The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss
Isaiah 65: 17-19, 23-25 & Luke 8: 16-18, 22-25
Call to Worship
Blessed are you, Oh Lord, who called life into being!
Your presence is all around us, you are in our hearing and in our seeing.
We’ve come to know you Lord, through the songs of the birds and through the many colors of the trees.
And yet- as we listen, understand and see – there grows in us a deep deep unease.
People of God, today we hear from prophet great and prophet small, teaching us each about a Holy Creation Call.
To tend to God’s earth with our hands and our heart.
A task blessed to us, a gift from the start.
“Created things belong not to the few, but to the entire human family.” St. John Paul II
In Stephen Covey’s Book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he tells this story:
Two battleships assigned to a training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. Visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge, keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly before dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”
“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain asked. The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant we were on a collision course with that ship. The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course; advise you change course 20 degrees.”
Back came a response signal, “Advisable you change course 20 degrees.” Irritated, the captain said, “Send, ‘I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.’” Back came, “I’m a seaman second class, you had better change course 20 degrees.”
By this time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send, ‘I’m a U.S. Navy battleship. Change course 20 degrees.’”
Back came the flashing message, “I’m a lighthouse.” … We changed course. …
Let’s pray as we begin our time of message:
Great God above all compare!
Hear us now as we declare:
Thank you Lord for this great Creation,
Inspire us today Lord, to become a stewardly faithful nation. Lord, You have shown us how to love,
As You have sent your Son from heaven high above. Be with us here in this worship space,
as we rest in You from the worldly race.
In Jesus’ most precious name,
The One who is our heart’s only aim.
Back in 1874, when DDT was first synthesized, this chemical was considered a miracle invention. But scientist weren’t quite sure how to employ it quite yet, so it wasn’t widely used. It wasn’t until 1939, (65 years later) when Swiss chemist, Paul Hermann Muller, discovered that DDT was extremely effective in killing insects- and thus extremely effective at killing insect born diseases like malaria and typhus. Muller was even awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DDT’s application in 1948.
While I was doing some research on DDT this week, I read a couple of stories from men that served in the Philippines (and throughout the Asian Pacific really) during World War II where DDT was first widely used. And they recounted that allied planes would fly over the Malaria-infected rice paddies spraying a high-concentration DDT. And one solider said this, right after the planes flew overhead, it was dead silent: not a peep from insect or bird. We all thought – maybe the birds are just afraid of the sounds the planes make. But… We all knew that it could have been something else entirely.
Fast-forward twenty years… considering that DDT’s use continued to expand and grow during that time- especially as an agricultural insecticide. And let’s zoom in on the California Coast:
Once upon a time, Brown Pelicans used to thrive on the California Coast – there were millions of them. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s the number of brown pelicans worldwide was only a few breeding pairs. It was learned that DDT in the food chain resulted in the shells of pelican eggs becoming extremely thin, so that, when the birds sat on them, they broke and failed to hatch… from millions down to a handful. DDT.
DDT and Brown Pelicans- this is just one example of a “lighthouse moment”- something that urges us to change course lest we find ourselves colliding with inevitable destruction.
Or how about this:
Our collective/ global use of fossil fuels puts 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. When you hear that… its just a big number- so let’s build a clearer picture. The weight of all the humans on earth is one billion tons. Our 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide is like filling up 1.1 billion garbage trucks with solid carbon waste. That’s a lot.
But this picture is still a little grand for me, how about this:
Gasoline! We use it everyday in our vehicles/ it’s a really good source of energy. A gallon of gas weighs about 7 pounds. 5 pounds of which is carbon (in essence). So if your car gets twenty miles per gallon… and if you imagine that the carbon your car emits is a charcoal briquette rather than a gas… its like at 20 miles per gallon, you drop 1 briquette out of your tailpipe every tenth of a mile. In twenty miles- that’s 200 briquettes.
Human kind (and our choices/ our actions) is a geophysical force! If present levels of emissions are maintained, we will double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere over the course of one human lifetime. That is a lot of charcoal briquettes.
We are affecting our climate.
And on top of all carbon that we put into the air- the natural system in place to clean and replenish the air is being chipped away. The World Wild Life organization tell us that in the last fifty years, 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost to our desire for mahogany wood, oil, gold… our desire for a good burger. The Earth Justice organization in Appalachia, tells us that some of the oldest forests in this country have been sliced away due to mountain top removal, an affordable coal extraction technique used by several mega
coal industries. The total anchorage of Appalachian forest lost to Mountain Top removal now equals that of the state of Delaware.
Reasonable extrapolations from current trends suggest that unchecked fossil-fuel consumption (coal, oil, natural gas) along with continued deforestation will increase the risk of coastal flooding, droughts, severe storms, heat waves, food and water shortages and other harmful effects.
Now, we all know that controversy sells, yes? So you might not agree totally with dooms day climate change talk- you might even want to refute all of these fossil fuel facts… and that’s fine. But what no one can deny is that: as humans we impact our environment- for the better or for the worse. We also cannot deny, if we look in the mirror, that we are a wasteful people- we cannot deny that we are over-consumers. We affect the people, the nature, the society around us! This is what is irrefutable.
If we look up from our consumption, no matter what political party we align ourselves with/ or scientific camp we agree with… we will notice that we tend to take advantage of God’s Creation- Creation is strained and hurting. Whether you equal that with over-population, or global climate change, or good old fashion greed and apathy. God’s Creation is giving off a lighthouse signal, just like the Brown Pelicans (the same thing happened with the Bald Eagle). A signal calling us to change course lest we collide with inevitable destruction.
In Genesis, God named us the stewards of this earth- we were to have dominion. Creation was entrusted into our care. The word dominion in the Hebrew is Radah, which means to rule. This term is often used to refer to how God rules the heavens and the earth. So the question before is, how does God rule? Does God dominate? No. God does not use divine power to hurt and destroy. God uses radah to heal and restore, and preserve life. Psalm 72 tells us that God has dominion from “sea to sea, from the rivers to the ends of the earth” and it goes on to say that God tends to what is weak and what is in need in every one of those place.
When we were created, God placed the image of God in us. We were made in the likeness of God, and so we are to radah/ to rule just like God over which we have been entrusted. Our ruling is not to constrict, or hurt or destroy… our ruling is to preserve, protect and restore Creation. To have dominion over God’s creation is to care. To have dominion does not mean that we are to be greedy and take whatever we want with no regard to the balance of nature.
Fredrich Buechner once said that, thanks to our resurrection God, “The worst things are never the last things.” Even though God’s Creation is bruised, it is not beyond our help.
Our Scripture passages today assure us of God’s desire for us to come alongside the Holy Spirit to restore, re-build and speak out for what is hurting and even raging.
Luke 8:18 says “… whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they do have will be taken from them.”
To help us understand, I’m going to invoke the great prophet Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
With the gift of Dominion over creation, we are given all the power. Yikes! We have been given brains and hearts and hands that can work towards healing God’s earth/ to work towards curbing over- consumerism/ to work towards bringing Earth’s natural God made systems of renewal back in line/ to work towards honoring and respecting what God has blessed us with.
The Brown Pelicans… and other “wake up” facts tell us that we can longer tolerate Creation being taken for granted. We have been given the power… now we got to use it. If we don’t act now, then things will go too far… and we will one day become powerless indeed- as Jesus tells us.
In the Lorax, thankfully the Once-ler had a healthy/ repentant attitude towards the end. After a career of greed- making his industry of Theeds Biggerer and Biggerer and Biggerer… He thankfully attempted to teach the generation that came after him to care. He had one last Truffela seed. One last chance at hope and a future. One last opportunity to redeem himself as a good steward/ a good creation ruler.
And in classic Dr. Seuss fashion, the story ends in a very open way. We are lead to believe, as the audience, that we each have that seed/ that chance/ opportunity in our hands. And he asks us: What are you going to do about it?
Climate change is the lighthouse; we need to adjust course. And the thing is, we are capable of course correction. After brown pelicans almost disappeared from our planet, we recognized the problem. And in
1972, the United States banned the use of DDT in the Endangered Species Act. There are today 650 thousand brown pelicans flying in glory up and down the west coast of the Americas.
But perhaps you sit there and think that you don’t have the power, influence, or ability to effect change. That you don’t have any influence over our ships course.
If that’s you, Gandalf has some words for you: “Some believe it is only GREAT POWER that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
It starts small, being aware and responsible for the energy usage in our homes, remembering to take our reusable shopping bags with us to grocery store, arranging a simple car pool, eating locally. It’s calling our local and state representatives to tell them that Climate Change is serious and we need to do something about it. Small acts of kindness and love for God’s good earth.
The prophet Isaiah assures us that our God has not stopped creating and caring. God says, “ See, I will create new heaven and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create for…”
Today, we are reminded by prophets great and prophets small that we are a part of the creating. We are a part of the protecting and nurturing of this great GREEN EARTH! Remember you hold a seed in your hand. It’s up to you what you do with it.
For as the Lorax says, “Unless someone like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”