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God will not bless those who destroy God’s good creation.

Last week, I was catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen for over a year. Of course, our conversation quickly veered toward the pandemic, the plagues and the pestilence. We both agreed that it has been an unusual and difficult year. My friend predicted that the year 2020 would be used in the future as an adjective that will mean “horrific, dreadful, the worst imaginable. “

Q. “So how was your day?” A. “Work was a 2020 of a day.”

Q. “You don’t look so good. Are you OK?” A. “I feel like 2020.”

Actually, anywhere the word “Hell” could be used, we can now appropriately substitute “2020”.

He also suggested it should be an expletive, like what you might say when you smash your finger. “2020!” or “What the 2020?”

Yes. 2020 has been dreadful and horrific – worthy of an expletive. It feels like the earth is rejecting us. As you probably know, we ran out of names for tropical storms for the first time in 15 years. And the Hurricane season doesn’t end until November. If you’ve watched the news, you are aware that there have been more wildfires this year than ever before. We have watched the fires in California and Oregon destroy whole communities. But this year, there were wildfires in unusual places. Fires burned above the arctic circle in Siberia, Alaska and Greenland. In Siberia, the fires were fed by record setting temperatures. On June 20, it was more than 100 degrees in a small Russian town located on the Arctic Circle. Back in the US, it was 130 degrees in Death Valley on August 16, making it very likely the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere on planet earth. Despite the shutdown of factories and the quarantine of COVID, the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere have actually continued to rise—a major factor in global warming. In May, it measured 417 parts per million (ppm), the highest levels ever recorded.

As temperatures rise, so do the earth’s oceans, impacting human and animal habitats. As temperatures rise, so does water temperature, causing more extreme weather conditions and the death of ocean wildlife. As temperatures rise, the ecological balance shifts, resulting in disruption of growing seasons, leading to famine. The earth is suffering. And when the earth suffers, we all suffer. And those who are poor suffer most.

There is no question that human activity has contributed to and accelerated climate change as we burn through fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal. Five years ago, leaders of 200 nations recognized the human factor and signed the Paris climate accord—a collective effort to address climate change through a reduction of greenhouse gases. The US signed the accord, but in 2017 our current president announced his intention to pull the US out of the accord. On November 4, 2019, he followed through on that promise. Since then, he has consistently acted to roll back environmental regulations to benefit fossil fuel industries. Clean air, clean water and even National Parks and National Forests are at risk. On November 4, 2020 – the day after the election – the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord will be complete. You think it’s bad now? Get ready, it may get a lot worse.

Scripture says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” But what happens when nations act as if the earth and everything in it belongs to them and they fail to protect it and care for it as God commanded? What happens when we fail to acknowledge God’s claim as creator of heaven and earth, and we steal the earth of its resources and pollute the air, and muddy the waters without any concern for the damage we do for future generations? When the earth thrives, we all thrive; but when we destroy the earth, we are destroyed. In the words of Hosea the prophet, when there is no acknowledgement of God in the land, “the earth itself becomes sick, and all who live on it grow weak; together with the wild animals and the birds in the sky, even the fish of the sea are dying.” (Hosea 4:3 CEB)

The earth is sick, and time is running out.

I just realized that this sermon has been nothing but bad news! Is there any good news to be found? Only one place. God, the maker of heaven and earth, is in the words of theologian N. T. Wright, “A loving God who wants to redeem a broken world, and has called us to make things new.” God loved the cosmos so much that God sent the Word, through whom all things were made, to announce the beginning of God’s new day. God defeated the powers of death and decay at the empty tomb, raising Christ from the dead, and seating him high above all rule and authority and reconciling ALL things in all of creation to God. And God has redeemed us to be the body of Christ, raised up in resurrected life to continue what Christ began. We are the children of God raised up in these days to make things new through advocacy for just environmental policy, through our votes, by changing our lifestyles and priorities.

God told the people of Israel, “See, I set before you life and death; blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV). Today, life and death are set before us again. Will we be a nation of stewards that care for God’s good earth and everything in it or a nation of tyrants that plunder it for our own interests? Will we be a people who protect the planet and preserve the beauty and bounty of the earth for our children’s children’s children?

Our choices will lead to life or death. Choose life. Choose stewardship. Be the children of God, working by the Spirit of God to create and make all things new. Amen.


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