Well good morning folks. AND I just want to start this morning by treating you to a little poetry. This is a poem called HIRE CAR…
Double park – don’t lock the door
Push the pedals through the floor
Give it loads and then some more
It’s a hire car baby
Grip the stick – grind the gears
Watch the distance disappear
Never yours in a thousand years
It’s a hire car baby
Show this motor no respect
Bump it, dump it, call collect
What else do the firm expect
It’s a hire car baby
Pray the person who hired it last
Didn’t drive it quite so fast
It’s best days are in the past
It’s a hire car baby
Drive the loser anywhere
Drive it like you just don’t care
Put it down to wear and tear
It’s a hire car baby
Rent it, dent it, bang it, prang it
Bump it, dump it, scorch it, torch it
Crash and burn it, don’t return it
Lost deposit, let ’em earn it
It’s a hire car baby
Now I’m guessing if you’ve ever driven a hire car – you’ve probably never driven it like that. Not least because if you’re anything like me – tight Scotsman that I am – you won’t have paid the extra insurance and will have had a rather large excess hanging over you as you drive!
BUT as we try to take a look at the issue of Creation Care this week – I think that poem is a good metaphor for the way we’ve treated the planet, isn’t it?
• It’s ours to use however we like for long as we’ve got it;
• AND it’s not going to last anyway;
• AND everyone else is abusing it;
• AND at the end of the day we’re going to hand it on to whoever takes it for a spin next, so it’s not really our problem.
AND whether you’re with the climate change Campaigners –like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg who tell us that climate change is – quote: “the biggest problem humanity has faced…ever.”
OR you’re one of the Sceptics – who question some of the data that gets thrown around as undeniable fact by the campaigners, even though much of it is still incredibly young and at points involves a certain amount of guesswork.
OR you’re one of the Confused – who on the one hand watch Netflix’s Seaspiracy and vow never to eat fish again, but then read a highly respected report on fish stocks a week later that suggests they are actually rising in some parts of the world and it’s not quite as gloomy as is being made out.
BUT however you’re coming at this, it is clear that environmental issues have become a hot topic – both literally and figuratively. You don’t need me to tell you that.
BUT I do need to tell you – that concern for the environment is NOT a new thing. For God has been talking about it from the moment he made it. No sooner had he pasted the sun in the sky and hung the stars in space, but he gave the first humans a Theology of Ecology.
AND as we look at it this morning – it’s my conviction that what we find should motivate every single one of us to want to care for ALL that he has made.
Here’s Lesson 1 on Creation Care:
1. THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S
I mean who does the earth belong to? The creatures or the creator?
Well Genesis 1 verse 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God made it – Rainforests and rivers, mountains and oceans were all his idea. And so it’s no surprise that Psalm 24 verse 1 declares that: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…”
2. THE EARTH WAS GIVEN TO US
For what purpose?
i.) To Meet Our Needs
As in Genesis 1 verse 29 God says: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
And then in the very next verse God gives the birds and animals: “…every green plant for food.”
So humans get the seedbearing plants and trees, while the animals get the ones without seeds. Why? So that we can plant and grow more plants and trees of course.
So cultivation is practically encouraged by creation’s design.
“BUT isn’t vegetarianism encouraged too?” You might ask. After all it looks like everyone was vegetarian in Genesis 1.
And while I can totally appreciate why some people are vegetarian – as we flick forward to Genesis 9 we find that God doesn’t prohibit eating meat – as he says to Noah and his sons, after the flood:
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”
So there is no hint of Bambi mother theology here. Do you remember the movie Bambi? The hunters show up and they shoot Bambi’s mother. Sorry, if you’ve never seen it – I should really have given you a spoiler alert there!
BUT if you’re a 7-year-old kid and you watch Bambi – or even a 47-year-old grown up re-watching it, the message you get is: “People bad / Nature good. Hunting bad / Deer good. So we must NEVER hunt or kill animals.”
BUT ecological studies have found that if you pursue that kind of philosophy exclusively – then the next thing you know the deer are starving to death, because there’s way too many of them and not enough food.
In other words – The romantic idea that nature is good, and all culture, all cultivation is bad – is a fiction. While Genesis 9 has a much more credible and realistic understanding of things.
God knows what he is doing when he provides for us through the fruit of the earth and the animals. BUT in doing so he is also calling us…
ii.) To Rule Over and Look After
…the animals and the earth.
As in Genesis 1 verse 28 God gives the first humans “…dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
We are to have dominion – we are to “rule over” the world that God has made. And God shows us what that “rule” means in the very next chapter. As Genesis 2 verse 15 tells us: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
The Hebrew word for “keep” there literally means to “keep clean”, “guard” or “preserve.” In other words, dominion is not domination.
We don’t have a license to use our God given power and authority to:
• Oppress the land and the living creatures;
• OR to extract all the natural resources we might want from this planet…
• For our own wealth and comfort and pleasure.
We have been given a sacred responsibility to keep and to care for the world God has given us.
In fact, God takes this issue so seriously that throughout the Old Testament he gave specific commands to his people to exercise good stewardship of the environment.
• So in Leviticus 25, God says: “No soil-abuse ok? You rest the land every 7 years.”
• And in Deuteronomy 20 he instructs soldiers not to damage fruit trees, even when they’re attacking an enemy city.
• And in Proverbs 12 – he basically says: “Do you want to be wicked? No? Good – Then don’t mistreat animals. Cos only wicked people do that.”
So for those of us breathing a sigh of relief that Genesis 9 gives us permission to eat meat – I want to say – in fact, the Bible wants to ask us: “Do we even think about the meat we’re eating?”
We can’t treat animal life as: “Who cares?” Because if God cares passionately about animal life... so should we. We should care about how the meat we eat is produced. The conditions the animals had to live in. The way they were killed.
For those of us who love eating meat there’s a big challenge for us here folks.
There should be no animal abuse, no soil abuse, no tree abuse, no environmental abuse. God says, “Everything in My creation is mine. So I want you to take responsibility for it and treat it respectfully. Subdue it, rule over it, work it – YES – but protect it and care for it.”
AND to remind us of that calling God has ensured that…
3. THE EARTH SPEAKS TO US
Did you know that God’s creation actually talks to us? Psalm 19 verse 1 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
Now you might say “That’s just a poetry.” Don’t do that!
• Listen to a waterfall
• Listen to the music – yes the music of the sea
• Watch a sunset
• Look at the stars
Do that… AND no matter what you were taught in Philosophy 101 – something inside you stirs and you start to think: “I just know this has meaning. I know this isn’t all just an accident. Maybe there is a God.”
Why do you feel that way?
Well the Bible says creation is speaking to you – the stars, the waterfall, the animals, the trees – they have a voice. They are telling you about the glory of God.
And it’s your job as stewards of creation to make sure that they keep speaking, and to not let that voice go out.
• It’s your job to help the waterfall be the waterfall.
• It’s your job to help the trees be trees and fish be fish.
• In fact, it’s your job to join the choir and sing with them!
For ultimately, to care for creation is to honour God’s glory.
But to destroy and waste and pollute and endanger creation –not to care for it – is to diminish his glory.
AND not only that – it is to actively work against God’s plan for the earth. Because…
4. GOD HAS A GREAT PLAN FOR SAVING THE EARTH
Back to Genesis 9 – where God also says to Noah and his boys: “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, AND with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.”
And not only that, in verse 13 he actually goes even further and he talks about the first rainbow being a sign of: “…the covenant between me and THE EARTH.”
Folks, if you’ve ever watched a David Attenborough documentary you’ve probably got the impression that he absolutely loves planet earth. I think it’s safe to assume that’s right.
BUT he does not love planet earth nearly as much as God does. He loves this place. He loves everything he’s made. And so… he’s made a covenant with the earth.
AND do you know what that means? Put this on your tongue – the tongue of your heart and your soul – and chew on it: God never calls anyone into a covenant relationship unless it is a saving relationship.
A covenant relationship in the Bible means God is saying: “You’re in trouble. You’re in trouble because of evil and sin – BUT I am going to enter into a relationship with you and save you from sin.”
Now what sin could he be saving the animals and the physical environment from? It’s not the sin of the trees or the seas or the animals themselves – of course not!
We know whose sin it is! Here are God’s words to Noah from the previous chapter: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.”
You see, God is promising to save the world from our sin. To lift the curse that came on the earth – as we saw last week in Genesis 3 – from human sin.
• AND so when Jesus died it wasn’t just us he was saving. he was reconciling “…to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” [Colossians 1 verse 20]
• AND Romans 8 also tells us that therefore: “…the creation eagerly waits for the sons of God to be revealed.” Nature can’t wait for you and me to be made perfect at the end of time. Because then the created order will be perfected too!
• Which is why the Bible tells us over and over again that all history is headed – not towards us Christians being taken away up into heaven – but to a new heaven and a new earth being revealed [Revelation 21] – The earth will be made new!
All of which should give us great confidence that the earth will be saved – BUT NOT by us! BUT by someone much more capable.
AND he is inviting us to care for this planet just as much as he does.
Do you see? This planet is no hire car. It’s not given to us by some nameless, faceless corporation. BUT by the God who made us and made himself known to us.
This is more like your best friend giving you the keys to their brand new sports car. That happen to me once actually and I ended up having a lot of fun driving one of these for a fortnight.
I’d actually just started working for the church and was so embarrassed that I parked it round the corner for every meeting I went to. BUT because I knew and liked the person who owned it, it meant I drove it with great carefully – better even than my own car!
AND that’s what the Bible’s Theology of Ecology calls us to do with God’s creation – Love him by handling it with loving care.
Now, you might be thinking – HOW? How do we do that? So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sing – and then I’ll come back and try to suggest some application points for us…
SONG: Creation Sings the Father’s Song
So what? What do we do about all this?
I think we need to respond to this challenge:
• And Politically
Personally – What do we need to do? SOMETHING. Just do something.
Some of you are way ahead of the curve on this issue, but I suspect most of us are coming at it from a standing start – and the key thing wherever we’re coming from is to take a step forward.
That might have to start by repenting of some of our cynicism and hardness of hearted in the past – I know I’ve had to do that even as I’ve prepared this sermon.
We might baulk at some of the challenges that might involve –
The major gains in reducing our personal CO2 emissions are to be had in costly initiatives like getting an electric car, or replace our fridge or boiler with an eco-friendly one.
>> BUT doing the right thing is always costly in one way or another, isn’t it?
Not all of us can afford to make such big steps forward – AND our problem might be wondering what difference:
• cutting down your meat consumption,
• recycling your rubbish more effectively,
• cycling to work,
• planting a tree,
• insulating a house,
• or breaking off our love affair with single use plastics might actually make.
It all seems so futile in the grand scheme of things!
>> But for the Christian no action is wasted! Revelation 14 talks about our “…deeds following us.” Our actions have eternal consequences – especially if they are done to love and honour the Lord.
So – do SOMETHING! And make a step forward.
And let’s think about what we can do together – Corporately. Katharine Hayhoe, the internationally renowned Christian climate scientist says the number 1 thing we need to do as a church is TALK ABOUT IT.
Which sounds like a backward step from actually doing something about it. BUT a study was released recently which found that talking about it, the simple act of having a conversation, initiates a true positive feedback effect.
How? Well, first of all, the more we talk about it, the more we know. The more we know, the more concerned we are. The more concerned we are the more we talk about it.
And so, they say, these findings suggest that eventually our climate conversions with friends and family enter into a pro-climate social feedback loop. Where those of us ahead of the curve – draw those of us lagging behind in with their passion for creation care and their stories and experiences of how they’ve pursued it – and advice in how to make a difference too.
So talk about it with your Midweek Group. Talk about it after church today. Ask one another – how are you responding to this calling, this challenge?
And finally Politically – Clearly we are small players in a massive global issue. BUT the UK is hosting:
• The G7 summit in Cornwall in less than a week’s time.
• And COP26 – The United Nations Climate Change Conference – in Glasgow in November.
So you can MAKE YOUR VOICE KNOWN by writing to your MP, or the Prime Minister or your MP, or simply by signing the The Time is Now petition calling on our government to set the world an example by…
• Unleashing a clean energy revolution;
• That protects, restores and expands our green and wild spaces;
• And increases support to those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change at home and abroad.
BUT however we respond – most of all – we need to pray. Which is what we’re going to do now as Alice / Abi come to lead us in a time of prayer…