Tuesday, April 11, 2017

4/17 CCC: Earth Month Rogation Readings

Friday, March 10, 2017

3/17 CCC: Climate Caretakers: Biblical, Scientific, Business

March 2017 Creation Corner Column

Climate Caretakers: Biblical, Scientific, Business

"The Good News is a 'lamp shining in a dark place.'"

John Elwood, of Climate Caretakers, combines biblical, scientific, and business approaches in his monthly Evangelical blog, www.BelovedPlanet.com , now in its 7th year.  It reflects his "hearing the gospel's call to care for an injured planet" as an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

Covering such themes of faith, science, and justice, his resources list includes 24 on-line, 42 books and 5 videos.

Tracking CO2, now at over 400 ppm, is Earth's CO2 home page, https://www.co2.earth.
The https://www.desmogblog.com  is about the global warming misinformation campaign, and tries to clear the public relations pollution that clouds climate science.

Other recommended sites include Climate Progress, Skeptical Science, the U.S. Drought Monitor, EcoWatch, 350.org, etc.

Following Elwood's "Action" suggestions, one finds www.theRE100.org.  It notes what corporations do to reduce carbon emissions by pledging to use 100% renewable energy resources.  The private sector uses 1/2 of the world's electric consumption, and some of the most influential companies' pledges come from Walmart, P&G, Nike, Nestle, Microsoft, GM, Google, FB, Johnson & Johnson, Starbucks, etc.

www.TheRE100.org is brought to us by www.TheClimateGroup.org.   It works with businesses, governments, NGOs, etc., and the Carbon Disclosure Project (https://www.cdp.net/en) that motivates companies and cities to disclose their environmental impact, thus helping to drive sustainable economics.

Both of these are members on the www.wemeanbusinesscoalition.org, urging 100s of investors and businesses to create a low carbon revolution.

One Coalition member, The B Team, goes beyond Plan A ("business as usual") to Plan B, for transparency and anti-corruption.  "B" corporations are conscientious, not just for sustainability and minimizing harm, but also for maximizing their positive impact.  Thus, people using business as a force for good. 

There is a news-stand magazine, "B", www.bthechange.com and BestForTheWorld  http://bftw.bthechange.com/ web sites.

Another Coalition member, www.ceres.org, works with advocates, investors and companies to integrate environmental and social considerations into business decision-making, the goal being sustainable prosperity.

"All of my creation is an effort to weave a web of connection with the world.  I am always weaving it because it was once broken."  Anais Nin 
This blog, seen at www.LutheransRestoringCreation.org began in March 2011, 6 years ago.  It originates with the newsletter of the Williamsport PA based United Churches of Lycoming County (UCLC) (www.uclc.org), where it began in 1997.  

The UCLC is a 70-year old ecumenical body partnering with 180 congregations, engaged in ministries such as the Shepherd of the Street, Food Pantry, Campus Ministry, Fuel Bank, Devotion Line, newspaper sermons, broadcasting,  institutional worship services (825+), social concerns advocacy, monthly print and on-line newsletter, interfaith outreach dialogue network, community ministeriums cooperative services, etc.

Its director is Baptist minister Rev. Gwen N. Bernstine.  The late Lutheran pastor Rev. Dr. Alton Motter (d. Aug. 5, 2003 at age 95), author of Ecumenism 101: A Handbook about the Ecumenical Movement, and other titles, was her predecessor.

This column blogger, Michael Ochs, may be reached at billtownmike@yahoo.com

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2/17 Creation Corner: News You Can Use

Creation Corner Column for February 2017:  News You Can Use

"Let Justice Flow Like Streams...of sparkling water, pure, enabling growth, refreshing life, abundant, cleansing, sure."  first verse, Hymn 763 in "With One Voice: A Lutheran Resource for Worship" hymnal.

Headlines of "Global Warming In Overdrive" prompt concerned readers to respond.

A recent global evangelical God-centered effort committed to care for the climate through regular prayers and action, with an emphasis on glorifying God and loving our neighbors is www.climatecaretakers.org .

An international grass-roots environmental group that trains and supports volunteers to build relationships with elected representatives in order to influence climate policy is the ten-year-old www.citizensclimatelobby.org .  Also see www.citizensclimateeducation.org .

Another online action center is the www.momscleanairforce.org ,fighting pollution and climate change (it's for dads too!)  It is supported by the 50-year-old Environmental Defense Fund.

For whatever part of God's creation you hold dear, and wish to protect and defend, if you cannot be an "activist" there are many opportunities for you to be a "clicktivist" (signing petitions online), and/or being a "checktivist" (sending financial support for that cause).

As Earth Day April 22, 2017 approaches consider the materials your denomination has for caring for creation at its website (Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, etc.).  Look for the ecological ministries at www.creationjustice.org.

Consider the resources at the Earth Day Network and its 2017 campaign theme of "Environmental and Climate Literacy" (March for science, green schools and cities, endangered species, reforestation, communities of faith for the environment, etc.).

European Christian churches are organized as the European Christian Environmental Network ( www.ecen.org ).

Following Earth Day is the Stewardship Week in late April.  The 2017 theme is "Healthy Soils Are Full of Life".  Materials are from the National Association for Conservation Districts (www.nacdnet.org) .

And be mindful that the annual Arbor Day celebration is the last Friday in April.

From the archives:  1992: The Garden of God: Selections from the Bible's Teaching About the Creation.  Glenn Paauw, assisted by Cal DeWitt and John Stek.  International Bible Society.

Inspiring Quote:  "Hope and optimism are different.  Hope has to do not with thinking everything's going to be O.K., but seeing that it's not and then you move anyway".  Anna Deavere Smith, Time magazine, Nov. 7, 2016, p. 64.


Friday, January 6, 2017

1/'17 Creation Corner Col: New Year Reflections

January 2017 Creation Corner Column

Reflections upon a New Year

"...a glad new year to all the earth."  (concluding line of "From Heaven Above", Hymn 51, Lutheran Book of Worship)

Scripture in bold print; secular quotes in regular font.

Job 12: 7-8 "...ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth,and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you."  Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher.  William Wordsworth
Psalm 104:24  "How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all: the earth is full of your wisdom."  Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.  John Muir

Psalm 138:8  "Oh Lord, do not abandon the works of your hands."  The greatest threat to our future is apathy.  Protest sign slogan

Psalm 90:12  "Teach us to number our days so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom."  We repeatedly lose touch with what we intend our lives to stand for.  Barry Lopez

Isaiah 24:5-6a  "The earth is defiled by its people, they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the covenant.  Therefore a curse consumes the earth."  You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.  William Wilberforce

2 Chronicles 7:14  "If my people...turn from their wicked ways...I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  In a dark time, the eye begins to see.  Opening of a poem by Theodore Roethke

Genesis 2:15  "And God put (us) in the garden of Eden to keep and serve it."  Its a phenomenal planet.  I wanted to give something back.  A Conservancy contributor

Hebrews 3:13 "Support one another daily."  What a country chooses to save is what a country says about itself.  Mollie Beattie


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

12/'16 /Creation Corner: Signs of our Times?

Creation Corner Column for December 2016:  Signs of Our Times?

"We plead, O Lord, to see the day of Earth's redemption that sets your people free." Verse from Advent Hymn 25, "Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers" (Lutheran Book of Worship)

Voices calling for a renewable energy economy and a safe climate future, using a slogan of "Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground", remind us of the dangers of fossil fuel development and the urgency of the climate crisis.

One example, from the Fall "Friends of the Earth" news magazine, is this: "Pipeline leaks and oil spills contaminate public lands and waters, communities are being displaced by coastal erosion and accidents like natural gas explosions.  And extreme weather events due to climate change, such as floods, hit some of the most vulnerable communities the hardest."

The "Keep It In The Ground" movement has found resonance in Pennsylvania as the PA Medical Society has adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on fracking.   Citing the many unanswered questions about Marcellus shale gas drilling, the group also asks for a state registry on the personal, community, and environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing.

Over 1000 chemicals could be used in fracking, and some may have a carcinogenic effect when released into the air and water.  More research is needed, but for now the doctors' group thinks the questioned health risks outweigh the economic benefits.

Another example of groups in seeming agreement with the "Keep It In The Ground" movement is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), whose church-wide body recently voted to discontinue fossil fuel investments, and to work toward a sustainable future.

This happened on the heels of the 2015 call by the Lutheran World Federation Council to do the same.

Another "sign of our times": The nature words of pasture, dandelion, willow, acorn and nectar have been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary for seven year olds.  Techno words added are broadband, blog, cut & paste, mp3 player, and voicemail.

This quote from John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

Finally, this paraphrased quote attributed to Chief Seattle:  "Whatever we do the web of creation, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect."

This blogger, Michael Ochs, located in Williamsport PA, is a member of the Interfaith Dialogue Commission of the 60-year old ecumenical body, the United Churches of Lycoming County.  In 1960-61 he was a member of the speakers bureau of the Lycoming chapter of the interfaith National Conference of Christians and Jews.


Friday, November 4, 2016

11/16 Creation Cor.: Animals & Us

 Animals and Us: Creation Corner Column for November 2016

Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.    Pope Francis

We all, no doubt, consider ourselves as "humane."  Over a hundred years ago, after the socialist newspaper "Appeal To Reason" published Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, a public outcry over the horrid meat-packing industry practices, for laboring workers and the meat-processing, led Congress to pass the 1906 Meat Inspection Act.

In 2016 an international outcry took place over the killing of a protected African lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe.

We do have moral/ethical concerns.  But do we compartmentalize them away from our consumer habits?  Might we be "positioning ourselves as consumers first and moral beings either second or not at all?", asks George Monbiot in a recent (Sept. 23-29) article in The Guardian Weekly.  Might the feared extinction of species be "simply the consequence of our uncontrolled consumerism"?
So we need to ask ourselves: Might we tread more lightly on God's earth?  Eat less (or no) meat?  Question "factory farms"?  Refrain from big game trophy hunting, and wearing furs.  Can we speak up about the importation and sale of endangered species parts, often secured from poaching?

Are there groups worth your supporting---Christian Vegetarian Association, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS has a Faith Advisory Council), the ASPCA, PETA, etc.?

For a recent view of the theology of animals see the July issue of Sojourners (sojo.net). 

To understand what less animal cruelty means, read Wayne Pacelle's The Humane Economy. 

Re: animal rights, see the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org).

Also see the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF.org).  ALDF has an Animal Bill of Rights petition to the U.S. Congress.  The preamble notes our belief that animals, like all sentient beings, are entitled to basic legal rights in our society.  Deprived of legal protection, animals are defenseless against exploitation and abuse by humans.  As few rights now exist, legislation could be passed in support of the following basic rights for animals:

The right of
...animals to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse;
...companion animals to a healthy diet, protective shelter, and adequate medical care;
...wildlife to a natural habitat, ecologically sufficient to a normal existence and a self-sustaining species population;
...animals to be free from cruel and unnecessary experimentation and testing;
...animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.

Internationally, there is an effort on behalf of non-human animal rights, represented in the western hemisphere by AFADA (the Spanish acronym for the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights), and, in the U.S. by the Nonhuman Rights Project.  Extending the status of "personhood" to sentient beings, non-humans, such as apes, is a goal, as reported in "The Battle for the Great Apes" cover story by George Johnson in the Nov./Dec. issue of Pacific Standard (psmag.com) .  Just as corporations have "been considered 'juridical' or 'artificial' persons with some of the rights and obligations of people" (being able to 'sue and be sued and have rights to free speech as in Citizens United'), religious expression has also been considered a right of corporations, as in the Hobby Lobby case.

So animals, as nature itself, both long-regarded as "things", are now being recognized as being bearers of legal rights, albeit limited.  Of course there are century-old animal welfare laws and ordinances, but have they been enough?  Stay tuned in.  The law evolves.  Slaves were once considered possessions, then came abolition and emancipation.  Less than a century ago in the U.S., women gained the right to vote.  While non-human species have no capacity to argue for themselves, might Homo sapiens do it for them?

"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."  William Shakespeare
Mr. Ochs initiated and then co-led October weekly sessions in the Williamsport PA area Lutheran School of Religion, sponsored by the Lutheran Shared Ministry  https://www.facebook.com/LSMLutheranSharedMinistry/.  Course materials were the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's "Awakening to God's Call to Earthkeeping" http://www.elca.org/en/Resources/Caring-for-Creation .

Sunday, October 2, 2016

10/16 Column: Improving Our Human Nature

October 2016 Creation Corner Column

Improving Our Human Nature

This is a column about nature; what about our human nature?  Our created being?  How may it be improved upon, as we consider how to improve all of nature?

Not being sedentary, and walking instead, is a form of exercise, and exercise has been shown (as has a proper nutritional diet) to have many benefits.  In my house I have a poster from 20 years ago, "96 Reasons to Exercise in 1996"!

According to an article by Alexandra Sifferlin, (TIME, 7/4/16, p. 18), "The New Reasons to Exercise" include it having mind-body benefits (one study found that 37% of yoga practitioners  keep up their practice for spirituality reasons); it improves memory, increases energy, may stave off depression, curb cravings and reduce the risk of serious cancers.

Some churches are uniting religion and an improvement of human nature through physical fitness and health programs, according to an article by Erin Beresini in the OUTSIDE magazine for October 2016.  One fitness instructor says "God want us to be healthy and strong and to shine out his light for others to see."

There is now a Faith and Fitness magazine and conferences, and a web site (ChurchFitness.com) .  The non-profit Health Fitness Revolution ranked the top fitness-minded American mega-churches.  There is the Global Congress on Sports and Christianity.

"You could have a great heart, but your ability to serve is going to be impacted by your fitness level," said one Baptist pastor. 

A personal trainer said our priorities are confused:  "Don't have affairs...but you can do food like nobody's business."

So if our unhealthy bodies are hindering our full potential to serve God, churches are creating Health Fitness challenges.  Rick Warren promotes the Daniel (diet) Plan.  New Jersey has grants for faith-based organizations to begin community health programs.  A church gym composes a "Fitness and Recreation Ministry", helping it to be relevant in a culture that is increasingly health-minded.

Might "Thou Shalt Work Out" become the 11th commandment?

If so, the cover story for TIME magazine (Sept. 12 and 19), "The New Science of Exercise" by Mandy Oaklander provides another series of benefits that can incentivize our participation.  A sample:  More blood to the brain can help create new blood vessels, release chemicals that lighten one's mood and ease pain; more blood pumped to muscles carries oxygen to help withstand fatigue; weight-bearing efforts can help muscles grow, put pressure on bones that increases their density; blood flow to the skin propels nutrients to the epidermis, thus helping wounds heal faster; fat cells shrink as fat is burned to be used for energy; and exercise may protect the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes (telomeres) that in turn may slow the aging of cells.

Readers of that TIME piece in the subsequent issue lamented the absence of advice for people with disabilities, who also need "safe and consistent access to recreation and sport".  But rehab services exist to help with that.  The bottom line, however, came from one reader who lamented the lure of the ever-present home couch, saying it represents "the exact opposite of mental, social, spiritual and physical activity and personal improvement."  Timely advice on the healing power of movement.  Whatever your physical condition, you may be able to find a way to "go in peace and serve the Lord."

This column originally started in October 1997, written for the monthly newsletter of the ecumenical newsletter of the United Churches of Lycoming County, PA, by Lutheran layman Michael Ochs.