Psalm 65 (have a recycling bin outside, cloth bag, water bottle)
As you have already heard, this weekend the children of our two congregations have been focusing on our role as caretakers of God’s creation. First and foremost, we have been reminded that it is GOD’S creation. Take a few moments to look around you. The green of growing plants, the cool breeze on your face, the movement of the trees, the voices of the birds. God’s creation is given to us as a gift—we are entrusted with its care, and we depend upon it for life. Without the clean water to drink and air to breathe, without healthy soil to enrich our food and the sun which gives us light, we would be unable to survive. When we don’t care for creation well, we endanger our fellow creatures and ourselves.
It is God’s creation, and God has placed the earth in our hands. The psalmist has shaped the beauty of this world we inhabit into poetry, creating a communal hymn of praise. It is a hymn anyone can sing—anyone who sees God’s hand in the mountains and the valleys, in the rain showers, or in the smell of freshly plowed fields. Just as the hymn we sang earlier, “How Great Thou Art”, describes God as the creator of stars, rolling thunder, woods, birds, mountains, streams and gentle breezes, the psalmist praises God for the creation he can see all around him. Whether in the words of ancient Hebrew poetry or a beloved 70 year old hymn or a simple prayer song, the natural response to all this beauty and wonder created by God is PRAISE. wonderment and gratitude to God for this gift.
The psalmist points to God as the hope of all the ends of the earth (you might notice those words on our marquee on your way out). Praise gives way to gratitude because God is the source and the sustainer of all life. This is God’s creation. This is God’s country—all of it.
The imagery gives the elements of nature- like meadows and valleys, sunrises and sunsets—the ability to shout and sing for joy. Another psalmist wrote—and the trees of the field will clap their hands. I love this image: God makes the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. Can’t you agree that the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset is shouting for joy with its array of colors, shapes of clouds, and contrasts between darkness and bright light. The gateways of the morning and the evening are shouting with joy, bursting with praise.
God visits the earth and waters it, enriching it, softening the earth with showers and blessing its growth. Look around us right here at the abundance of vegetables and herbs that are bursting with life, crowned with beauty and flavor and color, reaching for the sky. It is as if the plants are praising their creator too, shouting and singing together for joy.
God has placed the earth in our hands and on many fronts we have been abusing it and using it for way too long, so we are beginning to lose it… whether out of ignorance or greed or laziness or lack of respect for the earth, water and air, we human beings have been the cause of a dangerous pattern of global warming, rising sea levels, increasingly powerful storms, unprecedented heat waves, huge wild fires, a diminishing tree canopy, and more.
This morning I want to issue a challenge for each of us regarding just one small part of our role in caring for God’s creation: reducing our dependence on single use plastic. Just think about the last week—how many different times did you have in your hand something made of plastic that you only planned to use once and then either recycle or send to the landfill? Single use plastic comes in a variety of shapes: your take-out containers, your drinking straws and cup lids, your grocery bags and your water bottles. God has placed the earth in our hands and we are rapidly poisoning it with plastic that can not break down and replenish the earth in any way, plastic that harms marine animals at an alarming rate, 9 million tons of plastic dumped into our oceans each year, creating a huge floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of Texas. We have gotten ourselves into this mess, poisoning this gift from God. It is only with our own hands that we can ever dig ourselves out. It is time we make a commitment to reduce our own personal usage of single use plastic bottles, straws and bags.
Skip the aisle in the grocery store with plastic bottles of water or soda. Don’t buy them! Many of you already use a re-fillable water bottle. Can you make it a practice, a habit, to replace single use plastic bottles in your day to day life? Can you refuse to buy cases of water for your next family gathering? Will you use cups that can be washed and re-used instead of just tossed? Could we make it a policy here in our building—no single-use plastic bottles?
When you order a drink at a fast-food restaurant, refuse the plastic straw. Aquariums and zoos across the country have now banned plastic straws. You might say—oh, a plastic straw is so small—what is the harm? Straws are small, and lightweight. They blow easily out of trash cans or recycling equipment or your soda cup and end up in our waterways, causing harm to marine life. If you must have a straw, ask for paper. Purchase a metal one to use at home.
Use your re-useable grocery bags in ANY store you do your shopping. A pack of underwear at Marshall’s or a box of light bulbs at Lowe’s fit just fine in one of those bags. If you purchase something small, refuse a bag you don’t really need.
We should be leading the way to a city, county, state or even our nation that make single use plastic bags a thing of the past. We are killing our earth, the very gift God has given us, the very earth God has entrusted us with, the very earth whose shouts of joy are becoming more and more muffled. Can you make an effort to reduce your usage of single use plastic bottles, straws and bags? Can you encourage your family and your friends to do the same?
God has placed the earth in our hands. God knows we can do something. God knows we need this earth, all of it– the water, the air, the soil. God knows. We know it too. Let’s do it! Caring for creation! Amen.