A Sermon from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the First Congregational Church of North Yarmouth, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on the 6th Sunday of Easter Worship, May 1, 2016. Principal reading Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a
This is the first creation story in our Bible. The words are familiar. It may bring back memories from Sunday school long ago for some of us in creating beautiful refrigerator artwork of each day of creation. It lends itself to memorization of what was created on each day. It is a progression from nothing to the world as the writer of Genesis new it some millennia ago. It was written as a way of telling the story of God and humanity’s relationship with God. The familiar words, ‘in the beginning, God created’ serve as the foundation for our faith. In this creation story, human beings are formed in the image of God and given dominion over all the fish of the sea and all wildlife of the earth. And God gave animals and humans plants for food. And God said it is good.
And then if we continue reading in chapter 2 of Genesis, we realize there is another complete creation story – the one where man is formed from the dust of the ground and rather than given dominion over the earth, man is created to till the earth and care for it. God sees that man needs company and woman is created from man’s rib and the story of the Garden of Eden unfolds with humans ultimately being evicted from this perfect place where everything is provided and they want for nothing. Scholars maintain that this second story was added as a way to explain why life in God’s world was no longer idyllic.
Throughout our Bible we hear over and over how the world is God’s and how all that we have is a gift from God. We know that the resources of this earth are finite and that we must conserve – we must care for God’s creation so that there will be enough for all people – in the present time and in the future. Unfortunately over time, humanity has not always acted as if things are finite – we have consumed and consumed as if there is a limitless supply of everything. Whether we realize it sooner or later, we do know that what our ancestors consumed in this world and what we consume has an effect on our world today and for generations to come. Scientists around the world agree that global warming and climate change are real and a direct result of human activity on this earth we call home.
As I considered what to preach about today, I realized that environmental issues are complicated. We have become a disposable society. I began to think about how things have changed. Fifty years ago, I remember along with a casserole to share each family bringing plates and silverware to church potluck suppers and then taking them to be washed at home. I don’t know if this was an environmental awareness or just no one wants to stay at church to clean up type thing but paper plates and plastic utensils didn’t really exist yet. I also have a vivid memory of visiting family friends whose mother always washed out plastic bread bags and set them up in the dish drainer to dry for reuse. We have gone from that to many households being completely disposable. Some of this is good. Over time we have learned that even after washing germs cling to plastic bags and so they should not be reused.
We have a cupboard full of plastic containers at our house – including the ‘disposable ones’ which are now made so well that one is reluctant to throw them away and of course we don’t want to increase our carbon footprint by doing that. Most homes have a microwave and often reheat leftovers. We now know that to store hot food or reheat food in plastic containers is not good for you and so you can purchase glass storage containers instead. Plastic containers and plastic bottles are a huge issue in landfills. And it sickens me to see videos of huge plastic floating islands in the ocean or birds killed because they have ingested humanity’s plastic trash. And so we recycle and that is better than throwing away.
When all is said and done, my head spins with all that we must be mindful of when we live here on this earth. Try to reuse or reduce trash – recycle. Try to use less fossil fuel. Try to drive a more fuel efficient car. Invest in wind or solar power. Compost at home and use it in your garden. Use natural fertilizer and natural ways of killing garden pests instead of chemicals. Leave the dandelions for the honey bees. Plant milkweed for the monarch butterflies. Eat free-range eggs. Don’t waste food. Dispose of old paint cans properly. Dispose of old medications properly. Invest in lo-water flush toilets and lo-water shower heads. Switch out incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent and now even better LED bulbs. Insulate your house. The list goes on and on… and it is complicated and there are obstacles. Some of these things are easy and others may be costly to implement and/or time consuming with the barriers seemingly insurmountable.
The Tri-community interfaith council is promoting a project called Window Dressers. You can sign up to have window inserts made for your older home to conserve heat and as I understand it they are quite nice – if you want to know more about this, there is information on the bulletin board in the gathering space.
For me, the bottom line is that God has given us this beautiful earth to live on and sustain us and we need to be ever mindful that we are indeed caring for it and not destroying it – for ourselves, our children and future generations all around the globe. That means really studying what we do as humans and considering the impacts of our activities on others and the earth. This is not the easy path. It generally takes more forethought, more time, and often costs more in the short term. I challenge each household here to think of 1 or 2 things that you are currently not doing and try to change the way you live to make a positive impact on this earth. Maybe composting for the first time, drying your laundry outside in the summer, when light bulbs burn out, replace them with those that are more energy efficient. Recycle – I don’t know how it works in North Yarmouth – but if you aren’t already, please consider it: paper and whatever else is possible in your community. If there are obstacles to doing these things that seem insurmountable to you, talk with others here at church about it – someone is sure to help you come up with a solution.
There are churches that consciously and intentionally become ‘green’ churches. This may be something we want to consider for the future so that we might be more aware of how we can take care of this earth we call home. As Christians we are called to live as good stewards of all that God gives us and the earth is one of those things. It would be lovely if God looked down on this little church in North Yarmouth Maine and said, ‘look how they care for the earth, it is good.’ Amen.