I remember how excited I was when I first moved here nine years ago to start a new job and to be closer to my brand-new grandson. That first week I went for an early morning walk down near the light house at Fort Worden and I was shocked to see a real live bald eagle. I couldn’t recall ever having seen one in the wild. I grew up in Upstate New York outside of Syracuse and during the 1960s I was in Boy Scouts for four years. For three years in a row I went to our annual summer two-week camp in the Adirondack Mountains. The scout camp was twenty-six miles off the main road. It was great fun with camping, swimming, canoeing and all the other scout stuff. What struck me was that I never, in all my time there, saw a bald eagle. I came to realize later that it was that time during the fifties and sixties when farmers were spraying DDT to control the insect population eventually making its way into the food chain which caused the eagle eggs to become brittle to the point they would break before hatching. DDT was eventually identified at the cause, it was banned and the eagles and other impacted birds made an amazing comeback. I also remembered how polluted Onondaga Lake was because of the all the chemical waste that was dumped into the lake by the factories that lined the lake. You could go to the park but fishing, swimming and boating was banned plus it smelled horrible. Laws were passed and enforced and despite clean-up efforts it remains one of the most polluted lakes in the country. I doubt it will ever recover.
One of my favorite authors is James Fennimore Cooper. He’s best known for his Leatherstocking series with the main character being Natty Bumpo, known to most of us as the Deer Slayer or Hawkeye from the Last of the Mohicans. Cooper was an early environmentalist and loved the area of Upstate New York. One of the books he wrote was entitled The Pioneers which was written in 1823. He used the book to decry the destruction of sugar maples through the improper harvesting of their sap for maple sugar, the overfishing of a local lake and the mass slaughter of migrating passenger pigeons for sport. He was one of the first to realize that our natural resources were not endless and, once gone, would be lost forever. What have we done to God’s perfect creation?
Our scripture reading for today is the story of creation, how God took nothing and made something that was good, perfect and balanced. The story starts out with God creating the heavens and the earth. We learn that the earth was without shape or form. It was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters. God said, “Let there be light.” The light appeared and God saw how good the light was. He then separated light from dark naming them night and day. God then created the sky. The second day God caused the waters to come together in one place creating dry land which he called Earth and the gathered waters Seas. God saw how good it was. God then said, “Let the earth grow plant life: plants yielding seeds and fruit trees bearing fruit with seeds inside it, each according to its kind throughout the earth.” And that’s how it happened. God saw how good it was. On the third day God made the stars, the sun and the moon to mark events, sacred seasons, days and years. God saw how good it was. On the fourth day God said, “Let the waters swarm with living things, and let birds fly above the earth up in the dome of the sky.” God created great sea animals and all the tiny living things that swarm in the waters. God saw how good it was. God then blessed them: “Be fertile and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” On the fifth day God said, Let the earth produce every kind of living thing: livestock, crawling things, and wildlife.” God saw how good it was and then said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, and all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”
God then created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image, he created both male and female. God blessed them and said, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground. I now give you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.
The reoccurring theme in this story is that whenever God was done creating something He saw how good it was, it was supremely good. One of the key phrases that I don’t know if you caught was when God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us….” Who do you think the us is? My guess is Jesus. So, what are we going to say to Jesus when he returns to earth to reclaim God’s creation? I imagine he will have some stern words for those who trashed his planet. Those of us who tried to live a life with a small carbon footprint will probably receive honor and good words. Those who worked tirelessly to repair the damage done by others will, I am sure, receive profound thanks from the Creator.
As United Methodists, we have an obligation to the Creator to be good stewards of his creation. Paragraph 160 of our Methodist Book of Discipline says, All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.
I’ve often wondered what the fascination was with discovering life on other planets. We have this insecurity that we may not be alone. Is there someone else out there we wonder? We have this obsession with the planet Mars and whether it will sustain life. Plans are in the works right now so send a manned spacecraft to Mars with an eye towards colonizing it.
First, we don’t have to be insecure because we are not alone. We have God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. Second, we have a planet that was perfectly designed to sustain life. The problem is that we have, in some instances like Onondaga Lake, caused such harm to certain parts of God’s creation that it’s gone and won’t come back.
God created the earth and everything in it for us and after He saw how good it was He turned it over to us, his people to care for and live upon. So, before we reach the point of no return we need to consider several questions. What more can you do, as an individual, to care for what has been entrusted to you? What should we be doing as a church to protect and preserve God’s perfect creation for us and those who come after us to enjoy in peace and prosperity? How can we influence those whose responsibility it is in regulating the industries that have the potential for causing harm to God’s creation?
Will you pray with me?
Creator of all we have, thank you for your most perfect creation and for the detail you put into your handiwork. We realize the damage that has been done to the earth through careless acts, neglect and intentional wasting. As your children and the stewards of your creation we accept responsibility for care and maintenance of all the good you made for our benefit. Help us to be more mindful of the natural world around us and to realize that our actions have consequences that many times are far reaching and detrimental to others. Move us, as a church and a people, to do all we can to care for the world with the same love you showed when you created the earth, skies, seas and all the creatures therein. In the name of all that is good and great, we pray, Amen.