April 23, 2009

Earth Day 2009 Sermon

While I was in seminary I served a church in a small hamlet called Potomac, Maryland.  I couldn't begin to guess the average home price in Potomac, but in my two years there a several hundred unit townhouse neighborhood was developed with a price-tag starting at $700k.  A half mile in the other direction was a cul-de-sac of McMansions that had a banner espousing their 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, and elevators.  The people who lived and played in Potomac were comfortable, to say the least.
    One of the members of that church, Andrew, was a British national who worked, as most people there did, for the Federal Government.  He and his Romanian wife, were living the American dream in the DC Suburb of Potomac.  One Sunday, after I had preached a sermon openly wondering why an able bodied family in need of a six bedroom house would need an elevator Andrew and I got talking about the excess of materialism.
    "I don't mind people having second or even third homes," he said to me, "I just wish everybody could have a first home first."
    I've thought a lot about that statement in the four years since Andrew said it to me.  And it has been in the front of my mind for the past week as I've wrestled with the narrative we heard from Acts.
    It is hard for us, in 21st century, capitalistic America to fathom the life of the early church.  No one held any personal possessions, everything was held in a common purse.  It conjures up images, for me, of hippies living in communes in the 1960s.  Mostly getting high, but occasionally doing enough work to cultivate some string beans or goat's milk.  The lifestyle seems awfully difficult to reproduce in our time and place.  But there is a standard toward which I think we can strive, "there was not a needy person among them."
    We prayed, in the Collect for Today, to our God who in the Easter mystery established a new covenant of reconciliation.  And I think that if we take that quality of God seriously, and really mean it when we pray that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, then we, as the Church and as individual followers of Jesus must strive for a world where there is not a needy person among us.
    To be reconciled to all people is to understand how our lifestyle impacts the life of all of God's creation; from our neighbors, to the coral reefs off the coast of Australia.  I believe that in our baptismal covenant God calls us to take seriously the basic needs of all people.  By promising to respect the dignity of every human being, we say that we will do all in our power to allow every person to be fully human.
    Today is International Earth Day, a day on which our attention is turned to the impact we are having on the environment.  As Christians, Earth Day should mean so much more.  Today, and everyday, should be days in which we ponder the impact we are having on the whole world and every living creature contained there-in.  How do our consumption habits further complicate the drought-fed famines in Sub-Saharan Africa.  How does our sex obsessed Western culture feed the HIV/AIDS pandemic?  How does the American philosophy of scarcity lead to over production, over spending, and pollution?
    Help us to show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith, O Father, that the world which you created might return to its brilliance and bring you honor and glory.  Amen.

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