Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Being Green

Sunday was Green Sunday at our congregation. We have made a commitment to becoming a Green Church. Our first task is to conduct a "green audit" for our church. During the worship today, I sang, with the aid of my frog puppet, "It Isn't Easy Being Green" for the children's sermon, then for the adults preached a sermon, "It IS Easy Being Green!" Then we rocked out to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Here is the sermon text:

It's not that easy bein' green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold-
or something
much more colorful like that.

It's not easy bein' green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water- or stars in the sky.

But green's the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like a mountain, or important like a river, or tall like a tree.
When green is all there is to be

It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why wonder?
I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be.

That wonderful song by Kermit the Frog has helped a generation of kids be comfortable with themselves and appreciate who they are no matter how ordinary or odd they think they may be.

“I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful!”

That song has taken on some new meaning as our consciousness is slowly and finally awakening to what it means to be green in the ecological sense. No longer is being green something just for “long-haired, tree-worshiping, environmentalists.” Being green is seeping into the consciousness of even the most non-environmental types of people and institutions.

As I was preparing this sermon I saw in the Faith section of the Johnson City Press, an article about Pope Benedict XVI entitled “Vatican Goes Green.” According to the article:

Pope Benedict XVI is taking a new step in the Vatican’s environmental campaign, leading a youth festival this weekend where participants will use recycled prayer books, biodegradable plates and backpacks made from reused nylon.

About 300,000 youth will attend a festival in Loreto, Italy. The festival coincides with the church’s “Save Creation Day” and has an ecofriendly theme.

Each participant will be given a knapsack made of recycled nylon containing a hand-cranked battery recharger, three sets of biodegradable plates and three bags for recycling trash. Prayer books for Benedict’s Sunday Mass are made of recycled paper, hydrogen cars will be on display and trees will be planted in areas of southern Italy recently devastated by forest fires to make up for the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the festival, organizers said. “The message about caring for the environment will be entrusted not just with words, but with the young people’s gestures and the things they use,” said the Rev. Paolo Giulietti.

Slowly but surely, Christian churches are catching on to the need to communicate the importance of caring for Earth with word and deed.

--To take on this monumental task of raising awareness and changing our behaviors individually and collectively,

--to change the political will of our nation towards sustainability and responsibility to Earth and for our children’s future,

--we will need sustained and creative spiritual reflection and practice.

In February of 2005, The National Council of Churches wrote the following in an Open Letter to Church and Society:

We firmly believe that addressing the degradation of God’s sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time, comparable to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the world-wide movement to achieve equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass destruction in a post-Hiroshima world.

I would like that statement by the National Council of Churches to be even stronger.

I believe caring for Creation needs to be as important to our spiritual life as prayer, studying scriptures, and going to worship services. The hope of a renewed sustainable Earth with clean water and ecological balance for all species needs to be as strong as the hope of an afterlife in Heaven.

I am not going to spend today listing the environmental problems we face. I am going to assume that you have awareness regarding that. I find that laying those issues out like that in one lump is depressing and demobilizing. Instead I want to talk about hope, possibility, and a new way of being a spiritual community. I think that the environmental movement is going to need spiritual communities to make change in the will of people. I think that spiritual communities can provide the spiritual juice for this change to occur. It will be important for these groups to keep that conversation open. We need to learn each other’s language in order to fuse our interests.

Yet, this is an area in which I have very little expertise, in fact none. The latest issue in Sojourners Magazine printed an article entitled, “The Green Gospel: Will Seminaries Equip Church Leaders for an Age of Environmental Crisis?” The article demonstrated how ill-equipped we clergy are in dealing with ecological issues.

The article goes on to say:

Lay individuals passionate about issues such as global warming often feel like voices in the wilderness in their local churches. One reason may be that few pastors and church leaders had sufficient exposure to faith-based environmentalism during their seminary training to feel committed or able to encourage congregational efforts.”

I never took any classes on ecology or eco-theology or on practical ways to engage congregations regarding the environment. We didn’t learn how to do a Green Audit for our church building. We didn’t talk about spiritual practices as Earth-caring practices. While we did talk about stewardship as care for all of life, it is a word that for the most part, is used in regards to meeting the church’s budget.

So on this Green Sunday, I have no idea where we are headed our how to lead!

But I am ready to plunge in there with you, and perhaps we can lead each other. We can all be learners, listeners, and practitioners. I have a great deal of learning to do regarding the basics of the environment, ecology, biology and how Earth works. I am willing to learn with you.

We have a challenge to put our theology and our spiritual practices in conversation with our need to address our ethical commitments to Earth. We need to make those links so that theology and spirituality is not in competition with our concern for the environment, or that care for the environment becomes an issue that is tacked on and unrelated to spiritual and theological concerns.

When Earth-caring becomes the expression of our faith in God as naturally as prayer, meditation and love for neighbor, we will be on our way.

On this Green Sunday we are kicking off a program for the whole of our congregation. It is the working out of a Green Audit. The goal of the audit is two-fold:

1) The first goal is to examine ways in which the things we do are earth-friendly and to find ways to do these things in a more Earth-friendly way.

2) The second goal is increase our own individual awareness so that our lives begin to change in response to the task ahead of us.

This Green Audit will present some challenges for us. How will we balance what we need to accomplish with being Green? We will constantly be negotiating and trying some things that may not work. Because everything is interconnected, changing something in one area may produce unexpected challenges in another.

It will be important for us to work collaboratively on this. We will need to keep lines of communication open. We will need flexibility, good-humor, a willingness to risk making mistakes, forgive ourselves and others, and try again.

In the process of doing this, we will, in the microcosm of our congregation, practice what needs to be done in our larger society. We will be learning skills regarding negotiation and collaboration.

I have said this before, but I repeat it. The most important theological question is what will Earth be like when the children who listened to the Being Green song this morning become my age, or your age, or my parents’ age?

My hope is that we do not despair about the future. But that we embrace it. There is a new consciousness arising. This is a great time to be alive. We have a great work ahead of us. A joyful work. A work that we do not do alone, but together. We are not alone. The Divine Spirit is with us, working through and among us as our source and hope.

Green is Good. To be Green is to be connected and in love with God.

I close with the wisdom of theologian, Kermit the Frog:

I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be.

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