Jason Byassee from the Vancouver School of Theology noted that Psalm 148 depicts Nature praising God: “The heavens, the angels, the sun and the moon and the stars, sea monsters, fire and hail, snow and frost and wind, mountains and hills and fruit trees and cedars and wild animals and cattle and creeping things and birds.”
Jason goes on to note that all critters seem to know they should praise God--except maybe humans. Today’s readings lay out the primary reasons people don’t want to join the church--or any faith.
One, religion is only for a select few people who look down on others for not being part of them. But in Acts, God says no, everyone is included. Two, religion is about other worldly escapism. But in Revelation we are told that the Christian faith is about bringing Christ to the Earth-to live among us in a world as it was intended to be. Three, faith forgets to love. But Jesus told the disciples to love one another--after he was crucified and raised again.
That is Jason’s take on today’s readings. I am thinking about Earth Day and how it fits with these same readings.
Psalm 148 speaks of the cosmos and the plants and animals praising God. Revelation speaks of a new Earth and it gives me hope. But I am unwilling to wait for God to intervene and clean up the planet for us. We need to praise God by cleaning up after ourselves, no longer polluting, and remembering that all those in the world that God cares about: plants and animals and marginalized people will benefit from a clean environment.
46 years ago, a teacher at my high school took a busload of seniors to the first Earth Day gathering at Indiana University. I’m making an assumption about my classmates, that they were as clueless as I was. Kids from tiny towns in a rural area traveling to a college town in Southern Indiana and getting off the bus like deer in headlights. There were so many displays about pesticides, mercury and lead, and DDT in breast milk I was completely overwhelmed and unsure what to look at next. Long hairs, hippies, and pot smokers! Our school had a dress code that dictated only new blue jeans--well, just wear something else, and skirt length because all the girls had to wear skirts or dresses to school, and rules about how long boys’ sideburns and hair could be! What did we know? ! I was headed to engineering school at Purdue--hippies were a foreign species!
I went away stunned and amazed! A day anticipated as a break from school--an adventure turned into a real concern for Mother Earth and an overwhelming sense that there was nothing I could do. I read and researched over the next few years and was determined I would do what I could to make the environment better.
I read A Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and despaired over the birds, then rejoiced when DDT was banned. Now, when I visit Indiana, I see so many more birds than I did as a child. They even have birds-large birds-that I never saw there in the 50s and 60s like Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. There are flocks of Cardinals instead of rare sightings. I know the Earth can be renewed!
When we moved to Western Washington in 1974, I vowed to begin recycling. It wasn’t easy but I did my research and found the places that would take my newspapers, cans and glass. I had to save them up and make special trips but I was determined to reduce the trash I was putting out. I was delighted when I could finally put recyclables out at the curb. I wish we had yard waste bins here in Montesano like they do in King County. It’s a lot of bins and a bit of scheduling, but it works!
When air pollution made me sick in the 90s, I researched where the air was the cleanest and moved to Raymond where I got healthy again. I noticed that Lewis County’s particle count was really high and later discovered they were burning coal for power there. I have watched and commented on the need to reduce emissions there--I would love to see those plants closed. It is a lesson for those of us who live in Grays Harbor County to be aware of development and whether others benefit from polluting industries that might want to locate here.
I have done some things over the years. I recycle, I try to buy items that are from sustainable sources, our landscaping doesn’t require toxic fertilizers though weed killer would be fantastic but we won’t use it, growing and eating organically grown and raised food, watching our gasoline usage--though that one is hard in the country, and working with others to guard our area from industrial polluters who might want to locate here.
So all those plants and animals and the cosmos itself may continue to praise God, the imaginative creator. That I may praise God and show my love for others by making the world a place of equality, a place of justice. I look forward to the new Earth, the new Jerusalem where there is no mourning because there is nothing to mourn. No one is weeping at the lack of good housing, healthy food or clean water. No one is weeping because there are no more polar bears or elephants or rhinos or salmon or oysters. No one is left on the margins of the human race. That is my kind of Earth, my kind of love.