text today for our reflection is Genesis 1, a familiar story from
creation, actually it's verses 20 through 25, and this picks up at the
beginning of the 5th day of the story:
20 And God said, ‘Let
the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly
above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ 21So God created the
great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every
kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every
kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, ‘Be
fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds
multiply on the earth.’ 23And there was evening and there was
morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, ‘Let
the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and
creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it
was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and
the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground
of every kind. And God saw that it was good..
want to begin this morning with a
couple of quotes and see if you can tell me who they are, but I'll give
you a hint -- I'll tell you who the two are, but I won't tell you who
said what. You tell me which.
quotes come from the late Pope John Paul II (may he rest in peace) and
Pope of talk radio Rush Limbaugh (may he rest free of drugs). And
the quotes are:
for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the
rest of creation".
tree is the most beautiful when you cut it down".
the second one was Rush Limbaugh. He's said some good things, it's
a provocative statement -- I actually heard him on the radio when he
said it. I know different people listen to Limbaugh, don't mean to
demean him in any way. But I want to reflect on the contrast
between those two.
Paul reaffirmed this basic principle of the intrinsic value of creation
in 1995 and 1996 when he began speaking about the importance of
developing a culture of life to honor and preserve the sacredness of all
life. A theme that you may recall was picked up by President Bush
in his election campaign, reiterated by him after the death of Terry
Schiavo. John Paul affirmed that the culture of life is the basis
and the inescapable presupposition for the development of every aspect
of an authentic ecology of creation.
us as Christians, as well as for most other faiths, such an ecology of
creation is rooted in the creation story as an affirmation in the
goodness of the earth as the work of God. Now note that I
intentionally stopped reading in that story half way through the sixth
day, before it reaches its climax in the creation of human beings, male
and female, in the image of God. I think too often we focus on
that as being the only point of the story, and this morning on earth day
I would like us to focus on the rest of God's creation, especially that
which we know here on earth.
John Paul II called on us to show the same respect to the earth as we
show for human life. Now either we have ignored that call, or, we
do not show much respect for human life. And sometimes I'm not
sure which it is.
heard various statistics on the state of the environment, I'll just cite
a couple. It took from the beginning of that creation of the first
human being to 1950 to come to 2 billion people living at one
time. And then from 1950 to 1999, just 49 years later, from that 2
billion to 6 billion -- tripling in size. And experts tell us it
will only take another 31 years to add the next 4 billion to that
population. So if you're doing the math and should, God willing, I
live as long, in my own lifetime we will go from 2 billion people to 10
billion people. Quite a phenomenal growth if you stop to think
however, in terms of resource consumption and waste, the problem is not
those large, vast, growing, developing countries, but rather the problem
is here. Chicago, with a population of 3 million people, consumes
more energy and produces more waste than the entire nation of Bangladesh,
with a population of nearly 100 million.
I was in school, I remember studying (about 6th or 7th grade) that the
oceans would be the future of food production for the world, that it was
considered to be an unlimited resource, almost, in providing food to the
world. Today, 70% of the fisheries of the oceans are considered to
be in serious trouble. Of course when I was in school, nuclear
energy was considered to be safe and clean and would provide all of our
energy needs, and look where that has gotten us so far.
global warming is gradually increasing as biological diversity is
rapidly declining. Both are well established facts within the
scientific community even if not recognized by some
of those scientists is Oregon's own Dr. Jane Lubchenco, a marine
ecologist at Oregon State, who has received numerous awards and served
on various government commissions (federal and state) including Governor
Kulongoski's advisory group on global warming which she co-chairs.
She spoke at City Club a couple of weeks ago about ecosystems
services. And I'm just curious, how many of you have ever heard
that term, that concept, of an ecosystem service? No one in our
first service either. It's a fairly new concept, evidently,
although when you stop and think about it, it's something that you're
probably very familiar with.
stop and think of the McKenzie watershed. What does that provide
for us? Well, obviously our water. But it also provides
other services -- timber, fishing, recreation, and many services that an
ecosystem provides that benefit us. And the point that Dr.
Lubchenco was making is that we often undervalue those services
or we don't understand them adequately and we end up destroying
example she gave was of mangroves. Mangroves are in tropical
climates where rivers meet the ocean, typically very swampy areas with
trees with these root systems. Very smelly, not pleasant places,
lots of mosquitoes, just not good for human habitat. So they've
been converted into shrimp farms, urban development of various
kinds. The services mangroves provide are first of all sediment
filtering -- they catch the sediment that washes down from the
rivers. And they filter pollution from the runoff. They
provide hatcheries for all kinds of marine biology. One of the
results of destroying the mangroves is that of coral reefs -- sometimes
a mile or more out into the ocean -- have been destroyed because now the
sediments and the pollutions are allowed to just continue on into the
the surprising service of the mangroves was illustrated in the tsunami
on Dec 26th (2004). Where the mangroves were intact, there was
almost no devastation. Where the mangroves had been converted into
civilization of various kinds, the devastation was enormous because the
mangroves are nature's shock absorbers. So that's just an
illustration of what happens when we don't pay attention to such
this is the folly of that kind of Limbaugh-esque thinking. That a
tree is more beautiful when it is cut down. Why? Because
then we can make things with it. We can make homes, we can make
furniture, we can make pews. And that's what gives its value and
usefulness to us. But in fact, the best and highest use of a tree
is often simply to let it grow, to do what it was created to do.
And that's not to say that I believe, you know, no tree should be cut
down. But rather that we need to carefully consider all the
trade-offs, not just the immediate financial benefit that we gain.
To show that quality of respect for life of the natural world that we
expect for the human world because to do any less would be to destroy
the culture of life to which we are called by God.
devastation is simply the flip-side of social injustice. One is
the systemic sin we commit we against the poor and oppressed, the other
is the systemic sin we commit against the earth. Both are equally
contrary to the will of God.
good news is that we do have an alternative. We can choose to live
in harmony with the natural world just as we can choose to live in
harmony with our neighbors.
was very pleased to sit in on a conference this week called for by Mayor
Kitty Piercy to explore sustainable economy here in Eugene. The
kinds of things we can do to promote sustainable concepts. There
were over 100 community leaders from all segments of our community --
education, business, public life, from all political spectrums, met over
at Rexius Forest Products, appropriate for a couple of different
reasons, to brainstorm on the things that we can do to create
sustainable ways of working and living that are good for business, good
for the land, good for the air, good for the water, good for all
citizens. So I invite you to watch for the news of what comes out
of this effort as task groups are formed and ideas are created.
the meantime, what can we do? A lot of attention has been given in
recent years to the choices we make for the cars we drive. What
would Jesus drive, right? Because petroleum is the single greatest
contributor to the production of carbon dioxide, which in turn is the
primary cause of global warming. Our choice of the vehicle we use
is perhaps the single most important purchase we make in terms of energy
consumption and pollution. Most of us, however, don't go out and
buy a car everyday. At least I know I don't -- I'm still driving
one that was made in 1987 for heaven sakes.
there is another purchase that we make nearly every day which has
potentially even a greater impact. Do you know what that is?
It's food. Poet, theologian, and author Wendell Berry said
"How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world is
used". How we eat determines how the world is used.
couple of facts to illustrate this. Today we produce enough grain
to provide 3,500 calories for all 6 billion people on this planet every
day. So why is it that anyone goes hungry? Because the
majority of that grain goes not to feed people, but to feed
cattle. It takes 7 pounds of grain, on average in our market the
way we grow beef, to produce 1 pound of beef. This makes beef the
most inefficient form of protein that we consume. Thousands of
acres of rain forests are lost every year to feed the North American
addiction to hamburger. And consider this: the food on your
table, if purchased from local supermarkets, travels on average nearly
2,000 miles to get to your table. Think of what that means in
terms of fuel consumption and pollution.
while we're enjoying our fruits and vegetables from half way around the
world, our local farmers are struggling to survive. And those who
are paid to harvest their crops are among the lowest paid labor force in
this country today. Family farms are literally being run out of
existence by the market forces as a result of our buying habits.
Most depend on incomes from other jobs in order to survive -- the
Rothauge's a great example of that, nice little farm, both of them
working (Linda got to retire this year--yeah!) to get outside income to
support the farm.
than 1 percent of our population is engaged in farming. There are
2 mega international corporations that control 50% of the global food
supply. If you listen to NPR Radio, you hear "ADM--supermarket
to the world". Archer Daniels Midland -- it literally is
true, they are a huge, huge business that controls a major section of
the food supply.
does not have to be that way. The good news is that there is a
growing movement in our country to reduce this trend, to restore the
family farm. It's called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA),
and we have the display over here. It is a subscription method of
supporting local family farms. Thanks to our colleagues over at
First United Methodist Church just down the street the CSA system here
in this community is perhaps the best church-supported CSA system in the
buying a share of a local farm's produce, you get quality and in most
cases organic, locally grown food, that provides direct support to that
local farm family. By contrast, consider that 50 to 70 percent of
your dollar spent in the supermarket goes to someone else besides those
who grow the food.
my farmer program -- the faith community's effort to support local CSA's
now has signed up over 300 families who participate in the
program. First Methodist Church has 50 alone, so we've got some
catching-up to do to match that. Their goal is 500 families, and
if 500 households participate in the program that will keep $100,000 in
the local economy in direct support of local family-owned farms.
the conclusion of our service today, Liba Stafl is going to share a
little more information of how we can participate in the CSAs.
addition to the CSAs, we of course have our own harmony farm that
Phyllis Weir brings in produce every Sunday off of the farm. She
tells me that she's pretty much as maximum capacity of what she can
provide. But she says if there are others who would like to join
her out in Monroe she could certainly probably provide more, so you can
talk to Phyllis if you have any interest in that. I've noticed
that others throughout the years have brought in products and sold some
of their goods -- and that's a good thing that we need to do more of,
supporting one another.
want to close simply by calling attention to this table grace that is in
your bulletin on the bookmark, that opens (by Rabbi Shapiro):
life is holy, sacred, worthy of respect and dignity. Let us give
thanks for the power of heart to sense the holy in the midst of the
sense the holy in the midst of the simple. What an incredible gift
that is -- to sense the goodness of God, the goodness of the earth, in
something so simple as the taste of bread and wine which is the gift of
life from the earth. And for us as Christians, of course, it is
also the gift of life that comes to us from Christ that we celebrate
I invite you this week to use this grace at every meal. To say it
together, to share it, or simply to read it yourself, to ponder the
sacred gift that has been given to you through the life of the earth,
that you are blessed to receive each and every day.
is God's gracious gift, provided for us, and it is good.