Friday, June 14, 2019

Year C, Holy Trinity, Psalm 8, This Holy Place

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Psalm 24:1 & 2
 The earth is the Lord 's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.

Exodus 3:4-6
When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Holy Ground.
Sacred Space.
And God’s own creation.
Growing up as a child I experienced a sense of awe and and appreciation for the holy in a couple of ways.  And for that I can thank my father.
There were two places that were holy.
The first was the sanctuary.
From my earliest years, Dad was a pastor and we lived near the church.  What that meant for me was that the church was an extension of our home.  And more so than most, I spent time there.
I was drawn to the chancel area of the sanctuary.
As a young boy I would imagine myself a pastor, and lead worship there in the solitude of the sanctuary, even learning how to chant the liturgy as I grew in years.
There was a sense of the Holy, the Divine Presence, and a reverent awe for this sacred space.
Most of all, there was a sense that God was present in this space.
I think we’ve lost some of that reverence and sense of the sacred, holy places in our lives.
The second place that was holy to me growing up was the great outdoors, the creation in which we lived.
One of the things my dad did was to get us out into the creation.
All of our family vacations were spent on the boat he had built for us.  The most epic of which was when Mom and Dad took us to Jackson Hole where we spent a few weeks on the boat at Colter Bay.  I remember cruising around Jackson Lake and being in awe of the shear grandeur of God’s creation from the mountain peaks to the west, to the moose crossing the water immediately behind our boat as we moved about the lake.
Another adventure that I remember was a camping trip Dad took my older brother and me on, up into the Cloudy Peak Wilderness area in the Bighorn Mountains.
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.
I will remember to my dying day the beauty of the star lit night in the wilderness, where with no light pollution from the earth, the stars seemed to burst to life in a spectacular show.
From Psalm 8 we read:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them, human beings that you should care for them?
Looking up at the moon and the stars, there were two things that overwhelmed me.
First, how great and expansive this universe is in which we lived, and second, how incredibly small we are.
But most important was a sense of God’s presence.
One of the things Dad taught us was that when we visited such places, we were to leave it better than we found it.
That meant that not only were we expected to “pack in and pack out” all of our provisions, but we were expected to clean up anything left behind by others.
We stood in awe of the world God had created.
And we were taught to be responsible for caring for that world.
Those lessons have stayed with me over the course of my life.
Psalm 8 goes on to say:
“Yet you have made them little less than divine; with glory and honor you crown them. You have made them rule over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet: all flocks and cattle, even the wild beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.”
In Genesis it is written:
"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
And also:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
We are to be stewards of the creation, first of all, because it is God’s creation.  The earth is the Lord 's and all that is in it.”
And secondly, more than any other creature, we have the capacity to care for or destroy this creation in which we make our home.
What does it mean to be stewards of God’s creation?
I’ve spent a lot of time in farming communities.  And much of what I’ve learned about stewardship of creation I learned from these farmers.  And I’d add, that my father grew up on a farm and it was the lessons he learned on the farm that shaped his own teaching of us.
Of all the things I learned from these farmers, one statement stands out above all others:
“If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.”
A second conviction that many of these farmers had was that they were stewards of God’s good earth, and like my Dad taught us out in the wilderness, there was an obligation that many of these farmers felt to not only care for the land, but to improve it and leave it to future generations better than they received it.
But caring for creation is complex.
Two words epitomize the complexity of this caring for creation in the farming communities.
And Environmentalist.
All of them considered themselves to be conservationists, caring for and protecting the land on which they farmed.
At the same time, they tended to view environmentalists in a negative light.
To them, an environmentalist was a person from New York or California who was trying to regulate how they cared for the land on which they lived in Eastern Montana.  And no, those farmers and ranchers in Eastern Montana and the western Dakotas are not interested in recreating a massive grassland with free ranging Bison, again.
But the issues are complex.
One example of the complexity of issues they deal with is regarding ‘no till’ farming practices.
When the land is tilled, wind erosion depletes the top soil.  In order to conserve the top soil, many farmers have adopted ‘no till’ farming.
But because they are no longer controlling the weeds by tilling the soil, they must use herbicides like Round-Up.  And as is the case with almost all chemicals like this, there are tradeoffs and dangers.
In many cases these chemicals are harmful to the farmers themselves, causing things like cancer, and some of them are harmful to the environment.
For example, it was reported recently that traces of these cancer causing chemicals have been found in Cheerios. 
We find ourselves faced with those dilemmas time and time again as we seek to care for creation.
I grew up along the Mighty Missouri and one of the things we were proud of was the ‘clean energy’ generated by the massive hydroelectric dams.  I did a science fair project about that as a youth.
Now that those dams are nearing a hundred years old we are learning that there is a long term impact of those dams on the environment.  They are not as environmentally ‘clean’ as they were advertised to be.
Likewise, my daughter and her boyfriend just recently bought a Tesla car, an all electric vehicle.  They bought it for two reasons:  First because they like the environmental advantages of not burning fossil fuels, and second, there is also a tremendous cost savings over gasoline.  It cost Zac only a dollar and a few cents to commute to and from Post Falls from Sandpoint.
On the other hand, Brita also posted an article documenting some of the environment damage being done in order to produce the batteries that are required by these cars and other battery powered equipment and tools.
There are no easy answers it seems.
We will make some mistakes.
But as people of God, we are called to seek to make faithful choices, informed by two truths.
First, The earth is the Lord 's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
This is Holy Ground on which we stand.
It is a Sacred Place, for it is the work of God’s hands.
And second, that we have been entrusted with the care of this creation.  Caring for creation means that we will seek to hand it on to future generations better than we first received it.
Sometimes caring for creation will mean massive changes in how we do things, such as converting from coal to wind and solar energy.
At other times, caring for creation may be as simple as using recyclable grocery bags as opposed to plastic.
Whatever choices we make, we should make them with a sense of reverence for the creation we live in as God’s creation, and we shouldn’t ‘bite the hand that feeds us’.  Take care of the land, and it will take care of you.

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