Sermon: 20 July 2008
Blow The Trumpet
Prayer: May it be, oh Lord, that the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you and useful to your purposes of Grace. — Rev. Joanna Adams
So, this passage is probably not one you were expecting to hear on a Sunday labeled as Celebrating God’s Creation. I don’t blame you. When I first came across it as I was looking for something to preach on, I quickly turned to the next passage and hoped this one would stop speaking to me. Well, I have been meditating and praying and stewing over this passage for the last month, so obviously it did not stop speaking.
The resource I used to find creation centered Bible passages is a website called Season of Creation. They have a 3-year cycle of readings – each of which lasts about 6 weeks culminating on St. Francis of Assisi Sunday. These cycles focus on different aspects of creation.
One of the Sundays in the series is called Wilderness Sunday and that is where I found today’s passage.
I think part of the reason this passage would not leave me alone is because when I initially read it it was during the first round of wildfires in California – followed a week later by the horrid flooding in the Midwest. News about the world wide food shortages were making above the fold headlines.
These past few weekends Mae and I have done a lot of traveling through Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. While we were not near the worst of the damage we did see an empty Lake Delton. We did see farms with massive barren patches where standing water destroyed the crops. We did see several farms totally annihilated. The most powerful thing I saw was a farm that was half submerged by a river that moved well beyond the flood plain, and the other half of the farm, that was once submerged, now dry and cracking…looking like pictures I have seen of Oklahoma during the dust bowl. This field that was damaged so much by the unyielding rains was now dying because of lack of those life giving rains.
I heard the ground mourn. I could see the animals crying. I saw fire devouring the pastures of the wilderness.
Joel is living in or near Jerusalem at the time which this reading takes place. The land was destroyed by a plague of locust. The people of Judah and Jerusalem had turned away from God. They had let material pleasures steal their focus. Joel in Chapter 2 exhorts:
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near.
He tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah that it is because of their sin that this plague is upon them. He calls for the elders to:
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
The blowing of the trumpet is a warning call. Sounding the alarm from God’s holy mountain is intended to be a wake up call for those who are slumbering.
Today’s passage stuck with me because I see parallels between us and the people of Jerusalem in Joel’s time.
We have become a society run by greed. A society run by gluttony. A society nearing the edge of a catastrophic moment. A society not inclined to listen to the blowing of the trumpet.
The earth is speaking to us. Calling us to listen to the trumpet.
I believe that God is present in every microbe of this world.
Whether one believes that the world was created in 6 days or over millions of years, we, I think, can all agree that we began as nothing, and through a divine spark we were created. Genesis 2 says how were created from the dust…the dirt. And then God placed man in the garden to till it and keep it. We are created form the dirt and told to keep it. And we can not forget that God saw all of it and said it was good.
To take this one step farther, not only was human kind created in God’s image, but we can not forget that the Word became flesh. The God of creation inhabited this world and became part of this world. The God of creation became flesh…came from the same dirt as Adam.
Our sins against the land are sins directly against the incarnation of God. The ground mourns.
Our sins of greed and gluttony are part of the reason the flooding was so bad in the river valleys.
Because of our greed we have turned our farms into factories that produce crops that are not sustainable. We have forced farmland to move into floodplains. The monocultures – which is the same crop grown in the same spot year after year – currently used, and mandated by many of the major agra companies if you are to get any help from them or discounts on seed, do not lead to good stewardship of the earth. These monocultures do not allow for deep root growth because they need to be planted annually. These monocultures deplete the land of necessary nutrients and lead to the use of artificial, man-made, fertilizers. These monocultures become susceptible to disease and infestation and lead to the use of more artificial herbicides and pesticides. These monocultures lead to the weakening of the nutritional value of the crops. That is why the United States is one of the fattest yet undernourished countries in the industrialized world. These monocultures lead to the weakening of biodiversity in crops leading to the use of genetically modified seed…all profiting people.
There is nothing wrong with making money, but when a major agra company sues an independent farmer because some of their “brand name” seed – that was probably carried by a bird or blown by the wind – sprouts in his field then our greed has gotten out of control.
Our gluttony feeds our greed.
Because of our need for cheap food, particularly items full of high-fructose corn syrup and dollar hamburgers, we have created a market demanding that we put undo stress upon the land. As His Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch (the leader of 300 million of the world’s orthodox Christians) , says, “Human economy wastes and discards, while natural economy is cyclical and replenishes, and God’s economy is compassionate and nurturing.”
Our sin against the land is sin against the incarnation. The trumpet is blowing.
We, like the people of Judah, need to repent. Repentance is not only seeking forgiveness but then changing our ways.
We can start by reading about where our food comes from. Ask our butcher where our meat comes from. We can join Consumer Supported Agriculture co-ops. Mae and I belong to one and get a half-bushel of organic, sustainably grown produce a week. We are part of another co-op that provides us with meat raised in humane and sustainable ways. You may not be able to do that, but you should be able to look into where your food is coming from or at least how it was raised. This is only one small step.
This, though is not only a personal repentance, we as a community of faith must repent.
There are many things we can do as signs of our repentance. Simple things like making our recycling boxes more visible. Small things like using our wonderful china instead of paper plates; signing up to receive Steeple Stories via e-mail instead of a paper copy. How about we look into creating a green roof top above the gym? What if we could install solar panels to create our own energy … we have this wonderful south facing peak. Action has begun. A green task force has already been blessed by the church council, and we will begin to dream…and ACT.
We can Blow the Trumpet.
We can sound the alarm.
We can learn more about living life more carefully.
We can teach.
We can lead our neighborhood by being an example.
We can celebrate creation.
And you know what. God promises redemption. Through proper care of creation things will happen. I recently saw the movie WAL-E. If you have not seen it, go see it. It takes place in on planet earth after years of not listening to the warning from the mountain. But it is a movie where we can see what happens when we begin to care – if we, as community, heed the trumpet blast and turn from our current ways. If we ACT.
Through Joel, God promises the people of Judah “grain, wine and oil and you will be satisfied.”
Do not fear, O soil;
be glad and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain* for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
These things are ours, but we must act. We can no longer afford to be complacent. We must repent…change our ways.
We must Blow the Trumpet. – Amen.