Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sermon for Animal/Environment Service, August 18, 2010

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 104: 1-2a, 10-30
“Deep and Wide”
Aug 18, 2010

There is a song that children in church love to sing. It’s called “Deep and Wide.”

Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowin’ deep and wide
Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowin’ deep and wide

Do you remember what it’s like to be a child? Especially during those summer months when you didn’t have school- swimming in the lake, fishing, going to the park, playing hide-and-go-seek.

Do you remember the things you did to bugs and small animals? Like catching fireflies and putting them in empty jars, and even though there were holes punched in the lid, they died anyways.

Or catching butterflies and pulling off their wings off? Aiming a magnifying glass at an inchworm to watch it twist and burn in pain? Or throwing an ant into a web to watch the spider catch it’s pray.

But eventually something happened. One day you realized that the worm on the hook was drowning and you begin to wonder how the fish felt with a hook in its mouth.

You realize that butterflies can’t live without wings and lightening bugs don’t light up when enclosed and that although you’re feeding the spider, you haven’t given the ant a fair chance?

That’s called empathy: being aware of the pain of someone or something other then yourself. It’s an important stage of a person’s development.

Empathy moves us to do acts of kindness, without empathy we continue to inflict senseless pain.

I like to believe that God forgives us for the innocent animals we hurt when we are young, but I also believe that God holds us accountable for the suffering we inflict as we grow older and the pain we cause to meet our own needs.

That is part of what has happened with the oil spill in the Gulf.

BP, working to meet our demand for oil, dug far down into the earth, way below the waters, where no human could physically go, and the result: a human and mechanical mistake that has spilt gallons of crude into the waters, affecting not just the elements and the sea life, but the birds of the air, the people of the land, the grass and the soil.

And we are reminded once again that everyone, everything, every part of creation, living or not, is interconnected, and when suffering is brought upon one part it causes suffering for others.

As many of you know, Psalm 104 is my favorite scripture. There’s interconnectedness, with order and reason, as well as playfulness and the unexpected.

It saddens me that Psalm 104 is being used for today’s worship service, because our God created Creation to be good, not to suffer in oil slicked pain, with pelicans and baby turtles dying and the children of fishermen living under intense worry and fear.

Today’s scripture is a reminder that creation is not just about us. But it is first and foremost about God. It is God who created, it is God who is mighty, and it is God who knows what is best.

And what God created was a series of living and inanimate beings that are to exist together.

The waters of the springs flow between valleys giving drink to wild animals, allowing donkeys to quench their thirst.

Water cascading down mountains to form streams, streams that water trees, trees that create homes for the birds, birds that fill the earth with their song.

The sea, deep and wide, great and wonderful, full of too many animals to even count, where giant creatures frolic and ships sail so people can make a living.

Waters: quenching thirst.

Waters: providing a home.

Waters: offering a chance to work and a chance to play.

And yet, it is our waters that have been suffering.

In one ocean a giant mass of plastic, the size of Texas, floats along. In another ocean exists a dead zone due to our fertilizer and pollutants.

And now, the Gulf, tainted by oil.

Our need to drive, to go fast, to be warm, to have synthetics, to drink from a bottle have caused wildlife and the environment to be bogged down, blackened and poisoned.

So what do we do? How do we act? Do we give up our two-liters of Coca Cola? Do we get rid of our cars? Do we boycott companies that are only giving us what we’ve been demanding?

I believe our first step is to have faith.

Not faith that is a passive “when you wish upon a star” faith, not faith that allows us to sit back and wait, but faith that trusts that God is already moving to bring a resolution and faith that God is going to bring us along, showing us what to do.

This is a resurrection faith. A faith that came from the exiles, a faith that comes from prophets, a faith that comes from the Gospel testimonies.

A biblical faith that says God does not abandon a
community but that God brings new life and hope
even when life and vitality seem to be gone.

A resurrection faith that says if it was God who created the world, if it was God ordered it so that springs would quench donkeys and streams would benefit birds and the seas would give play to monsters and work to men, then God will move to refresh and restore and to heal the land.

That if God can bring a dead man out of a tomb, then God can bring dead waters back to life and oil soaked marshes back into green pastures.

Because that is the kind of God we follow.

But God will not do it alone. We already see nature busy repairing itself. Microorganisms are breaking apart the oil. The currents of the mighty Mississippi are churning the oil around so it does not get stuck. Turtles, birds and fish are proving to be more resilient that we give them credit for.

And the faith we have, the faith God has given us, is a faith that also says we must play our role too.

We can’t continue consuming at the expense of other beings. We can’t sit back and expect corporations or politicians to always do the right thing.

We can’t continue to live as if we are the only beings that matter, because we are not.

We are the beings that were created in God’s image, and we are the ones given the awesome responsibility of watching over everything else.

So now that the worst part of the spill is over, now that the Spirit of God moves over the waters, we are to find what we, as the chosen caretakers can do, how we can act and what God wants from us.

How do we live so that the water brings life to the land, the land brings life to the vegetation, the vegetation brings life to God’s creatures and God’s creatures enhance our own life, as we enhance theirs?

Our days of pulling the wings off of butterflies and feeding ants to the spiders are over.

We know better and we have grown, and we are called to be better stewards of God’s earth.

Green and blue, deep and wide, majestic and awe-inspiring.

The Glory of God enduring forever.

All thanks be to God, the Creator, to Jesus Christ, our brother in life and to the Spirit that moves to bring restoration.

Amen and amen.

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