The sermon for week April 24, 2016
Shared InterestPsalm 104:1-26
Introduction to the Psalm and its cosmology: The psalmist is not thinking in terms of the universe as we know and understand it. The psalmist understanding is of the earth as the center, a land mass floating on foundations that God has set into what the Hebrews referred to as the Deep. (Think Genesis 1) God separated the waters, the deep, from the deep. These waters, the deep, were not water as we understand it, but it was the chaos out of which God would create. God separated these Waters over and waters under. This second act of creation was finished by God placing a firmament in the heavens to hold back the deep, hold back the chaos. This psalm then goes on to celebrate this God that tames the chaos and creates order in life.
In the Psalm, we seamlessly move from praise to play to praise. Psalm 104 is a cosmic roll call of praise. The catchy song “All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir” (by Bill Staines) cleverly captures the psalm’s inclusive reach. In the Psalm, we seamlessly move from Praise to a retelling of creation, to a light moment of play and then back to praise.
The Psalm begins with a spirit of praise. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” The rest of the Psalm is a song of joy of what God has created (Verses 5-9 are a whole cosmology in and of itself, very different then our understanding of the cosmos.) In verses 10-23 we read of the joy of creation. In verse 24, we read of the summation of creation… But then in 26 we catch a true glimpse of the spirit of the author. The author writes of the Leviathan (a whale) which sports (plays) in the sea. In that era, the leviathan was a mythic creature to be feared for its power and strength to bring devastation. Imagine a great whale upsetting your small boat. But the Psalmist now knows that this God, our God, is a God that controls even the Leviathan in such a way that now the Leviathan, the whale, is no cause for fear for now under God’s control it only wants to play.
This is our God, the God that causes the Leviathan, the thing that that we fear, to be at play. If we can imagine our God doing that, then we can see God at work in the little things as well. We can catch a glimpse of the holy in the Robin singing its heart out at 5am in the morning outside our bedroom window. (The other morning I woke earlier than usual, and heard the call of the Robin as he was proclaiming his territory.) Or as I sat at my picnic table this past week at dusk, I caught a glimpse of the holy as I saw a bat flying overhead searching for insects. As it flew past the moon, I thought of the Psalm, “”How manifold are thy works.” On my drive to Columbus this week, on a country road I caught a glimpse of off the side of a road a woodland. Throughout the woods there were May Apples and early spring flowers in bloom. Again my thoughts turned to the Psalmist, ”How manifold are thy works.”
But then my thoughts also turned to this week’s celebration of Earth day. On Friday, leaders from many nations gathered to address the growing crisis that climate change is creating. A crisis fueled by our use of fossil fuels and the resulting carbon that is released into the atmosphere. Little did the Hebrews know that there cosmology that included the chaotic waters of the deep that is below and above the earth that their understanding was partially correct. But it was not water that was going to cause the chaos, it was Carbon, the building block of life that once released from the deep would be the cause of so much chaos.
On Friday, I read that at the United Nations, an agreement had been signed to reduce carbon emissions by 25% and that our president was a participant in the signing. 25%! How is that attainable? What is he thinking?
I suspect what he is thinking is what I am thinking. What can I do to make this world sustainable for my children, for Stephen and David, and for my grandchildren and great grandchildren that have yet to be born? Is a 25% reduction in carbon doable? Is it within reach?
It made me wonder. Three years ago when Ellen and I moved to Toledo we bought a home in Old Orchard. In that first year, on my natural gas bill I saw an opportunity to take advantage of an energy audit at virtually no cost to me. The audit suggested that
I install insulation. If I did so, I would save over $450 dollars a year in my gas bill and recoup the cost of the insulation within 4 years. This was a no brainer. I took advantage of it.
Then about two years ago I saw the price of LED bulbs drop to such a level that it made sense to replace all of the light bulbs in my house. This too was a no brainer. I took advantage of it and have saved over $200 a year on my electric bill. Plus I no longer go around on a monthly basis changing light bulbs.
Then this past December, it became apparent that I needed to replace my 2002 pickup due to age and repairs. I replaced it with something more economical to drive. I was getting 16 miles to the gallon with the truck. I bought a plugin electric hybrid. Every week since I bought the car I have had the fun of informing Ellen of what good mileage I am getting. This past week I announced to her that was averaging 67 miles to the gallon. At that rate, I figure I am saving $1,300 in fuel alone each year, not counting the repairs.
With the event of Earth day, I was challenged to consider my carbon footprint and how I might reduce it. I did the math and I was startled at what I had accomplished without even thinking about it. Let me put it in perspective. You might have noticed on your way in to church that there was a pickup truck full of dirt parked on the side walk. You probably thought…. Well that is my truck. In the bed of that truck is a load of topsoil. I loaded as much topsoil as the truck can safely carry. There is 1,100 pounds of top soil in it, slightly over ½ ton.
By doing the energy audit and insulating my house, I discovered that not only had I saved $450 per year, but I had reduced my carbon footprint by 8,640 pounds per year. That is over 4 tons, or the equivalent in pounds of almost 8 truckloads of top soil.
By switching to LED bulbs, I not only had saved over $200 per year but I had reduced my carbon footprint in pounds the equivalence of almost 2 truckloads of topsoil. I am now up to 10 truckloads or one full line of spaces at the East end of the parking lot.
Then the kicker of all was that I had replaced my truck with the purchase of a plugin electric hybrid. Not only had I saved $1,300 per year in gas (that is at $2.00 a gallon, imagine the savings at a higher gas price) but I reduced my carbon footprint by over 12,600 pounds, the equivalent of over 11 truckloads of topsoil.
At this point, I figure that I my carbon footprint has been reduced by over 23,000 pounds per year, or the equivalent of the weight of over 21 truckloads of topsoil. Can you imagine.
By the way, the church by placing solar panels on the roof saved enough energy to power a good sized home. The carbon saved was over 7,800 pounds or the equivalent of the weight of 7 truckloads of topsoil.
With every sermon that I give, I always ask the question, so what. My hope is that today’s so what might be answered by several of you taking to heart what you might do for your children, grandchildren that I have done for Stephen and David and my grandchildren (God willing) who have yet to be born. Here I thought that I was taking these steps to save expenses, a total of just shy of $2,000 dollars a year, but I found out not only was I saving almost $2,000 a year, but I was also reducing my carbon footprint by over 23,000 pounds per year. That reduction by the way was a 43% reduction in my carbon footprint over the past three years. The action on Friday at the United Nations only called for a 25% reduction. I shot past that goal by an additional 18% without even trying. I was not even thinking about my carbon footprint and I went way beyond the goal only because I was trying to save a few dollars. Imagine what we could do for our children and grandchildren if we put our mind to it.
Imagine this, if only five families of the many families that attend this church did what I have done, they would save the equivalent of the weight of over 120 truckloads of my pickup truck full of topsoil. That is enough pickup truck loads that if we parked them in our parking lot they would take up all of the spaces. And that is only if 5 families decided to save a few dollars in energy costs.
--By the way, if you are not in the position to insulate, change to LEDs or to replace a vehicle, if you were to plant on tomato plant and eat home grown tomatoes rather than buying them from the store, you would reduce your carbon footprint by 40 pounds.
Imagine the blessing that we can give to our children and grandchildren.