For the beauty of the earth …

I had the honor of speaking at the National Cathedral on Sunday, celebrating Earth Day. You can listen to the recording here. The notes from my sermon (just notes, not an actual transcript) are included after the jump …
I also participated in the Sunday Forum there. You can watch the video or listen to an MP3 of the forum here.
Yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to put into practice what I preached by taking a walk in the forest near my house. There – aptly, in light of the sermon – the Jack-in-the-Pulpits were in bloom, icons of the fact that all creation is preaching to us – about our common Creator, our proper “rangement” (as opposed to derangement), where we belong, what our duties are as stewards in and of creation.

Sermon based on Psalm 65, Isaiah 55:6 ff, Luke 12: 15 ff
We all have different ways to recharge … different things that restore our soul.
King David – Ps 65 and 23 – Green pastures, still waters … returns from the world of warfare and politics to be a sheep, a creature, in God’s pasture, God’s ecosystem. Same for me.
Write books. Words. Pastor … people’s needs, questions, problems. Traffic. Bills. Cable news. Restore soul …
SW Florida, everglades … swallow-tailed kite. Hawk family … impossible turns, hovering, diving, descending and ascending. Burrowing owl. Osprey carrying fish … Here in the city, pigeon. Head bobbing! Every step, multiple perspectives!
St. Francis – preached to birds, but first listened to birds preaching to him. Whole world preaches.
Trees. Rest … awakening … bearing leaves, flowers, fruit … appearing to die … rest. Annual sermon about death and resurrection.
Isaiah – Rain and snow water the earth. Earth produces bounty for animals and humans. Singing – echo back from mountains. Mountains singing to us!
Field – trees, leaves clapping, applause!
Something happens to us when we live in man-made structures. Glass and steel. Gypsum and concrete. Cinder block, brick, plastic, paint. Even plants … plastic. What does it do to our soul to live in a Disney-world simulacrum, a set for the Truman Show, walk the halls of the malls and be surrounded by mirrors … Those mirrors are there to tell you you’re too fat! Need that health club membership! Too shabby! Need those new shoes! Hair too long or style so ten-minutes-ago … need a total makeover!
What a different message comes to us when we walk down to Rock Creek Park, or bicycle up C & O Canal to Great Falls, or even walk from Lincoln Memorial to Roosevelt Memorial and look at the trees above and around you. Even the flowers in the sanctuary …
The ravens – the pigeons, the seagulls, the sparrows, the robins and mockingbirds – start preaching to us. Don’t be like that idiot in Jesus’ story, wasting your life on barns and hoarded stocks of merchandise. Don’t play the foolish games of Wall Street speculators, because you’re missing on the one set of odds you can never beat: namely, that age will catch up with you like a bear market, and you will die, and all your money and status and political power won’t mean a thing!
The lilies of the field – the violets, the dandelions, the tulips and cherry blossoms and azealeas – preach to us. You’re worried about a couple of wrinkles? Worried about hair color? Worried about your car being a bit last-year in its tint or style? Come on! Wake up! Don’t be like the idiot Romans – and every other nation that thinks it needs to be an empire to be safe. You strive and strive more for status, more security, more margin, more hegemony … but as sure as spring follows winter, play that game you’ll overextend and one day collapse.
Leave your world of walls and windows, your corridors of mirrors and gypsum and paint and plastic, the lilies of the field, the birds of the air will start preaching to you. Said the robin to the sparrow, sir, I’d really like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so. Said the sparrow to the robin, well, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly father, such as cares for you and me.
Jesus says … if you let the birds and wildflowers preach to you, you’ll realize that what makes sense is not to strive for more stuff, worry about more power, stress for more status, angle for more market share, become addicted to latest poll numbers. No. The only life that makes sense … seek first the kingdom of God.
But today … kingdom? Anachronism. How would Jesus express this reality … alternative way of living that is in harmony with the creator and creation. Dr. King said … creative nonconformists who are maladjusted to the warped ways of this misguided and often suicidal culture, adjusted instead to the wise and lifegiving ways of God? Seek first God’s kingdom …
Seek first God’s sacred ecosystem.
Stop being a king … become a creature in God’s pasture.
Stop being a neurotic suburbanite, rushing from one man-made box to another … return to your place in God’s sacred ecosystem.
Stop being a frantic consumer or political operator … return to your place in God’s sacred ecosystem.
Insanity … de-rangement. Out of range. Like a polar bear in Sahara. Like a dolphin in Kansas. Like a Moose in Dupont Circle. Like a Walrus in Texas. Not where you belong. Lost. Displaced. De-ranged.
We need to be re-ranged, re-arranged, put back in our right place, in relationship to God, our neighbor, stranger, and enemy – and in relation to all God’s creations. Find out place not in humanity’s artificial systems, but in God’s sacred ecosystem.
My friend Shane Claiborne – problem of poverty isn’t that we don’t care about poor people. Goes down a level deeper than that. Problem is we don’t know them. If we knew them, we’d care.
Problem of environment isn’t that we don’t care. It’s that we don’t really know. If we knew the bog turtle and the swallow-tailed kite, if we knew the otter and the gray treefrog, if we knew the hooded warbler and the Virginia pine, if we knew the chimpanzee and the elephant … we would love the and want to save them, because we would know that St. Francis wasn’t just being cute or poetic: he was being profoundly theological: they are our younger brothers and sisters, we are their older brothers and sisters, and we have a responsibility to love them and save them, because we have the same Source, the same creator, the same heavenly Father.
In the words of the great theologian Bob Dylan, the voice of God is coming to us, blowing on the wind, and in every grain of sand.