Thursday, June 7, 2007
Grandmother said: Avoiding waste is a spiritual virtue
Last Sunday our congregation shared its more or less annual Sunday with Christ Church (Episcopal) at Strawberry Plains, where we celebrated Environmental Emphasis Sunday with our friends in the Audubon Society. We had a wonderful time together. The weather was perfect, and the setting inspirational. It is good to get out from behind the stained glass windows from time to time and to worship God in the creation that God has made.
The Rev. Bruce McMillan gave the sermon this year and reminded us that when the Book of Genesis says that God placed humans in the Garden of Eden and gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,” the unspoken assumption was that we would be good stewards of this provision, accountable to God for this as well as other aspects of the moral obedience called for in that story from the Book of Genesis.
Of course we have not been good stewards. Most dramatically, it is predicted that due to global warming the polar bear is going to be extinct in its natural habitat by 2060. And Sunday morning before our service I heard a report on the radio from the Mayan ruins in Guatemala that said that the scarlet macaws (my all-time favorites among the feathered tribes) will be extinct in this natural habitat due to the clearing of the jungles for human development in just a few years.
So it goes. Humans are the only species that have the capacity to destroy whole species if not to destroy the whole planet. But Jesus said, “To whom much is given much also shall be required.” Most of us are taking little steps. But it is going to require a lot more.
There has been theological circles in churches other than those of ours that met out at Strawberry last Sunday. I am glad to see more religious persons embracing the “green cause.”
At the very least, I was taught by my good German grandmother that wasting anything was a terrible sin. (That is why I always clean my plate to the detriment of my waistline — her second admonition — don't let your eyes be bigger than your stomach has not quite set in!)
But you see my point. While environmental concern is certainly more than avoiding wastefulness it is certainly not less. Those who know me know what a spiritual impact my grandmother had on my life. She did not “preach.” But she talked a lot. She also saved string, tiny bits of bath soap in a jar, cardboard boxes to be used again, all the wrapping paper and bows from Christmas and birthday celebrations.
My grandmother impressed on me that avoiding waste was a spiritual virtue — would God waste a soul?
Personal effort can help a lot. But the problem is greater than individual effort alone can resolve.
We are all going to have to think hard about this in the months and years to come. We do not know everything about the problem. But we are going to have to act on what we do know.
When I ride around North Mississippi and see all the erosion and kudzu, I think of how our ancestors did not understand and were slow to prevent the washing away of the soil.
We can hardly imagine the great plantations that once surrounded our town—making the area one of the richest on earth, at least for those that owned the land. All that is “gone with the wind.”
I am sure that with the wisdom of experience, we will not want to leave our children a similar legacy of poverty and degredation. We received our offering to help Strawberry Plains with its children's education projects. I hope others of our churches will join hearts and hands with our friends at Audubon who are doing such good work in our county.
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