Season Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Date August 25, 2019
Scripture Genesis 2: 15 – 20
Matthew 25: 34 – 40
Rev. 21: 1-8
Prayer: Creating and Giving God, we are your children, and you give us all good things. A glorious world full of vegetation and animals, clean air and water, predictable seasons. May we show reverence for those seasons and your creation. May we work to keep them pristine and pure. May the words I speak remind us of the responsibility you have given us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
“Remembering our Creation”
Since I have been back in the pulpit, a little over a year now, I have not preached very much on the environment. In fact, I’m not that it has been a topic of any of my sermons. That is not to say it has never been. When I served in my last appointment I was quite outspoken about the Keystone Pipeline that was designed to pipe filthy tar sands oil from Canada through the heartland of the United States, endangering one of the nation’s largest underground aquifers. Legal issues around that environmental issue still hold it up. However, for the last 12 months, I’ve not spent much time on the human behaviors that threaten our earth. However, I am grateful that someone in the congregation asked me to preach about global warming. So that is the topic of today’s sermon.
Global warming is not the same thing as pollution. While they overlap, global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate. When we talk about global warming, we are usually talking about changes caused by human behavior. And although we are grateful to drivers of electric vehicles, and those who have given up plastic straws, recycle, and have stopped using Styrofoam, those steps are not going to be adequate to change the direction of the globe.
Most ecologists are telling us that we have 11 to 12 years to change the direction of global warming. According to Bill McKibben, the damage that has already been done probably can’t be corrected, but we can stop the steady march toward higher temperatures and more destruction.
We have all heard about melting ice bergs. Perhaps you have seen pictures like this one of
- a dog sled team trying to cross a section of their trail that was once covered with ice. Now they are sloshing through freezing cold water.
- Or this starving polar bear, unable to find fish to feed itself.
- Or an 85% increase in fires along the Amazon.
There are plenty of examples of how the increase in temperature has affected the earth. However, it might be more helpful to see how it has affected Vermont.
Vermont ranks as the second cleanest state, right behind New Hampshire. That stands in contrast to Louisiana which is the most polluted state.
But as I said in the beginning, this morning we are talking about global warming, not pollution. Since the beginning of the Industrial age, the earth’s temperature has been heating up. However, it has taken on greater acceleration since 1980. The increases in global warming has drastically increased in the last 40 years.
And while our state may be one of the cleanest with regard to cleanliness, Burlington VT is the 5th fastest warming city in the nation.
Amy Seidl is an environmental scientist who has taught at the University of Vermont and Middlebury College. From her perspective in Huntington, VT, Amy tells the story of a warming Chittenden County, where
- trees blossom before the pollinators arrive
- ponds stop freezing
- animals’ migratory schedules are disrupted
- sugar maples are pushed farther north to colder and colder climates.
- But mosquitos grow more resilient, carrying even more disease
Her book, Early Spring, Amy shares a belief that we will not be able to manage the climate. So, it will be necessary for us to adapt, just as the butterflies migrate earlier, so that we might be able to plan for the continuance of life on this planet.
Aware of the carbon emissions associated with global food markets and large agriculture, we will need to change our diets, tend our gardens, and support food sources that nourish and replenish the earth. Like driving an electric car, or recycling, this won’t be enough, yet we need to continue trying to do the right things.
Rev. Mark Wimberly, a professor at the University of Oklahoma recently spoke at the 2019 United Methodist Creation Care Summit. He said this: “unless we change the systems — the economic system, the transportation system, energy system, the political system — we’re not going to get to where we need to be in the amount of time we have left to get there.”
This morning you heard three scriptures, although there were probably 300 we could have read, to support our responsibility to creation and to the earth that God created and called good.
The first was the story of the creation of an earth being, A-dam, whom God set into the Garden, and gave dominion over all the animals and plants. The Hebrew word translated as Dominion, means to care and tend. It does not mean to dominate, strip or overthrow. If we fail to care for our charge, sadly it will do harm back to the steward. God gave humanity the gift of the earth to be carefully tended. 1. Creation Matters
The second story was about caring for Jesus’s sheep. Not just people who need food, drink, companionship and shelter, but a world ecology that depends on it; an ecology that begs for reasonable treatment of all of her resources and people. “When you did this for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.” Do you act on behalf of those you don’t know? Who lives beside the landfills and the polluted waterways? 2. We are responsible for one another.
The third passage was about the coming of the New Jerusalem, when God descends from the heavens and makes a home among us. When this happens, all things are made new. We need to be grateful for the world God has given us because the natural world reflects God’s hospitality. It reflects the love of God. 3. There is hope for us and for the earth. The Bible begins with creation and ends with a new creation
As human scientists, philanthropists, defenders and promoters, we are vitally important in the future of the earth. We have the unique capacity to join God in cultivating the beauty of creation. God invites us now, through the work of Christ, to be both recipients of as well as agents in this redemption work. Our calling is not merely to help sustain creation but to provide for its growth and flourishing, joining with God in restoring right relationships between us and the rest of creation.
In the name of Christ. AMEN