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Genesis 1.26-31

Creation Psalms, selected verses

Happy Earth Day to You!

Third Sunday of Easter

Exactly one year ago today, Debbie and I and our cousins Holly and Paul left the port of Placensia in Belize to sail for a week along the world’s second largest coral reef, about twelve miles off the Belizean coast.  The very first rule of sailing in those waters is, Steer clear of the reef.  Around the world, coral reefs are dying, bleached by warming oceans.  If we were even to nick a reef, we would be subject to a $12,000 fine per incident.  The nation of Belize is serious about protecting its natural resources, and so yes, we were very, very careful.  In fact, one afternoon we needed to cross the reef, and thought we had found a way through; but before we navigated it, a couple of us got into the tender and scoped out a clear passage before we could continue.  We valued the $12,000, yes, and more, we valued the earth.

“An Earth Song,” by Langston Hughes:

It’s an earth song – and I’ve been waiting long for an earth song.

It’s a spring song – and I’ve been waiting long for a spring song.

Strong as the shoots of a new plant

Strong as the bursting of new buds

Strong as the coming of the first child from its mother’s womb.

It’s an earth song, a body song, a spring song,

I have been waiting long for this spring song.

I confess, one of the things I miss about the early days of the pandemic is al fresco worship – for me, at least.  As soon as it became warm enough in the spring of 2020, I hauled my music stand out to the back yard, placed the iPad in the center, arranged my sermon just so on either side of it so I wouldn’t have to keep looking down as I preached, and enjoyed soaking up the great outdoors for that hour on Sunday morning all spring and summer and into the fall.  I loved all the colors surrounding me, and pulled them into the service as often as I could.  And while I didn’t hear or notice it as much as you who were on the other end of the broadcast, I was continuously accompanied by a cacophony of birdsong.  You remember that.  Some of your comments remarked how loud the birds were, and one or two of you suggested you might rather hear them than me, a sentiment with which I heartily concur.  Creation is magnificent, and I so enjoyed being outdoors on Sunday mornings as much as did many of you who worshiped from your porch or deck or own backyard.

The Psalmist certainly shared an enthusiastic appreciation for creation.  There is an entire genre of psalms in the psalter called creation psalms; there are sixteen of them in all, and they aren’t confined to the book of psalms: there are creation psalms, or hymns, in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Habakkuk as well.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and all those who live in it; for the Lord has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers.” 

The earth is the Lord’s.  Or is it?  Sometimes I wonder.  Yesterday was Earth Day, April 22, the 53rd anniversary of the very first Earth Day in 1970.  The Tri Town area celebrated  with a host of events, including the Source-to-Sea clean up, drug take-backs, flower planting, street chalking, an electric vehicle presentation and an electronics recycling event right here at the United Church.  I know the schools, scout troops, local shop owners and sports teams got involved as well.  Earth Day is always a good day for creation.  And Lord knows the earth could use a good scrubbing for all that we do to it the rest of the year.  I shudder to think what poured into the Thames River Friday morning when that oil truck overturned on the Gold Star Bridge and began to spill its flaming contents into the river below.  I don’t know though, it seems to me that more than a day needs to be set aside for care of the earth.  It’s like what we said about Thanksgiving last fall:  maybe we should set aside one day of the year when we can be careless with creation, and then use the other 364 days to care for her instead of the other way around.

But if focusing on one day of the year does anything, it can at least teach us good habits.  I’ll never forget the Earth Day my daughter Clare came home from second grade with a startling discovery:  when you brush your teeth, you can actually turn the water faucet off between rinses – it opened her eyes to the ways we unthinkingly waste our natural resources, and it left such an impression on her that she has been a quiet eco-warrior ever since.  So Yes, much good can come from Earth Day.  You’d think we might try it more often.

The psalmist makes an interesting observation in Psalm 24, I wonder if you noticed it:  “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live in it.”  Did you notice the psalmist lumps us into creation along with everything else on earth?  Diane read one of the two creation stories in the book of Genesis.  It is kind of a 35,000 foot view of the creation of humanity.  It is such a general description that it doesn’t tell us how many human beings God created at the start, nor their names, nor much else about us, only that we are blessed, we are given stewardship or responsibility for creation, and that it is all good.  It is the second creation story, the one in Genesis 2, that offers a more detailed view:  it tells us how many people God created at the beginning, their gender, and how each one was created.  The first man was formed from the dust of the earth, hence the name Adam, “son of the earth,” or literally “son of the red earth.”  When you’re made from clay, you turn out red, I suppose.  But it is the same point the psalmist makes, that humanity is both from, and part of the earth.  It’s where we get the word human, right?Human is related to the word humus, which mean something that comes from and belongs to the ground.  Humus, earth, humanity.    I think it’s worth noting because it begins to blur the dividing line between humanity and creation.  While God has tasked us with caring for creation, it is primarily because we are part of it, and it is in our own best interest to take care of it because we are creation as well.

And what happens if we don’t?  I think this is where a lot of people get it wrong.  It is going to be pretty difficult to destroy creation.  Rising sea levels, intensifying storms, massive wildfires, spreading droughts, earthquakes in faultless zones, a slowing gulf stream, melting glaciers, warming oceans, bleached coral, disappearing lakes – I’m looking at you, Lake Mead and Lake Powell - none of this even all taken together will destroy the earth.  Earth will survive.  The greatest threat climate change represents is not to the planet, but to its inhabitants.  To us, to humanity.  The earth is 4 ½ billion years old, give or take a few million; by contrast humanity has only existed for the past five to seven million, or one and a half thousandth the life span of the earth.  The real issue at the center of care for creation is not the earth itself but rather the earth as a habitable home for humanity.  The planet itself was here long before us, and if we don’t care for it, I dare say it will remain after we are long gone.  To put it another way, the planet will care for us for as long as we care for the planet.  If we don’t, those rising sea levels, wildfires and ferocious storms will someday consume us, even as the planet finds a way of enduring without us.

We are part of creation:  the world and all those who live in it.  God formed humanity from the dust of the ground, and breathed into our nostrils the breath of life.  We are human because we come from the earth, the humus.  And this is why it eludes me when folks don’t seem to understand how important it is that we take the words of the psalmist seriously, The earth is the Lord’s and the earth is ours, and if we don’t care for it, it won’t care for us.  I heard a George Harrison song called while I was driving the other day.; it’s called “Save the World,”  and its lyrics sing, “We’ve got to save the world / someone else may want to use it / rain forest chopped for paper towels / one acre gone in every hour / Our birds and wildlife all destroyed / to keep some millionaires employed / we’ve got to save the world, someone’s children they may need it…”

If my second grade daughter can practice water conservation, I can return the favor by leaving her a better earth.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live in it.” 

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United Church of Chester, 29 West Main Street, Chester, CT 06412. (860) 526-2697


From the North: Take CT Route 9 South to Exit 8 (old exit 6) (CT 148). Turn left; we are 1 mile on the right.


From the South: Take CT Route 9 North to Exit 8 (old exit 6) (CT 148). Turn Right; we are .8 miles on the right.

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