It Was Good. (It Can Be So Again.)
Rev. Estelle Margarones
John 1:1-3, 14 Genesis 1:20-31
Today is Earth Day! I invite you to observe the day today, and always. The Bible says:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And God saw that it was good.
And it was all good. And the Bible says:
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, every bird. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
Today, we've got fish full of mercury(1) as Marvin Gaye sang in the 1970's. So much so that pregnant women have been urged not to eat fish such as tuna or swordfish because the mercury could harm the fetus. The birds have not escaped our hand, either. DDT was a pesticide that killed bugs....and so much more. You see, birds ate those bugs and DDT caused egg shells to be so thin that the eggs crack during the incubation process, resulting in the death of the baby birds.
During the manufacturing process, tons of DDT was dumped to the Pacific Ocean...and it's still damaging the ecosystem today. That chemical stopped being dumped into the water in 1961...and they are still cleaning it up.
As recently as 3 years ago, the EPA was entertaining plans ranging up to 64 million dollars to put clean sand on the ocean floor so that by 2023, they would hopefully bring the water to acceptable standards and that by 2039—78 years after they stopped dumping the poison into the water, they would lower (but not eliminate) the concentrations of DDT in the sediment.
And the Bible says:
And God made the beasts of the earth and the livestock and everything that creeps on the ground. And God saw that it was good.
But the creeping animals are disappearing. According to National Geographic, the harlequin frog species are going extinct because of global warming. More frightening still is that two thirds of the 110 known species of harlequin frogs disappeared between the 1980's and the 1990's.(2) (Two thirds! In less than two decades!) And it's possible, some scientists speculate, that because amphibians are so sensitive to environmental changes, they may be the proverbial 'canaries in the coalmine'. In other words, they are most susceptible, so though we may not see or smell or taste anything yet, something is awry and the harlequin frogs may only be the first of many to go.
And the Bible says,
So God created man in his own image, And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and have stewardship over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
According to scientists, we are now in the midst of an extinction event...one that started about 50,000 years ago but is now increasing speed.(3) The most troubling thing about it is that we, who the Bible tells us were given stewardship of the earth and the waters and the creatures. We, created in God's likeness...stewards of the earth...are causing it.
We are consuming the earth's natural resources in a way that has never been done before. We are polluting the air and the water and the land with our factories, and our cars, and by dumping our old medications down the drain.
While that is regrettable news, there is good news. We can step up and take our place as the trusted caretakers. There are things that each one of us can do to right the wrongs and to keep from causing more damage. There are tons of things we can do to be 'greener', 'cleaner', and 'more efficient' everyday. Some are incredibly simple; others take a little bit more of an investment. But it is an investment...in the future.
This is an interdependent world and what affects of of us, does affect us all. Think beyond the here and now. We should each realize what an important task we have been given....stewardship of the earth to which we were entrusted by God. We need to see the present and be long range planners.
We've all heard about about global warming, but many do not even know what it means, why it's important, and what we can do about it.
I'll share with you the short version: The sun warms the earth. Some of the sun's heat is absorbed by "greenhouse gases" such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and ozone which slows down how fast it escapes from the atmosphere. This is a good thing. Essentially, the greenhouse gasses trap the heat and insulate the earth. If we didn't have the greenhouse effect, our planet would be approximately 54 degrees—and that temperature wouldn't sustain our current ecosystem.
In large part, the issue with global warming comes from what humans have done to distort the natural greenhouse effect. We're adding too much into the atmosphere. There are things like farming practices and production in factories that add gasses to the air. Deforestation is an issue because trees take in the CO2 and release oxygen. While you might not be able to stop these practices, you can help to slow them down by thinking about your purchases. You can buy more food at the Braintree farmers market (open June 16-October 27) and you can use recycled products, and you can bring your own reusable bag when you go shopping.
We don't often think about it, but by heating our homes and driving our cars, we're burning natural resources like gas and oil and raising the level of carbon dioxide. The good news is that we now have more energy efficient ways to heat our homes and we have choices everyday about how we travel....public transportation is readily available, we can carpool, we can be mindful of the planet when planning our errands—saving things for a time when we'll be in the neighborhood for another reason. We can also avoid sitting in idling cars.
There are tons of things that homeowners can do to make a big difference—with everything from using double glazed windows to using energy efficient appliances. Renters, too, can make a difference.
Small things can make big differences. You can cover your pots when you cook. A lid on a pot locks in the heat, causing the food to cook faster, so you use less energy. You can put your heat a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer...even as little as 2 degrees either way, could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. You can run your dishwasher and washing machine only when they're full. You can take a shower instead of a bath—it uses less water. You can recycle, plant a tree, clean up a beach. You can donate clothing and household items to Goodwill...and you can buy gently used things there. You can use compact florescent light bulbs. They use 60% less energy than a regular bulb so they'll last longer and can save about 300 lbs of carbon dioxide a year. They're a few more dollars more expensive, but worth it in the overall scheme of the world.
This is the 3rd Sunday of Easter and we honor and praise the risen Christ. There are a number of Biblical stories that put Jesus in the context of nature. A heavenly star heralded his birth. He was born in a stable, his bed a manger, borrowed from the animals. He gave us the parable of the sower. He walked on water. He calmed the wind. People waved palms as he rode in to town on a borrowed donkey. Jesus prayed in a garden. As we discussed a few weeks ago on Easter, he was laid to rest in a garden...in a borrowed tomb.
When Jesus walked this earth, he taught people about being in relationship. Not only are we in relationship with God and each other, we are very much in relationship with the natural world. Were Jesus physically among us today, I have no doubt that he would encourage us to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
In the beginning, God created the world and it was good. We have been entrusted with the stewardship of our home and if we're going to ensure that our world will be here for our children, their children, and beyond, we need to open our eyes to see past the immediate concerns of time or money or effort. So Let us celebrate the Earth on this 42nd Earth Day...and always!
And God will see everything, and behold, it will be very good. Blessed be and amen.
1. Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology Song), Marvin Gaye