Earth Ministry - Caring for all Creation 

Earth Ministry's 16th Annual Celebration of St. Francis:
Creation - Care Sermon Contest

"Keeping the Sabbath to Keep the Earth" sermon wins contest

One of our Shared Earth Network members, Sherry Golden, participated in a sermon contest in honor of St. Francis. The contest was sponsored by Earth Ministry, a Christian environmental advocacy group based in Seattle, Washington. Six finalists were chosen from entries submitted by 50 people in 13 states. The finalists participated in a live performance at Trinity United Methodist church in Seattle on October 4, 2008 to determine the winner.

Sherry won, and as a consequence, had to preach both services at Plymouth Congregational Church, U.C.C. in downtown Seattle the following morning.

Click Here to go to the Earth Ministry website news article

Enjoy the Complete "Keeping the Sabbath to Keep the Earth" Sermon Below:


by Sherry Golden

Upon finishing the work of creation, God described his creation as good.  Psalms 145:9 says that "God's love is on all His works."    If God made it, and God declared it good, and God loves it, then  maybe we should pay attention to how we are treating it.

In Genesis 2:15 God instructs Adam and Eve to till and "keep" the garden.  The word "keep" used in this passage comes from the Hebrew word "shamar" which means a loving care.  It's the same "keep" found in Numbers 6:24 - "The Lord bless you and keep you."  Keep implies much more than mere ownership or friendly dominion.  We are instructed to lovingly care for the garden earth.

How well are we "keeping" our garden? 
Here are some quick facts about our performance as garden keepers:

We are emitting enough carbon dioxide to raise the earth's temperature between 2.5 and 10 degrees by the year 2050 - enough to melt the glaciers.

Global warming is occurring faster now than at any time in the past 10,000 years.

Human actions have transformed 1/3 to 1/2 of the globe's surface.

In less than 100 years over 1/2 of the forests in the world have been cut and burned.  

More than 100 million Americans live in urban areas where the air is classified by the EPA as unsafe to breathe.

One half of our nation's lakes and 1/3 of our rivers are too polluted to be safe for swimming, let alone drinking.

The U.S. generates 208 million tons of solid waste per year - 4.3 lbs. per person per day. 

Every 60 minutes the planet loses another plant or animal to extinction. 

While we may disagree as to the extent of our destructiveness, we can't disagree that we have been destructive. 

But, hasn't exercising our dominion as we have, the very reason that Americans now enjoy the highest standard of living?  Doesn't that make it alright?  After all, Christ came into the world that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly. WE HAVE MORE THAN ANY OTHER PEOPLE AT ANY OTHER TIME.

But our unprecedented abundance may not be the abundance of a Christ-centered life.  The abundant life of Christ is to set us free and give us peace.  With all of our wealth and education and technology, we have somehow missed the abundance that Christ spoke of, and in the very process that created our deep dissatisfaction, we have  harmed God's creation.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 26.2 % of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.  That's 1 in 4. 

Twice during the past 20 years, the use of anti-depressants tripled.

Drug addiction continues to rise. 

Every day, 13 Americans aged 15-24 commit suicide. 

Since the 1960's, America has seen a 560% increase in violent crime.

In the last 50 years, our incomes have more than doubled, but not so for our level of happiness. 

In the book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight Thom Hartmann explains the myth that  modern people are happier than primitive people because we have more free time. Hartmann's studies of present day primitive tribes reveal that they expend  2-4 hours per day procuring food and attending to the necessities of life, while civilized man must spend at least 6-8 hours per day on equivalent activities.

Hartmann goes on to say, "In modern society, few people report that they feel even remotely "free":  we are modern-day slaves, held captive by . . .  the mortgage, the car loan, the unpaid credit card bills, . . .  and the many other subtle and not-so-subtle forms of economic and cultural pressure. . . ."  We have become a nation of debt-binges and consumer orgies.

Right now, if we do have time left over after working and shopping (which is the #1 American leisure time activity) there are emails to answer and phone calls to make and "to-do" lists to check  and date books to revise and meetings to schedule and events to plan and information to access that is made more current every second of every day.  We've got to stay focused and keep on track and multi-task and multi-multi task, and bigger, better, best and more and more and more and we race in a frantic frenzy after the god of time: 24/7!

"Slaves know when they are slaves, regardless of the words used to describe their slavery."  We will seek escape from slavery, be it in increasingly numbed awareness, increasingly powerful drugs, increasingly intense entertainment or increasingly violent behavior.

What can we do?  God has an  idea - one that he gave to Moses about 3,500 years ago.
God instructed Moses and he instructs us in Exodus 31:14, "You are to keep the Sabbath. . . . Work may be done for six days, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of solemn abstinence from work." 

There are some Christians who don't take the Sabbath seriously because Christ taught and healed on the Sabbath, and permitted the disciples to gather food on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees used this to attack Christ's character.  In his response to their accusations, Jesus said, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."  This statement upholds the Sabbath and expands it.  It is not enough to say we have obeyed the 4th commandment, that we haven't worked.  The Pharisees did that.  We are called to obey the whole law, which may require of us, work on the Sabbath.  So we must observe the Sabbath, but not make of it an idol and not uphold it at the expense of the other 9 commandments. 

God has given us a template for the truly abundant life and it includes the Sabbath.  A still point.  Holy passivity.  Solemn abstinence from work.  In a very real sense, the Sabbath is a memorial to creation.  For 6 days we must strive to sustain our bodies; on the 7th day we can accept the blessings of God to sustain our souls.  By faith we acknowledge ourselves as part of the whole creation: intricately, delicately and beautifully connected to all of life and to the earth itself, so that the well-being of this planet is a reflection of the well-being of our souls.

I urge you to take the Slow Sunday Challenge:  for two whole months, keep the Sabbath.  I'm suggesting two months, because you are probably like me, and it will take that long for you to run out of excuses and confront your busyness addiction.  If you keep the Sabbath for just a few Sundays, you'll never go back.  When I first started really keeping the Sabbath, I was surprised and delighted by the freedom I felt waking up on Sunday morning not having planned my whole day in advance. Saturday nights started to feel like the last day of school before summer vacation. Make your Sabbath a slow day that is entirely different from all the other days of the week.   Don't work.  I don't mean to suggest that hospitals and police stations need to close up shop.  But most of us can rest on Sunday, and our resting on Sunday will decrease the work load of those who have no choice about working on Sunday.  Don't buy anything.  Don't balance the checkbook.  Don't clean house. Don't plan anything. Enjoy your family and friends.  Take a walk.  Play.  Laugh.  Lolly-gag.  Day dream.  Wander.   Read.   Rest.  Pray.

If we all take and keep the Slow Sunday Challenge, we will automatically cut energy use, carbon emissions and destruction of the ozone layer by 14%.  We will decrease water pollution and solid waste. We will slow down our destruction of the garden.  It is likely that keeping the Sabbath will result in additional benefits to planet Earth:  with the time to rest and re-focus built into our schedules, our priorities may shift.  We may find that consuming loses some of its appeal; that appreciation for each other and the universe grows.  In the book Practicing Peace,  E.B. White states,  "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world."  Let's do both!

Take the Slow Sunday Challenge - to keep the Sabbath, and in so doing, to keep the earth.


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