Sunday, September 30, 2018

How Lovely on the mountains - Mark 16:14-18

As bible study concluded on Monday one participant came into my office and announced … “You need to change the text…None of them mentions mountains.” Lets see… And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news[b] to the whole creation.” NSRV…We are to preach even to the mountain tops for they are all a part of Gods creation …The creation that God proclaimed Good and the psalmist reminds us;
 “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,” (Psalm 48:1-2)
Though this psalm specifically mentions mount Zion how can we praise one mountain of God’s over another for just as all of humanity are Gods children so to all creation belongs to God.
Yet this being the season of creation again we must see how we have treated creation.  What have we done and how can we change?
Our mountains are harvested for wood and coal. They clear cut the top of a mountain and then they blow it up to find coal.  This practice continues today but it is hard to imagine without seeing it
So we have this video

I find the images of this video painful. It is terrifying when one thinks of the wild life displaces or destroyed.
The Appalachian Voices tell us that:
“The Appalachian region is home to one of the oldest and most biologically diverse mountain systems on the continent. Tragically, mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains encompassing more than 1 million acres of Central and Southern Appalachia.
After the coal companies blast apart the mountaintops, they dump the rubble into neighboring valleys, where lie the headwaters of streams and rivers, like the Kanawha, Clinch, and Big Sandy. The exposed rock leaches heavy metals and other toxics that pose enormous health threats to the region’s plants and animals — and people.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that mountaintop removal “valley fills” are responsible for burying more than 2,000 miles of vital Appalachian headwater streams, and poisoning many more. As a result, water downstream of mountaintop removal mines has significantly higher levels of sulfate and selenium, and increases in electrical conductivity, a measure of heavy metals. These changes in water quality can directly kill aquatic species, or disrupt their life cycles so severely that populations dwindle, or even disappear”[1]
Why Is Mountaintop Removal An Issue of Faith? The UCC reminds us
“When mountains are demolished for coal mining, they are gone forever. They lose their topsoil and forest, animal habitat and ability to filter water, and become uninhabitable places for humans and animals. Mountaintop removal is a permanent desecration of the gift of creation by a benevolent and gracious Creator. 
Mountaintop removal also destructively pollutes the streams and valleys where people have lived for centuries in Appalachia. It destroys their culture, their way of making a living, and their family structures. It occurs in remote places where there is very little self-determining political organization and is a colonization and exploitation of the land by outside interests. If it were a profitable enterprise for the people of Appalachia, then they would at least benefit economically. However, the opposite is true as the Appalachian counties are consistently among the economically poorest in the United States.
Mountaintop removal is a choice and not an inevitable circumstance. Power can be generated in ways that are sustainable and beneficial to the health of the mountains, the eco-systems, and the people who live there. As demonstrated by the people of the Coal River Valley, the mountains can sustain wind farms that lead to power generation, local jobs, and a sustainable eco-system. People of faith make choices to live in harmony with God’s creation or not. Creation is groaning with the scabs of mountaintop removal.”[2]
So, I had said that I would always bring these sermons home. Literally to right here so how does this or does this affect us?  Well in the past California has been a willing participant by using coal energy and as a state we still are.
That is sad news but there is actually Good news in that only 15% of a percentage point of the states energy comes form coal.  California is almost completely coal free.
What about here in Sonoma county? Well a survey of power plants in Sonoma in 2017 showed that we had 29 different power plants operating.  That seems like a huge number of power plants for one county but wait
12 were solar
3 were biomass
Another 12 were Geo thermal
One was hydro electric, and one was natural gas the natural gas plant makes fuel cells for the county.  One of the solar plants is actually Clos DuBois winery.
Clos Dubios says this about their winery; “We’re especially proud of our solar initiative, which utilizes over 4,000 solar panels to power our winery almost 100%, the equivalent of providing electricity to 164 homes a year.”[3]
I am happy to say that we have a choice here in Petaluma of how our energy is generated.  I personally choose to pay a higher rate for Sonoma Clean Power’s premium EverGreen service which generates 100% local, renewable power!
As we make choices to Honor God’s creation we are proclaiming the Good news to all that we in the UCC seek a just world for all by initiating and supporting programs that proclaim our love of children, love of neighbor, and the love of creation.

“How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 57:7


Sunday, September 23, 2018

God of earth and Sky Mark 15:33-39

Today is our third Sunday in our season of creation…Sky Sunday…
I love those time lapse videos of the quote “fog” unquote Rolling over sutro tower. Actually, it is heaven touching the earth quite literally. Or as a kid I loved to watch the storms off in a distance you may know the ones where you can see the full cloud and the lightening.
We wake up in the morning on a clear day and greet a beautiful sky.
The sky can be a warning system if you are ever in a rainstorm and suddenly the sky turns this earie electric green and it gets very quiet…Take cover
Biblically speaking the sky not only announces and celebrates God’s presence, but also sympathizes with creation when it suffers.
“Have you ever watched the skies when a storm was brewing, black clouds rolling in like wall after wall of waves?   Have you ever had a sense of God’s presence in the storm or God’s voice in the thunder as many ancient peoples did?
 “The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory Thunders,
The Lord, over the mighty waters.  (Psalm 29)
 Have you ever sensed that eerie feeling that comes during an eclipse when all the animals are spooked?  
Why is the sky so important to us?  Our moods seem to change with the weather—when the sun shines we are likely to be happier than when darkness covers the sky.  Why?  What does the sky mean to us?  Is our faith influenced by the sky or related to the sky in some way?
I believe that it should be noted that most times, when the text of the Old Testament reads ‘heavens’ the original Hebrew could, and probably should, be translated ‘sky’ or ‘skies’.  In other words, texts that we often associate with heaven as the abode of God actually refer to that part of creation we call sky.
Think about Day Two of creation in Genesis One.  The text describes how God divides the primal waters and constructs a ‘dome’ to separate the waters above from those below (Gen. 1.6-8).  This dome or firmament God calls ‘sky’.  On Day Four God places lights in this sky/dome—sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1.14-18).
The word for sky in these two texts is precisely the same word found in Genesis 1.1 which should be translated: ‘In the beginning when God created sky and Earth…”. Genesis One is about God creating the physical universe, not the spiritual domain of heaven as the unseen realm of God.
I want you to ponder, just for a moment, some texts from the Old Testament that you have associated with heaven.  Is it possible they refer to the sky or to some other domain?   Can you think of any texts where the sky responds to what happens on Earth?
How about Genesis 7:11 “On that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened. (NRSV Harper Collins study bible) Or another translation reads ..on that very day all the fountains of the abyss were broken and the cataracts of heaven were opened. (A study Bible freshly translated by Nicholas King).
How about genesis 15:5 “He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Or exodus 16:4 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.”
Change the words to sky as opposed to Heaven does it change the meaning? Maybe not so much for the text herself but it certainly changes how one may look at the sky.
The old testament reading associated with today is Jeremiah 4:23-28 in which Jeremiah sees a vision of what it will be like when the great enemy comes from the North to overwhelm God’s people and devastate the land. But listen to the words
Jeremiah 4:23-26
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
    and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
    and all the hills moved to and fro.
25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
    and all the birds of the air had fled.
26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
Jeremiah sees a reversal of all creation
He sees the land as it is in Genesis before creation all is ‘waste and void’
He sees the land as before day one:  No light in the sky
He sees creation as before day 5:  No birds in the sky
And he sees the land as before Day Three: No vegetation comes from the land/Earth

Jeremiah’s vision turns the whole of the original creation process upside down. This portrait, moreover, is more than a metaphor.  For Jeremiah the destruction brought about by the invading armies of Babylon and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem was more than a national catastrophe. The countryside of Canaan was also affected.  It intentionally shows that War brings environmental devastation. War is more than a de-struction it is a de-creation.
Jeremiah closes his vision with a forceful announcement that the desolation will be so great that creation will respond with empathy
Jeremiah 4:28 Because of this the earth shall mourn,
    and the heavens above grow black;
In other passages Jeremiah speaks of Earth mourning and the land crying aloud to God.  These passages are more than poetry.  They highlight how Jeremiah senses the sympathy of nature, the groaning of creation.  Because of the wickedness of the people, he cries to God:
                                How long will the land mourn?  (Jer. 12.4)                            
God responds by saying:
                                They (the people) have made it a desolation;
                                desolate it mourns to me’.  (Jer. 14.11)

In our reading from Jeremiah 4, it is not only Earth but also sky that responds. The sky that has lost its light and its life ‘grows black’ (4.28).  The expression ‘grow black’ also means to be gloomy, mourn and be depressed (cf. Job 5.11). This imagery of Jeremiah can be compared with that of St Paul in Romans 8.  All creation, both Earth and sky, suffer and groan because of the evils perpetrated by God’s people.
We have experienced the sky responding to human behavior.  What are the signs in the sky that indicate sky is suffering or mourning?   The smoke in the air of course is an easy one that comes to mind. As a matter of fact, as I was writing this a news wire had popped up “The Mendocino Complex, a pair of wildfires that erupted in Lake County in late July and went on to become the largest recorded fire complex in California history, has been reported 100 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday.
The two fires burned a combined 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures including 157 residences, killed one firefighter and injured four others, the latest incident report says.
At 100 percent containment, there are still 22 miles of fire line to repair and some fire activity left to monitor. A news release by the Forest Service said the primary goal now is to “reduce erosion and other impacts from suppression activities.”[1]
Besides the smoke in the air how about the pollution.  Has anyone ever driven up from the Coachella valley through riverside county over the ridge to approach the Los Angeles basin?  All you can see is a brown ugly haze hanging over the valley.
The distant sky that we call space is not something we humans have influenced greatly, in spite of our effort to ‘conquer’ space.  The more immediate sky that we call our atmosphere, however, has been affected greatly by numerous human acts of abuse.
We have created a hole in the ozone layer.  By excessive use of various sprays and chemicals we have released chlorofluorocarbon molecules into the atmosphere. In the stratosphere chlorine atoms escape from these molecules and attack the ozone molecules.  The resulting ‘hole’ first appeared over the South Pole, but the ozone layer is thinning over other continents.  Because of this thinning, UV rays from the sun have now increased and so have skin cancer rates.
However, because we have changed our behavior, the scientist predict the ozone layer may be fully recovered by 2060 or as late as 2080.[2]
There are many ways in which we have polluted our skies.  The combustion of fossil fuels in factories and cars produces a host of noxious materials that fill our skies.  One of the common effects is smog. Air pollution is no longer a crisis we can avoid.
One person shares a story of being in a fifth story apartment in Mumbai (Bombay) some years ago.  I rose early to watch the dawn.  I did not see the sun rise over the horizon!  The smog was so dense it took another half an hour before the sun came up over the smog and appeared.
We were called to be the care takers of the Garden…so does the sky affect the garden?  Are we not responsible for it as well?
Many of us have been conditioned to think that only humans communicate the mysteries of God. We do not expect other parts of creation to have a voice like that of humans.  Butterflies do not talk. Trees do not sing the way we do.  Skies do not communicate….um??
The psalms celebrate and remind us that trees sing, fields rejoice and the rest of creation praises God.  This Psalmist invites all creation—including sea monsters and storms—to praise the Creator!
Sometimes we think this kind of talk is but poetic language, giving human voice to non-human reality.  Psalm 19 suggests that the voice of creation is more than a poetic way of praising God.  All creation is here communicating about—and with—the Creator.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament[a] proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In this Psalm the sky proclaims good news in its own way, not a human way. The sky is the mediator of God’s word.  The sky announces two things—the vibrant presence of God and the creative work of God.

The skies ‘declare the glory of God’.  The glory of God is the visible presence of God in creation, a presence that permeates all of Earth.  Isaiah 6.3 assures us that the glory, the visible presence of God, ‘fills’ all of Earth, just as it once ‘filled’ the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple of Solomon.  If we have eyes of faith, we can see the presence of God shining through creation. The sky proclaims that glory, that presence on Earth. And that is good news, good news from sky!

The sky also announces the work of the Creator everywhere in Earth and sky. The firmament God created above is the story of God’s work above and around us. The sky is a testimony to the creative forces of God currently at work.   Creation continues into the present!
The Psalmist goes a step further and declares that the voices in the sky are a conversation between one day and the next.  Light communicates with light and darkness with darkness!  The messages in creation are not only from the sun and the moon, but via light. 
The communication that fills creation is not dependent on human words. It is the pulse of God’s word penetrating all of creation announcing the good news that God’s presence and creative power permeates every part of the cosmos. This living creation also celebrates God’s presence.  And we are invited to join the rest of creation in worshipping our Creator.
In Mark’s description of the passion of Jesus Christ, we again meet the sympathy of sky.  He tells us that from noon on the day Jesus was crucified, ‘darkness came over the whole land’. For three hours, while Jesus hung in agony on the cross, the sky was dark.   Or, in the language of our reading from Jeremiah, the sky was ‘mourning’
If we recognize this darkness, we gain an even greater appreciation of Jesus’ final words.  He is crying into the darkness when he yells: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’  The signal from sky is that all is darkness; that all is in mourning that even God is absent in that dark hour. It is in this darkness that Jesus gives a loud cry and breathes his last.
 It is in this darkness that Christs last words comes down even to us here, now, very present; “ why have you forsaken me?”  Why have you forsaken my Garden that was created through me?  The garden that I place you in to care for and love.
The verses go on to tell us that the curtain in the temple is torn.
That action indicates that the very darkness, the temple veil that hides God from humans, has been rent asunder.  The sky is open and God is accessible.  In Luke’s Gospel this rending of the veil is directly linked with the darkness covering Earth. Now the cosmos is God’s temple and God’s presence is everywhere. Once again, there is good news from sky.
The Old Testament texts spell out the sympathy of sky and good news from sky.  The Gospel reinforces the sympathy of sky that accompanies the passion narrative of Jesus. 
The Epistle reading (
Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Creator.(Phil. 2.9-13)
This reading declares that after his death, Jesus the Incarnate One, was exalted and given the highest name.  The text goes on to say that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, whether in heaven/sky, on Earth or under Earth.  Christ becomes Lord of the entire universe, Jesus becomes lord of all that was created through the word, for Christ was the word, this includes the domains of the sky.
The sky that once responded to Jesus’ death responds in praise to Jesus’ exaltation as the cosmic Christ.
That does not mean that Jesus is located specifically in sky or some domain of sky. According to Ephesians (1.9-10, 23), the cosmic Christ gathers all creation into himself. Moreover, this cosmic Christ fills all things, all the cosmos.
In other words, the risen Christ is not located in one place, whether that be called heaven or sky.  Christ holds all things in the cosmos together and permeates all things in the cosmos.  And that is good news for sky as well as for us. Amen.

(Adapted from Bible study resource for sky Sunday)


Sunday, September 16, 2018

We are made of Earth!

Today is Humanity Sunday in this season of creation…So what do we look at differently or what perspective on humanity do we take that is different from other Sundays?  What does this season call to attention?  There are 3 assigned readings for today
Genesis 1:26-28
The message reads this verse this way…
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and yes, Earth itself,
And every animal that moves on the face of the earth.”
God create human Beings they were created godlike, Reflecting God’s nature.
God created them male and female
God Blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the Earth! Take Charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
For every living thing that moves on the face of the earth.”[1]
Then in Genesis 2:7-8 then the lord God Formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east; and there God put the man that God had formed. 2:15 God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order or in another translation to till and keep it.

How should human beings relate to Earth, our planet home?  Does Scripture give us the right to dominate and subdue creation as many have claimed in the past.
If you read this, it doesn’t quite sound that way. In my hearing we are called to be co-creators with God. God Planted a Garden and then humans are established in the Garden to continue Gods work.
This concept of the right to dominate has even been used as justification for suppressing Indigenous peoples as mere animals!  As it stands, Genesis 1.26-28 reflects the language of royalty, of ruling and subjugation.  But should we be satisfied with that text as the basis for our relationship with Earth and the creatures of Earth. 
There have been several interpretations around this.  We have evolved in our understanding;
In God’s Image…How does being formed in God’s image make humans unique in creation? Interpreters have answered that questions in many different ways. Their answers typically relate to how they themselves view human nature.
Early Christian interpreters believed that having God’s image made humans like God gave humans a soul. For example, Augustine believed the image of God referred to the rational soul, placed by God in the human body. Thus, God and humans were spiritual beings, while all other life was merely material. However, this division between soul and body, or spirit and matter, is a later development in Greek thought. The idea of a soul is not shared by the OT writers.[2]
We spoke of this a bit last week.  It out of this concept that we hear these theologies that give humans an excuse to dismiss the earth. This is also what gave permission to dismiss others as not human.  By claiming others did not have souls gave certain races permission to subjugate other races.
A different answer given by interpreters from ancient to modern times is that being made in God’s image gives humans special dignity. According to this interpretation, the divine image refers to worth of all human beings. In this view, all persons carry God’s image and are to be treated with equal respect. This understanding of human nature focuses, as genesis does, on the whole person rather than on the soul alone. It has given powerful support for those demeaned, marginalized, and oppressed.[3]
This calls us to recognize the dignity in each person.  As Christian it calls us to see the face of Christ in any and all persons. We are called to treat each with the respect called for as if we are meeting Christ matter how they may treat us. For in each human is the face of God.
Recent biblical scholars have looked in ancient cultures around Israel to understand this idea of the image of God in Genesis 1. Egypt and Mesopotamia described reigning kings as the image of particular gods. The phrase designated a ruler as a certain god’s special representative on earth. So by adapting this expression, the writer of Genesis 1 identifies human beings as the representatives of divine rule on earth.
This interpretation of humans as representatives of divine rule matches what comes next in Genesis. God says that humanity is made in the image of God so that humans can take charge of animals (gen 1:28). So, when read in light of its literary and ancient culture contexts, the image of God describes humanity’s prominent position in the world. It shows humanity’s responsibility to rule creation as God’s representative. Human beings are thus considered mediators of God’s presence in the world.[4]
So let me ask the question again, Does Scripture give us the right to dominate and subdue creation as many have claimed in the past? No! because we are smarter than that. We know better. No! Because the very next chapter (2.15) reinterprets this relationship!   Rather than being hailed as a ruler of Earth Adam, our ancestor, is given the responsibility of ‘serving and preserving Earth’. It is time to confess that we, especially in Western Christianity, have often abused our role as human beings by assuming we have the right to dominate the rest of creation without considering the word of God that calls us to serve and preserve what God has given us as our home.
We must confess we have yet to treat each other with the respect that is called for by these verses in Genesis. Daily we degradate, subjugate, segregate and mistreat people in the name of well, pick it, in the name of greed, in the name of corporations, in the name of governments, in the name of religion!
We have used and abused sacred text for so long that we sometimes do not see what we have done or what we are doing.  This is why we must focus on humanity during this season of creation.

Todays Gospel of how we are called to be servants
The message interprets the reading this way;
Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”[5]

This text from Mark is often cited as a guide to the way we should live as disciples of Christ, serving others rather than dominating them.  Jesus reminds us that among the Romans of his day, the aspiration of leaders was to dominate and control, to have power over others.  Jesus declares that his way is just the opposite.  His followers are to serve rather than rule.  The language used here reflects a reversal of the language in Gen. 1.26-28. Those who follow Christ are not rulers, but servants.
Marjorie Suchoci, reflects on this in her own context in the Methodist church
Muse a while on the seeming oxymoron of “servant
leadership.” We have lost the shock value of Jesus’
words and actions that specify that true leadership involves
serving others, not ruling them. Yet, in many ways we have
reversed Jesus’ reversal by accepting the term servant leader
but reinvesting it with the trappings of power and privilege.
…If we truly valued servant leadership, wouldn’t pastors vie
for appointments to rural or inner city or poor churches
where leadership would indeed be sacrificial? In Mark 10
Jesus explicitly reverses the social position of leader from a
place of power to a place of sacrificial service, even to a place
he calls slavery. His crucifixion sealed this reversal where
the Highest suffered with the most lowly for the sake of
saving the lowly. We are followers of Christ.
(By Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki from The Upper Room: 60 Days of Prayer for General Conference 2016) [6]

I love this for I live by the belief I will go where I am called, and I will be called where I am needed. I confess I do not have an inkling what that will look like and or where it will be yet. This is true for our relationships with creation and the creatures of Earth as well as our relationship with other humans.  In short, Jesus’ words make it clear that the way of serving Earth (in Gen. 2.15) is more consistent with the way of the cross than the way of domination (in Gen. 1.26-28). 
The ways humans have treated each other and continue to do so is disturbing history even here in Petaluma we cannot ignore what has been done to our indigenous people and what we have don to this land.
I was reading an article from KCET titled the last woman form Petaluma I want to share just some of her story
Her Indian name, or at least one of her Indian names, the only one any of us know, was Tsupu. She was my great-great-grandfather’s mother, or my great-great-great grandmother, and, again as far as any of us know, the last native of Petaluma, not the city we know today, but the ancient Coast Miwok village of the same name….
Though the village was abandoned once and for all after the 1838 smallpox epidemic claimed its remaining citizens and though American farmers demolished its large midden, using the centuries-old refuge of decomposed shells for fertilizer, eradicating any trace of the village, Tsupu never forgot it. The last time she visited she was completely blind, yet nodding with her chin to an empty hillside, she said “there,” as if she could see Petaluma plain as day, tule huts and fire smoke.
The village was atop a low hill, east of the Petaluma River, located about three and a half miles northeast of the present city of Petaluma. Petaluma in Coast Miwok means “Sloping ridge,” and, as was often the custom, was no doubt named after that distinct feature of the landscape associated with its location.
Petaluma, a thriving community of at least 500 individuals, was a major village of the Lekatuit Nation,…
The Petaluma Valley region was prized for its enormous herds of deer and elk as well as for its productive groves of valley oak and black oak. Coast Miwok elder Maria Copa (from Nicasio) told anthropologist Isabel Kelly in 1932 that “deer and elk used to be plentiful in the valley this side of Petaluma [present city] -- just like cattle there [and that] Nicasio people got acorns from the Petaluma Valley.” Ducks and geese flew up from the Petaluma River and its tributaries so thick as to obliterate the sun for an hour at a time, and seasonal swarms of monarch butterflies passing through the Petaluma Valley a mile wide, several miles long, forced the Lekatuit there to take refuge for sometimes a full day.
When Tsupu was born, by any estimate about 1820, the village of Petaluma was in crisis. At least a third of its citizens had died within the last ten years of European diseases — smallpox, pneumonia, syphilis — to which the natives had no resistance; and the great herds of deer and elk, frightened by blasts from Spanish muskets, were scattering, migrating north, replaced by mission livestock — cattle, horses, sheep — which spread foreign seed in dung, giving rise to oat grass, among other invasive species, which supplanted the native bunch grasses and sedges. The Lekatuit, like other California aboriginal nations, had had an intimate relationship with their environment, specifically a seasonal schedule of harvesting, pruning, controlled burning and the like, from which a particular and sustainable ecology had evolved over 5,000 years or more. With fewer individuals to tend the landscape, or garden, as we liked to call it, and with a major disruption of native animal and plant habitats, the valley began to appear “wild.”[7]
This is only part of a much longer tale.  Yet it gives pause.  In Sonoma county Indigenous people are only 2.2 % of the population.  It is sad note when you think that at one time they were the only people who lived here. What happened to the very people who lived here was because one group of people believed they were better, worthier, than another.  What happened here was the land scape and the natural life of the valley was changed forever because humans transformed it.
The dominant human population, no matter what race or where they are, have a history of coming into a community and instead of learning from them we subjugate, control, enslave and kill. This culture of we are superior, and we know better is what causes pain, distrust and down right anger even here in the united states.
MY heart aches when someone tells me we cannot fly the rainbow flag because then we have to fly all flags.  My heart breaks when I hear someone say all lives matter because that diminishes the meaning and the movement of Black Lives Matter.  My heart breaks when I see images of people burning Nikes because they have an add that features Kaepernick.
I saw a post that sums up the taking of the knee in professional sports
It was never about the anthem, it was never about the flag, it was never about the military.
It was about: Patrick Harmon 50, Philando castile 32, Alton Sterling 37, Sandra Bland 28, Anthony Hill 27…the list goes on and on it was about due process of the law it was about justice….
It sad that today its almost a weekly event that someone, usually white, is calling the police on people of color for living. people have reported black people for sitting in Starbucks, shopping at CVS, mowing lawns, playing golf, staying at an Airbnb or napping on a couch in a college dorm, and selling lemonade.
Of course, most recently a man was shot and killed for being in his own home…. This is humanity Sunday and we as humanity have a long way to go…But we are making strides In Petaluma alone you can find a number of organizations making a difference.  Like our book group you see education is always the first step in making a difference.
There is hate free Petaluma -We stand together to promote inclusivity and respect for all
Petaluma blacks for community development - through various programs and events we share black history and culture within the Sonoma county community
Onepetaluma -We are a group of Petalumans committed to encouraging and creating peace, justice, and equity in our community.
It won’t happen here -We raise a call to the officials of Sonoma County to protect the community from discriminatory orders and law
Interfaith movement for human integrity - We pursue justice and equality; honor holistic approaches to well-being; cherish peace building traditions; uphold the dignity and sanctity of every human life

We confess to the fact that human beings over the centuries, even in the name of Christianity, have exploited creation and abused the Indigenous people of Earth, we must reclaim one of the messages of our faith that we have missed.  In Genesis 2 it is clear that all human beings are made of Earth and the breath of God, the Spirit.  We all have a kinship with nature, both physical and spiritual. We now must claim and act upon a spirituality that celebrates our common kinship with creation and each other.  We have a spiritual bond with the Earth, the creatures of the Earth and all of Humanity. We must surrender our us versus them attitudes, we must surrender our “God Given Right attitudes and become humble and walk and live in servitude to each other and to the planet when we all can start doing this healing will begin.

[1] Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003.
[2] The CEB Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Common English Bible, 2013.
[3] Ditto
[4] Ditto
[5]   Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

“A soon as you open John's Gospel you are aware that you are breathing a different
air from that which you encountered in Matthew'. Mark and Luke. It has often
been described as 'a magic pool, in which an elephant may swim and an infant
paddle ‘. My sense of it is that it is a journey into the mystery Of who Jesus is,
inviting us ever deeper, as the story unfolds. One aspect of Jesus' identity that the
reader might' find 'helpful is to think of him as a being. Who performs on two stages:
the heavenly stage ('up there'), which he leaves for a while to walk on the earthly
stage ('down here'), from which he returns, but taking with him all those who
belong 'up there'.
The reader will do well to remember that this is a very rich Gospel, whose
meaning emerges slowly, over a Lifetime of reading.”[1]

The first chapter of John’s Gospel connects Christ with creation in a most spectacular way. John informs us that all of creation, including planet Earth, is the result of the impulse of the Word from God (1.1-2). That Word is here identified with God.  That Word, which precedes creation, is the impulse to create everything, whether it be the physical world or unseen worlds.

It is sobering to contemplate that in today’s world many sects of contemporary Christianity makes peace with environmental degradation even as it claims the gift of special revelation of God’s “goodness” in Christ and creation. I suspect that that many of us, upon hearing in the prologue to John’s Gospel that the light of the world came into the world but “the world did not know him” and did not “accept” him, take comfort in a kind of ironic hindsight: while the world of Jesus’ time rejected him, surely those of us who have inherited two thousand years of the church’s proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” would not make such a mistake!  At least that is what we like tell ourselves. But if we Christians do not look upon creation and see first and foremost the divine intention that such creation bear enduring testimony to God’s goodness, then are we not even more worthy of blame than those who rejected God’s testimony in the first place? The more we claim to worship the Creator God and the Incarnate Word yet treat the material environment as something less than God’s good creation through which God intends to be honored, the more hollow our testimony becomes.

There has been among Christian culture an ambivalence—concerning the goodness of creation. There has been a pattern of viewing creation as less good than the non-material, spiritualized “heavens.” Such favoring of a nonmaterial heaven over the created Earth informed an eschatology of escapism, in which the culmination of the lives of individual believers as well as the Earth itself results in the end of creation and the advent of a totally spiritual “heaven.”

This may be translated into some contemporary theologies such as “Only visiting this planet” or “This world is not my home.”  This idea that we belong to heaven and not of this earth allows Christians to toss care and love of the earth aside.

As scholars such as Barbara Rossing, N.T. Wright, and Norman Habel have insisted, this escapist “tradition”—which arguably remains the single most dominant eschatological ( or end of times) mindset present among Christians of all denominations, no matter how liberal or conservative—completely misrepresents the biblical witness, beginning with Genesis and culminating in the book of Revelation (where the author bears witness to God’s renewal of the face of the earth). Fidelity to the scripture—a hallmark of much theology and preaching—requires that we be no less celebratory of creation (and no less vigilant against that which would degrade creation) than are the Bible’s own texts.

We need to recognize as central the affirmation of creation’s goodness. The popular belief among Christians that the point of earthly life is to make it to a nonmaterial “heaven” (at which point the earth can be dispensed with) should make one thing clear: the fight to honor creation as part of our Christian faith in our time is, among other things, part of the church’s ongoing fight against this concept that creation is lesser in our culture and in our church. The church fathers thought that fight was worth winning for the sake of God’s church; similarly, we feel that the fight is worth winning for the sake of God’s world.

The theologian Stanley Hauerwas has pointed out the importance of “preaching as if we have enemies.” While many of us might wish to think of the default setting of Christian rhetoric being peacefulness, Hauerwas’ point is that bad theology has real consequences—for the church and, by extension, the world. We see that in the ways in which escapist Christian theologies have aided and abetted Christian apathy towards environmental abuse. [2]

Today we celebrate, the Word that precedes creation as it is identified as the second person of the Trinity.  In Genesis One life first emerges from Earth on Day Three.  In John One life, in all its dimensions, is located in the Word, the creative impulse of God that initiates creation.  In a special way, this Word that brings light into the world, recalls the mystery of Day one.

“and the earth was invisible and unformed; and darkness was upon the abyss, and the spirit of God was rushing upon the water. And God said let there be light, and the light came to be! And God saw the light that it was Good; and God divided between the light and the darkness. and God called the light day and the darkness was called night and there was evening and there was morning Day one.”
Actually, thinking of it, what does genesis say about creation

God saw the light, that it was good
And God called the firmament heaven and God saw that it was good
And God called the dry land earth and the system of waters he called seas and God saw that it was Good.
And the Earth brought out herbage of grass, sowing according to its kind and according to its likeness and a fruit bearing tree which yields fruit, whose seed is in it according to its kind on the earth and God saw that it was Good.
 And as Genesis speaks of the sun and moon to rule over day and night and to divide the light and the darkness and God saw it was Good
Here is something we do not pay attention too much “And God said ‘Let the waters bring forth creepy-crawlies, that have living souls… and God saw it was Good
And God made the wild beasts of the earth according to their kind, quadrupeds, and creepy crawlies, and the wild beasts of the earth according to their kind. And God saw that they were good.
And God saw everything that was made, and LOOK! It was very Good. (Genesis1:1-31 abbreviated)

“And all of this came into being through the word and apart from the word nothing at all came into being” (John 1:3)

By this evidence we can see the earth as nothing less than sacred…Holy Ground, Holy sky, Holy creatures all created Good…All created through The Word; The Word which was, is, and will always be Christ.  We have at times lost our way.  We have forgotten how to care for the land and the air that we may live in harmony with it.  We instead have tried to control and manipulate it so that we can benefit from it with no consequence and yet, we are learning there are consequences to all we do.
One fine example is here in the bay area…

“From the Gold Rush until the 1970s, San Francisco Bay shrunk by about one-third, due to diking, dredging and filling to build highways, airports, farms and neighborhoods. Although modern environmental laws stopped that practice, scientists, government leaders and local officials have been on a slow campaign to enlarge the bay and bring back fish, wildlife and public access over the past two decades — a mission that also includes restoring wetlands to help protect Bay Area communities from sea level rise as the climate continues to warm.”[3]

“Wetlands are important features in the landscape that provide numerous beneficial services for people and for fish and wildlife. Some of these services, or functions, include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods. These valuable functions are the result of the unique natural characteristics of wetlands….

The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients and primary productivity is ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding.

Wetlands' microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen and sulfur. Scientists now know that atmospheric maintenance may be an additional wetlands function. Wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus, wetlands help to moderate global climate conditions.”[4]

Just Monday we took a ride out to point Reyes. We passed salt marsh, and wetlands and the natural wonders that our unique landscape of the bay area creates. Being good care takers of the earth isn’t just to preserve these natural habitats for their beauty but also in the long run it protects the environment in which we live.

It is a little overwhelming to speak of the earth as a whole, for no one as experienced the earth as a whole. We know what we experience. We know the land we walk on, we know the land we visit, we know the field we care for.

So during this season of creation I will attempt to make things relatable to us here and now as we live in the bay area. This is why today I am speaking about the wetlands. Many of the foods we enjoy come from wetlands.  Did you know “Most commercial and game fish breed and raise their young in coastal marshes and estuaries. Menhaden, flounder, sea trout, spot, croaker and striped bass are among the more familiar fish that depend on coastal wetlands. Shrimp, oysters, clams, blue and Dungeness crabs likewise need these wetlands for food, shelter and breeding grounds.”[5]

Many of the foods we love come form the areas we are trying to restore so we as consumers benefit from caring for the wetlands as well as all the earth.

As I was seeking resources and inspiration I cam across a web-page that had a list of things we can do to care for the earth.

Things we can do to care for the earth:

- Respect all as God's gift; the earth, all species, people, property.
- Reduce, reuse, repair & recycle.
- Ask "Do I really need this?" before buying it.
- Use recycled paper wherever possible eg kitchen & toilet rolls.
- - Compost kitchen waste.
- Recycle glass, cans, plastics, cardboard, office paper, newspaper.
- Recycle paper to save the rainforests.
- Choose environmentally more friendly washing & cleaning products.
- Don't leave electrical appliances on standby. (This is a hard one)
- Switch off lights when they are no longer needed.
- Use only as much water in the kettle as you need.
- Use cooler washes, shorter cycles & fuller loads in washing machines.
- - Shop locally and buy local produce.
- Buy organic fruit & vegetables.
- Buy 'Fair Trade' products. (fair trade Christmas boutique is November 10th)
- Grow your own vegetables organically or grow herbs in pots.
- When buying electrical appliances, choose the most energy efficient.
- Recycle non-rechargeable batteries or dispose of them safely.
- Walk, cycle or use public transport wherever possible.
- Use a fuel-efficient car with low CO2 emissions.
- Moderate car speeds cause less pollution than fast speeds.
- Consider installing renewable energy systems into your home.
- Donate old clothes, furniture, toys & books to charity shops.
- Learn to identify the wildlife species around you.
- Learn how environmental issues are linked to poverty.
- Become active - walk daily & connect with nature around you.[6]

The climax to the reading from John One is the amazing Christ connection in verse 14.  This eternal Word that precedes creation becomes part of creation.  This Word, that is the very God who brought Earth into being, becomes part of Earth as ‘flesh and blood”! This God that caused Earth to be born out of primal water, is now born from the waters of a woman.  

So, the Earth story continues.  God becomes part of Earth to redeem the creatures of Earth. The dwelling of God in this piece of Earth whom we know as Jesus is described using the language of God’s glory ‘dwelling’ in the tabernacle in the wilderness.  That glory or presence of God is now revealed to be present in a human being, and part of Earth.

I have avoided use of the term Global warming…do you want to know why…because it doesn’t matter the simple sacred story is this earth is sacred and God sees it as Good therefore we are called to care for it and care for it better than we have been. This is not a matter of science but a matter of faith!

May God bless you and each of us as we seek ways to be better stewarts of this sacred space, this earth this Holy Ground Amen.

[1] King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013.
[5] Ditto