April 22nd, 2018 “Plastic Planet” Rev. Heather Jepsen
Genesis 1:24-31 with Psalm 148
Today is Earth Day and I think it’s been a few years since we had a totally Earth Day focused worship so I decided we would do it today. Because of that, we are skipping the lectionary reading which has us once again examining Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We all know that story pretty well so instead we are looking at Earth centered texts for our study today.
We begin in Genesis with the story of God creating the planet that we love so much. There are actually two separate stories of creation in our Bible. This is the first story told, the one where God makes something new each day. Day one God creates light and darkness, followed on day two by the separation of the waters above and the waters below. Day three is the creation of land and plants and day four is the creation of stars sun and moon. Day five God begins to make the animals with creatures that live in the sky and water, birds and fish and more.
Then we reach the day of our reading, day six. First God creates all the animals that walk about on the earth. From the cattle in the fields, to the giraffes in the savannahs, to the lizards in the desert, God creates them all. It’s a big day for God, so God keeps creating. God makes humankind in the image of God and sets us up to have dominion over the whole of creation. Humankind is given the animals to care for and the plants to eat as food. It is interesting to note that in this version of the story we were created to be vegetarians. It isn’t until after the time of Noah that God gave us permission to eat the animals as well.
If we have been given “dominion” over the creation what exactly does that mean? Webster’s defines dominion as supreme authority and absolute ownership. We find a similar interpretation when we look at the meaning of the Hebrew word radah: to have dominion, to rule, to subdue. So what does it mean to have authority over creation?
Well, there are certainly folks out there who would argue it means that we can do whatever the heck we want. We have supreme authority and ownership, if we want to wreck the place it is certainly in our power and perhaps our right to do so. But, those of us who hold positions of authority in the church, at work, at home or in other places in our lives know that to have authority is not simply to have the right to do whatever we want, it is also to have the responsibility for what we are in authority over. This has become the mantra of the church in regards to creation. We have the responsibility to care for creation; it is our job as mandated by God, to take care of this planet.
No matter what side you are on in the global warming debate, I think we can all agree we’ve made a bit of a trash dump of this planet we are supposed to be taking care of. This Sunday, instead of wading into political territory yet again, I thought we would look at something simpler, something closer to home. This Sunday, I want us to think about plastic and what it does to our planet. If we are responsible for taking care of creation then what should our relationship with plastic look like?
Let’s watch a video . . . (show “How Much Plastic is in the Ocean?”) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFZS3Vh4lfI
Plastic is a great example of corporate sin, or the theological idea that we get caught up in a cycle of sin that we can’t get out of. Plastic was invented by us, using knowledge given by God, and it has been used to make the world a better place in a lot of ways. But then the use of plastic grew and grew. It is so cheap and so easily available that we have gotten really good at using it, throwing it away, and not thinking about it at all. This is a sin of apathy. Our actions cause harm to the planet and we don’t really notice or care.
As the plastic in the ocean grows and grows, the effects of the toxins intensify in the environment. We have all seen pictures of turtles and birds who have eaten large pieces of plastic or gotten it trapped on their bodies. It is harder to see the microscopic plastic that lives in these animals and the toxins it releases. I for one, enjoy seafood, and don’t relish the idea of eating plastic or the chemicals used to make plastic as a part of my gourmet dinner.
Through our apathy in the use and abuse of plastics we have caused harm to our planet and to ourselves. We have not been the good stewards God has asked us to be, exercising care and responsibility for the creation. Psalm 148 calls on all of creation to praise God. A plastic planet cannot praise the creator.
I chose the subject of plastics today because I thought it was something we could all address in our own lives. When we look at the whole of creation, it is easy to lose heart as we seem to make this planet worse every day. This is a sinful situation we can’t escape. But we do have the power to make small differences in our own lives which will add up to big differences for our planet. If we narrow our focus, to look simply at our plastic use, we can find an area we can address. Each of us has the responsibility to take care of this planet, and so today, I hope that each of us can make a commitment to reducing our personal use of plastic.
This slide shows 9 tips for living with less plastic. Is there something on this list that you can commit to changing in your own life? Personally I am pretty good about reusable containers and at bringing my own shopping bags. One thing I am not good about is using straws. In fact, I went out to lunch while preparing this sermon, promising myself I would not use a straw and then when I got to the restaurant I completely forgot until I had opened the package and put the straw in my drink. Doh! I promise to pay more attention to my use of straws, and to try to say “no” before the server brings me one. What can you promise to pay attention to this year when it comes to your use of plastics? Can you bring your own bags to the store? Can you carry your own water bottle? Will you join me in saying “no” to straws? Even doing one small thing can make a difference in our world and can be a way we act as good stewards of God’s creation.
Plastic is an amazing invention. But through its use and abuse it has become a harm to creation. Each of us participates in the sin of destroying our planet as we ignore our call to care for creation by throwing away plastic left and right. This Earth Day, let us ask God for forgiveness, and let us make a commitment to using less plastic. Together we can work to save our world from becoming a plastic planet. Amen.