Tag Archives: Genesis

At least the winter weather won’t interfere with a journey through ancient scriptures

I know, I just could not resist that we are still in the midst of one of the craziest winters here in the middle of the US: snow, ice, more snow, spring temperatures, fog, even freezing fog (I call frog), rain, snow, and more. 

During the past several years, we have had extraordinarily mild Midwest winters.  In fact the meteorologist this week said for three years the total snow accumulation of those years is now less than we have had in the past two months.

Still, these cold weeks has kept me to my itinerary of reading the Bible over the course of the year.  I have now completed Genesis, Romans, Isaiah, and Mark.  This week I added Exodus and tomorrow I Thessalonians.

Earlier I mentioned that it is interesting how the Old Testament and the New Testament books are being paired.  Genesis is the beginning of the Israelite story and Romans is the beginning of the Christian church.  I began to understand.

The second pairing has been Isaiah and the gospel of Mark.  In my understanding, Isaiah is the Israelite’s manual of prophecy, which tells of the coming Messiah, a savior of the faithful people.  Mark was written to the Jewish people as an argument that Jesus is that expected Messiah.

Now here is another issue.  This winter weather has prohibited me to join in a conversation with others.  The planned Bible study with others making this same journey had to be canceled due to the road conditions. (I suppose I am lucky that I can post my ideas as I read and others can react.)

I have to admit that reading Isaiah was challenging.  I am realizing that I need tour guides and find them in the pages of the study Bibles. 

For years I have used the Life Application Study Bible (NIV), but this time I am using the Wesley Study Bible (NRSV). And I have even turned to the Archeological Study Bibleas I believe I mentioned previously.

Reading through Isaiah, though, is must more difficult for someone who has limited knowledge of ancient history.  The study notes are my tour guides!  

Not only am I learning the history of ancient people, I am learning more about John Wesley and how he read these same scriptures. I am ending up getting two journeys in one.

(For another side note:  I take notes.  Not just a few, I take lots of notes that include what I am learning, what I am thinking, and now what Wesley is thinking.  Sometimes I wonder what I am going to do with the volumes this is going to create.  Still, I have discovered I do go back once and a while to check on something that struck me as interesting, confusing or even profound.)

Reading scripture takes one back in time.  I am reminded how different life must have been in ancient times.  

For instance, this morning in the early chapters of Exodus, the plagues that God delivered upon Egypt are being listed. As often as I have heard about the plagues, I did not realize that there is a line in many referring to the Egyptian sorcerers or magicians.

According to the scriptures, found in Exodus 7-9, the plagues could be re-created through the arts of the sorcerers and magicians. But then, as the list of plagues continues, these arts fail.  The sorcerers and magicians begin to see the plagues of “the finger of God” (Exodus 8:16-19).   

Even though the Pharaoh continued to deny the power of God as demonstrated through Moses and his brother Aaron, his own sorcerers and magicians had to admit they could not duplicate the powers.

Reading the scriptures is not a leisurely trip, but one that challenges one.  I am so glad that I have the study notes to help, but it is also making me wonder what I might still be missing.

I have resources, but I am thinking about all the classes I took in literature.  The truth is that I never did have a course on reading ancient literature.  Now I am wishing I had more skill in ancient literature.

As I was growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on in our small elementary school.  I remember getting hooked on mythology and read everything I could about mythology.  

Admittedly, that was maybe 55 years ago, and my memory for details is not good.  And in all that reading, there was nothing about the Egyptian gods or even other ancient cultures—it was Greek and Latin mythology.

I need to hire tour guides that specialize in ancient literature.  The Archeological Study Bibleis a major help, but it does not fully develop my understanding of the symbolism that is buried in the ancient scripture.  

(I welcome any suggestions for websites or resources that I can locate to improve this journey.)

Needless to say it is too early for me to draw any conclusions about this journey at this point, but I know that I am finding surprises in the stories and I am seeing the timeless truths of humanity.  

What I do not understand is how we do not directly teach or share the literary themes of the Bible and parallel them to the literature of our own culture.  

Humanity has a tendency to repeat behaviors that complicate our lives.  The timeless themes of the scripture just reinforce the simplicity of Bible’s good news:  “God loves us so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him has eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Add to that the commandments that Jesus taught us in Matthew 22:  

36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,[a] and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Life can be so much simpler if we could just accept the truths Jesus taught us with these two commandments.  I cannot stop but to frame so many horrors in our lives thought that one primary thought:  Love one another as you want to be loved.

Just think about some of the worst human experiences and test it against that parameter:  What if we loved each other like we want to be loved?

  • Would there be gun violence?
  • Would there be homophobic attitudes?
  • Would there have been one neighbor arguing with another over a fence?
  • Would there be a bully in school?
  • Would there be road rage?

The list goes on into infinity.  Why even looking back through ancient history, if the Israelites could have demonstrated that love for one another above all else, would there have been all the legendary battles, the vicious treatment of slaves or even slaves at all?

My journey through the ancient scriptures is not anywhere near over, and the wild winter weather is helping me stay on my itinerary for the journey.  The side trips through the study notes are adding new understanding to my experience.

And, as I resume my daily routines, the stories, and the lessons I discover are like snapshots that I look at over and over. I am finding surprises and I am finding truths that enrich my earthly journey.

Please join in my prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the scriptures

In which your faithful people

Mapped out the directions

For life eternal.

May the ancient words 

Reveal universal truths

So your love survives

Despite the detours people take.

May the stories of old

Guide today’s people

In ways to guide others

To love one another, too.

And as our journeys near completion

May the snapshots of our lives 

Serve as guides for future generations 

That they may know love always wins.

In the name of you the Father, the Son,

and the Holy Ghost, amen.

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Brrrrr, it’s cold out there. Better stay in and read.

During the past week, the sun has remained hidden. We had a huge snowfall Friday through Saturday, well even into Sunday.  Add to that the low temperatures hovering around 32 for a week, and my brain seems frozen.

For a long time, I have known that when winter moves in and the sun disappears, I can easily fall into a mental slump, and I have to admit I am there right now.  

And I have worked not to be stuck inside:  I shoveled snow.  I took the dogs out with me while I shoveled.  In fact, I realized they needed a path to walk around the yard—so I shoveled.

Now here is the thing:  that physical work keeps my body moving, but the brain is still struggling.  Last week I explained that I dove in to a year-long Bible reading plan.  And I can now say I am caught up and on schedule.

As of today, I have read through 42 chapters of Genesis and 14 chapters of Romans.  It is a discipline, and for these dreary winter days, I find myself escaping from the foggy days when I pick up my pencil, open the journal, and tackle the reading.

I can understand why John Wesley insisted that Christians read the scripture.  There is so much to understand, and having read as much as I previously have, reading it in a disciplined approach is still challenging.

My notes really are not a journal, more they are Cliff-note style.  In case that is not familiar to you, Cliff notes are a staple for college students, even high school students, who are reading literature and want a summary or additional notes to supplement the reading.

In a way, I find myself modeling the style of notes John Wesley wrote and are often referenced in the Wesley Study Bible I am using.  Maybe I write down too much, but when I write something down I have better memory of what I have read—something I learned about myself in my first college experience.

Reading like this lets me read it somewhat like a book, first.  If I don’t get something, I re-read it.  If something strikes me as unusual or significant, I write it down along with the summary of what I read.

I am not a fast reader, but I discover that reading three to four chapters in the Bible and making the study notes/journal entries takes me about an hour.  I was afraid it would take much longer, so the reading works into my day rather smoothly.

Since last Thursday, I have continued working through the genealogical narrative of the Old Testament faithful.  I have read about Abraham and Sarah.  I have tried to understand the traditions and the drive that lead Sarah to have Abraham have her handmaiden Hagar so he would have an heir. Therefore Ishmael was a born.

And then there is the surprising change of heart when Sarah does indeed become pregnant with Isaac.  She drives away Hagar and Ishmael.  She wanted to make sure her son was the heir of Abraham.

The narrative continues and so do the strange customs of marriage and birth that complicate my understanding of the Old Testament.  How in the world could a father offer his own son as a blood sacrifice?  But his faith and his ability to hear the Lord talk to him, ends with Isaac safe and suddenly there is a substitute ram for the sacrifice.

These books include so many stories.  So many examples of how God talks to the people. Over and over, faithful followers manage some terrible life experiences because they maintain a close relationship with God.

What am I learning?  Remain faithful.  And that means spending time knowing the examples of these ancestors and how their faith was rewarded.  The stories teach us the expectations God has for us to live in community with one another.

In fact, this particular reading plan couples a New Testament reading with the Old Testament reading.  I was puzzled, as I began, why Genesis would be paired with Paul’s letter to the Romans.

The reading plan does not provide any specifics other than the list of daily readings.

And then you read the New Testament reading and you discover the connection.  Paul tells the Romans how to live as a faithful Christian in the midst of the secular world.  Now that is a real life manual we need yet today—2,000 years after Paul wrote the letter.

We need to hear Paul’s advice right now! There is so much information and images that flies at us through the internet, the television, the print media, not to mention all the casual conversations that go on all around us.

The fourteen chapters of Romans contain practical and sensible advice.  I probably should be outlining each one separately, but what speaks to me may be the most important lesson for this reading, and then turn around and read it again in a few days, weeks, months or years and something else seems more important.

For instance, today in Romans 14, the subtitle was “Do Not Judge Another.”  How easy it is to judge someone.  Maybe the judgment comes along political poles, or maybe by the first appearance of a way someone dresses, or maybe it is an action that goes against our personal standards.  

In reading Romans 14, I found myself focusing on verse 9:  “For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  

Then I read on, and came to versus 13-14:  “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”

Maybe I am not being concrete in what I am sharing or maybe it is not as coherent as an essay should be.  For those possibilities, I apologize.  I need sunshine to clear the fog in my brain a bit more.

But, if by sharing some of these thoughts I can trigger someone into reading scripture, then thank goodness.  If someone reads scripture and discovers God talking to them, they will discover the joy of living within God’s family.

Dear Heavenly Father,

May these words lead others to discover the grace that you provide. May your words help others to manage life challenges today just as the faithful in ancient times managed.  Thank you for those before me who heard your call to write, to preserve, to translate, to publish all these words of the Old Testament and the New Testament so we can hear you talk to us today. –Amen

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How does this church continue its legacy? God said: Do something!

Just a reminder:  Every time I re-read the sermons, I find different ways of wording things.  The story of Joseph from Genesis needed fuller explanation, so I added it extemporaneously.  There may be times that I have to make a quick adjustment while presenting the sermon.  Thank you for reading and especially a thank you to Matthew West for such an important song.

given on Trinity Sunday, May 31, 2015

God created this world to meet the needs of all living things that exist. No one or no thing should ever have had to worry, but mistakes were made and the Garden of Eden was lost.

All is not lost, though! God never gave up hope in his creation and all he asked is that we humans take responsibility. We were told to “do something!”

Genesis 1:26, 28– 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[a] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[b] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” . . . 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

The words of the creation story are so familiar that we can recite it from memory. We know that God was pleased with his creation and after six days of creating this delightful setting, he took one day of rest. Remember those final words:

1:31Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day. 2:1So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[a] from all his work.

God created, but he also left the responsibility for this creation to Adam or [a dam], the Hebrew word for humanity. Humans were not to just sit around and enjoy what God created; humans were to be responsible for maintaining this creation.

Humanity’s legacy is the well being of God’s creation. Each individual has a personal responsibility not only for the care of self, but for others, for the soil, the air, and the water, too. That responsibility expands, too, to all regions of this earth. Our legacy depends on how well we respond to God’s direction to care for his creation.

How does one do that? Certainly not alone! One can indeed make a difference, but working with one another to do all that we can for all we can. Obviously we cannot imagine that responsibility alone, we know it takes the church.

When I first heard Matthew West’s song, “Do Something,” I could only agree with that first statement:

I woke up this morning

Saw a world full of trouble now

Thought, how’d we ever get so far down

How’s it ever gonna turn around

Our world today does seem such a mess, but reading the Bible, the same can be said about the world over 5,000 years ago. The world is a mess, and that mess is evident right here in our communities.

The song continues:

I thought, “God, why don’t you do something?”

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of

People living in poverty

Children sold into slavery.

So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

How easy it is to say to God, “Why don’t you do something?” All too often we even add that to our prayers. We want someone else to fix the problem. We want someone to stop the poverty. We want God to fix the natural disasters. We want the police to stop crime—all kinds. The lyrics speaks the painful truth:

So I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

He said, “ I did, I created you”

As God’s children, we have a responsibility.

In Genesis 43, the story of Joseph revealing himself to his own brothers who had sold him into slavery in Egypt, includes another reminder of our responsibility. Jacob took his brother Benjamin back to ask for more supplies to survive the famine. He had to accept responsibility for his brother:

I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever.

A study note for this verse adds the deeper meaning to this simple promise:

Accepting responsibilities is difficult, but it builds character and confidence, earns others’ respect and motivates us to complete our work. When you have been given an assignment to complete or a responsibility to fulfill, commit yourself to seeing it through.

The Old Testament repeats this theme in stories throughout the books of The Law and of the judges. Scriptural references to our responsibility continue in the New Testament, too.

How does this church leave a legacy? We simply must do something. That is what God has tasked us to do, and what we do establishes the legacy of this church. Stop and think about what the church last became totally invested. Was there a specific project that members felt it was up to them to do? Did the reach of a project stay only inside the church, or did it involve serving beyond the walls of the church? Was the outreach even beyond the geographic boundaries of this church?

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus did not define any limits. Instead. . .

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Apostles didn’t get mad and say to God, “Why don’t you do something?” They did it.   Reading the letters in the New Testament, we learn that there was no boundary prohibiting the work of the newest disciples. The word was spread, and new disciples carried the message around the world.

John Wesley, too, did not ask God why he did not do something; he just found ways to meet all the problems he identified in his community. He saw poverty, and he found ways to fight it. He saw poor health, and he found ways to teach about healthy practices. He believed that he had a responsibility to do all the he could for all he could in any way he could. Do we?

Returning to Matthew West’s lyrics:

Right now, it’s time for us to do something

If not now, then when

Will we see an end

To all this pain

It’s not enough to do nothing

It’s time for us to do something . . .

A church that does not do something is a church that dies. A church that can no longer do something as disciples, then there is no legacy for that church, there is no responsibility for the well being of God’s creation.

Today, we must do something. The decision has to be what do we do at this church. Is there a local ministry that has gone untouched? Is there a conference initiative that needs this church’s help? What can this church do?

Locally, there are the food pantries and the clothes closets. Maybe they need workers more than they need items donated. Should the money sitting in the bank be allocated to special needs in the area?

The Missouri conference has identified three ministries for the UM churches to receive conference special offerings: the Church in Ferguson, the Mozambique Imitative, and the Haiti Clean Water Project. Does this church feel called to send a donation for one or all of these projects?

Maybe this church decides to buy a heifer for the Heifer Project. Another possibility is to find ways to help the local schools who are battling low funding, large populations of low income families, or even special needs that cannot be provided for the students such as counseling for non-school related issues.

As the lyrics say:

It’s not enough to do nothing

It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking

About how we are God’s hands and feet

But it’s easier to say than to be

Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves

It’s alright, “somebody else will do something.”

A legacy does not come from somebody else doing something; it comes from accepting our Christian responsibility and doing whatever we can for whomever we can in whatever way we can.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for words that express

how Christians accept responsibility

caring for this world you created.

Thank you for the stories how others

manage life’s various challenges

to serve one another.

Guide us in accepting responsibility

to do whatever we can to care for each other.

Guide us in working rather than bickering

to find the ways to minister to others.

Guide us to think beyond the problem

finding solutions that spread your love.

Guide us to simply do something

continuing the legacy of your son Jesus Christ.


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And He saw that it was very good: We are the caretakers

Scriptural base: Genesis 1:26-31

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[b] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[c] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings[d] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!



            Spring simply delights me. I love watching the trees begin to turn colors as the sap moves up the branches and the flowers pop up above the dried leaves that have blanketed them all winter long. The birds are singing even before the sun is visible above the horizon. How can anyone not praise God for such glories!

Then I see something that literally tears at my heart. Over the winter, the preventive work along the roads became evident. The methods of trimming back the branches and young trees shred and mutilate the trees. They look like arms ripped off, twisted, peeled, and scarred. The pain I feel is as horrible as seeing a child crying in pain as the cuts are cleaned and bandaged up. But, the trees have no one cleaning and bandaging them.   

Reading through the first story of creation in Genesis, the images leave plenty for one’s imagination to picture the earth God created.   And as he looked over all that he had done, he knew that this earth needed caretakers. The question for us today is, “Are we caretakers of this earth?”

United Methodists have long supported the role of caretaker. The social principles are carefully outlined and reviewed every four years. The principles for the natural world begin with this statement:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. [Accessed on April 18, 2015 at www.umc.org/what-we-believe/the-natural-world]

The full natural world principle includes eight categories:

  1. Water, air, soil, minerals, plants
  2. Energy resources utilization
  3. Animal life
  4. Global Climate Stewardship
  5. Space
  6. Science and technology
  7. Food safety
  8. Food justice

The list covers much more than what comes to mind when thinking about this week’s focus of Earth Day and Arbor Day. In fact, the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth,” does not include all of those categories, but it does tell us that we have a gorgeous world that we praise and therefore are responsible for its care.

Of course being raised on a farm, some may think that my reaction to the pruned trees is understandable, but the business of keeping the roads safe is another way to be a proper caretaker of God’s earth. I cannot agree, especially as I see other trimmed trees that are not shredded but are neatly trimmed and cleaned up.

Yes, this is personal. God placed us in the position of caretaker for this world and we must take charge. We need to do all that we can for our little corner of the world.   What do we do to care for this earth that we are so dependent upon for our own existence?

Today the hymns we sing are part of the praise we lift to God for providing us this world. The words outline so many delights in our natural world:

  • Hymn 145: “Morning Has Broken” — . . .like the first morning, . . . blackbird has spoken, . . . Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven, like the first dewfall on the first grass. . .
  • Hymn 92: “For the Beauty of the Earth” — . . . glory of the skies, . . . for the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light, . . joy of ear and eye. . .mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight . . .
  • Hymn 189: “Fairest Lord Jesus” — . . . Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, robed in the blooming . . Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host . . .

There are so many more hymns that add similar images to our vision of this glorious earth we were gifted and were assigned to be caretakers.

This week there are two days added to the calendar which focus on this responsibility. First there is Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22. Even though this is a recent addition to the calendar in our generations’ experience, the fact that it is now a widely proclaimed day to focus on the very same list of principles that have long been part of the United Methodists’ social principles.

Again, the question: Are we caretakers of this earth? Continuing through the introduction to the natural world listed in the UM Book of Discipline, there is more to the rationale of including the natural world in the social principles:

. . . Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. . . .

Daily decisions on how we farm, how we make consumer decisions, and how we even dispose of our trash all are wrapped up in the economic, political, social and technological decisions we make. Are we making decisions based on the role of caretaker or are our decisions made without any concern to how it affects this world in which we live.

As I read through the introduction, I find myself squirming. Right now I have a drawer full of outdated technology that I have no idea what I should do with in terms of recycling or repurposing or simply adding to the landfills. The daily decisions we make in our homes do not necessarily seem to reflect our caretaker role. Sometimes we just look at convenience.

What, then, are we to do? Being well-informed is one step, but then when you find a method that supports the caretaker role, try to use it; and maybe even step out of one’s comfort zone and become a public advocate for that method. The social principle introduction for the natural world adds to this:

Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.

This Sunday morning, we begin with praise. We acknowledge all the glory God provided us in the creation of this world. Then we pay attention to all that we do to fulfill the position of caretaker. Maybe we take Friday, April 24, and plant a tree in honor of Arbor Day. Maybe we go out and find a recycling facility that will work to take our plastics, glass and paper. These are the personal steps we can take to be caretakers in our own little corner of the world.

What can the church do? That may be a tougher question, but the first thought that pops into my thoughts is to become a recycling center. Maybe it means considering our heating and cooling practices, or do we share information around the neighborhood. It is not an easy question to ask and even a harder problem to find an appropriate way to become active caretakers. The challenge begins with making a commitment to support the social principles of our church, then make a plan to move into action, and finally, do it. We can be caretakers. We can be leaders in our community. We can demonstrate simple steps that can make a huge difference right here in our own community.

Closing prayer

Dear Gracious Father,

We sing our praises for the glories you created.

We open our eyes and see beauty around us.

We listen to the music of nature as birds sing.

We breathe in the aroma of rain, sun, and blooms.

We feel warmth in the sun and the brush of a breeze.

Thank you for sharing all these wonders.

As spring continues to refresh our world,

Guide us in our responsibility as caretakers.

Guide us in finding ways to do all we can.

Guide us to care for our space and for all spaces we can.

May we be the caretakers your designed us to be.

May we lead others, too, in taking care of the earth.

May we demonstrate how to love you by loving the earth. –Amen

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Year by Year, Earth Day by Earth Day: Are We Good Stewards?

given on Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day began with the story in Genesis 1:

1-2First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.
It was evening, it was morning—
Day One.

God created this earth, and it is our responsibility.  Sometimes we forget that.  But God left the instructions very clearly as he ended the sixth day of his creation as recorded in the last verses of Genesis 1:

He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill 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 Earth.”

29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
given them to you for food.
To all animals and all birds,
everything that moves and breathes,
I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
And there it was.

31 God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!
It was evening, it was morning—
Day Six.

Day Six and that leaves the seventh day, a day God said, “Rest.”

Growing up, Dad insisted that on Sunday we rest.  He rested, I thought way too much.  Of course, the Sunday routine was get up, eat breakfast, and get to church.

No time to waste in the morning.  If we did not have any special plans with one of the grandparents, Mom would start a roast in the electric skillet, always adding the potatoes and carrots so everything would be ready when we got back from church.

Sabbath, or Sunday in our culture, was busy until the dinner was cleared from the table and the Sunday paper was opened up.  Dad was soon asleep with the paper in his lap.  He rested.  Mom rested.  My brother and I were to do our homework first, then we could rest.

Very few families follow this Sunday routine today—or at least it does not seem to be the routine.  Many are doing those weekend chores of grocery shopping, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, or whatever other tasks need to be done before going back to work Monday morning.  But while I was growing up, Sunday was a day of rest.  We were farmers, but Sunday was always kept as a day of rest.

Farming has changed though.  Drive through any country road on a Sunday afternoon, it is not surprising to see tractors running in the fields.  Whether it is planting season, or time to cultivate, or harvest time, when is Sabbath?  When is it time for rest?

Preparing for an Earth Day Sunday, looking through the support materials available on line, I found the sermon start on the Global Board of Ministry, “A Time for Rest:  Sabbath and Energy.”  After reading through it, I think it was mis-titled because the topic was the land more than energy:

The Sabbath is a day of rest not only for people, but for the land as well. The Bible dictates that the land is to have a Sabbath every seven years. In ancient Israel, this was a very real agricultural practice.

Every seven years the farmers were not to plant and harvest the land.  I had never heard that practice before.  The practice I knew Dad had used was primarily crop rotation.  Three crops, or four if you included a pasture year, were routinely rotated every year.  One field, three and sometimes four years a field was planted, cultivated and harvested with different crops—soybeans, corn, wheat, and clover or fescue for hay.

From Dad’s experience and training, crop rotation was giving the soil a rest.  Each crop drained the soil of certain types of nutrients; other crops replenished it.  At least this is the way I remember it; and I am not an agronomist, my son is.

I do not ever remember any field ever being unattended any one year and certainly not routinely left to rest every seven years.  As I read through the article, I was reminded how important our soil is.  We cannot feed a world if our soil is destroyed.  The article recognizes this concern, but cautions us about what happens if we fail to follow God’s direction:  “But the Bible is equally clear on what happens if the land is not granted a Sabbath. The land will take it by force.

Today is another year, another Earth Day; and we desperately need to remember the value of rest.  Today’s conservation techniques can work if we use them.  Stewardship of our world is critical and how to manage the soil is just one tiny portion of this world.  Consider the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all the minerals and ores of the inner earth.

Rest may be a key step to preserving our earth and the article provides the reason that rest is a critical component of our Christian responsibility:

. . . learning to work with God’s Creation by allowing both the land, and ourselves, a chance for rest and renewal is an important and still relevant implication of the Sabbath.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest, and we need to use this Earth Day as a reminder of how Christians are to manage the care of themselves, but also the earth.  Our society has decided that following God’s laws and seeing the world through God’s eyes is not as important as squeezing out as much profit as possible from this earth.

The painful truth is included in the article, too:

Today, rather than allowing time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate as God intended, we are doing everything we can to get as much production out of the land as quickly as possible. It is not only our production of food that we have sped up; our demand for cheap and reliable electricity has also led to developing inexpensive but damaging ways to produce energy. We are trying to extract as many sources of energy as we can with little regard for safety and public health. But that is not what God intended. God created for six days and rested on the seventh.

The truth hurts.  The careless management of our earth is destroying our soil, but it also is destroying our air, our water, our fauna, even our inner earth riches.  The rest our human bodies needs should tell us that all other living elements of this earth need rest, too.

Dear Creator,

         Hearing the truth can be painful.

         Yet we know that if the earth is to sustain us,

              we need to work to protect it.

         As we rest, let the earth rest, too.

         As we make decisions on soil management,

              remind us of all the earth’s needs.

         When our minds rest and reflect on this earth,

               speak to us so we can find ways to speak out.

         When we hear the news of damaging practices,

               tell us what we should do as stewards of this earth.

         Let us see the world through your eyes;

              so we, too, can rest and echo your words:

              “it was so good, so very good!.”–Amen

Here is the article to which I refer in the sermon:

A Time for Rest:  The Sabbath and Energy

“Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power . . .” Deuteronomy 8:17-18

         The Sabbath is a day of rest not only for people, but for the land as well. The Bible dictates that the land is to have a Sabbath every seven years. In ancient Israel, this was a very real agricultural practice. It was and remains necessary in order to let the soil replenish its nutrients after growing crops and providing food for six years.

Today, rather than allowing time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate as God intended we are doing everything we can to get as much production out of the land as quickly as possible. It is not only our production of food that we have sped up; our demand for cheap and reliable electricity has also led to developing inexpensive but damaging ways to produce energy. We are trying to extract as many sources of energy as we can with little regard for safety and public health. But that is not what God intended. God created for six days and rested on the seventh.

Keeping the Sabbath is difficult because it requires trust in God’s providence. (Lev 25:20-21 “Should you ask, ‘what shall we eat in the seventh year if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will yield a crop for three years.”) In fact, the Israelites did not always keep the Sabbath year either. Trusting that there will be enough food is not easy. This is not just true of food but can also be true of energy production. The idea of a Sabbath year of rest, or even a slow- down, from energy production can also be frightening. But the Bible is equally clear on what happens if the land is not granted a Sabbath. The land will take it by force (Lev 26:34-35, 43-44, 2 Chronicles 36:20-21). Taking a year off of production would be impractical, and wouldn’t resolve the underlying issues of our energy economy, so it would be a mistake to take the Sabbath year as a prescription for our current situation. However, learning to work with God’s Creation by allowing both the land, and ourselves, a chance for rest and renewal is an important and still relevant implication of the Sabbath.

[Accessed on April 20, 2012 at http://www.umc-gbcs.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=frLJK2PKLqF&b=3079307&content_id={8CDCEEFF-21F0-417A-A0C0-B401852A08A9}&notoc=1]

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