September 4, 2016 sermon
Makeover for God’s Creation
When I first got this job and told my friends in Montreal, one of them who is from BC told me that Kimberley is famous for two things; hippies and lesbians. I don’t know about the lesbian part because I only know two, but after being exposed to our farmers’ market, I slowly started understanding the hippie part. I started thinking of sustainability and being a responsible consumer. I started buying local products and am slowly switching my liquid soap and shampoo to bar soaps (natural and handmade, not the big corporation products) so there will be less water pollution and plastic packaging. I started buying local and organic dairy products, and will also look for ethically grown eggs and meat. I like supporting local business. As you might have guessed when I told you I love hugging trees, I have a little bit of a hippie in me.
Today’s gospel text deals with the cost of discipleship; what it take to follow Jesus and to belong to God’s reign. Let’s briefly take a look at what kind of things Jesus mentions as the cost of discipleship; hate father, mother, wife, and children, and life itself, carry the cross, and give up all possessions. Now don’t go hating your family or becoming self-destructive because Jesus said hate your family and life itself. This is about the radical obedience that is required to become a part of God’s reign. It’s about not letting our love for secular things (yes, it includes the people we love) get in the way of living as disciples. To borrow the Buddhist language, it’s about letting go of our obsessions with secular things; emptying ourselves. Carrying the cross is parallel to hating our family. It’s about making sacrifices but in the context of Luke’s gospel, it doesn’t necessarily mean martyrdom as in Mark’s gospel. But for Luke’s audience, following the way of Jesus often meant civil disobedience and legal punishment. It may not be about sacrificing our life for us today in Canada, but even for us with all the religious freedom, following Jesus requires sacrificing small and big things in our lives. A small and stupid example; when I was in Montreal, I couldn’t participate in the free museum day or the white night event when the whole city stays up all night providing diverse entertainments, because the free museum day is on a Sunday and the white night is on a Saturday night. A bigger and more serious example; we could miss a chance to become a millionaire and live a luxurious lifestyle because our life’s priority is helping and serving others and not being selfish. We could be ridiculed, or in a more extreme case, be fired for keeping our religious and spiritual principles. In short, being a disciple requires a rigorous commitment. As we can learn in the short parables in today’s text, a builder cannot start building a tower without first calculating the cost and then go, “Oh darn, I don’t have enough money to finish the work!” And a king cannot start a war without first knowing the enemy and then go, “Oh darn, their army is a lot bigger and more powerful than I thought! I’d better beg for a peace treaty!” We cannot start being disciples without first knowing what it entails; or else we might have to quit in the middle of our journey and go, “Oh darn, I didn’t know being a disciple was so tough!”
Okay, so we are learning today that discipleship requires radical obedience and giving up of our secular loves and greed; but what does it have to do with the hippie lifestyle I mentioned at the beginning? Today is the first Sunday of fall (because summer is over, boo!), but it is also the first Sunday in the Creation Time. From today, we will be meditating on God’s creation and our relationship with God’s creatures. Over the years, we have been hearing about diverse pollutions, destruction of the forests, or climate change. Climate change/ global warming is the hottest environmental issue right now with a lot of people being in denial. Scientists say that it is caused by us. Greed made us exploit our mother Earth and destroy a lot of God’s creation. We eat too much and waste a lot of food; we use too much and discard too much. With this as our reality, we talk about reducing consumption and waste. I even read about a wondrous person who lived a whole year with only one small bag of waste.
Today, we are meditating on the gospel teaching in light of the Season of Creation. We will understand today’s gospel lesson as a call to abandon our greed for secular things and to mend our relationship with God’s Creation. Is it right for God’s people to exploit God’s creation for their own greed? Is it right for God’s people to waste a lot of food when a lot of their sisters and brothers go hungry? Is it right for big corporations to abuse animals to make a lot of profit in the meat and dairy industries? I recently learned that in the poultry industry, both chickens and poultry farmers are abused by the big corporations. I also hear about dairy cows being emotionally abused by forcibly being separated from their babies. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. I do however believe that we have the responsibility to treat animals well; according to C.S. Lewis in the books of Narnia, animals are our cousins. In an effort to slowly adopt a hippie lifestyle, I am trying to look for small local farms where animals are treated humanely for eggs, dairy products, and meat. Some factories dump oil or other toxic materials in the river to save money. In the name of convenience, we have been polluting the atmosphere and water, making forests disappear, and disturbing the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Since we are created to live interdependently, all these actions have consequences. What goes around comes around; it’s called karma. As my ancestors put it, karma is like spitting while you’re lying down. Eeew. Anyway, since we have been destroying God’s creation for a long time in the name of development and progress, the karma is coming back to bite us in the form of climate change, disappearance of forests and water sources, and so on. It is time we listened to God’s call to abandon our greed, repent for having destroyed God’s creation, and start mending our relationship with God’s creation, as well as our relationship with our fellow humans.
It is important to fight against the greed of big corporations through political actions (remember the multi-national company famous for chocolatey products that I’m boycotting? They keep exploiting Earth’s water source for money); but as individuals, we can also participate in a more environmentally conscious lifestyle by being conscious consumers. I started small by switching to soap bars and supporting local and organic farmers. Soap bars don’t pollute water with their suds and don’t come in unnecessary plastic packaging. Organic farming is good for the land and soil. Supporting local farmers and businesses makes the community prosper and contributes in fighting the greed of big corporations by taking away some of their business. Organic and local products can be more expensive than mass produced big corporation products. Environmentally friendly lifestyle can be inconvenient to a certain degree. But these are the sacrifices we can make to be conscious members of God’s creation.
In today’s gospel text, Jesus taught his followers that being a disciple involves (and I’m paraphrasing) letting go of our greed and obsession for secular things. We have destroyed God’s creation, and our Mother Earth is in a bad shape because of our greed; it’s time for God’s people to start mending the damages. It’s time for a serious makeover for God’s creation, and it starts by letting go of our greed; spending less and wasting less, and spending consciously and responsibly.
Rev. Sunny Kim