Sermon by the Rev. Kristi Denham
Sermon in the Justice for #EachGeneration campaign for a thousand sermons in support of the youth suing the federal government over climate change. (More.)
Sermon Title: Dominion
Today we Blessed our Animals and honored how much they mean to us. We will share Communion and remember that millions of people around the world are sharing communion as well on this World Communion Sunday.
We are also invited to consider the responsibility God has placed on us ~ the “dominion” over the works of creation that are in our hands. It is a hard subject and one I have always avoided by changing the word “dominion” to “stewardship,” as if somehow that lightened our burden, made it seem more spiritual. Today I have chosen to face this word head on: To ask what it means for us, what does it mean that God has given us dominion over the works of God’s hands?
Merriam-Webster defines Dominion as…”Power, Authority, Jurisdiction, Control, Command, Sway, the right to govern or rule or determine, the possession of ability to wield force, authority, or influence. It applies to official power exercised within prescribed limits. Control stresses the power to direct and restrain. Command implies the power to make arbitrary decisions and compel obedience. Sway suggests the extent of exercised power or influence. Dominion stresses sovereign power and supreme authority.”
When I think of dominion it seems God must be talking about someone else. If we have been given dominion, why didn’t God give us wisdom and compassion to use it well? Isn’t this dominion someone else’s responsibility? I feel so powerless when it comes to truly caring for creation. I see huge corporations vying for control, consolidating political and economic power, destroying creation with mining and oil exploration, making decisions with which I have nothing to do. I can barely control my own life, let alone take responsibility for the planet.
I’ve been thinking about my mind as I meditate each day: I watch my “monkey mind” thoughts and struggle to stay centered. My emotions go all over the place as I react to the pain in the world. I want to be kind and patient and peaceful…And I watch my reactions go every which way but there. If I don’t have dominion over my own life, how can I expect to have dominion over anything else. Yes, I decide when my cat, Jack, will receive his meals. I make sure he doesn’t get too much and has enough to drink but if he wants to get up at 4 a.m. and climbs on top of my head…Do I really have dominion over my sweet boy?
Psalm 8 is unique and glorious. It is the only Psalm written entirely as an address to God in praise. Other psalms of praise switch between addressing God and addressing the congregation or the individual. It is the only Psalm, indeed the only Biblical literature to be sent to the moon with the Apollo 11 astronauts. It seems a fitting declaration of the glory of God, and our place in our own solar system.
When we were first able to see our blue-green home from space perspectives of our responsibility for our home began to grow. But the assumption that humanity needed to acknowledge its responsibility for creation, written at least 1000 years before the time of Jesus may fall on deaf ears today.
The world was once a simpler place, without the world wide web, we did not know that our choices here could impact the world there. We want what we want and don’t like having to think about consequences. If everyone in the world gets to eat meat every day, then we will use up all our land in meat production and methane gas increases and starvation for many does too. If we all want cheap gasoline then we’ll search and destroy the last refuge for many animals and destroy our atmosphere with carbon emissions. If we love our convenience foods and cheap clothing we will fill our oceans with disposable plastics and clog the world of the sea with toxins. All these challenges feel like someone else’s problem. Don’t tell me to give up meat, or my car, or my cheap clothes. And even if I do, others won’t and the big corporations will continue to factory farm our animals and mine for coal and oil and pollute because they can.
Our world is truly a majestic place and we are called to do some part in saving her from the greed and destruction that corporate profits demand. Where do we begin?
We begin with dominion over our own hearts and minds. We need to practice patience and kindness and respect. The powers that be benefit from our divisive fights with each other. The divide and conquer mindset has been deliberately created to keep us yelling at each other, fighting over scraps of small power. hating red or blue, black or white, when we desperately need to stop and look together at the sacred beauty of God’s creation and our mutual responsibility for caring for it.
Lately I have been looking carefully at how I respond to all that I see and hear in the news and from all of you. It is easy to become overwhelmed and full of despair. But crawling under the covers or toughing it out have never worked for me. Every week I remind us to spend a few minutes in silence, noticing that we take up space, allowing ourselves to let go of everything into God’s care, knowing that the Spirit of a loving God is with us in each moment and can fill us with presence and peace in the breath of life.
Today I am reminding you and myself to acknowledge that we truly are embodied spirits. That Spirit dwells in every molecule of our beings and invites us to center ourselves in our hearts where love and peace and courage reside.
On October 29th, what has been called “the trial of the century” by news outlets across the country will begin. Twenty-one children and youth have sued the federal government over its role in causing climate change and violating their rights to life, liberty, and property, while also failing to protect essential public resources. One of the plaintiffs is Kiran Oommen who is the son of a UCC pastor. And my seminary friends who invited me to do a liturgical dance at their wedding! For me, this is personal, and I am so proud of their son and all these young people!
Lately, my mantra has been to remember the story of the starfish: I am standing on a beach that is covered in starfish that have been tragically washed ashore. I am a small child and the starfish number in the thousands. I pick up one starfish and throw it back into the sea. A more practical friend comes along and laughs at me: “What are you doing? You can never help all these starfish. Give it up!”
But I pick up one more starfish and say: “See this one? This one I can help!” And I toss it far into the sea. This one. This one….
We all have our work to do. Ask yourself what this one thing is for you. And do not be discouraged. Remember that God is with you in the work, inspiring your actions and your thoughts, but when it gets to all be too much, call me! Or reach out to each other. We aren’t in this alone. Reach across the lines to someone whose views are different than yours, listen to them, respect them, don’t let the powers that be divide us. Let’s practice the love that is our birthright as children of God.
Let’s love each other and our wounded world. Amen.