(During the service an alarm has been sounding every five minutes)
Read Luke 12:22-31
It has been said that most of the evil in the world comes, not from evil people, but from good people. That’s because there aren’t really that many evil people, but there sure are a heck of a lot of good people who make bad choices.
The primary reason for the deterioration of our environment is us, mostly good people, but why? Simanta Chattergee, an impoverished Indian poet, once said, ”If I began thinking about needs, I would sink to the bottom of the world. If I don’t think, I get what I need.“
The essence of the environment’s problem is human beings thinking about their needs. And much of the earth’s pain is born by other living things, which are being extinguished at anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 times faster than would occur if humans were not here.
(There are more details in the article, “Evolution Stops Here,” elsewhere on this website. If you didn’t read it last week, it might help to read it now.)
You will no doubt be wondering why an alarm goes off every five minutes. It marks the average time that elapses between extinctions of entire species. This is hard to imagine; every five minutes an entire species disappears, never to be seen again…ever! Of course, that’s the worse case scenario, but even the most optimistic scientific opinion would set the alarm to go off every four hours. Think about it; every night when you go to bed, there are at least six less species on the earth than when you went to bed the night before, and possibly as many as 288 less.
It is important to note that, for the first time in the history of the planet, apart from God’s (comparatively minor) role in things, evolution and extinction are being affected by a species that is aware of what it is doing!
Some of the major human threats to species are well known:
- Habitat destruction
- Climate change (but gaining)
- Unsustainable hunting and fishing
- Introduction of exotic species
- Trophy hunting of large predators (which has a flow-on effect down the food chain)
Though, Jesus prayed as he hung on the cross, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing?” in this case, I think we know exactly what we are doing, and this is one sin for which there is no forgiveness. No forgiveness?! If this seems to go against the Good News you have been taught, allow me to clarify.
Perhaps you may have figured out to what the title of today’s sermon means. You will recall from the cold war days, “M.A.D.” was an all-too-accurate acronym for “Mutually Assured Destruction:” the notion that if nations had sufficient stores of nuclear weapons large enough and potent enough to assure the destruction of human civilisation, no one would dare use them.
It sounded pretty insane at the time, and was the basis for the all-too-possible black comedy, Dr. Strangelove, but eventually a degree of reason prevailed and the super powers began to disarm and at least slow the nuclear arms race. Nevertheless, that crazy policy is still alive and well as a definition of our treatment of the environment, for we are busy destroying that which supports our lives, thus assuring both the destruction of the environment and the human race. This why I said that there is no forgiveness possible, for it is a sin that gives no second chance, and God is helpless to prevent us from doing it.
The consequences of our unsustainable life styles are, by now, well known, yet we continue down the path to destruction, driven by the pursuit of our needs; a drive that pushes concern about future generations and other living things well down our priority lists.
That Jesus grasped this is indicated in the gospel reading for this second Sunday in the season of creation. And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
- “The nations of the world,” as Jesus refers to them, seem to refer to those who have not grasped the secret of God’s reign.
- “Your Father knows that you need them” begs the question as to whether I, like all the other created species, can place my dependence on God to provide what is needed.
- “Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Striving for the Father’s kingdom means a radical reconsideration of what it means to form one’s life around following Jesus. In this process it is necessary to confront our culture and all that it has indoctrinated us to believe.
Striving for the Kingdom of the God is a lifelong search for the places where nurturing, not destruction, is taking place. I have learnt that ravens and lilies have a wisdom, which Jesus understood, and which, when grasped, is liberating for the troubled human soul always driven by the anxiety over tomorrow.
Said a sparrow to another, “I would really like to know,
Why all these human beings rush and scurry so?”
Said the other little sparrow
“It seems pretty clear to me they don’t have a heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
The secret seems to be that when I trust God first in all things, as ravens and lilies do, I then don’t have to worry about discerning need from greed.