April 22, 2018

2018 April22

Easter 4 - Year B

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

The Light of Christ bring light to our Brother Air, Sister Water, Mother earth and our fellow creatures. The Light of Christ bring light to us. The Light of Christ bring life to our world.

 

•Show the dead mint and basil.

 

Those of you who are gardeners, how can I save this? People say that you can’t kill mint. Well, this is the 3rd post of mint that I’ve killed. What am I doing wrong? We have all gained skills in certain activities. Some of us lack skills…like my skills in gardening. The broad suggestion is that I should care more for my plants, right? So, what if this were my yard? Many would say...that I should care more for my lawn. And if San Luis Obispo had a big litter problem, and we all threw our trash on the ground, right next to the garbage bins (I have seen that!)...the suggestion would be...we should care more for our city.

You probably see where I’m going here. There are all these different levels that require care and attention.

 

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, as is obvious from the readings. Have a good look at the Good Shepherd Window. You see that Jesus is caring for the sheep. It is from today’s Gospel that we give to Jesus the title of The Good Shepherd. Jesus cares for us, all of us, like a shepherd would care for his sheep. The story’s placement in the Gospel makes The Good Shepherd analogy a foreshadowing of Jesus’ Death, His sacrifice for us, God’s people. The plot to kill Jesus is gaining steam at this point in John’s Gospel, and it moves faster and faster toward the arrest and Crucifixion.

 

But it’s Easter Season, and we should be focusing on Jesus’ Resurrection, His conquering of Death. Perhaps this Gospel is timed for us to be reminded that the Resurrection that we are celebrating is a result of Jesus’ laying down His life for us.


But it’s also Earth Day. Since
April 22, 1970, we have this day
to concentrate our focus on how
to protect the planet that God has
given us.

 

It’s not a religious holiday; it was actually the birth of the modern environmental movement. The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a US Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara. It’s kind of surprising that it wasn’t one of the US Senators or Congressmen from California. Our Senators back then would have been George Murphy and Alan Cranston, for those of you who were around then. The US Representative for Santa Barbara would have been Charles Teague, just for the record. But it was a Senator from Wisconsin who was so moved by the oil spill in Santa Barbara that he founded Earth Day.

 

In that same year, the San Luis Creek was polluted 4 times in 12 days. Between November 1 and 12, 1969, over 50,000 fish in over 6mi of stream bed were killed. Students from Cal Poly started the “Save our Stream” initiative. That led to the Chamber of Commerce creating the Ecology Committee the next summer. That group lasted 6mos before breaking away in January of 1971 to form the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo, which is now ECOSLO. The group spearheaded the first used motor oil recycling program in 1987. In 1990, Green Build was started, which promotes sustainable building techniques that minimize construction waste, build healthier indoor environments, and reduce energy use while conserving natural resources, among other activities. And later this year, the organics-to-energy plant will come online. This is an 11-year dream of SLO Waste Management to

 

turn all of our food waste and
yard waste into enough energy
to power 3-to-4,000 homes.

 

We can use the analogy of The Good Shepherd for our own responsibility as Stewards of Creation. Just like I should have cared more for my plants, we all should care more for our planet, both individually and collectively. You will notice in the Good Shepherd window an elaborate depiction of the non-animal Creation. There are trees and plants, which are an indication that the designer understood that humans, plants and animals are all part of God’s Creation, and that they were declared “good”, as is written in Genesis 1.

 

The modern environmental movement has been interesting to witness and to be a part of. From the mid-90s all the way until I left the UK 2 years ago, I had the book “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” in my bathroom for guests to read if they were spending too much time in there. That was helpful. In the last 25 years, we have capitalized on environmental issues by reformulating Styrofoam and making all sorts of products out of recycled plastic. We have introduced legislation, like no plastic bags, car emissions targets and banning plastic straws in restaurants.

 

Like the plants that I neglected, we have been neglecting the non-human elements of Creation. Both 1 John and the Gospel tell us about laying down one’s life for others. Some do that politically, by lobbying for environmentally-friendly legislation or opposing environmentally-damaging initiatives. Some do that by volunteering, rolling up their sleeves to help protect the environment like on Coastal Clean-up Day. And other others do that by the day-to-day small sacrifices they make, like collecting their shower water to flush the toilet, converting their lawns into zeroscaped landscaping, or purposely eliminating non-necessary car or plane trips. They are laying down their lives for the future generations of Earthlings who will need just as much clean air, water and soil as we do.

 

To really protect Creation requires sacrifices at all levels, the Nation and Federal Government, State and Local initiatives and each of us as individuals. We do a good job here in California at being environmentally-friendly, and especially in SLO and on the Central Coast. However, while the policies and practices look good, the statistics look bad. Eight of the top ten ozone-polluted cities in the country are in California. But we do the most to protect the environment. We just have a lot of people, a lot more sun than the rest of the country and a lot more cars. We would be far worse off without our strict laws on tailpipe pollution and eliminating coal-fired power plants, but we would be a lot better off without climate change. Remember what Los Angeles air quality was like in the 1970s and 1980s? Remember when we used to talk about Acid Rain? LA is still pretty gross; I was on Catalina Island looking back at LA, and it was pretty murky. But nothing like when I was a kid when you could see the smog while you were in it. And we never talk about acid rain anymore. It still exists, but it’s not eating through your car.

 

So, we are to be the Good Shepherds of Creation. We are the only ones to lay down our lives, or lay down our cars, or lay down our waste for the environment.

 

Human beings are the only part
of Creation who has the ability to
both destroy and repair
the environment.

 

All of the rest of Creation must rely on us for destruction or improvement. Unlike other parts of the world who rely on government to solve our problems, Americans have a history of sharing burdens between regulation and personal responsibility. As Christians, we are often called to reflect on our personal responsibility for walking the heavenly way, the way that benefits all and glorifies God, rather than acting in our self-interests.

 

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we know the situation. Michael Turgeon, Environmental Ethics Fellow at Santa Clara University, puts it plainly:

 

“Today, the vast majority of scientists believe that we are altering our climate in ways that will have destructive consequences. If they want the public on their side, they should consider more than just cold, objective data in their rhetoric because, if any of their predictions fall short, they have nothing to fall back on. For years, environmentalism thrived on philosophy, spirituality, and passion; in the modern world, scientifically-informed emotion could be a powerful environmentalist tool.”

 

Let us be scientifically-informed as we spiritually reflect on our roles as the Good Shepherds of Creation. We don’t need to buy a Tesla or put up solar panels. But if you can drive less or you can afford solar panels, then do it. We can fly less, waste less food, support Organics-to-Energy, use less plastic. These are small sacrifices, all of which add up to big and positive results that help this “fragile earth, our island home.”

 

Being a shepherd is giving up of yourself. The big things are laying down your life. It’s changing your lifestyle so that others may thrive. So, as Shepherds of Creation, let us mimic Christ the Good Shepherd in our protection of the environment. And as we heard in our second lesson:

 

let us love, not in word or speech,
but in truth and action.

 

To end, I would like to share with you The New Zealand Lord’s Prayer. It was borne out of the indigenous peoples of the islands, now Christians, who have a deep connection with Creation.

 

Eternal Spirit, Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name shall echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the earth!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever.
Amen.

© 2018 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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