July 29 Sermon

“Connecting in Creation”                                          Psalm 104:1a, 10-24
Rev. Sean Weston                                                             John 21:1-14
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
July 29, 2018

Picture one of your favorite outdoor places in the world. What do you see? When you quiet your mind, what do you hear? Birds, trees rustling, water gushing? What do you smell? What does it feel like to touch the ground, or the floor, or the water?

What is it that you like so much about that place? What gifts does it give you?

For as long as people have existed, many of us have found that there is something special about spending time outside, in the world God created. Many people feel closer to God outside than anywhere else. Today in Psalm 104, we heard words of praise and gratitude to God for the amazing-ness of the world – water and wine to drink, birds to sing, food to eat, oils and grains for health. Homes for all of God’s creatures, the sun and moon to mark time. “By your wisdom you made so many things.” If you want to connect with God in creation, one thing that could help is simply reading these words when you’re outside.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in today’s story from John, they were outside fishing. Without Jesus they didn’t catch anything. But when Jesus showed up, they received way more than they could have asked for. They ate a meal of fish, food given by the earth. They shared a meal with God there on the lakeshore.

Many people know in our hearts that if we never spend time outdoors, if we never take the time to pay attention to the world God created, if we never remind ourselves of the gifts of the earth we are not fully living. Yet human beings today are more disconnected, more separate from the earth than maybe any time before. More and more people work inside every day, sometimes even without windows.  Many of us spend nearly all free time inside, whether at home, grocery shopping, and yes, in church buildings. Others of us spend lots of time outside every day, like farmers or landscapers or construction workers, or like parents whose children play several soccer games each week. But even then, that doesn’t mean anybody is really there. It doesn’t mean we’re paying attention to the earth, to God’s creation. It doesn’t mean we hear the birds sing or the water gurgle, it doesn’t mean we remember that our very food and water comes to us because of the amazingness of a world that provides what we need for life. On the one hand, in our hearts we may know that we belong in the world, that we should be connected with creation. But life isn’t set up that way right now. It’s hard.

Psalm 104 mentions humans, but only as one part of God’s creation. Instead we are separated from the very world we live in. That’s not how we are made. Many of us have lost a sense of our place in the earth. That is a loss. It isn’t set in stone. We can make different choices. We can take a different path than the one laid out for us. But first we must recognize what has been lost.

The New York Times recently published a detailed article about the Cedars of Lebanon. If you spend much time with scripture, especially the Old Testament, you’ve heard about the cedars of Lebanon. They’re mentioned in the Psalm we heard this morning. These amazing, majestic trees have stood for thousands and thousands of years. In the Bible they are a reminder of incredible strength and power, they point to a God that will never disappear, a God that is always here no matter what happens in the world or in our lives.

The Cedars of Lebanon are disappearing because of climate change. As the climate gets warmer and warmer, there are less and less places where they can grow. They used to cover thousands of square miles. Now they cover about 6 and a half. Many scientists expect that they may be completely gone by the year 2100. This is a source of grief for so many people. The Cedars of Lebanon have stood for thousands and thousands of years. Some believe that Jesus appeared to his disciples there after his resurrection. And they may soon be gone completely, one of endless victims of climate change, including millions of climate migrants whose homes have been destroyed each year.[1] [2]

As we have become more and more separate from the earth, we have also come to imagine that the earth exists only to provide for us whatever we decide we want from it. Centuries of taking and taking and taking, of ever-increasing pollution and waste are returning their vicious, hard consequences. In Bible words, we who have sown the wind are reaping the whirlwind. Or, you might say our chickens are coming home to roost. This doesn’t just separate us from the earth. It doesn’t just destroy forests and homes. It separates us from God.

After all, God made the earth. God made us and called us as the scriptures say to “till and keep it.” And we have time and time again disrespected and destroyed the earth God has given us. Think about it: if you gave a loved one an amazing gift, and instead of respecting and protecting it they destroyed it, and you kept giving it and they kept destroying it – how would your relationship with each other be? How well connected would you be? The way that we 21st century human beings relate to the earth is one of the surest signs that we have become disconnected from God’s giving and graceful Spirit. You don’t regularly destroy the things given to you by those you know and love. You just don’t.

How do we turn things around? So how do we find that connection with God once more?

We start by paying attention to the earth again. Maybe by stepping outside and reading Psalm 104 in an evening. Maybe by going for a walk and stopping to listen for all of the different sounds, or stopping by a green space on lunch or on your way home after work and just sitting. We start by finding places that remind us of God’s amazing love in creation, and simply being there whenever we can. Recreation time outside is one of the best things people can do for their physical, spiritual, and emotional health. Most kids really need at least an hour – adults often find that even 15-30 minutes a day is life-changing. A time of joy and opened hearts, not just another thing to do.

Being more connected with the earth means we are more connected with God. And when we are more connected with God, we will become more committed to changing our ways. More committed to reusing more and wasting less, to realizing that we are one part of a bigger picture, and that we don’t have the right to destroy the earth, our very habitat. More committed to joining with people of faith to protect the earth, with organizations like Faith in Place which works in Illinois to protect Creation. More connected, more committed. More God.

By your wisdom you made so many things, O Lord. May we delight in them. May we protect them. And in so doing, may we draw closer to you. Amen.

 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/07/18/climate/lebanon-climate-change-environment-cedars.html

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23899195

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