Here is the text…mostly of the sermon I preached last Sunday at First Presbyterian Church–Bend, Oregon.
Also, let it be known that I learned I would be preaching this sermon about 3:00 PM on Saturday. Be nice!
The Picture of the World:
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night-to-night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
The Mountains give voice to the majesty of God, etc.
Speechless when I see them.
Often when I am running with my dog Walker, I’m listening to music and I am struck by how blessed I am to live in this place and I am brought to tears as I see God’s voice to me in the beauty of my surroundings.
I look at this picture of the Earth God created and entrusted to us and I am struck at how small it is, relative to the entire universe that God created.
I am struck by the fact that we look at this Earth from above and see how small it is, yet when we see pictures from India or China or Arkansas or West Virginia it feels like a totally different world. A world we have no connection to, a people we have no connection to, an Earth we have no connection to.
This morning I have a question for you. When you see this picture and you think about your place on God’s Earth, do you feel connected?
Sometimes I wonder if we feel connected to the Earth, not in a symbiotic way not in a tree hugging way, not in a way that I hear trees screaming when they are cut down way, but in a way that I understand that my actions have an impact on the Earth in the same way that my actions have an impact on my relationships. I certainly think about how, what I do affect my relationship to my wife, to my daughter, to my loved ones but do I think about how it impacts God’s Earth?
Steven in a letter to the editor of the Bend Bulletin in 2007, quotes William Sloane Coffin saying, “The modern world, in the pursuit of progress, has unfortunately divorced creation from Creator.” He continues, “As modern civilization has supposedly advanced and progressed, a sense of wonder and awe, reverence and respect for creation has declined. And, unfortunately, our souls and the soul of the community we live in are the poorer for it.”
I want us to take some time to look at some pictures and see if we can reconnect the creation to the creator. See if we can re-introduce ourselves to the Creator through God’s Creation.
We see the pictures, they take my breath and I wonder. I wonder if like William Sloane Coffin suggested, we have lost our sense of the awesome majesty that is found all around us, whether in a scenic view of the mountains or in the thistles of a juniper tree. My question is what do you see when you look at them? Do you see something to be used for your own pleasure? Do you see something to be celebrated and explored? What do you see?
Theologian and ethicist, James Gustafson talks about the entirety of Creation in a way I had never heard before. He talks about it in terms that are challenging and shocking and I want to get some feedback from you. Gustafson says that humans are not the center of God’s creation but only one part of the larger make up of what God intended for God’s creation. How does that strike you, the thought that we are not the center of the universe, we are not God’s favorite, but part of the picture of God’s Earth and the fullness thereof?
I love that idea, partly because I am fairly confident, some say cocky, partly because humility is not what I would consider one of my strengths. I actually have a hat that says “It’s Hard to Be Humble When You’re From West Virginia.” But that’s a sermon for another day and if I get off track now there’s no hope.
The humility it takes to recognize that we are part of the story not the whole story changes my mindset when I think about how I interact with other beings and living things on this Earth.
I’m not here to try to make you feel guilty, or to make you run out and buy a hybrid, or eat local or any of that stuff. I think there is plenty of trying to guilt you into caring about the Earth already out there. My hope is that we can get back to being in awe of God’s Creation.
On this Earth Care Sunday my hope is to invite you back into relationship with the Earth, invite you to remember how much God loves you and how you are part of God’s Creation just as the trees outside these windows are, just as the mountains we hike and ski and snowmobile and camp and play in, just as the rivers that we float and that give us electricity, just as every thing we come into contact with in God’s natural world.
My hope today is to remind us that, as the Psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,”
I could probably wag my finger at you and say, “You’re not doing enough” but what would that solve? You’d probably just roll your eyes at me. Honestly, that’s probably what I would do if someone were trying to make me feel bad for not doing enough. I mean I care deeply about environmental issues, not because of their political nature but because I think it is one way that I can respond to God’s call to love my neighbor.
Today I want you to remember that God loves you, and hopefully you love God. I also hope that one of the ways that you express that love is through nurturing the Earth that God has surrounded us with. Today we have a special opportunity to love our neighbor and nurture our world.
Following the service members of the Green Team will be stationed at the main door and the side door. We have the opportunity to pick up around Bend High. Green Team Members will give you 2 bags, one for garbage and one for recyclables such as bottles and cans. You will also be given a glove or two just in case you don’t want to get TOO dirty. When you return you can bring the filled bags downstairs behind the church where the big garbage bins and the recycle bin are located. There will have someone there to show you where to put things.
May it be so.