September 30, 2018 Reflection
Matthew 24:32-36/ Romans 8:18-23
What is Creation Saying to Us?
Have you ever seen one of the optical illusion images or images where you have to find hidden objects? If so, you will know that both require paying close attention. There are certain things that we cannot see unless we pay close attention. Sounds are the same; if we don’t pay attention, there are sounds that we can miss. For example, I struggle to understand a lot of song lyrics. A lot of times, we have difficulty paying attention. Have you ever almost hit a deer while driving on the highway, especially at night? They can suddenly appear in front of you, can’t they? According to my experience, it can happen even if you pay attention. In a lot of things, it is important to pay close attention.
In today’s gospel text, Jesus talks about discerning the season from the signs of the nature. As soon as the branch of a fig tree becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, Jesus’ people knew that summer was near. When I was young, I would hear grandmas and grandpas say, “My joints are aching. I think it’s going to rain.” Maybe joint pains get worse when the humidity is high; is that it? In Kimberley when it starts snowing for the first time, we know that ski season is not far away. Ok, on second thoughts, that’s not reading the signs of nature. But no matter the examples, we all know that we should pay close attention to the signs of nature, for one thing, to prepare for natural disasters. There are meteorologists who monitor the signs of nature and tell us if and when we are expecting a tornado. Some scientists study the signs from inside the earth to predict earthquakes and volcano eruptions. Even so, some people refuse to listen to those warnings.
Scientists who study the environment carefully started observing abnormalities in nature and found out that the climate was changing and that the earth was warming up. We have already heard enough about how because of global warming icebergs are melting, raising the sea level, and the potential danger of lower lands eventually sinking and disappearing; but according to the NASA website on global climate change and the vital signs of the planet, the potential future effects of global climate change are much more than ice melting. One of the effects listed is more frequent forest fires, and as a non-scientist I am wondering if this is one of the reasons for our crazy and fiery summers. Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange reported that “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.” Nobody is perfect and scientists don’t know everything about this world God created; but I do believe that it is important to listen to their warnings because they are the ones paying close attention. Our ambitions and greed caused a lot of damage to God’s creation, and we started suffering the effects of our communal sins as human beings because we are all created to live interdependently; either we thrive together or decline together. That is why it is important to pay close attention to the changes of nature and listen to its messages, especially if it is crying out of suffering.
Paul says in his letter to the Romans that the whole creation has been groaning in pain and is eagerly waiting to be set free. Of course, Paul did not write this with an environmental concern, and it was about God’s people being liberated from the suffering of the mortal flesh and joining God’s glory in heaven; but even Paul who didn’t speak to defend the environment recognized the interconnectedness of all of God’s creation when he said, “the whole creation has been groaning.” This text from the Romans teach us that the Christian belief is based on hope, not on the current suffering. If we live in hope for the future glory, if we live to realize God’s loving and just reign on earth while we wait for the future glory in heaven, everything we do here on earth should reflect the values of God’s kingdom in which we believe and for which we live. Our hope of restoration and healing cannot happen if it doesn’t include all of God’s creation, humans and nature alike. As God’s people, we are the agents of healing and change; we are the agents of hope. Interestingly, the author of Isaiah chapter 55 also seemed to believe that all creation is interconnected, because the verse we read today talks about creation rejoicing at the liberation of God’s people! Then on the other hand, we as God’s people should rejoice at the flourishing of creation and commiserate at its suffering.
We should listen attentively to the suffering of nature as well as the suffering of our fellow humans. We should be able to recognize the signs; we should be able to listen to their cries. We need a mental stethoscope to closely listen to what God’s creation is saying to us. We should be able to carefully examine what we have done in the name of convenience and profit. Is what we are doing hurting other people, animals, and nature? If the answer is yes, we should start thinking of alternative solutions that won’t harm any of God’s creation, including our fellow humans. Are we creating too much waste? Then let’s find solutions involving reusable containers, shopping bags, produce bags, and products with less or no packaging. Does our energy source hurt God’s creation in any way? Then let’s find solutions for green energy that doesn’t hurt God’s creation. Let’s support the research to develop green energy sources. We should choose lifestyles that allow all of God’s creation to prosper. For me, always insisting on bar soap, wooden toothbrushes and toothpaste in a glass container is in some ways inconvenient; for one thing, this lifestyle costs more money. But I make these sacrifices because it is the right thing to do for preserving God’s creation order.
As I said last Sunday, we are called to be the protectors of God’s creation. Let us pay close attention and listen, so that wherever the creation is hurting and suffering, we can spring into action to bring wellness and healing for all of God’s creation. And with our attentive listening skills, let us sow in the world the hope of God’s kingdom by which we live. With our attentive listening skills, let us hear the joyful songs of creation to rejoice with us, as well as the cries of suffering. I will end my message today with the beautiful words about God’s creation from A Song of Faith; a Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada. “We cannot keep from singing. We sing of the Creator. All parts of creation are related. All creation is good.” Let us keep singing with God’s creation and listen attentively.
Rev. Sunny Kim