ON BECOMING A PERSON
Years ago, we went camping in Southern Ohio far from the lights of a major city. After dark we were led by a ranger down a path to an open meadow and encouraged to look at the sky. I had never seen the stars and planets in the sky as clearly before. It was an awesome display. I could almost imagine the shepherd David looking at the sky years ago before when he wrote Psalm 8.
As I continued my gaze of the truly awesome universe, I began to recite part of Psalm 8. “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.”
Even to this day this experience years ago is still etched in my memory.
The psalm goes further to proclaim: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.”
“You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet…”
God has created us to manage the earth, till the soil, take care of the animals, be good stewards of all that our creator has made including our own bodies. And God has given us the ability to do that. That is an incredible gift, and an incredible calling.
Yet let’s be honest with ourselves. We have often used the creation in ways that have destroyed forest lands, have made once fertile farmland into deserts, and have treated each other as adversaries to be conquered rather than cooperating to make this world better.
Look at the land of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was so lush, biblical writers saw it as the original land of Eden. Today it is largely arid, semi-desert.
Or take a moment to follow the march of European society across what is now the United States. In the north the trees were girded and left to die so that they could use the farmland. When the farmland got depleted of its resources, they moved West. In the Midwest the land was so bleached of its resources it became a dust bowl in the 1930’s.
In the south the crop was cotton. Again, as the land was bleached of its resources, the plantation owners moved as far west as Texas.
Today we are being told our use of fossil fuels is destroying the planet. The ice caps both on the north pole, and the south pole are melting. The hurricane season, and flooding in the eastern United States and Europe are the worst they have ever been. Drought in the West has been a factor in horrible forest fires and the level of Lake Mead at the Boulder Dam is the lowest in almost a century.
These are but examples of the sinfulness that is staining every human being.
May I suggest many of the issues that divide our nation is fear of each other. From the time European Settlers took this land from native Americans and have enslaved people from Africa; whites have been in charge. Now for the first time in our nation’s history non-white population; Asian, Latino, Black is challenging that power. Many no longer listen to people who think different from them and try to work out compromises but try to make their ideas look bad.
I am of the belief that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God and that God intends for us to listen to each other and learn from each other and work together to make this world a wonderful place to live for all its creatures, even differing human beings.
God recognizes that on our own we will destroy the planet and each other and so God has sent a Savior, Jesus the Christ.
On Wednesday evening we have been studying the Gospel of Mark. I have been able to see the difference of the Kingdom of God as represented by Jesus and the Kingdom of this world. When Jesus let his disciples know that he was headed to Jerusalem to be handed over to evil men and be crucified, Peter did not even hear the part about three days later Jesus would rise from the dead. Jesus had to silence him since he had stopped being a disciple and had been swept into the ways of the world.
As they continued their journey to Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus ministry, the disciples had been arguing with each other over who was the greatest disciple. Jesus then lifted a little child and let them know those who were servants of the least of these among them were the greatest in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus came as a mentor on how God wants us to live and find the greatest fulfillment in life. One aspect of the Cross that is becoming more important to me as I see it is that it is different from the ways of the world. On the Cross Jesus transformed the power of evil and destroyed its effect on him by absorbing its power. He is quoted as saying; “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” When one thief turned to him and asked; “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
I believe God has given us the task to take care of this planet. I believe the call and empowerment to do it can happen in each of us if we take on the call to love each other as gifts from God; aspects of God we need to take seriously if we are ever to become one family, “the human family.” Secondly each of us needs to look at what resources we are using and do our best to use less and recycle more. When it comes time to elect leaders, we need to take time to discover their proposals to take care of this planet and each other. That also means we need to make certain we are registered to vote.
Yes, we have been made a little lower than God crowned with glory and honor given the responsibility of taking care of this creation starting with its people. God will give us the ability to do more than we ever thought possible, but our abilities are intended to be guided by the hand of God and each other. Amen.