Sermon- Easter- 4- April- 26- 2015

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

Have you ever had the chance to lie down in a green pasture?

I have.

For 8 summers I went to Girl Scout camp. Girl scouts was different then. We didn’t learn about computers, because we didn’t have any! We didn’t learn about finance, or investing, although we probably should have.

We learned camp craft. We learned about nature, hiking, safe fire building, types of plants and trees, keeping water clean and ourselves and others safe and healthy.

For 2 weeks at camp we learned about relationship building, sharing responsibilities, and balancing heavy loads as we hiked.

We learned new swimming skills, kayaked on the lake, and how to take care of the mules – including mucking out the stalls.

And every year there was the over-night we spent at the meadow. The meadow was huge – you couldn’t see any other part of the camp. It was filled with soft green grass with a slight slope, and at the bottom of the slope was a creek.

We hiked to the meadow with our supplies and sleeping bags, and after picking our favorite spot in the meadow, we would have dinner, then gather around the fire circle.

It gets cold in the mountains of PA in the summer so a fire circle was a necessity.

There were always 2 or 3 guitars and we would sing and tell stories until the night was dark enough. Then as we burrowed into our sleeping bags, one of the counselors would take a strong flashlight and point out stars and constellations and tell us stories of the ancient gods for whom some of those constellations were named. I always fell asleep, before she was done, but it was the best night’s sleep ever.

No one has those kinds of nights in that meadow any more. No one sings around the fire circle or learns about the stars.

No one hikes in with supplies and sleeping bags because the camp was sold to a natural gas company. They just purchased a lot of acreage, with a lot of gas under it, with no idea of the green grassy pasture in which the souls of so many had been restored through the care of our Shepherd.

In Genesis 2:15 we see that God did not put Adam into the garden of Eden just to enjoy the beauty that God had created – but to till it and keep it.   To keep it.

Are we keeping the garden, or are we taking advantage of what God has given us?

It seems to me that the gas company, and other harvesters of fossil fuels are taking advantage of God’s great gift, but then so are those of us who heat our homes with gas and oil, and drive and fly, and add to our “carbon footprint”. That is the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something during a given period. I looked that one up just to be sure I got it exactly right.

Deuteronomy 30:15 “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity … Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

Research conducted at Cornell University determined that about 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution. Environmental degradation, and pollution associated with world population growth, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, and contributing to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people.

An estimated 7 million people died due to air pollution worldwide in 2012, with more than half of those tied directly to indoor smoke from cook stoves, according to a report by the World Health Organization.

200,000 Americans die of air pollution each year. Researchers at MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, say emissions from road transportation are the leading single cause of pollution.

It doesn’t seem that we are choosing life.

When people are dying from malnutrition whether it’s in the US or the Congo, it’s hard to concentrate on anything but the survival that is based on finding the next meal.

When people are dying by violence, whether it’s in the streets of the US, or at the hands of terrorists like ISIS –air pollution is not a top concern.

The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970. An estimated 100,000 people filled Fifth Avenue in New York City, to show their support for protecting the earth. Time magazine estimated that about twenty million Americans participated in the event in some way, with about fifteen hundred colleges and ten thousand schools taking part in Earth Day.

It has been 45 years since that first Earth Day and we’re struggling. Air pollution, along with deforestation, the destruction of the great rain forests, have been shown to be the leading causes of Climate Change.

There it is – that hot button phrase. Yes – the earth is evolving like it always has, but we, the inhabitants of it, who were told by God through Adam to care for it, aren’t doing a good job.

We can recycle, use LED light bulbs and mount solar panels on our roofs. We can drive a Prius or a hybrid, or an electric car – once all of the infrastructure is in place.

But what we really need is change at national and global levels. Convincing government leaders to improve our energy policies is the only way we can see real change.

The religious communities of the world have expressed their concerns and are devising ways to have an impact through education and local action.

During the recent Hindu Environment Week, thousands of Hindus demonstrated concern about Mother Bhumi.

A new Muslim Climate Action Network is mobilizing Muslims internationally on climate change.

140 rabbis from five countries have created “Shomrei Breishit,” a Rabbis’ network for the Earth.

Pope Francis will release an encyclical—a statement that becomes authoritative Catholic teaching—on the environment this summer – it’s currently undergoing translation – AND

Our presiding Bishop Katherine has called the denial of climate change a sin. Since she was a marine biologist I assume she has some firsthand knowledge, and I’m glad to join her in her view of climate change.

In our Diocese the convention adopted the Genesis Covenant in 2009 to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in 10 years. Through the Together Now Campaign $2 Million was designated for Creation Care (Together Now has surpassed its original goal of raising $20 million, to a pledged total of $32 million, April 2015 newsletter) and in 2014 the convention adopted the resolution to divest holdings in fossil fuel companies.

Parishes have been switching to LED lighting and high efficiency heating systems, improving insulation and sealing old windows, but even more importantly they have been teaching creation care in their Sunday School programs.

THIS is where we make our impact – through education. Children AND adults. Make a local mission project to share in the community. Participate in community fairs by describing what our churches are doing to improve facilities, and explaining why facility care is a way of caring for our local neighborhoods, to have a global impact. The best way to learn is by teaching, so let’s gather our resources, learn what we need to know, and teach it to others.

This grass roots education is what will provide the impetus that is needed to achieve the changes we need at national and global levels. The leaders of our governments will seek to improve our energy policies so we can see real change.///

Then – perhaps recover a piece of land. Clean it up. Fix the damage left by misuse, plant some grass and create a green pasture. Maybe even build a supply of clear water nearby. Create a place where we can meet our Savior Shepherd.

We have all be called to care for creation. We’ve all been offered life and death with the hope that we choose life so that our descendants might live. The life we choose for our descents must be the life of God’s creation made possible through our care.

The prayer titled: For the Conservation of Natural Resources is found in the BCP.

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.