Person of the Planet: It's the Little Things by Shanti Moorjani

One of the beauties of Person of the Planet is the empowerment of the individual.  You can do as much or as little as YOU choose to do. The bottom line is you are in charge and you care about the health of the planet.

There are some interesting ways people I've talked to choose to help the planet:

*Mary in Santa Rosa only buys used clothing or takes friends give away clothes, rather than consuming     more.                                                                                                                            

* My husband uses a "Green World" bio-degradable spray to "wash" his electric car, after reading about the Green Auto Car Wash in Redwood City.  It uses under a cup of water and cars come out looking like they just drove off the lot. 

*Amy in Berkeley only uses her electric appliances before 10 am in the morning and after 9 pm at night.  

*We all re-cycle.  Susan and Stephanie go one step further by checking to make sure everything is in the right bin and the land fill garbage is less.

*John in Berkeley says he has an on and off switch on the shower so he can turn off the flow while lathering up.

*Shirley has taken her Person of the Planet commitment one step further by researching companies that do or do not have sustainable practices.  You would be surprised how many common brand names are from companies that have the worst track record. (more on this next week).

Green habits are good habits.   Be sure you sign up for your own personal eco-challenge, a two week commitment starting in October. See Ruth Robinson's detailed information on how to easily sign up.   Remember, we can individually expand our collective knowledge.

-        Shanti Moorjani

Eco-Challenge 2017 & Team Person of the Planet

We are partnering with the Northwest Earth Institute and EcoChallenge in October.  This annual two-week event is a virtual effort by individuals to make a commitment for the health of the planet.

What:  an environmental awareness program with a twist.

When:  10-11-2017 to 10-25-2017

Why:  research indicates that to make new habit (or break an old one) we need about 14 sequential days of effort to make it “stick”.

Who:  each of us.  There are thousands of individuals participating, each person doing something to help the earth.

Where and How:  go on–line, visit https://2017.ecochallenge.org and under the Find a Team tab, sign up with Team Person of the Planet.  You will be asked to select a challenge.  Each different challenge has a selection of Actions to take.  You can track your own selections and actions.  Technically, our Team will ‘earn’ points depending on how successful each of us is when doing our selected Actions.  Really, this is more about doing something positive for our planet than it is about ‘winning’ a contest. So, no pressure!

Let’s Talk:  Are you near El Cerrito on Thursday, Oct. 19th?  Say, about 6pm?  Meet at McBear’s Social Club for a beverage and munchies.  Info and directions:  http://mcbearssocialclub.com

Pastor Tony's Sermon September 17, 2017

Revelation 22: 1-5     9-17-17     ACCUCC     Rev. Tony Clark

Click here to listen to this week's sermon.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.

The Book of Revelation has gotten a bad rap, mostly because people have tried to read it as a road map to the future. It is not so much a futuristic prophesy; rather it is more like science fiction or fantasy, genres which reveal our own world through a fictional place. The Book of Revelation—one revelation, one long dream--was given to a man named John who lived in exile on the Island of Patmos, between modern-day Greece and Turkey, some 75-100 years after Jesus died.

The visions in John’s Revelation are drawn from experience and knowledge, and they are changed by the Spirit that guides our inner psyches. The Book of Revelation is like a dream in that sense, where recognizable things and events become larger symbols for life’s journey. For example, I dreamed this week of today’s worship, where we were making hygiene kits. In my dream, we had a few technical problems, and we also had many, many unexpected guests. I was trying to juggle all of that, I got lost in my bulletin, and I could not actually lead worship. The dream imagined a combination of last week when I was flustered by the sound system, funerals we’ve hosted that were almost too big for this room, and putting together hygiene kits today. The dream reflected what I know, changed by the Spirit into symbols of my life.

John’s dream also reflected what he knew--the dangerous politics of the Empire and the dynamics of several faith communities in what is now modern-day Turkey. While he couldn’t really call out the political entities for fear of retribution, he did name the churches, calling them to task over their faith and work. John’s dream used images from the Book of Daniel, the Prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah, and the book of Genesis to point out the political and religious realities of his day.

The passage we read today gives us part of the last chapter of the whole Bible, with mirror images of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the Garden of Eden. Although Eden was said to be a garden, and John imagined a City of God, there are similarities. Eden was said to be the spring for the four major rivers of the earth; John described a river that flowed from the enormous twin thrones of God and Christ, down the main street of the city, and out to the world. Eden gave us the Tree of Life, which was denied to Adam and Eve—and all humanity-- when they were expelled from the garden; in John’s City of God, the Tree spans the river providing fruit for all seasons, providing eternal sustenance. After Adam and Eve left the garden, God placed angels to guard the gate, and John also has angels guarding the City and the Thrones. John imagined the City of God as more immense and architecturally awe-inspiring than the Temple of Jerusalem or any palaces anywhere. Eden was a garden set apart from the Chaos of the world; John’s City of God will also be a place beyond the chaos of the spiritual world. In God’s spiritual City, which is Eden re-imagined, there will be water and food for all. It is a place, John wrote, where we will be amazed at the size, the intricate artwork, the glory and majesty as well as the absolute power of God, so that the only thing we can say is, “Wow.”

“Wow” is a word I say when I am overwhelmed—not only with beauty, but also with shock. It is the word I said this week as I walked along the Bay Trail and saw a great blue heron preening itself, a little snake sunning itself while a lady big crawled over it, and a cat across the marsh with a mouse in its mouth. It is also the word I said as I saw pictures of the Virgin Islands, Cuba, and South Florida, of destroyed houses, downed power lines and trees, and people wading chest high through water where a few weeks ago there were dry streets. John wrote of a river running down the center of the street, and I saw pictures of that power this week.

John’s river running through the middle of town might be as peaceful as the Sacramento River running through our state capitol, or it could be as frightening as the water running in the streets of Havana. We know both the peace and the power that is in several billion-trillion molecules of H2O, and we say, “Wow” when saw the destruction at the Oroville Dam this year, and we say, “Wow,” when we view the grandeur of the Grand Canyon that was cut over millions of years by the Colorado River.

I am amazed at both the diversity of nature, and the destruction and power of nature, and all I can say is, “Wow.” That is the same “Wow” of John’s Revelation, of standing before the throne of God. It is the “Wow” of God’s power in our lives. And it is the “Wow” of watching people help others when rivers run through our everyday earthly streets.

It is overwhelming, breath-taking, and may even stop you in your tracks. Where there is a feeling of peace when rivers are calm, there is a sense of helplessness in the midst of all that destructive power.

In our helplessness, we can help. Today we’re going to respond to the power of the hurricanes we’ve just witnessed. We will put together hygiene kits for Church World Service to give to people across the world who are homeless, or without water or power, and they will become part of our offering today.

Before you get ready to move back there, Let us pray, God of power and might, God of majesty and Wow, we stand before you in awe, in wonder, in amazement. We mourn the loss of life from the recent storms, and perhaps even more devastating is the loss of homes, livelihood, source of food and water. As rivers run through the streets of our hemisphere, grant us access to the Tree of Life, so that all may be nourished. Grant us access to the pure river that runs from your great throne, so that none may go thirsty. May this work of our hands go to help those in need, and may we find ways to help even as the lasting effects of the hurricanes continue. Amen.

Pastor Tony's Sermon September 10, 2017

Joel 1: 8-10, 18-20, & Psalm 18: 6, 16-19   9-10-17 Wilderness Sunday ACUCC             Rev. Tony Clark

Joel 1:8-10, 18-20The Message (MSG)

Weep like a young virgin dressed in black, mourning the loss of her fiancé. Without grain and grapes, worship has been brought to a standstill in the Sanctuary of God. The priests are at a loss. God’s ministers don’t know what to do. The fields are sterile. The very ground grieves. The wheat fields are lifeless, vineyards dried up, olive oil gone. Food is just a memory at our tables, as are joy and singing from God’s Sanctuary. The seeds in the field are dead, barns deserted, grain silos abandoned. Who needs them? The crops have failed. The farm animals groan—oh, how they groan! The cattle mill around. There’s nothing for them to eat. Not even the sheep find anything. God! I pray, I cry out to you! The fields are burning up, the country is a dust bowl, forest and prairie fires rage unchecked. Wild animals, dying of thirst, look to you for a drink. Springs and streams are dried up. The whole country is burning up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

Psalm 18:6, 16-19 The Message (MSG)

A hostile world! I call to God,
    I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
    my cry brings me right into his presence—
    a private audience!

But me he caught—reached all the way
    from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
    the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
    but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

 

The Prophet Joel wrote about a specific event, a plague of locusts that destroyed everything, some 400 years before Jesus was born. It was an unprecedented plague of locusts (of Biblical proportions!), that Joel saw as the coming of the Day of the Lord when Israel would be either judged or blessed by God.

I witnessed a “plague of locusts,” once, in Cincinnati, where my sister lives, about a dozen years ago. Everywhere you looked there were locusts—on trees, on the sidewalk, on the screens of the house. You couldn’t take a step without crunching them underfoot. They would fly into you as you walked, thunking on your glasses, or donking off your forehead, or banging into your back. And the noise! Good Lord, the noise was interminable, loud, buzzing, whining, pulsing; even in the midst of urban loudness, the locusts drowned out all other sound. Joel described this kind of attack, and said that all plant life was destroyed, the locusts sounded like an army of chariots, warriors ready for battle, making the earth shake as they arrived. Even the wilderness was destroyed, he mourned, and the wild animals cried out.

When Natural disasters hit, like the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and the earthquake in Mexico, there is something very human to look to God for the cause, and to look to ourselves as sinners who must be blamed for God’s wrath.

Joel’s writing called the people to return to God, ask for God’s help, and let the spirit fill them. Joel told the people that God will repay them for their losses, and, in the words we hear every year at Pentecost, God will pour out the spirit upon them. (read Joel 2: 25-29). 

Today is Wilderness Sunday, in the Season of Creation. Wilderness is a mythic place, wild, full of danger, and also full of insight. In journey stories and fairy tales, the wilderness is a place of magic and mystery, where witches enchant you, trolls trap you, wolves and bears eat you, and unicorns or mystical hunters appear to save you. In Native American life, the wilderness is a place of vision quests and finding your animal totem—the spirit guide through this material world. In the Bible, the wilderness is the desert beyond the oasis of a city.

What would drive someone out into the wilderness where beasts and hunger, extreme weather and nature, and other unknown dangers await?

Wilderness is often a symbol in our stories of between-ness--between one time and another, between one place and another, between one mindset and another. For the Israelites, the desert wilderness was between the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, the space and time between Egypt and the Promised Land, between the known and unknown, between oppression and freedom. It was a place of hunger and thirst, of grumbling and longing for what was behind them. And it was also a place to learn to trust God, who provided water and manna and guided them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. The wilderness is where God gave them laws and covenants to hold them in community.

The Prophet Elijah also fled to the wilderness to escape the death-threats of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah’s wilderness, where he experienced the fear and might of the nature—hunger, a windstorm, an earthquake, and wildfire, was between the death threats and his call to anoint God’s servants. Out there, in that desolate, barren between place, an angel provided food and in the stillness after the storms, Elijah met God.

Jesus also headed to the wilderness in a between time. After he was baptized in the Jordan, he immediately went out to the wilderness for forty days (there is that pesky number 40 again!), where he faced the full temptation of the wilderness. Jesus denied the temptations, was helped by angels to return and fulfill his call.

In these ancient and modern stories wilderness is symbolic of trial, denial, temptation and seduction. It is also symbolic of transformation, trust and provision, of blessing and believing. Wilderness and the wildness of nature are physical experiences that allow us to enter into a spiritual state of need and fulfillment. In the Bible, and the Middle East, the wilderness is the desert; in European stories, like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel”, the wilderness is a deep dark wood. In the US, we have desert, forest, mountain and grassland wilderness.

I have been to the wilderness. I have camped in woods and deserts; I have hiked in barren grasslands of the East Bay Hills, the prairies of Wisconsin, and the rolling hills of Wales. I have met wandering herds of cattle and sheep, and I have fallen asleep to the haunting sounds of owls and loons and wolves crying in the night, and been awakened by weird wild rustling animal noises around me. I have known the fear of deep darkness, of eyes glowing from the fire glaring from the edge of a campsite. Although I have never met a bear, nor a wildcat, nor a rattle snake, all of those have been near enough to freak me out while camping. Once, my sister and I missed a turn off on an overnight camping trip and ended up a bit lost, a bit scared, and doubled what we had planned on walking, arriving home later than we expected, with blisters and sore backs, and sunburn.

I have also known provision and blessing while in the wilderness. Beautiful vistas, cool babbling streams, a flock of quail startled into flight by my movement, gentle deer munching on grass as I pass. I have known the beauty of storms, clouds so thick they look like you could climb right up to heaven, and lightning that terrifies and thunder that shakes the ground, yet also lights up the sky in thrilling colors. I have tasted the natural root beer flavor of wild sassafras in southern Ohio and Missouri, and ripe sweet blackberries here in California, and even blueberries in the wilds of northern Minnesota. I have skied and hiked in winter in the northern woods, which is its own wilderness experience of trial, travail, and triumphant beauty.

We need these wilderness spaces, yet we have been trying to control them, tame them, make them do our bidding. We cut rainforests, with their eerily beautiful howler monkeys screaming overhead, so we can farm cattle. We cut northern forests, with their wolf cries and lunatic loons, for the timber. We irrigate deserts, with their poisonous rattle snakes and scorpions, to make them more like the grasslands and woodlands of a different region. We change, shift, plow under, or cut down our wilderness, removing the scary things of the wilderness, and in doing that we also sterilize any chance of meeting the holy through those moments of crisis.  In taming the wilderness, we miss the blessing of the spiritual world that lives there. Yet, nature will break through, calling us to heed her might.

The fear of death, destruction and temptation are symbolized in our fairy tales and Bible stories by witches and trolls and Satan, metaphors for the trials and travails, the temptations of being in a place beyond our comfort zone. Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel are warnings to stay out of the wilderness; yet they, like the Biblical stories of the wilderness are stories of transformation. Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, like the Israelites in the desert, Elijah and Jesus in the wilderness, faced terrible terror and temptations, seduction that draws on their innocence, yet through it they are empowered and transformed into self-actualized, strong adults. In that transformation they find salvation, either from an outsider like a hunter or wood cutter or from within themselves. The same with the Native American vision quests, where they are set out to fend for themselves, and are guided by their animal totem to salvation.

The Israelites fled a desperate situation in Egypt, went into the wilderness to an even more desperate situation, where they were transformed to a people who could see God’s blessing even in the littlest of things—manna, a flock of quail, water from a spring at just the right time. Elijah fled from one place to a place of even more danger, where he was transformed by God to face his fears and return to society. Jesus, too, went to the wilderness, where he faced hunger and seduction, and trusted God to provide.

There are millions of people fleeing from desperate situations these days—natural disasters, political instability, personal persecution, and all of them face a between time, a wilderness wandering time, between destruction and the promises of God. Wandering in the wilderness, a refugee between death and hope, oppression and freedom, between nature and spirit, is not a pleasant place to be. And so many of our brothers and sisters are living there, in the barren between-ness of wilderness.

In these times, as we pray with our brothers and sisters in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico, refugees from Syria and Palestine, who must feel like the Israelites, Elijah, and Joel, that God has abandoned them, I can only pray these words from Psalm 18:6, 16-19 The Message (MSG)

A hostile world! I call to God, I cry to God to help me. From his palace he hears my call;my cry brings me right into his presence—a private audience!

But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

May all our brothers and sisters, refugees from unsafe places know themselves to be saved and even if they are surprised, know they are loved by God.

Amen.

Notes from the "First Person of the Planet" Talk Tuesday, September 12,  2017: by  Shanti Moorjani

Notes from the "First Person of the Planet" Talk Tuesday, September 12,  2017: byShanti Moorjani

Some people are a "Person of the Planet"  (P.O.P.) whether they call themselves that or not.   One such person is Dr. Robert E. Shore-goss,  retired pastor and theologian of the MCC United Church of Christ in North Hollywood, CA.  He spoke Tuesday night in our very first P.O.P. speaker series.  In his position as a pastor, Dr. Shore-gossspearheaded an awareness campaign to make a neutral carbon footprint for his church. He inspired his congregants to plant gardens, buy electric cars, go solar, and more.  His church received a Green Oscarfrom the California Interfaith Power and Light.

After his "ecological conversion", Bob believed you cannot be a Christian and not be an advocate for the environment.   "If you fall in love with God's Earth, you will fight for it," he said.   At the Climate Change March in Washington DC, of the 400,00 people there, 40% were from faith communities from across the country.

His talk stated many climate disruption facts, that probably most of you are already aware of, such as  rising oceans,  higher temperatures, water and airpollution.  Dr. Shore-goss often quoted the Dr. Sallie McFague, professor of Theology Emeritus at Vanderbilt University in Vancouver.  Her  earth renewal quote is,  "Take your share, Clean up after yourself, Keep the house in good repair for future occupants".