Go “Green” for God
A Sermon for Thanksgiving, based on Deuteronomy 8:7-18. This sermon was presented at Resurrection on Sunday evening, November 23, 2008, by Pastor Jim Kniseley
Dear Friends in Christ,
We of all people are blessed. We are blessed to live in the United States. We are blessed to live in the 21st century. We are considerably blessed to live in a country that grants us the freedom to worship the Lord openly and without constrain. Would you agree?
Too we certainly live in a land of abundance. In comparison to much of the rest of the world, we are blessed with the gift of abundance. Tonight I want to talk about our abundance and our prosperity. But I want to do so in terms of our God-given responsibility to care for the earth and the resources that have been entrusted to us.
“Stewardship of creation” and “Care for the earth” and “going green” are certainly the buzz-words for today in many arenas. Add to that global warming and population explosion and extinction of animal species and pollution of water and air, and you get a feeling for what we need to address now in our generation, if there are to be future generations on this earth.
Recently our Congregation Council adopted a goal for this Congregation to “go green.” You might think the driving force for this is purely economic. No, there is more. It comes out of our biblical understanding of what God wants from us. You’ve heard this statistic before. We Americans have 6% of the world’s population yet we consume 24% of the world’s resources. What can we do to not be so wasteful and instead act as good stewards of creation?
Here are a few ways we are trying to care for the environment: starting in January, we are not mailing out our 12-page newsletter every month, but instead we will put it online for folks (a few hardcopies will be available in the narthex for folks who don’t use computers). We are asking all of our ministry teams to plan meetings that piggy-back on other meetings, so that folks don’t have to come out twice in a day and waste gas. We are experimenting with projecting words to hymns and even using the hymnals again on occasion. We are asking all of our members to turn off lights as you can in unoccupied rooms. We are doing our best to recycle all the paper that is generated in this congregation.
Going green and changing one’s habits doesn’t always come easily to a congregation. I remember in La Canada, California, the Sunday when one of our young adults asked to give a temple talk on her concerns for the environment. She requested that the congregation no longer use Styrofoam cups because studies showed that they took a really long time to degrade in landfills. Instead, she requested that we use paper cups. I still remember the anger of one of our members, an engineer from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who told us that was the stupidest idea he had ever heard, since the studies about Styrofoam were inconclusive. My thinking was how proud I was that one of our young adults was fervent enough about taking care of creation that she would actually stand up in church and promote an idea that she thought had real merit…
Michael and Amy Stillson were our houseguests a short time ago while they were waiting to move into their new home. You asked a question of us: “Do you recycle?” Our unfortunate answer was “no.” I know you were disappointed and it got us thinking. “Why not?” We did it all the time in California where it was required and the appropriate bins were provided for bottles and aluminum and paper. The bins aren’t provided here for us, but why can’t we get boxes and start recycling anyway and take the boxfuls to the recycling centers. You will be pleased to know that because of Michael and Amy, the Kniseleys are once again recycling…
Today “going green” and taking care of the environment are popular ideas, especially with scientists and political leaders, many of them coming from a non-religious perspective. Shouldn’t we who profess to be people of faith and rely on God’s commandments in the Bible be even more concerned and involved? God’s first command to humans even before He completed His creation of the world by resting was this: Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Gen. 1:28, KJV). “Have dominion.” That’s another word for stewardship, taking care of something on behalf of the real owner. We human beings, created ourselves, are given responsibility for everything else He has made.
Tonight’s first lesson is really a lesson on stewardship of creation and taking care of what God entrusts to His people. Throughout the first chapters of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are on a journey to the promised land. They have always been told that God considered them His people, not because they were so numerous or great or wonderful, but simply because God decided it was His wish and He promised to never turn His back on them. So in chapter 8 tonight we have Moses’ vision of the Promised Land. It will be a good land, with lots of water, rich soil that is good for crops, and there will be an abundance of everything that is needed by the people who occupy the land. But then Moses gives further words, instructions. With blessings come responsibility. You must always remember to give thanks to the Lord for your prosperity, and never ever take credit for it yourself. God not only brought you out of the desolate wilderness and you called upon Him constantly for help. Now He gives you this land as a gift, and you are to use it to prosper, but always keep God’s commandments and ordinances and statutes, and call upon Him just as fervently in prosperity as you did in times of want.
Tonight, Resurrection People, I believe sincerely that we have a responsibility to exercise dominion over this planet in a responsible fashion and we are to leave it in a respectable condition for however many generations may follow us. When I was in Boy Scouts, our scout leaders always taught us a maxim about setting up and taking down your campsite that I think applies here: always leave a place better than how you found it. I pray that can be said someday of us here at Resurrection.