Holy Vessels “Restoration” Environment Health (Lent 5)

So, today we find the disciples caught in a storm, and they are panicking! And who won’t?

Whether it is a storm in life or a storm in the waters- if this were me, I would panic also.

Storms are a part of our everyday lives! We are all dealing with all kinds of storms all through the day- some cause more panic than others, while some we deal with within moments!

Storms do come! Storms happen! Storms will come!

Everyone has their own definition of what they are going through. We may say we are going through fire, or we have hit a rough patch, but we all have gone through that moment or season when things just are not the way they are expected to be. And, it is easy for a human being to question and wonder what is happening in such moments. Storms come, and sometimes without much warning! And, let me tell you- no amount of faith can stop them from coming!

You know why? Because storms come! They are a part of our existence and are not dependent on how strong our faith is, or how spirit-filled our prayer life is, their severity is not calculated based on how much or how little we give in charity or tithe to the church!

Because storms come! Why have I spent 5 minutes already saying 'storms come,' because they do! And many of us humans waste much of our time asking why, when the storms come- why me?, instead of being prepared to deal with storms whenever they may come.

And you know, storms in our lives help us to grow and to adapt in life. A person of faith may very well be asking- why not me? So- that is about storms we experience in our lives- but the parable is about the storm in the sea.

Do you know that those storms are helpful also? They are! Storms are important to this planet, and to our survival on this planet.

  • If it were not for lightning, plants would not receive the nitrogen needed for growth.

  • Hurricanes redistribute the heat that builds up at the equator which would make the area unlivable.

  • As tropical cyclones move across the ocean- winds and waves toss the water's contents. This mixing breaks up patches of bacteria that lurk in the water and can bring an earlier end to the red tide- the algae growing out of control.

  • Winds can also oxygenate the near surface waters, helping life return to areas where the red tide once existed.

  • And although most images we see of barrier islands after hurricanes show beaten-up swaths of land, barrier islands often get replenished as a hurricane moves through because they pick up substantial amounts of sand, nutrients and sediment from the ocean’s bottom and bring it toward those barrier islands. Without tropical cyclones, barrier islands would eventually shrink and sink into the ocean.

Storms are important to this planet and to our survival on this planet. And a question I want us to think of is how do we humans reciprocate?

  • How do we care for the planet, for the planet to survive for us?

  • How do we use the resources of this planet? And

  • What do we do to make sure the planet and its resources will survive for our future generations? And for ourselves- today-

because environmental health impacts our lives more than we can even imagine. If we work toward recovery of ourselves and our communities but fail to work toward the recovery of our environment, we will find ourselves caught up in constant cycles of destruction. The healing of all of creation is intertwined, interdependent.

And we know that we have not always cared for creation the way we should. Yes we recycle and reuse a little, and we have stopped using too much Styrofoam, but that is not enough! We need to do more, if we desire for this planet to survive and be livable.

18-year-old Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who is internationally known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action against climate change. Named as Time Magazine’s 2019 “Person of the Year” Greta says, “We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow.” (1)

Greta spoke to the leaders from more than 200 countries who had came together for the climate conference in 2019, reminding them and us all of the need to change the way we have been using and many a times misusing the earth's resources. At the conference, a number of countries pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and if the emission does not drop 50% by 2030, it will be challenging to keep the global average temperature increase under 1.5°C. If the temperature is not maintained under 1.5°C, some 350 million additional people are predicted to experience drought conditions and roughly 120 million people are estimated to be pushed into extreme poverty. (2)

By 2030!!! 9 years from today! According to the National Centers for Environmental information, the global land and ocean surface temperature for March 2020 was 1.16°C, the second highest in the 141 years, and for every fraction of a degree that temperatures increase, the problems worsen. (3)

Emissions would have to drop 7.6% on average every year for the next decade- which, while possible, would require revolutionary changes around the world, because in majority world, including many developed countries, reducing emissions means rethinking key elements of how countries build their economies.

This is not fear mongering; this is science. I am not doing this to cause panic, although Greta told CEOs and world leaders at the World Economic Forum to panic. “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day," she said, "And then I want you to act.”

And that is what I want us to focus on! To act! To work towards changing things! To do all we can to prepare! To do all we can to save this earth and its resources- so what can we do?

  • We all know the basic-Reduce, reuse, recycle,

  • Use less plastic and Styrofoam products,

  • walk or bike more, drive less or carpool,and fly only when necessary,

  • Use energy efficient light bulbs, and programmable thermostats,

  • Turn the light on only in needed spaces, and turn off the computer every night,

  • Air dry clothes where possible, and use non-toxic cleaning products,

  • Use water cautiously,decrease food waste and amount of trash, think about composting, and protect and plant more trees/plants,

  • Use matches instead of lighter- never thought about this- but 1.5 billion lighters end up in landfills every year,

  • If 10% of US households use paper based cotton buds or Qtips we could save over 150,000 gallons of gasoline

And the good news is that the needle is moving. People are paying attention. Many big companies, airlines, other corporations, and governments of countries are working on reducing their carbon footprint. The needle is moving in the right direction, but a lot more needs to happen in order for us to make any significant difference!

Most of us need to do all that we can, so we can leave a livable planet for our future generations! And, because it is the right thing to do, and we know that doing the right thing is not always the easiest to do!

Perhaps that’s why Jesus warned the two men who said they are willing to follow Jesus, in our scripture readings this morning, that following him is costly! We may need to leave behind what we know, and/or unlearn things that we are familiar with, in order to do the right thing!

It might be hard. It might be terrifying. But it is our calling, and we know Jesus is with us. We can move in the right directions, and do our best at following Jesus, saving the earth and prepare ourselves to handle any storm we may find ourselves in!

May God help us! Amen.

  1. https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

  2. https://time.com/5742392/climate-targets-country-cop25/

  3. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/202003#:~:text=Averaged%20as%20a%20whole%2C%20the,C%20(2.36%C2%B0F)

Photo by NASA on Unsplash