Earth Sunday: a week late

Scriptures used: John 10:11-18, Acts 4:5-12, and I John 3:16-24. Title: “We Honor Our Earth.”

We started by watching a power point. If I cannot get that into the post, I will drop in a few of the pictures that I used. Earth Sunday

Let me just start by saying the thought of celebrating a worship service as Earth Sunday sounded a whole lot more fun a few days ago when the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the wind was calm, and the grass was beginning to green up following a bit of moisture. Looking out on a cold grey day like we had yesterday, or fighting against the wind to even get the door open to get inside or outside as we have been many days this spring, doesn’t make for a very Earth friendly attitude, at least it doesn’t for me.

On the other hand had it not been for the fact that I had already done up the bulletin on Wednesday, and Ronda and I had picked songs early, I would likely have ditched the whole idea. About Wednesday night, or Thursday, I was cruising around on the internet when I came across an Earth Day quiz, to find your carbon footprint. I was feeling pretty good and smug about my answers until I came to the parts about electricity and transportation.

The electricity part pretty much upset me because it only asked for the square footage of your house and the age of your appliances and not about if you leave all the lights on all the time, or if you unplug unnecessary items and what temperature you are willing to tolerate to use less fuel.

And the transportation, well how many miles do you travel per day and why don’t you take public transportation like a bus or a train. Well let’s just say I won’t use the words here that that subject makes me think of. I would love to get into a bus and let someone else drive. I would be happy to hop a train, but the tracks that used to go right past my house (you saw the bridge on the power point earlier) have been removed because of no more train. Living where we do, we don’t have those options, but that is a story for, well not for here.

I began getting the picture that celebrating an Earth Day as presented by current activists might be just plain annoying for most of us. And yet celebrating an [an meaning one] Earth Day with some real meaning to those of us in a basically rural community might just seem silly. Seriously, I have the feeling that for anyone involved with agriculture whether it is as a full-blown land owning farmer or like me an avid gardener or even someone who likes a neat yard, everyday is Earth Day.

Of course to some teachers or school children, Earth Day might mean taking a day to clean up the community. I believe I saw a bit of that going on along the road as we were traveling on one of those days last week. I remember doing some community cleaning when I was in high school, and certainly it was on the calendar for the student body when I was a teacher in Pollock. The day was organized and led by one of the elementary teachers, and if you weren’t there in full gear with boots and gloves and an attitude of ready to work, you better know she was going to give you a what for. I mostly tried to lay low and stay out of her way until all of the major jobs were handed out.

So what about Earth Day is important enough for us to mention it on a Sunday morning let alone celebrate it as an entire service? The first celebration of it happened 45 years ago back in 1970. The idea of its founding is mostly attributed to Gaylord Nelson a former Senator and Governor of Wisc., who passed away a few years ago. The idea came about after a massive oil spill in California and was a reaction to air and land and water pollution as well as endangered animals. Now if that is where the movement had stayed, I am pretty sure we could all join in as pretty vocal protestors. And for our part today, that is where I plan to hold our discussion.

If you think about it, I am not sure anyone in this sanctuary would be against clean streets, clean water and clean air. How many of us can think of someone in our neighborhood whose yard isn’t quite as neat as we would keep it. Driving down the highway how many times have we seen litter that is unsightly? We might think of it as looking bad, but there is also the damage it does to wildlife or depending what the litter is there may even be toxic effects of having it out in the open.

In our rural area ditches are not always left for the county or state to mow. Ditches are left for the farmers to put up for hay. I am guessing that no one wants to have ripped up cans or plastic bottles or soiled diapers in the middle of a bale of hay that is fed to the cattle or even if it is used for bedding. I know that mostly the animals won’t try to eat any of those things, but I can’t imagine that any producer would want to deal with that garbage if they didn’t have to. At the least it is a nuisance and it just looks bad.

I suppose as a descendant of a very particular German-Russian great-grandfather I notice the land pollution the most because it seems to be the most obvious. My mother said her grandfather was such a stickler for a neat farm yard that on some nights, he would make himself a twig broom and sweep the yard so that it was all smoothed out and looked nice. I can’t say that happens in our yard, but I have been known to rake the pea rock out of the grass that gets there after a winter of snow blowing.

The focus of Earth Day this year was a bit off the simple neat yards and streets and air and water pollution. As you can probably tell, some of the major issues are all around the climate and how things are changing. I really am not interested in a political or otherwise debate on the issue. I did take the time to look into what direction our church and some of its ecumenical partners are saying in terms of Earth Day, and I found an interesting piece. Some of the focus has shifted from the issues of the climate to sources of food and issues around food.

There is a resource set, a curriculum of sorts that is available on food and how to make sure there is enough. It is titled, “Have you anything here to eat?”  Sustainable Food in a Changing Climate.” I see the changing climate in the title, but from what I could see the focus was on the food and having enough, but not too much. It showed a food pyramid and talked about how do you handle or what do we do with the excess food. It went in an order sort of like: 1. Don’t create an excess, 2. give away the extra sort of like the Mobile Food Pantry, 3. feed the animals, we always gave scraps to the pigs though I am not sure how legal some of that is in terms of safe food, 4. Compost which is much easier for people in a rural area and finally 5. dispose of properly by incinerating the leftovers.

As I looked into it briefly, it seems to be in line with ways many of us were raised regarding food. I hope I have my math down correctly, as a generation raised by the people who survived the Great Depression here on the prairies where the price of sending your pigs to slaughter cost more than you received in payment for them, and where winds and heat dried up every chance at a crop year upon year with no hope of producing anything, we have an idea of the importance of being careful, (Shporing: German-Russian word for saving)

Yet we have to admit there are times we forget. There are times we may celebrate in excess. I am the guiltiest of all. If we are having a family gathering or a celebration of some kind, I can never cook or pull together food that will just last. I am always of the mindset that unless there are two full pots or brimming bowls left over, there isn’t enough. I have this constant fretting that someone will go away hungry. And in my house we often look at each other and say, “Does anyone here look like they aren’t getting enough to eat?” I don’t think that is the case.

In looking at the concept of food in terms of “Have you anything here to eat.” I began to realize the issue is that same old thing that parents say to children who waste food. You know the “Eat what is on your plate, you know there are starving children in (you fill in the blank) who would love to have that food.” Then today’s child says, “Fine send it to them.” The concept is the supply and demand theory. Remember I said theory, and politics and greed aside; if we demand less there will be a better chance of supply being available to those who don’t have any.

The second part of the pyramid, the part about sharing your food, your resources with those who have none, seems to me to be in line with what the scriptures tell us today. In the passage in John, Jesus talks of being the good shepherd. The good shepherd loves his sheep so much he would die for them. Jesus sets that example for us, and certainly sharing our food would not be too much to ask of us, when our spiritual leader is willing to die so that we can live.

Also in Acts, we see John and Peter being brought before the authorities for what reason, for healing a crippled man? Perhaps it is more for doing the work of Jesus after he is gone, for preaching the gospel and disrupting the status quo. Perhaps cleaning some ditches and sharing some food and speaking up for a cleaner world might be seen by some as going against the status quo, but how do you think God really wants us to treat this world? To what accounting will we be held when our time here is done? Did we do all that we could to keep God’s world from falling apart, or becoming unlivable for the fourth and fifth generation after us? Did we leave any food for our neighbors, or did we use it all because we were afraid that there wouldn’t be any leftovers after the holiday meal?

No we don’t believe that the path to heaven is about good works and good deeds and random acts of kindness, but…yes but, when we believe, and we accept the grace that is free to us, we are expected to be the good and faithful servant that not only witnesses, but sets an example in God’s world. Let’s think about that world this week as we go about our daily business. Amen!

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