Sermon April 26, 2015
Psalm 8, Isaiah 55:10-13
“Putting on Your Perspectacles”
I learned a new word this week from a friend. We were talking about learning to see things through another lens and how important it is to put things in perspective. It is so easy to take the smallest thing in front of us and treat it as cosmic. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that there is more to life than whatever thing has our attention at the moment. My friend said her daughter talks about putting on perspectacles to get a larger view of things.
Last weekend, ten of us were in beautiful Sedona learning about climate change and the need to pay attention to the planet. That shouldn’t be news to us, but it so easy to focus on recruiting committee members, paying the bills, or fixing the leaky toilet that we forget there is a whole fabulous earth in need of our attention. The problem is vast and overwhelming and yet we each contribute to it every day. Are we stopping to think about our carbon footprint in the way we travel, eat, heat and cool our home, and the energy we use to light our home and power our appliances? Some of us have done energy audits. Some of us drive hybrid cars. Some of us ride our bikes when we can. Some of us have given up meat. Some of us recycle everything we can. I’m naming these things because there are things each of us can each do that impact the word in a positive way. The speakers at Annual Meeting talked about the earth as the most important issue we face. We have the opportunity to preserve or destroy the world our grandchildren and future generations will inherit.
Psalm 8 is a prayer that puts life in perspective. The Psalmist says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (vs. 3-4) In that moment, the psalmist puts on his or her perspectacles and is filled with awe that this God who created the vast amazing universe, we inhabit cares for us. It’s astonishing to see the world through that lens. Sometimes we are so self-absorbed that we miss the opportunity to live with wonder at God’s goodness and the beauty that surrounds us every day. When I was in Sedona, I wondered if everyone just stops in their tracks when they walk out of their house to go to the grocery store or do they quit seeing what is right in front of them? I am doing a Rewild Your Life challenge for the month of April. Every day, I have committed to spending 30 minutes outdoors. There is so much to see. One morning I was stopped in my tracks on a walk in the north valley by a hawk sitting on a post ten feet away. In Sedona, I ran by four javelinas. How would I see those things if I stayed indoors all the time?
Richard Louv has written a book called Last Child in the Woods. He coined the term nature-deficit disorder. He understands that the more we become dependent on technology, the more we need to connect with nature. Children and adults are tied to screens all day long. We feel panicky when our Internet goes down. Perhaps that is the moment we need to take a walk. Perhaps that is when we need to put our perspectacles on and see the larger world and be reminded of our place in it. Is having Internet access really the most important thing in the world? One day last week I didn’t have access in the morning. I didn’t handle it well. It didn’t occur to me to take a walk.
The Psalmist is astonished that God has risked allowing us to be the stewards of creation. Do you remember the moment someone allowed you to drive for the first time or someone asked you to cook or saw something for a building project and the awe you felt at being entrusted to do something big and scary and new? Rabbi Abraham Heschel says, “Awe is the beginning of wisdom.” We need perspective. We need to see through a lens larger than our own day-to-day experience. When Job is tired of suffering, he calls out to God to justify his situation. God shows up for him, but God doesn’t explain anything to Job. Instead, God says, “Where were you when I made the world? Have you caused the sun to rise for even one day? Can you bring rain to the earth?” Job hears God fire question after question at him for the next four chapters and with his perspectacles on, repents when he realizes he had no idea what things looked like through God’s eyes. (Chapters 38-42)
Today is youth Sunday. The youth chose to talk about God through creation. Their timing was perfect because it was Earth Day this week. One of our speakers in Sedona said that he and his brother disagree on everything. Once a year, they go backpacking together and there they recognize their shared humanity in creation. It doesn’t matter where you stand politically, socially, economically. We are all neighbors who share the planet as our home. Jim Anton, the UCC Conference Minister in Massachusetts, said that the future generations are no less our neighbors than those who live next door to us today. He said earth preserving practices are prayer. He called us to consume less and share more as holy expressions of our covenant with all of life and life yet to be born.
Kids are leading the way in the effort to care for this planet we call home. Seven-year-old Merit Leighton and five-year-old Marlowe Peyton of California were watching Oprah's Earth Day show when they learned about the impacts of plastic pollution on the planet's oceans.
After hearing about the mass of trash that's twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean, they created The Plastic Patrol, beginning their global effort to make a difference, one kid at a time.
The kids asked, "That actually exists on my planet? What can we do? Someone has to do something. We have to tell kids all around the world so they can help."
And so began the work of the Plastic Patrol.
In the words of Marlowe, "We want to help kids clean up the planet by themselves."
In Hawaii at the Kawaiaha‘o Church School in Honolulu, infants through fifth-graders reap the benefits of the integration of spirituality, Hawaiian culture, and environmentalism at the school. A typical school day begins with the children and staff gathering for song and pule (prayer), and with this “Pledge to the Earth”:
“I pledge allegiance to the Earth and to all life that it nourishes: all growing things, all species of animals, and all races of people. I promise to protect all life on our planet, to live in harmony with nature, and to share our resources justly so that all people can live with dignity, in good health, and in peace.”
The school raises money for the Water is Life program to increase access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation to people worldwide and to end the exploitation of water resources. (pp. 161-162 Eco Faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations by Charlene Hosenfeld)
The Lakota people believe we should walk on the earth as if she is our mother. To take away the belief that earth is a thing to be exploited and to replace it with the belief it is a sacred trust and to be treated as someone we love deeply changes everything.
Some of you know I entered a new decade a few weeks ago. Anne Marie put together a book for me because I made a commitment to see fifty fabulous places in my fifties. The book is full of pictures of gorgeous places that people from all over contributed. It is a reminder to me of the sacred trust we have with the earth. It is a call to me to fall in love with the world over and over. It ends with pictures of my backyard and tells me that I don’t have to travel thousands of miles to savor the gift of creation. It is right here, right now. Next Sunday at 5 pm, The Gathering worship will meet at the Campbell entrance to the Bosque. We will spend the next hour walking and reflecting on creation.
I encourage you to make Psalm 8 your prayer this week. Go outside and look at the stars, listen for the birds, watch the sunrise or set. Make yourself available to the beauty right in front of you and ask how you can care for the world as God does. The world is ours to savor now and to preserve for those who will come after us. When you are stymied by an issue or frustrated by an interaction, put your perspectacles on and go outside. Listen for the birds and watch the lizards. Know that you are part of this grand creation and it is part of you. Give thanks for the visionaries who are saving the planet every day and join them. There is no better way to say thank you to our creator.