Is your congregation hosting a group of young learners for a day or week to explore their faith while having fun? If so, GIPL staff is ready to help you incorporate green ideas and sustainable resources into your already fabulous program. We are available to supplement your program with presentations on faithful water conservation & rain-barrel making. Or, we can teach about solar energy, how it works, and how it relates to our faith. Or, we can point you towards arts & crafts ideas that are from sustainable materials.
Last summer, campers at Mt Vernon Presbyterian Church learned all about water in a week-long series that included sacredness of water and water conservation. Campers worked together to paint several rain barrels that were to be installed at a local community center that their congregation supports. GIPL staff brought all supplies to lead program for the day. We can bring it to you too.
We'd love to help you teach the next generation of stewards. Call us! 404-377-5552 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Your Vision for Creation” by Rev. Anthony
Preached at Central Presbyterian
Church, Sunday 21 April 2013
Genesis 8:13-22, 9:8-17;
Way back in high school, one of my
classmates’ fathers was the pastor at a local non-denominational church. It was
one of many megachurches that flourished in suburban Cleveland, but at that
time, I didn’t really understand what that meant. One evening, my friend
suggested that we go see a little theater performance the youth at that church
were putting on. Since some of our friends were in
the play, I said, “Sure, why not?” So we showed up and took our seats as the
It took me a little while to figure
out what was happening on stage, but I soon realized that the play was set sometime
in the not-so-distant future, in what appeared to be a war-torn country. The
stage was dimly lit and tension was in the air. The small community of
Christians in the play was worried, frantic. And, one by one, each Christian was
killed by a military figure, until the very last person was shot. And the play
ended, leaving the audience stunned and silent.
I sat back and thought to myself, “Well,
that was a little strange, but it’s just drama, you know!?”
Little did I know! It wasn’t just theater, and the youth pastor let
us know that loud and clear! He got up to the stage and thanked us for coming,
and then he suddenly turned very serious.
“This is not just a play; this is
real,” he warned us. Christians were already being persecuted, and Revelation
describes what kind of warlike scene will happen at the end of days! If we
weren’t careful, he said, the characters in the play would be us!!!
After that, I had finally reached
my breaking point, so I nudged my friend and whispered, “Let’s get out of
here!” and we scampered out of that church.
It wasn’t until I reached seminary that
I began to understand what exactly was going on that night. I had known that
something wasn’t right, that they were trying
to scare me, but I just couldn’t put my finger on why. Then we got to the book of Revelation in our New Testament
course. We discussed the distinction between the common, literal readings of
this book and the alternative approach that examines this book just as we would
other parts of the Bible.
When we allow Revelation to sit in
its own context, I learned, it makes a lot more sense—and doesn’t give you
The book of Revelation is a great
example of a kind of literature called apocalypse, which was popular in the
ancient Near East. In this context, the term ‘apocalypse’ does not mean the end
of the world, but rather a lifting of the veil, or the revealing of something
hidden. An apocalyptic story interprets present, earthly circumstances by
casting those events in a future, supernatural world—a little bit like science
fiction. This literature uses wildly creative and symbolic images, as well as
numbers and supernatural figures to gesture toward real people and events.
Much of the time, these apocalypses
were written in situations of occupation and oppression, like the Babylonian
captivity, and the book of Revelation is no exception. Its writer, John of
Patmos, and his Christian community are experiencing relentless persecution
under the brutal Roman Emperor Nero, the one made famous for burning Rome and
blaming the Christians.
So, John envisions a cosmic battle
between the Beast and the Lamb, between the Empire and Christ. He pictures
144,000 people, the multitude of every nation, a number that represents all of
God’s people, twelve times the twelve tribes of Israel. In our passage this
morning, this great multitude stands before a throne…
But, whose throne? That of the
emperor? Absolutely not.
They stand before God’s throne, the
God of Abraham, not the God of
Caesar. True salvation, John says, comes from God, not the worldly success of
the Empire. Furthermore, those who have suffered these persecutions will be
protected by God. Their robes will be washed by God’s sacrifice, and Christ
will guide them to the springs of life-giving water, wiping away every tear
from their eyes.
What a beautiful image for this community
struggling to live out the Gospel in the midst of an oppressive state, of an
empire whose values ran counter to the faith this community expressed.
John wants them to know that God is
on their side even when the powers of the world are crucifying them. This book
gives this battered community a powerful vision of a better world in which their
enemies will be destroyed by God.
Somehow, in the popular discussion
about this book of Revelation, we’ve forgotten that it is indeed literature, filled with incredible images,
profound metaphors, and hidden meanings.
And by literalizing all that
Revelation contains, making it a looming prediction of the end of the world, we
have ripped it out of its particular context and robbed it of its power to
speak to our present situation.
So if this book is not a guide to
the end of days, what does it have to say to us?
Well, we’re not exactly suffering
intense persecution under a dominant empire, though I recognize that this is
the reality many Christians and others face around the world.
Revelation, I believe, is not meant
to give us nightmares about the “end times” or to scare teenagers and adults
alike into being “better Christians” so that God will rapture us— just in case
that comes tomorrow. Revelation should not give us more fear, as there’s plenty of that to go around, with bombs going off
in Boston, factories exploding in Texas, civil wars and gun violence and deadly
This book is meant to provide hope in the midst of destruction,
despair, and death. To paint a picture of what life could look like, outside
the muck of our present situation. To give us fortitude to fight the powers of
our time and continue living as the faithful community that God has called us
to be. A vision in which ALL people are care for and creation sings for joy.
I believe that this passage
encourages us to undertake a similar prophetic task in our time: to think
forward and use our imaginations and dream
of a better world. We must imagine a radical vision of a different way of being,
to counter the violence and destruction around our world and in our backyards.
Today we’re celebrating Earth Day
in worship, just one Sunday in which we explicitly focus on issues of caring
for God’s creation. While it’s not something we restrict to just one day a
year, it’s helpful to be reminded of our call to care for ALL God’s
creation—humans, animals, plants, water, and more. And caring for creation is a
task that requires not only a deep faith in God’s presence around us and God’s commands
to us; but it’s a task that necessitates a prophetic vision for the way life could be.
All around us, there is
environmental destruction. I read about it and see images of it constantly: fish
and manatees dying from algae blooms caused by our chemical fertilizers; oil
slicks running through neighborhoods in Arkansas; nuclear disasters and people living
on garbage dumps and sinfully high asthma rates in low-income communities.
The environmental crisis of our day
is nothing new; many of you have been fighting it for decades now. I grew up in
Cleveland, the city made famous by a river so polluted that it caught on fire, an
environmental disaster that outraged a generation in the late 60s and incited
the formation of the EPA. I’ve been told since I was little to turn off the
water while brushing my teeth, to recycle bottles and cans, to carpool and ride
But, my friends, these basic
efforts aren’t working. We need something more radical, a vision that addresses the dire situations of our time.
What is clear is that our way of
living is destroying the planet—and hurting other people. We may not be the
ones living on garbage dumps, we may not have a nuclear waste facility or oil
pipeline behind our house, and we may not have water tainted with chemical
runoff—but there are many people who experience these tragedies of our society.
When I talk about justice issues
like care for the environment, some folks offer strong objections, saying, “My own
actions have nothing to do with that!” But, if we’re honest, we know that isn’t
true; how we live directly affects others’ realities. But for Christians, pretending
that it doesn’t represents a failure to live into our covenant with God and one
another, a failure to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all God’s creation.
See, we have a God-given
responsibility not just to ourselves, our families, or even fellow Christians; but
creation. We hear in the Genesis reading this morning that God
covenants not only with Noah’s family and all their human descendants but also with
all the earth, all the animals that came out of the ark. God says to Noah and
his family, whenever you look up and see a rainbow in the sky, remember that I
have covenanted with you and ALL creation. While earth remains and this world
continues, we are called into covenant with God to care for it.
But, how do we do that? If we
choose to live into our covenantal responsibilities, what is the renewed vision
of creation? And what are we called to do about it?
I could talk about conserving
water, eliminating our use of Styrofoam, or reusing and recycling all the paper
we use. I could encourage everyone to eat local and organic produce, to only
use ecologically friendly dry-cleaning services, or to sign more petitions and
view more documentaries. And even though all that is important, a turn toward
creation requires a more radical move, a fundamental cognitive change, and a
consistent pattern of behavior.
But, first, we need a vision. A
revelation, of sorts. Not just a pretty picture; something that will rock us
out of our collective complacency and propel us forward into collective action.
So, close your eyes for a moment. Really,
keep ‘em closed. And take a couple deep breaths.
What would a green world look like?
How would creation rejoice?
What type of dwelling would you inhabit?
What would you eat?
How would you move from place to
What would you wear?
What would you do?
You can open your eyes now.
Now I ask you to take out that
little piece of paper and the pen that was on your pew. Write down something
radical you would consider doing to bring that vision about. Take a moment to write
down something radical that you would
do to help make that vision a reality.
So, this earth day, while we all
must continue (or start!) to recycle, turn off the water, stop using harsh chemicals,
eat locally, and more, we need to begin to do what is radical for us.
Will we make important choices,
like what we do with our lives, where we work, what we buy, based on this
covenant we have with God?
Are we willing to go that far?
So, take that piece of paper home, and
when you think you’re ready, go bury it somewhere. Imbedded in that paper are
little wildflower seeds that will take root. When you see those flowers come
up, be reminded of God’s call to YOU to care for God’s creation and our own
need to do something more radical. And just like the rainbow in the sky, let
those flowers remind you of God’s vision for a better creation.
Republican senators boycotted the committee hearing on May 9 and we need to urge them to give Gina McCarthy a fair vote.
Please take a minute to call your U.S. Senators and let them know of your support for Gina McCarthy, Nominee for the EPA Administrator. The switchboard number is (202) 224-3121, just ask to be connected to your senator’s office.
Assistant Administrator for EPA’s office of Air and Radiation, Gina McCarthy has been nominated to replace Lisa Jackson. IPL urges her expeditious confirmation. Ms. McCarthy is a dedicated professional who worked for five Republican governors, including Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, before joining the Obama administration. She has worked with all stakeholders to develop pragmatic and cost-effective safeguards to protect public health and reduce dangerous pollution.Ms. McCarthy is a clean air, climate, and public health champion. She led the EPA’s development of historic clean air protections, including: the first ever proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants; the first carbon limits for vehicles; and lifesaving updates of standards that limit deadly soot, mercury and other toxic pollution.Thank you for taking action on this important nomination today.
Call your senator, (202) 224-3121 to voice your support
A couple was very concerned about their water bills. As much as they sought to conserve water, their bills went up and up. They checked their pipes for leaks and took shorter showers, but no change. One day the husband was sick and stayed home from work. He heard an odd noise and followed it to its source. The family cat was leaning over the toilet watching the water flush out. When the tank refilled, the cat stood on its hind legs and, using both paws, pulled the lever. Again and again and again! You and I have undoubtedly watched as dogs and babies played in the commode. Now you can see a video of the cat playing on YouTube. I wonder how they solved their feline problem.
We have some problems to solve before us as well. We have a responsibility for the water and the land and air. We are stewards – caretakers – of Mother Earth. You can read about it in the Bible if you want.
Many of the Psalms in the Bible were written by King David. Before he was king of Israel, David was a boy shepherd. He sang psalms and spiritual hymns to God while watching over his flock. He appreciated God’s gifts of fields and streams and providential care. Later, when David was King of Israel, he wrote what we know as the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. The 10th Psalm celebrates God’s gift of creation and God’s power to recreate. O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.
Our souls sing hymns and psalms of thanksgiving as well. Our souls yearn for green pastures, fresh water, and enough so we shall not be in want. What song would emanate from our souls if this were not the case? What in the world are we going to do in response to our moral responsibility to ensure that the green pastures and fresh water and sufficient foods we’ve enjoyed continue for our children and their children as well?
Consider this teaching from Genesis 2, the second Creation story: “In the day that the Lord 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up— for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed [humanity] from the dust of the ground, and breathed in… the breath of life… 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there God put the human whom God had formed. 15 The Lord God … put [the human] in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
God plus Earth creates Humanity. In grateful response for the gift of life, Humanity tends the Earth and follows God. In response for such stewardship, Earth feeds Humanity and as the psalmist says, “all the trees of the field clap their hands.”
You’ve heard the story of the scientist who challenged God to a creation contest. The scientist said, “God, I challenge you that I can make life out of dirt.” God said, “I’ll take you on. You go first.” When the scientist reached down for a handful of soil, God said, “Hold on there, my friend. You have to get your own dirt.”
From the creation of the first human beings made by dust and breath (ruach) of life, through the groundbreaking faith of Abraham and Sarah… From the liberating work of Moses and Miriam and Aaron, through the wisdom & hope of psalmists and prophets, priests and people of God… From the birth of Christ through the first 1,500 years of church history… the triune that sparked spiritual imaginations consisted of God, Earth, and Humanity.
These three were on the table together. God the Creator, the Molder, the Potter, the Shepherd, the Redeemer.
Earth the land and sea made by God to nurture humanity and for humanity to practice faithful stewardship.
Humanity, the blessed creation of God to build the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, to till and sow and reap blessed bounty from Mother Earth. From Genesis to Revelation, from the Psalms to the Gospels the Holy Scriptures point us to a loving God who loves all of creation, including the world and those who dance on her soil.
Alas, something happened. In 1450 the printing press was invented in Gutenberg. By the 1600s, over 2,500 cities had printing presses. Literacy led to an ever greater thirst for knowledge, the birth of science, the age of reason, and soon the industrial revolution. For its first 1500 years the church of Jesus Christ taught a mighty trilogy of God, World and Humanity. But after 1600 the song the Church sang changed.
With literacy and greater illumination came greater self-interest and preservation. Our spiritual ancestors began to objectify the world. The earth and seas and trees -- and even people -- came to be seen as resources. Resources to be used and, if need be, abused for the building up of humanity. When the earth is seen as a resource and not a blessed third of a holy trinity, we become that much further removed from a sense of kinship with the world.
Martin Buber might point out that we’ve sacrificed an I-Thou relationship for a more expedient I-It non-relationship.
Today is Earth Sabbath, also known as Earth Stewardship Sunday, and we pray to be effective and responsive stewards of the world. The Word speaks to and for a warming world.
Effective theology engages God, Earth and Humanity. We Disciples of Christ are not escapists, seeking how best to avoid difficult or tricky or messy subjects or trials we find before us. Disciples of Christ are emboldened by the Spirit of God to rise to the challenge, incorporating faith and reason and spiritual discernment.
Nor do you hear Disciples of Christ advocating we take a theological stance or biblical interpretation that salvation is a blessed escape from Earth. Thank God that this is no pie in the sky religion, one that claims that all you need do is believe and you can effectively escape from reality or responsibility or relationships with the rest of creation.
Disciples of Christ are delighted to proclaim that salvation is communal, that in Christ we are redeemed with and alongside God’s blessed creation.
Disciples theology engages God, Earth and Humanity. Before and during World War II Americans rallied together to confront the twin headed monster of political evil and economic depression. Tom Brokaw called this “The Greatest Generation.” We sent soldiers strong and true across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to defend freedom and combat fascism. On the home front we rationed gasoline, bought war bonds, started victory gardens, scrimped and saved to make ends meet. Fuel and food and natural resources were needed for the war effort. Nothing was wasted because everything was important, valued, and essential. Everyone pulled together; everyone did their part; we put up a united front to save precious resources, to save our European, Asian and African brothers and sisters, and to save America.
No one can tell us it can’t be done today; we know better. Have you ever watched Extreme Home Makeover? Want to see me cry? Change the channel to Extreme Home Makeover. By the time the community shouts “Move that bus!” tears of joy are flowing.
Through you and me and all of us serving together for the greater good God is creating a new humanity to meet the present need. When you observe and participate in the power of people coming together to make a difference for someone other than themselves, you are changed. Transformed. Encouraged. Energized. Engaged. We can do anything we invest our minds and will and resources to accomplish. We have to decide whether something is a priority, and everything flows from there. So, how important to us are green pastures and fresh, still waters?
Records show that surface temperatures have risen about 1.4 degrees F since the early 20th century and about 0.9 degrees F since 1978. The phrase “Climate Change” is growing in preferred use to “global warming” because it serves to convey the reality that there are changes in addition to rising temperatures. We see our lake water levels drop and rise and drop, and we are concerned. Somalia has seen Lake Chad all but evaporate and the results are alarming. Even “Sports Illustrated” has gotten interested in climate changes. SI devoted an issue to sports and global warming (March 12, 2007), observing that as the planet changes, so do the games we play.
This is no game. We need to talk about this, you and I, here in God’s church. Climate change is a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue.
Climate change is becoming “a core issue for people of faith because of its effect on the poor, because of its short term and long term health impacts, and because of the threat it poses to future generations.” (paraphrase, Karen Coshof, e-mail) Recently many of our sister churches have come to this same conclusion, including both progressive and fundamental congregations, whether oriented toward social justice or evangelism or both. Many fellow Christians are not taking a reactive stance, or are they saying this is a matter for other people to figure out alone. They are proclaiming, in effect, that addressing social and environmental concerns is a significant part of our vocation. God is calling to all of us, together, to be faithful stewards of Mother Earth. Recently I saw a Baptist church bus with their motto printed on the side: “Exploring God’s Creation”
After 500 years of seeing the earth as a resource to be used, churches today are reclaiming our engagement with God, Earth & Humanity.
Sixty years ago we united as a nation and a world; we know we can do so again. There is much we can do individually and collectively. A Georgia Tech professor explained to our school PTA that every time we start our car engines we use the same amount of fuel as we do to drive 25 miles.
Alexis Chase is the Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, a non-profit with a mission to help churches, temples and mosques be more energy efficient and lower energy usage and costs. Those two go hand in hand. Alexis Chase to her Episcopal priest, “Father, I tithe. What are you doing to stop wasting my money, my tithe on gas and electric bills?” She encourages you to ask the same question of your pastor and Church Board. Go ahead. Make our day. As you may well be aware, our church is ‘going green’. Recently Georgia Interfaith Power and Light gave us a grant of $1,500 toward programmable thermostats. And this spring we won the GIPL “Trailblazer Award” for repurposing products through our Chalice Thrift store. Go, team! We’re enjoying our coffee and tea with ceramic mugs instead of Styrofoam cups; we purchased a more energy efficient stove and dishwasher; we have replaced the roof and added insulation. We recycle paper, glass, cans, plastic and cardboard, as well as ink cartridges, reducing our weekly trash output by at least half; we changed all the bulbs we can to compact florescent spirals; we installed programmable thermostats; and we have already seen results.
In 2009, we saved well over $2,000 in lower energy bills. In 2010, ’11, and 12, we saved as much as $7,000 a year in lower utility bills. We’re intentional about using our tithes for Georgia missions, not Georgia Power Pat one another on the back for creating a park and playground. We created a sacred green place for families to play together outdoors. A week does not go by when someone new doesn’t say to us, “Thank you for building and sharing your Decatur Toy Park.”
Growing victory gardens, intentionally using fewer fossil fuels, recycling, reducing, reusing that which we borrow from the Earth… are not only possible, not only are moral imperatives, they are a matter of life and breath.
From tending and tilling in the Garden of Eden to caring for Mother Nature in these Piedmont foothills, our vocation is to be engaged with God, Earth and Humanity.
The Word for a warming world is not finished. The first climate that must be changed is within us. God is creating a new humanity to meet the present need.
This is the new beginning that is borne of the Holy Spirit, a global resurrection with its genesis in an authentic humanity. We begin afresh our congregation, our dialogue, our community action, our spiritual growth, our igniting of spirit-fed passion for the very survival and healing of this blue planet spinning in the sky. All power be to the Creator, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Marietta Adventist Church received an extensive energy audit on December 9, 2010. The audit identified a series of energy conservation measures including lighting upgrades and the need for programmable thermostats. The church submitted a grant application during the November 2012 grant cycle requesting $10,000 to fund the lighting upgrades (T-12 to T-8s) and programmable thermostats in the main building and their education building. The estimated annual energy savings from the lighting upgrades is $3,524 and for the programmable thermostats it is estimated at $898. The grant committee viewed the request favorably and approved the funding.
Marietta Adventist Church has a strong creation care program, implementing water conservation efforts by changing to low volume toilets, in addition to a wide variety of energy efficiency measures. We look forward to working with them as they continue on their earth-honoring journey.
Marietta Adventist Church was one of nine faith communities that were awarded a total of $52,492 in Energy Improvement Matching Grants in November 2012. The next round of Matching Grants applications are due on November 15, 2013, there is only one grant cycle in 2013!