/Oct 2019) There are many reasons listed as to why we should join them. I think the most compelling one is that “It’s not okay to make ninth-graders save the planet by themselves.’
Recently, the Southwest Conference posted: A Call to Action from New Mexico’s Youth: Our Part in the Global Climate Strike and Week of Resistance. Youth from around the world have asserted the need for strong measures regarding the climate crisis and the disruption of business-as-usual. Building on this momentum and positioning our movement as an intergenerational one, youth activists have sought to call-in and hold accountable adult allies and accomplices by declaring a September 20th General Climate Strike, followed by a week of direct action and civil disobedience, and calling for mass participation from students, workers, business owners, and community leaders by stepping out of their schools and workplaces for the day.”
This Friday, September 20, Las Cruces is invited to join this strike with a gathering from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Branigan Library Park located on the corner of Picacho and Main Streets. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Recently, Til Zimmerman has helped to get our congregation become aware of these significant issues and we are now a member of the NM Interfaith Power and Light group.
In August our Board and Faith Action Committee approved our congregation’s membership in this organization. For more details, please see the article in the current newsletter.
Til is spearheading this activity and is available for questions and more in depth conversations about these issues following worship today. And if you are not aware of it, I’m happy to let you know that both the Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ denominations are actively involved in environmental issues.
So, before we close I’d like you to take a few minutes to think of how you would like to become more involved or to strengthen your resolve to continue to use less plastic and to recycle with a bit more intention, or to advocate on behalf of this good, good creation.
For the past 50 years Earth Day celebrations have taken place in the United States one day a year in April. However, I truly believe that earth day needs to be a sacred event we celebrate every single day.
Yes, may Mother Earth and Mother God bless our efforts to heal and care for the earth. May Father Time and Father God bless our efforts before we have no earth to save. And as always give thanks for this beautiful gift of creation. Amen.