Trash Talk

(Job 12:7-12; Revelation 21:1-6) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Nov 4, 2018 – UBC Digby

I think I have wanted to give a ‘trash talk’ for some years now.  So I brought a trash bag for the sermon today. Let’s see what we do with the garbage.
[Sort some…]

This is not what we used to do with our garbage.  We have come a long way since I was a child, and it all went in one bag to a dump on the edge of town, or got burned or buried in the backyard.

This matters to the God we worship here: how we take out the trash.  How we recycle, and reuse. And how we shop for the things packaged in all this, to begin with.  
God is the Lover of all creation.  

Next June a couple of people will be touring the Maritimes, giving talks and sermons about ecology.  I look forward to what Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow will share.

But is this one of our priorities?  Isn’t God’s project on earth all about Jesus?  All about human souls and salvation and eternity?  ‘This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ thru’?  Many believers look to the future hopes of Revelation, in the Bible, and see that this world, with its problems, is temporary.  John, of the Revelation, hears a holy Voice in his vision say: “See, I am making all things new!”

It makes sense to me for us to do now with earth and sky what the apocalypse will do for it in the future: give a new heavens and a new earth.  If all the Bible poetry that hopes and trusts in a peaceful kingdom inspires us, surely we can come as close to it now as we can. Some examples are in the book of Isaiah.  We can read of the beautiful kingdom, where the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom. (Is 35).  

I think also of the great moment when the Temple in Jerusalem was dedicated by King Solomon.  After the great day of prayers, we read in 2 Chronicles (7)
12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

If the people will humbly pray and turn from their wicked ways… the land will be healed. Sometimes, our best prayers – and answers to prayers – are in our hands, in our own actions.  If the ideal – and God’s own vision of creation – is beauty and not garbage, then surely we can live into that hope now, without things being perfect?

Let’s sort some more trash and be inspired…

Our consumption, and our waste, matter to our Saviour, now.  So with John the revelator, we can see that vision of new heavens and a new earth, and be inspired to live in better ways here and now.  

As you know, I believe in a local church as a little spiritual community that cares for creation.  My own vision for Church that I articulated to you in January of 2017, has four points.  1. Increase our mission. 2. Decrease our maintenance. 4. Discipleship. 3. Creation Care: be a congregation that is always improving how we live in the natural environment in which our Creator has placed us.  I reiterated this in my annual report to you back in January of this year.  

Think again about this goal: always improving how we live in creation. I hear my Master calling us to this.  I hear the scriptures calling to us. I hear creation call out to us.  There is an inspiring vision of new heavens and a new earth today.  Not just for ‘the end’ of the world.  For today.

When a fellowship of Christians values creation more and more, I see several benefits.  It is good for creation: we stop trashing it! It is a good value to have because doing better and making a difference is truly possible!  We also have a role in our culture to inspire and educate others to reuse, recycle, and respect the whole earth. And, the Good News about Jesus’ Kingdom is comprehensive, total, all-inclusive: saving the whole person, the whole community, the whole planet.  

We are about to have this simple, monthly ceremony we call the Lord’s Supper.  And what are we doing? Taking physical bread and real grape juice and sharing them.  Things that grew from the earth, things that were not human, but are life-giving. We remember that our faith tradition proclaims that whatever God is, God becomes a human, completely a human, within the physical creation.  God enters and joins the earth. For the sake of us all.

What is God like?  God is like Jesus. And Jesus was one of us, an animal here on this planet.  May He inspire us to live well in our time together here. May Christ lead us to make a difference in this critical age. May Jesus’ own sacrifice for our lives change they way we live in every way: from the way we talk about God to the way we take out the trash.  

In the name of the Creator, the Child, and the Spirit.  AMEN.

Rebuilding a Nation

(Haggai 1:15b – 2:9; Rev 21:1-4)

Sun, Nov 6, 2016 – UBC Digby – J G White

Disaster has come.  Disaster is over.  How do we rebuild our lives?  How can we rebuild? This has been the challenge of many a people through the ages.  

Picture this scene from history…  A nation had been conquered and divided.  The enemy had come and taken over.  The capital city, destroyed.  Many of the leaders and civilians taken away from their homeland.  Forced to live in a foreign land.  When would this be over?  When could they return?  Some of the people remained behind, to survive in the ruins and under the rule of the foreign power.

Finally, the day comes, and there is an opportunity for freedom.  To return to the homeland. To rebuild.   But when they get back, the once proud city is still in ruins.  The rebuilding starts, but the situation is desperate, the people who returned, poor.  

Then a prophetic voice speaks up: a voice of hope, a voice of encouragement, a voice of challenge.  Rebuild!  Get to work! God will be with you!

This was the Jews, returning to the Promised Land, 2,500 years ago, in 520 BCE.  The prophetic voice who told them to rebuild their holy Temple and their city, Jerusalem, was the prophet Haggai.

Other prophets and leaders were telling them the same thing back then, the same message from God.  Be strong; take courage.  Work.  Do not fear. I, the LORD, will be with you.  

This Bible text for today took me immediately to thoughts about our world, seventy years ago, at the end of World War Two.  The men and women who had worked and fought and survived were the ones who now had to rebuild their nations.  Rebuild their cities and towns.  Rebuild their homes and places of work, their schools and churches.  

Here in Canada, we did not have the destruction on our native soil… but in Europe, in Russia, in Japan, and many other places, there was much to rebuild.  Not to mention rebuilding of life and hope and the rebuilding of a peace within that had been shattered.

At the end of WWII, about 60 million people had been killed.  Some of this was battle, some of this was disease, some of this was genocide.  The world knows the number 6 million: the Jews who were gone.  26 million Soviet people were dead.  More than 15 million Chinese. Perhaps 6 million from Poland, 3 million Japanese, 1.7 million of Yugoslavia, and so on.  419 thousand Americans, more than 43 thousand Canadians killed.  

So I have been pondering the rebuilding of nations, of cities, of homes, and of the countryside across the globe in the 1940s and after.  This was also the work of our veterans, and the civilian population.

And this is just the story of that war.  Talk to somone who fled Syria in recent years about their home city, still being destroyed today.  How long will it be before those battles are over, and the rebuilding starts?  No wonder so many have left as refugees, never to return.  The deep discouragement is palpable.  

So it was in those days of the Jews returning to Jerusalem after more than 65 years of captivity in Babylon to the north.  The place was a disaster.  The people wanted to rebuild the city, and God’s Temple… but at times they wanted just to survive.  

And that word from God comes to them, while they stand among the ruins on the hill of Zion… Do any of you remember this Temple, this House of God, before?  And now it is nothing.  But be strong, people!  Take courage, leaders!  Work, for I am with you, says your God.  This has always been my promise.  I remain with you in Spirit.  Don’t fear!

When it’s all said and done, we know our lives, our nations, our earthly cities are all temporary.  The promises of God through the mouth of Haggai of old are… yet to be fulfilled, really.  The visions of the Bible book of Revelation point to an eternal hope, almost beyond space and time.  We have this vision of a new heavens and earth, and a new holy city, Jerusalem.  No more pain or death.  No tears or terror.  

Such are God’s longing, God’s promises, God’s plan.  And we keep up the building and rebuilding, towards the kingdom that is coming, God’s will done on earth as in heaven.  We are part of the team to build towards the gracious life that is promised.

I don’t know where this story truly comes from.  Some say it was a church in England that was bombed in the second world war; some say it was in the countryside of France, or in a German town.  As students and others were helping rebuild the church, there was the statue of Christ, badly damaged.  Jesus’ arms were stretched out wide, and the words at the base of the sculpture said, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden.”  But the hands were completely blown off in the bombing, and nearly impossible to replace.  So it was decided to put a new inscription below the statue of Jesus.  “Christ has no hands but our hands.”

In our lives, in our communities, in our troubled world, times will come again when we need to hear from our Maker: Take courage.  Be strong.  Keep working.  Do not fear.  I will be with you; I am with you.