Monday, September 19, 2016

3rd Sunday in Seasons of Creation - Storms! Why don't you Trust me? 9/11/16

In today’s Gospel Jesus physically calms a storm and then asks the question “why don’t you trust me?”
In the Psalm Gods voice is in the thunder and flattens the cedars.  Now the image of a man telling the seas to calm and the storm to cease is hard to picture, but if anyone has seen pictures of mount St. Helen’s we know what flattened cedars look like.
There is a dichotomy in our souls when it comes to storms.  How many are in awe when they see videos of thunder and lightning or maybe a tornado in a field somewhere in a distance?  How many glue themselves to the flooding and the storm surge and the spectacle of a reporter in a hurricane.
There is a sense of safety and awe and beauty when we see a storm at a distance.  We are not affected by it.  I remember when I first entered the diocesan seminary.  It was an old gothic building built in 1923 and the tower was about 7 or 8 stories high and, being the explorer I am, I found the hatch that opened to the flat roof of the tower.  We could sit there and see an approaching storm from miles away with lightning bolts flashing against an enormous cloud.
It was safe to watch a storm from a distance but when it lands and the walls shake and the wind howls and the windows rattle, well, our perception changes. It becomes angry and threatening and we cannot wait for it to be over, especially if you ever had to sit in the basement listening to the am transistor radio waiting for an all clear.
 Our ancient world often blamed the storms on angry God’s and yet those same God’s were also attributed with fertility in many cases.  Why?  Because rain brings new growth and feeds the crops in spite of it being terrifying.
However the Hebrews, from where our Jesus’ tradition and faith is rooted, “believed that God, without any detriment to God’s majesty, Makes God’s presence known even through the force of nature…The Israelites envisioned God as one who reveals God’s self through the sudden and the unexpected, the terrifying and awesome forces of nature, namely the thunderstorm and lightning.”[1]
Often storms are attributed to God’s wrathful response, with an image of a vengeful God.  Lord knows our LGBTQ community gets blamed for every storm, flood and tornado that happens except when it hits the home of a wrathful preacher.
In article from the religion exactly a month ago today“(RNS) comes the news that the Baton Rouge flooding destroyed Tony Perkins’ home and forced the Family Research Council president and his family to escape by canoe to their RV on higher ground.
Perkins revealed this in a special segment of his radio show a couple of days ago, describing the disaster as “a flood of near biblical proportions.”
There are those who have noted some irony here, since when Hurricane Joaquin threatened Washington last year, Perkins declared the storm to be God’s punishment for the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.
That of course recalled the interpretations of Hurricane Katrina by Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and Yehuda Levin, as well as Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s explanation of 9/11, and so on.
These are what’s known in the trade as exercises in theodicy — justifying bad things as demonstrations of God’s goodness, omnipotence, and righteous judgment….Perkins, who in his interview stayed away from any speculation of this sort. The flood, he said, “is a great opportunity for the Church to minister.” The experience has taught him “what is important. Sometimes we get too occupied with the other things of life.”[2]
I hate to say it but Tony Perkins got something right.  In the midst of the storm we need to trust God.  Jesus asked; “why don’t you trust me?”  I mean the disciples had Jesus right there with them, physically with them and yet, in the midst of a storm, they panicked.
In this day and age as we are seeing more extreme weather, more storms, more devastation instead of playing the blame game or getting all justified and righteous we need to see this for what it is.  God’s voice is in the thunder and this is our call not only to minister to others but to the planet herself.
The voice of God could not be any louder, could it?  Summer is hotter, fire season is all year long, hurricanes are stronger, and floods are moving further inland.  Yet many do not trust that this is the voice of God calling all humanity into action.
I am not speaking of just the continued call to service and monies needed for refugees and victims of natural disasters but the call to reverse what we can and to try to limit the extent of human damage to the atmosphere, and the planet.
We have come a long way and, as I pointed out last week, have even achieved bringing certain species back from the edge of extinction.  I am also proud to say that our president is doing all he can and has gone beyond the call of duty.
“When he signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, President Obama marked the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation, designating more than 2 million acres of federal wilderness, thousands of miles of trails, and protecting more than 1,000 miles of rivers. In addition, the President has used his authority under the Antiquities Act 13 times to permanently preserve some of America’s most treasured landscapes and waters, most recently designating the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in Los Angeles County, one of the most disadvantaged counties in the country when it comes to access to parks and open space for minorities and children.”[3]
I know this is a lot about president Obama but he has done a lot more than most if not all the past presidents for example he also has created the largest marine sanctuary in the world with a single signature he created a reserve that ended up “resulting in 370,000 square nautical miles (490,000 square miles) of protected area around these tropical islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Expanding the Monument will more fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.”[4]  Yes this was just one man with a lot of power but each one of us can seek out ways to make a difference.
Yesterday was beach cleanup day and over 500000 volunteers in 91 countries got together and well cleaned our beaches.  They even had an underwater squad here for the first time.  Last year this effort 800000 volunteers who picked up over 18 million pounds of trash.[5]
We have done a lot around here on the conservation side and we preach about it a lot but you know  I would encourage you , if you have never done it, take a ride up into the mountains take a look at what your tax dollars are protecting it is truly amazing.  Take a drive, a slow drive, along the pacific coast highway and stop, just stop in a remote spot where you have just you and the ocean.  And if you do not hear the voice of God in the waves, or if you do not see the hand of God in a mountain sunset you are not listening or looking very hard.
Better yet the next time you see extreme weather or really feel the heat that seems to never end or simply rejoice at a tiny sprinkle we got because it seems like it’s all we get.  Listen to what the voice of God is calling us to do.  Cry out in anguish and anger and fear then do something, hear Gods voice in the thunder and answer. We trust you and we shall act accordingly!  Amen.

[1] Norman C. Habel, David Rhoads, and H. Paul Santmire, eds., The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), Digital eBook.
[2] Mark Silk, Tony Perkins ditches theodicy after flood destroys his home, August 18, 2016, accessed September 14, 2016,
[3] the white house administration, Our Enviroment, 2016, accessed September 15, 2016,
[4] Office of the Press secretary, FACT SHEET: President Obama to Designate Largest Marine Monument in the World Off-Limits to Development, 2014, accessed September 15, 2016,
[5] The Ocean Conservatory, 2016 daata release, 2016, accessed September 17, 2016,

Flora and Fauna Sunday 9/11/16 second Sunday int he Season of Creation

Today is Fauna and flora Sunday, those terms are heard often in a biology class that one took somewhere and after that not much thought is given to it.  So what is this flora and fauna, fauna and flora?  Well it could be the Siamese twins that dated fester and Gomez in the Adams family but not today…
Fauna is all of the animal life of any particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is flora. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota. Zoologists and paleontologists use fauna to refer to a typical collection of animals found in a specific time or place, e.g. the "Sonora Desert fauna" or the "Burgess Shale fauna".[1]
So we are talking about Life, Anything and everything that breaths, no matter how they do it all creatures and plants breathe.  I know it is not the season but I cannot help myself and quote the Ghost of Christmas present; from the 1970 movie musical scrooge with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse , “The sins of man are huge, A never ending symphony Of villainy and infamy Duplicity, deceit, and subterfuge. And no one's worse than Ebeneezer Scrooge, though man's a handy candidate for Hell I must admit life sometimes has its brighter side as well. I like life, Life likes me, Life and I fairly fully agree, Life is fine, Life is good…Life and I made a mutual vow, 'Till I die, Life and I, We'll both try to be better somehow”
Being better somehow is what life calls us to be.  As in today's Gospel Christ is calling us to pay attention to more important matters than what clothes we wear or where we are going to go out to eat tonight.  The centering prayer today, Psalm 104, calls us to see the interconnectedness between us and all of Gods creation. In the Psalm there is a line that says the Earth is satisfied by Gods work.
The Earth is satisfied by Gods work.  Well now there lies a problem.  You see humans have never been satisfied by Gods work.  We are always trying to improve upon it, or fix it.  We try to control what was never meant to be controlled and are surprised when it goes drastically awry.  We built damns, we encased rivers in cement, we build on flood plains, and we use pesticides and poisons to control what we see as pests, and where has that gotten us?
The psalm points out the interconnectedness of all creation how one part of creation opens itself up to provide for another.  There is a co dependence in nature that relies on each and every other part of God’s creation doing its part.  For a long time man did his best to play by the rules.  Knowing that water ran downhill people created a terrace farming system that allowed crops to grow without creating erosion. Knowing that crops and plants use up nutrients people learned how to replenish nutrients in a natural way and rotate crops so that the land would always be hardy.
Heck the story of Joseph even tells how knowing that there are seasons of drought people learned the cycles of the weather and prepared for the worse and learned to survive.  But all that was man cooperating within the set ecosystems in which they lived.  All in all there is a simple fact the natural world does not need human kind in order to survive. 
Humans had to learn to adapt to their environment in order to survive.  Our ancestors were very aware that we are dependent on the earth for e very aspect of our being.  The fruit of the earth nourishes us, the water keeps us alive, the landscape and plants and animals have fueled our imagination for centuries spawning some of the greatest artist ever known.  Yet, until recently we paid no attention to what we did to the planet and its consequences.
Yes Genesis 1:28 says man is to “subdue” and have dominion over the earth.  Yet with Dominion comes responsibility.  A ruler, a king, a conqueror, or invader does not last long if the region in which it has control is not cared for.  Look at our own human history for the answers to any question you might have about dominion and relation.
“In that ancient world, it was quite common for people to set up some kind of an image, symbol or representation to signify the locale of their god’s jurisdiction. Since ancient monarchs were often thought to be divine, they could be considered images of the god. Israel would certainly reject any thought that its monarchs were divine. Therefore, the man and the woman in the creation account could be depicted as royalty with responsibility for the rest of the created world. However, they would not be considered divine. The world was not theirs to do with as they pleased. They were accountable to God, as the story of the first sin demonstrates (Genesis 3). We can say, then, that while human beings are totally dependent on Earth for their life, they have a special duty to exercise responsibility for the created world, and they are accountable to God for this responsibility. Today we speak of this responsibility in terms of stewardship. The second creation account says it in very simple words. It directs us “to serve and guard it” (Gen. 2: 15; my translation).”[2]
Give you an idea on just how bad we are at our role of serving and protecting in California alone there are some 283 plants (flora) in California listed as threatened endangered or rare.  Six pages of plants alone.  There are 124 species of fish animal and invertebrate (Fauna) 41 pages of mammals and their accounts.  All of this can be found at California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  But that is pretty scary when that is just our state.  What Kind of stewards are we?
As I did further research I found that there are a total of 11,577 vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered plants species in the world.  On that same list there are a total of 1208 mammals, 1375 birds, 2343 fishes that is a total of 4926 species and that does not include reptiles, amphibians, insects, mollusks, other invertebrates and fungi.  When you add all of them together on this list there were 23, 919 vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered flora and fauna. This is from International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.[3]  What kind of Stewards are we?
“The message of the Gospel text redirects our attention from awesome aspects of the natural world in their own right to human attitudes regarding our well-being in that world.  It describes a kind of carefree attitude that is present in various lifeforms.  Animals are not anxious about their next meal, and yet they seem to survive; flowers do not worry about their covering, yet they are enfolded in their beauty; grass is not disturbed by the brevity of its life, yet it continues to grow. Why do we human beings seem unable to trust nature in a comparable way? Why do we fail to see that, through the mysterious workings of earth, God provides our basic needs? Might it be that we humans are not satisfied with the way we have been created? We want more than we need, so we exploit and we hoard at the expense of the earth itself, of other human beings, and of other form of life?”[4]  I mean look at what we have done just across our border.
We created very smart environmental protections in our country.  We do not want factories dumping mercury onto our water.  So, we paid no attention when they built factories in Tijuana.  We paid no attention when those factories dumped mercury and lead into the local water ways.  We did not cared if another part of our earth was poisoned as long as it wasn’t ours?  Luckily a group of women got together and sued the EPA for allowing the factories to do to them what they would not allow them to do in our neighborhoods.
But one does not need to look past our borders. I mean just look at the air quality verses neighborhoods one lives in.  Environmental health news reports;
“Tiny particles of air pollution contain more hazardous ingredients in non-white and low-income communities than in affluent white ones, a new study shows.
The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.
Latinos had the highest exposures to the largest number of these ingredients, while whites generally had the lowest.
The findings of the Yale University research add to evidence of a widening racial and economic gap when it comes to air pollution. Communities of color and those with low education and high poverty and unemployment face greater health risks even if their air quality meets federal health standards, according to the article published online in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives”[5]
As Human beings go, we average white people have been horrible.  Somewhere along the way of learning to exploit the earth to get what we want, we also learned to exploit our fellow humans.  It is bad enough we treat the earth with basic disregard but we treat each other even worse.  Somehow, somehow we had been called to be stewards of this planet to learn to live with her and all of God’s creatures and yet we have managed to Rape pillage and destroy her.  We have managed to marginalize exploit and burden ourselves in the constant search for more.  More power, more control, and more stuff.

In genesis Adam and eve eat of the tree they were told not too and then when God comes walking in the Garden they hide themselves from God.  This is the lesson we have yet to learn.  We as humans continue to take too much, live where we shouldn’t break into the planet in ways we were never meant to and when repercussions occur.  We run, we hide, we cry out. Then we go right back to our bad behavior.
I must say we have started to learn from our behavior and not everything is doom and gloom.  People and scientists are looking at the way we live and many are making a conscience effort to change.  Because of that some trends are reversing.  For example the national wildlife foundation reports;

“Habitat loss, hunting and poaching, toxics and other man made interventions have at some point pushed all of the following species to the brink of extinction.
In some cases species have even been declared extinct in the wild!

But the good news is that human intervention has also saved these species. Protection of habitat, effective control of hunting and captive breeding programs have all played their part in these dramatic rescues.

Whilst in many cases there is still much to do to assure the future security of these species, many are now safely on the road to recovery.

Tigers in the Russian Far East (Amur Tigers)
Gray Whale
Southern White Rhinoceros
Black Rhinoceros
African Savannah Elephant
Mountain Gorilla
Saiga - The saiga (Saiga tatarica) is the world’s northernmost antelope. It originally inhabited a vast area of the Eurasian steppe zone.
Greater one-horned Asian Rhinoceros
Golden Lion Tamarind
Takhi - Przewalski's Horse”[6]

We can make a difference by participation in programs that help to reverse the carbon foot print man leaves behind.  Animals like the Grizzly bear, and the bald eagle have all made comebacks thanks to conservation efforts. One interesting story I read talks of the trumpeter swan. “People living in 19th-century Minnesota must have found trumpeter swans delicious, because the species was eliminated from the state — and practically from its entire range in the United States — after it was over-harvested for food. The largest native waterfowl species in North America, trumpeter swans didn't successfully return to the wild in Minnesota until a number of ecological agencies partnered in the 1980s to restore them, according to a statement released Feb. 11, 2016, by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). Trumpeter swans' Minnesota population is currently estimated at 17,000, and continues to grow”[7]  We can be good stewards!

It is news and stories of the creatures making comebacks, of people finding better ways to seek food sources without over fishing or destroying habitats.  It is when we make true efforts to set aside unique environments and protect them that makes us good stewards. One of the best things we have done in order to become good stewards is something like the Paris accord.  This is where a 195 countries have agreed to reduce the carbon and green gasses output sin order to slow climate change.
We are good stewards when we decide to plant climate appropriate plants around our homes.  We are good stewards when we use solar if we can and uses electricity outside of peak demand.  We are good stewards when we seek out sustainable food sources, not just for ourselves but teach others how to do so as well.
We are Good stewards when we care for those who are less fortunate than us, the marginalized, and the neglected and make sure they have safe clean and healthy environments to live in.  Many see this connection to the flora and fauna as a connection tot eh earth, plants and animals, but it is also a connection and responsibility to each other.  We are responsible for our neighbor just as we are responsible for the earth herself and all that encompasses.  Once we learn how to do it all with equanimity and healthy practices then we will witness the kindom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.

[1] wikimedia, Fauna, August, 2016, accessed September 6, 2016,
[2] Norman C. Habel, David Rhoads, and H. Paul Santmire, eds., The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), Digital eBook.
[3] International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Changes in numbers of species in the threatened categories (CR, EN, VU) from 1996 to 2016, Medium, accessed September 6, 2016,
[4] Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary.
[5] Cheryl Katz, Unequal exposures: People in poor, non-white neighborhoods breathe more hazardous particles, Medium, accessed September 6, 2016,
[6] world wild life foundation, 10 species that may have just escaped extinction, Medium, accessed September 6, 2016,
[7] Mindy Weisberger, Species Success Stories: 10 Animals Back from the Brink, Medium, accessed September 6, 2016,