Psalm 96: 11-12 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Job 12: 7-10 April 28, 2019
Luke 6: 43-49 Earth Sunday
“In his hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of every human being.”
Prayer: O Holy God, Creator and Author of all life, we hear your word and feel the inspiration of your Spirit. Lead us, we pray, toward deeper faithfulness in the stewardship of the earth and everything within it. Amen.
When our son Joel was just about two and a half years old, he was just beginning to say simple words. We had a cat, and of course, he could say “cat” whenever he saw the cat in our home. Well, in late October, we took a trip through Yellowstone National Park. There was that big fire that summer, and the main crowds had all departed, and the roads were practically deserted. We were driving slowly, and we came upon a herd of huge bison walking on the road. I mean they were BIG and right outside our car! We were amazed at how comfortable they were with us driving next to them. Joel was sitting in his car seat in the back, and pointing to every huge bison saying, “Cat! Cat! Cat!”
Of course, for a two and a half year old mind, generalization makes every animal a cat. But, as time goes along, and learning occurs, awareness gets deepened, and perspectives change. We learn and grow.
I think the same is true when we think about our planet earth, our environment, and the species of our world. For example, for centuries, people thought the earth was the center of the universe. Then, with the invention of the telescope, all that changed. The sun was thought of as the center; but even that changed as telescopes got better and astronomy became more advanced. Our sun is but a medium sized star among billions of stars, which is part of our galaxy which is among billions of galaxies sitting in a huge cluster of astronomical branches that looks kind of like a nerve ending in the universe. Mind blowing!
Our planet earth is magnificently situated around our sun in what’s called the “Goldilocks Zone.” It’s not too hot because it’s not too close to the sun. It’s not too cold by being too far away from the sun. It’s sitting just right… in the right orbit around our sun for liquid water to exist. Mars is too far away from the sun—all it’s atmosphere was stripped away by solar winds. So, it’s way too cold for life as we know it. Venus is way too close to the sun, and it’s carbon dioxide gases have created a green house effect, sealing in the heat—over 900 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. We can’t live there. But, earth… is just right!
Planet earth is the house in which we live. “Some say the world is God’s garden. Beauty for all to enjoy. Birds and bees, flowers and trees. God saw everything was good” my song says. The psalmist wrote, “Let the heavens be glad. Let the earth rejoice!” And, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof...” Our earth, the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden, our house. And you remember from Genesis, God called this garden good. Our house is good.
The words from Psalm 150 sing “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.” Animals. Birds. Aquatic creatures. Plants. Everything that breathes is in the house. Everything that breathes is good and praises God. It has God’s life force in it.
Everyone knows breathing is maintaining life. Oxygenated air gives our bodies life. Our lungs change it to carbon dioxide. Plants and trees breathe in carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. It’s cyclical. It is good.
Fish in water breathe in soluble oxygen through their gills. Water evaporates into the sky, forming clouds, which falls as rain upon the earth, refreshing and restoring the oxygen in water for fish and other aquatic creatures to breathe. It’s cyclical. It is good.
Even in his hardship, Job knows that all the species of the earth, sea, and skies testify to the power of God’s creative life-giving energy. Job declares that God’s work is evident in all that lives on the earth. God cares for every living thing. All creation bears witness to the goodness of the earth, and the goodness of life on this planet.
Especially human beings. For we are created in God’s image. That makes us co-creators with God on this earth. That makes us co-caretakers with God on this earth. We are co-reconcilers with God. Co-restorers. Co-protectors of the life on this earth and all living things. God works with us. It’s a covenantal relationship that we have with God. It is cyclical. It is good. We are good.
I think it helps to grow deeper in this goodness, in this ‘co-covenant with God’ perspective. Because then we start to see things with God’s eyes. That means we are better able to resist the lazy urge to take for granted all the resources we have here on the planet. If we’re working with God, do you think we are more likely to pushback against the I don’t care attitudes regarding the different species of plant and animal life? As co-restorers with God, maybe we are better able to stand firm against the opposition to global warming which is happening and which science supports is happening? If we’re working with God as co-protectors, might we be more likely to deepen our respect for all creation, to revere the earth, to care for this house and protect everything that breathes in it? And to praise God for all this?
The respect for this house and everything within it is learned. It grows in us if we let it. Sometimes the growth takes a jarring experience to jump start that growth, though. When I finished my freshman year in college, before going home, I went to the home of my college fraternity brothers in southern Illinois. One day we decided to go hunting just for fun. We were out in the woods, and these guys were picking off some birds for the heck of it. I found a bird in some branches in a bush. I lined it up in my sights. I stared at it down the gun barrel. And stared at it. And stared at it. I stared at it so much that it blended in among the branches, and I couldn’t see it anymore. I knew it was there, so I just closed my eyes and squeezed the trigger. Closing my eyes made me move just slightly, and my bullet only injured the poor thing. My college buddy made fun of me later saying that he had to come up and finish the job. My heart broke, and I knew I could never be a hunter for sport, just for the heck of it. I can and have hunted to eat. If you can call fishing as hunting for food. But, the point is, one must learn to enlarge the perspective that all life is precious. We learn respect for living things. For life in this house. All life is good.
We are good. Inherently good. Jesus teaches that if one is good within, then goodness comes out in our actions. He invites us to come to God, hear the word of God through Jesus, and act. Being made in the image of God helps us to act, I think, as co-creators with God, co-covenant makers. We see divinity in all things. We see God’s life-energy living in all creatures. We offer care and compassion, wisdom and healthy oversight into the care of everything that breathes. For we all live in this house. Together. Amen.