I meet with a small group of pastors every Tuesday morning for breakfast. Our purpose is to talk about the Bible passages that we are preaching on the following Sunday morning, to share ideas and stories. It is often a lively conversation.
This past Tuesday I told my colleagues about the sermon series that Rachel and I are starting this week, a series of sermons on nine bold statements about being the church and unapologetically Christian. The nine statements are on the banner that is hanging from the columns in front of our meetinghouse. They’re also printed on your announcement sheet if you want to look at them.
The sermon series was Rachel’s idea, so I give her full credit for it. I suggested that rather than pick our favorite topics we divide them up and draw them out of a hat. I didn’t have a hat handy, so I put the nine bold statements in a paper cup and we took turns picking one, five for me, four for her corresponding to the number of times we are preaching in July and August.
So I told my friends at breakfast on Tuesday morning about how this would be different for me. As a preacher my usual style is to go to the biblical text and let the theme of the sermon flow from there, to seek places where these ancient texts speak to modern life. In this series I’m sort of doing the opposite. Here is a theme, “protect the environment.” How does the Bible speak to that?
It’s a challenge, and challenges are good—most of the time.
But it took a while for the Bible to speak to me on this one. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that our responsibility to protect the environment is essential as people of faith. But it took me a while to settle on Job as my scripture test for this sermon.
So I told my colleagues that I chose these verses from the 38th chapter of Job that I just read. Job had been questioning God. And God basically says in response, “I made creation without your help. You don’t know how I did it. I gave it to you so that it might sustain your life. If you abuse it, mess it up, well, you can’t fix it, so your—well, let’s just say, in trouble.”
They said, “That’s your sermon.” And I said, “Ok, but the faithful people who come to church on the 4th of July weekend will expect me to say a little more than that.” And I will, but that’s my message this morning in a nutshell.
God made this beautiful world in which we live. We don’t know exactly how it was made or exactly how it works, even scientists would agree with that. And God clearly gave us the responsibility to care for it, and the ability to destroy it. And if we destroy it, we will die.