Books of the Bible
Christ's Spirit and the Earth
During this summer,
we have been preaching a series of sermons. When we get into Romans,
chapter eight, one of the finest chapters in the whole Bible, we
meet the theme of us human beings wanting to be set free. A few
weeks ago, we said that we human beings wanted to be set free of our
flesh, our sinful nature, our unhealthy habits of personality, our
defects of character. We
talked about the four particular faces of the flesh or sinful
nature: our sexuality, anger, alcoholism and other addictions, and
sinful ambition and envy. These are facet of our flesh, four areas
of human weakness, four areas of our personality which are
particularly vulnerable to sin. And we want to be set free of these
sins. We all have parts of our personalities that trip us up and we
pray to God, “Lord, please set me free from my foibles, set me
free from my failures, set me free from the persistent things that I
do wrong. Thank you for your forgiveness. I pray that you will now
help me to grow in holiness, in wholeness, in goodness that changes
Today, the Apostle
Paul takes his argument one step further. In the epistle lesson for
today, he says that the creation itself, God’s world, wants to be
set free from sin. Just as I want to be set free from my compulsive
deficits of character, so also the creation itself wants to be set
free from the power of sin upon it. The earth is like me and I am
like the earth; we both want to be set free of the power of
sin in our lives. We both want to grow in holiness, in
wholeness, in goodness.
Today, I would like
to reread two verses for you, “For the creation waits with eager
longing for the revealing of the sons of God. The creation itself
waits with eager longing for its liberation. The creation itself
will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious
liberty of the children of God.” Just as we, the children of God,
are freed from sin, so the Apostle Paul looks forward to the time
when the creation is free from sin.
All systems have
warning signals. For example, we have some plants in our house. And if we
haven’t watered our house plants recently, they start drooping
over. That is a warning a warning signal. What we do when the house
plants begin to drop, we get some water, water the house plants, and
miraculously, their leaves perk up and look healthy again. If you
don’t water the house plant, the results are clear:
the house plant will die.
Cars have warning
systems. On our dashboard are little red lights, and if something is
wrong with one of the systems in the car, these red lights flash on
the dash board. These are warning lights, warning signals, and you
are to respond immediately to fix the problem. The point is, you had
to fix the problem, and if you don’t, the results are
catastrophic. I know catastrophic. That is, years ago, Jan’s car
did not have little red lights for a warning system but needles
instead of red warning lights. I did not watch the needles since I
was accustomed to red lights. The
engine overheated; I blew up the engine. Let me tell you, it was
catastrophic and costly.
Your body has
warning systems. Everyone’s body has warning systems. A person can
get light headed, have a lump in the breast, or get short winded
when you climb the steps. You then know that it is time to go and
see the doctor. There are literally hundreds of warning systems
within our body, and when something isn’t right, we know we need
to go see the doctor. Our bodies all have warning systems, and if
you ignore the warning systems, you will die.
warning systems. Like all human bodies have warning systems within
them, so also all marriages also have warning systems within them.
When a husband and wife are not talking with each other; or when the
husband and wife use some excuse to away from the house; or when a
husband and wife conveniently don’t physically and gently touch
each other, these are usually warning signs that there is something
wrong in the marriage. And like in every other situation, if
marriages don’t recognize their warnings systems and do something
about the problem, the marriage will be destroyed.
The same is true
for our bodies, our cars, our house plants, and almost everything
else under creation. The whole world has warning systems into it.
Do you remember
when you were attending grades school and some one would push the
fire alarm and it would go “clang clang clang.” Or today, the
fire alarm goes off in a grade school and there are sounds of sirens
and flashing lights.
It seems to me
today the alarm has been set off around Mother Earth. It is as if
there are all kinds of warning systems that something is wrong with
Mother Earth right now. We have a choice: we can do nothing and this
earth will become a catastrophic mess. I mean, you can ignore the
warning systems on the planet and the planet will become even sicker
than it is today and will die. Similarly, you can ignore warning
systems on a car and it will destroy the engine. You can ignore
warning systems on the human body and it too will die. You can
ignore the warning systems in your marriage and it will die. And if
you ignore the warning systems on Mother Earth, it too will die.
That is just the way the world is. We have all kinds of warning
systems going off about the state of health of the earth, and we
have a choice, to do something about these warning signals or not.
I have two images
of the earth in my mind. I have the picture of the earth from outer
space, the image of a most beautiful blue planet against a backdrop
of black infinity. The earth is so incredibly beautiful when
photographed from high above the planet from a space capsule. The
other image I have of earth is a close up picture of a duck caught
in an oil spill. This duck gets caught in an old spill and it is
covered with gunk. Someone is trying to clean the tar, the oil, the
thick goo off of the duck. If the goo is not cleaned off of the
duck, the duck will die. A question is asked: How do you prevent
further tar, oil spills and gooy gunk from spilling on the earth? I
feel that the earth is gradually being coated with a coat of gunk, a
coat of oil and gradually we sense the earth may be dying.
children’s sermon for today, I feel that one of the favorite rooms
in God’s house is suffering from the consequences “kiddy
Let me give you
some illustrations of the warning systems on the earth. In the past
while he was alive, many of us watched the television series by
Jacque Costeau, the Frenchman who would go down deep into the ocean
in his bathysphere and studied the depths of the oceans. Jacque
Costeau told us that the plankton in the ocean was dying rapidly and
the percentage of plankton in the ocean floors was going down
dramatically. Why is this so important? Because plankton is the
number one resource for oxygen in the earth. If you don’t have
plankton, you don’t have oxygen. If you don’t have oxygen, you
don’t have people. So we ask questions: what is causing this
depletion of plankton in the oceans? What is going on? What is
happening to the plankton in the oceans?
Let’s say that we
don’t go thousands of feet under water but that we go fifteen
miles up into the atmosphere. Let’s go up to the upper ceiling of
the ozone layer that surrounds the earth. We all hear about the
ozone layer. There is a fear that there is a depletion of the ozone
layer around us, that there are holes in the ozone layer above the
polar caps. A few years ago, we were reading about fluorocarbons and
we were not supposed to use our aerosol cans of spray because it was
contributing to the disintegration of the ozone layer. We don’t
hear much about that today. But because we do not hear much about
that today, that does not mean the problem has gone away. … What
happens when the ozone layer is depleted? Our protective shield from
the sun’s rays will be diminished and we will have an enormous
increase in the rate of skin cancer plus other problems.
We also know that
there is a problem with the non-renewable natural resources. If you
read the book, LIMITS TOG GROWTH, by MIT scholars, they discuss the
exponential growth in the use of non-renewable natural resources.
According to them, using our non-renewable natural resources at the
current rates of consumption, the human race will be out of many of
these resources like coal, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, magnesium and
mercury within one hundred years. It appears to me that our grand
children and great grandchild will face a significant shortage of
many of the non-renewable natural resources if we continue to use
these resources at the current rate we are using them.
So we talk about
warning systems on this earth: the plankton, the ozone, the
non-renewable natural resources. But we haven’t talked about the
world population. The exponential growth of the earth’s human
population is frightening. Already, the population of the earth has
more than doubled in my lifetime. When I went to college, I recall
that the population of the earth was two billion people. Then it was
four billion. Within a few years, it will be six billion people on
this earth. Six billion, then eight billion living on this little
claustrophobic place called Earth. Six billion people dumping and
polluting. And wait until the simplicities of the Third World
countries develop their technologies and increase their standards of
living, the pollution rates will accelerate.
What I am
suggesting to you is that there are all kinds of alarms going off on
this earth that God has entrusted to us. If you do nothing about the
warning systems in the human body, it will die. If you do nothing
about the warning systems in your marriage, it will die. If you do
nothing about the warning systems in your car’s engine, it will
die. If you do nothing about the warning systems in your house
plants, the plants will die. If we do nothing about the warning
systems on the earth, it too will die.
epistle lesson from the Apostle Paul, he says that the whole
creation is groaning in agony, groaning like it has the pains of
child birth, groaning like it has the pains of labor when having a
child. Paul says, that this groaning and pain of the earth is the
result of the consequences of sin. Unwittingly, nature has become
involved in the consequences of human sin, the results of the sins
of the human race.
The earth is not
sinning willfully; the earth is experiencing the consequences of the
sins of the human race. Paul is profoundly true. That is, sin is
often the consequence of not what I do, but what someone else has
done and I experience the consequences of their sin. For example, an
alcoholic driving a car while under the influence of alcohol and his
drunken driving kills my child or grandchild. It is not my sin that
causes the death in my family but I experience the consequences of
the alcoholic’s sin. So it is with the earth. The earth did not
sin itself but has experienced the consequences of sin by humans.
In the text for
today, just as you and I want to set free of our deficits of
character, our unhealthy pieces of our personality, and just as God
supplies us with the power of the Spirit of Christ that transforms
our human spirits so that we make the necessary changes in our
personal lives, so God also wants to free the earth itself from the
sinful consequences that the earth is experiencing. Just as you and
I want to be freed from the power of sin in the unhealthy pieces of
our personalities, so also the earth wants to be freed of the power
of sin and those destructive habits that are destroying the earth.
The earth itself wants to be set free. The earth wants to be
liberated from this destructive power of sin.
Both we ourselves and the earth want to be
freed of the power and consequences of sin.
So what are we
going to do about these alarms that are going off in Mother Earth
all around us? Do we bury our sins in the sands and say, “It is
too big of a problem for me. We can’t do anything about it. And so
we do nothing except eat, drink and be merry and let our great
grandchildren face consequences of our collective actions today.”
By contrast, I have
yet to meet a very sick person who was diagnosed with cancer say,
“I quit.” No, it is just the opposite.
Every person that I know who gets cancer wants to do
something about it. They want to do something about that cancer, no
matter how serious that cancer is. Everybody is like that. Similarly,
I believe that Christians that are led by the Spirit of Christ want
to do something about the cancers covering our earth.
In the Biblical
text for today, it says that the whole creation is groaning in labor
pains and then it says, “We are saved by hope.” When the Spirit
of Christ is upon us, as we said last week, we know that we
are the children of God, and as the children of God, we are filled
with hope, we abound in hope, we bounce up with hope, and so we are
hopeful as we participate in the liberation of the earth from the
cancerous consequences of sin.
So what do we do?
We need to be reminded that the earth is the Lord’s and the
fullness thereof. “This is my father’s world and let me not
forget.” This is my father’s world and not my little sandbox.
This past week, I have been trying to think of an analogy. That is,
I am a guest in the Father’s house, in the Father’s mansion. My
wife and I don’t live in a mansion, so the closest thing I can
come to as a mansion is my brother’s home in Eau Claire,
Wisconsin, and he lives in a home which was the old governor’s
mansion for the governor of Wisconsin. His house is unusually
classy, formal and elegant. It is always immaculately clean and
neat, and when we are there as a family, we would never mess us his
home, we would never mess up his mansion. We are guests in my
brother’s home. I will mess up my own home and my own living
space, but not my brother’s mansion. I know I am a guest there. No
“kiddy litter” left by me or mine in my brother’s mansion. It
would not be right.
But, in the Bible,
I am not a guest in the Father’s house but a child living in my
Father’s house, and the earth is one of God’s favorite rooms in
his house. In fact, I think that the earth is one of the most
desirable rooms owned by God the Father. Of all the spaces and
places in the universe, I think the earth must be one of the best
I, as a child of
God, do not own the Father’s home, but live in it. I live in the
Father’s house which is not my own. Similarly, in our own home in
lower Woodmont, we love our home in Woodmont just as God loves his
home, the earth. Our kids don’t garbage up our home on Woodmont,
and similarly, we God’s children do not garbage God’s house on
earth. Our don’t mess
up our house, coat it with oil, gunk it with goo. It is our home,
and our children take good care of it. Our kids take pride in their
home. They take good care of their home which is owned by their
mother and father.
What do we do about
the earth being gripped by the consequences of our sinful behaviors:
We need to be reminded that the earth belongs to the Lord,
and that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. As my
children love and care for our home in lower Woodmont, so we, the
children of God, are to love and care for Gods home.
So what else do we
do about the warning sirens? We need to clean up our messes in this
earth. We need to clean our messes up, as we would do in any home in
which we live. There is a man who lives in our neighborhood whose
house and yard are a mess, and he never cleans up his messes. I feel
sorry for this particular man’s neighbors, because he does not
clean up the messes that he leaves behind him and his messes just
accumulate. We need to be like normal people; that is, we need to
clean up the messes we have made in our home. We want to clean up
the messes we leave behind us in our parent’s home.
As said in the
children’s sermon, we need to clean up the “kiddy litter” that
is being left over all the earth. A friend from the congregation was
recently down in Florida recently told me that there was no “kiddy
litter” along the highways of Florida. The highways were clean.
When you drive on the highways in the state of Washington, our grass
roadsides are terrible there is so much junk in them. I go for a
walk in the morning up our canyon road by our home, there is so much
“kiddy litter” along the roadside that it is upsetting for
someone who loves the canyon road. We need to clean up our “kiddy
litter” and persuade other people to do the same.
We also need to
continue to create and enforce legislation that is designed to
protect the land. I have friends that fish in Lake Erie that was
once almost dead but was cleaned up. People talk about cleaning up
the hot spots, the nasty spots, in Puget Sound and the Duwamish
We need to develop
an ethics for the future. I like the book by a theologian, Dr. Carl
Braaten. The title of the book is ETHICS AND ESCHATOLOGY. He says
that when we have developed ethics have to do with our past and
present. We focus on our sins of the past or the present. Dr.
Braatan is suggesting that we ask ourselves questions about the
future: what I am doing today, how will it affect the world one
hundred years from now, a thousand years from now? Not just for
yesterday and not just for today, but for tomorrow. A system of
ethics is primarily to be concerned about the future: how will my
current action affect coming generations.
That is why I hope
that when it comes to nuclear technology, that we continue to do
something about nuclear waste. Today, we are continuing to face the
problem of what to do with nuclear waste that is to last for ten
thousand years. How do we address nuclear waste and solve these
It seems to me
Dr. Braaten was right when he said that we need to be
constantly developing the ethical questions that are future
oriented: How is the world going to be affected by our actions in
one hundred years from now, in a thousand years from now.
eight. In Romans 8, we hear about the Spirit of Christ twenty-one
times in one chapter. It is as if the flood gates of the dam of the
Spirit have been opened and the mighty power of the Spirit of Christ
flows in us God’s children. With the Spirit of Christ flowing in
us and empowering us,
we put to death the defects of our character. With the Spirit of
Christ flowing in us and empowering us, we put to death the cancers
that are killing the earth, for we are God’s children, filled with
hope for the future. Amen.
SERMON Today, for the children’s sermon, I would like to talk
about “kiddy litter.” The word, kiddy, is spelled, k I d d y.
There once was a boy and a girl who came home from
McDonald’s one day with lunch. They had been over to McDonald’s,
got a take out lunch, came
home and sat in their living room with their sacks from
McDonald’s. They had both gotten a Happy Meal, with fries and nuggets,
and coke, along with surprise
toys, plus of course straws and napkins. When the two children
finished the nuggets, they threw the wrappings for the nuggets on
the living room floor. Then they finished the fries, and threw the
paper bags for the fries onto the floor. Strange kids. Then they
drank the cokes and then threw the paper cups and plastic straws
onto the living room floor. They then opened the toys that were
wrapped in plastic and threw the plastic onto the floor and actually
threw the toys onto the floor after they had played with the toys.
After he was all finished, they said, “That was a good
lunch. I think I will go.” What strange kids. That is what can be
called “Kiddy Litter.” Tell me, if I were the owner of that
house and the parents, would I like what those kids were doing? No.
Those kids were making a real
garbage dump in my living room. … Likewise, the earth is God’s
living room. The earth is the most special place in the whole
universe. This earth is part of God’s house, and God has this real
problem with “kiddy litter.” All these kids and adults are
throwing litter in God’s living room. God does not like it one bit
and I don’t blame God for feeling that way. God just doesn’t
like kiddy litter. Amen.