No Snakes In My Garden

Good morning. Thank you for having us. Dominique and I have two adult children who are back in Montreal-they have their own lives now and if we want to see them, we have to schedule it-we’re having dinner tomorrow night.

Dominique and I came to faith when we lived in NY while we were college students. I graduated (many years ago) as a mechanical engineer (later on I went and got an MBA) but, I have found that my passion is working with people and that is why I have worked in the ministry as an evangelist for the last 25 years-in the Caribbean, New York/ New Jersey area and now in Quebec.

We love working with the congregation in Montreal. It’s a church of 140 members. People are warm, hospitable and very direct (and can be emotional especially when it comes to their language and culture-but it’s been rewarding and faith building. In fact, we started 2019 with a 21-day fast followed by a 5 hr Saturday evening service that set us on the course of a transformation in our church. Tony came to speak at that service…that’s why it lasted 5 hrs…no, in fact, Tony really challenged us to look inward and to make changes. So, at a result the church is growing in maturity, love and in numbers. It’s a church of 140 members.

You are blessed to have Tony and Melanie leading the church here. It is simply amazing to see how God has used them in the past year. We have so much respect for them.

Before I get into my topic for today, I want to give you some context. This past March, I was invited to go to the Vatican to participate in a conference Religions and the United Nations Sustainable development goals. There has been a lot of talk, increasingly more, over the last few years about CLIMATE CHANGE and how it is affecting the planet (rise in average temperature; endanger of certain species, destruction of habitats, rise of sea level causing flooding etc.) Why is this an important topic and why are so many people talking about it? Well, for one, these changes are affecting many lives around the globe!

HERE ARE SOME FACTS that you may or may not know:

IN THE WORLD TODAY, there are 815 million people go hungry; that number will increase to 2 billion by 2050. Yet, 33% of the global food production goes to waste. 783 million live below the poverty line-set at $1.90 USD per day and 428 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water.  7 million people die each year as a result of pollution.

Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in September 1987, there has been quite a few conferences around the world to address this issue. Today, some scientists are saying that we have a window of 10-12 years to change our way of life drastically if we are to avoid catastrophe.

Recently, we had the passage in Canada of a bright and passionate young lady from Sweden, Greta Thundberg, who started inspiring people all over the world by her words and actions in the fight against climate change. This is a hot political issue; sometimes seen as a left vs right or liberal vs conservative issue. Today, I would like to bring you a biblical perspective which is one of real hope and stewardship. In fact, there are three things I would like to say about the environment and our role as Christians.

  1. It was designed to work perfectly. Gen 1: 27-28, 31. God created the world and it was good! The earth was a gift from God and as such it showed God’s love and care.
    1. Look at the beauty and variety. Dominique and I went for a hike a few days ago to the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, it was breathtaking.
    2. Some scientists say there are 26 physical constants that make life (as we know it possible.) Were they to be slightly different, life ( as we know it) in its complexity, would simply, not be possible.
  2. We must understand that WE broke it and understand HOW we broke it! Why is the planet the way it is today? It started in a beautiful garden. It’s the story about a woman and a snake. Gen 3:1-5. Listen to what God said to Adam after he disobeyed: “Cursed is the ground because of you.” Gen 3: 17  Someone will say, “Wait! Isn’t that a bit overkill!” He ate a fruit and now the whole planet is cursed?!” I believe there’s a symbolism here. This story is about making the wrong choice. Satan tells humanity, “You don’t need to play by God’s rules; you don’t need God’s rules. Make up your own rules!” Adam and Eve chose their way rather than God’s way; ultimately, they chose to live and run the world based on their own rules. The same choice has been at play since, and is the root cause of the earth’s problems. The reason the planet is hurting is because people have not obeyed God.
    1. Here is an example that is close to home for me. I recently watched a documentary on the historical development of Haiti’s failing economy. At some point, Haiti was the third largest exporter of coffee in the world. In colonial times, it was the largest importer of sugar in the world. It started with the French colonizers (16th and 18th century) ruthlessly exploiting the land by cultivating the same crop year after year for decades causing the land to become impoverished…this triggered, along with the international embargo imposed on Haiti as a the first black republic, a cycle of poverty for centuries that pushed people in the rural areas to cut down trees (causing excessive deforestation) to make and sell charcoal. In the O.T it was commanded explicitly NOT TO DO THAT! Lev 25:1-5; 18-22. This points to the fundamental problems of the human race…
    2.  Alexis de Tocquerville, a French politician and historian in the post revolution era, visited America and compared what was going on there with what was going on in Europe. He wrote “Democracy in America” in which he observed that modern democracy (as he saw it in America) could be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality (no class systems, everyone can be equal) could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism. Since in a radical equality, wealth is within everyone’s reach, everyone will do whatever they can to pursue and attain it. “In such conditions, we might become so enamored with ‘a relaxed love of present enjoyments’ that we lose interest in the future of our descendants…and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one.” AND THAT DESPOTIC FORCE IS AN IDEA-You can call it “The Pursuit of Happiness” or the “American Dream” but the idea that, “if I work hard enough I can have everything I want” and “If I work hard enough to have it, I deserve it.” This is woven in the very fabric of American and Canadian society and that is the heart of the problem. So, it’s not just a lack of information and awareness about the impact of our actions on the environment that is the problem. At the root, if we are honest, there is: Greed, Selfishness and Arrogance.
  3. How do we fix it? As I said at the beginning, this is a question of Real hope and stewardship “No Snake in this Garden.” I watched this school play in NY many decades ago, No Snake in this garden. It was a retelling of the genesis story of what would have happened if there had been no snake, no Satan or if Adam and Eve had not chosen to listen to it.  A PERFECT WORLD! Sounds Utopic but as Christians this is our hope. When I was doing my MBA, a colleague asked me once, about the importance of a heaven for a Christian! It’s capital. 1 Cor 15:19. It is because of our hope in a new life that we can live in this one with contentment, without FOMO. Thus, our choices, that affect the environment and others, can be more responsible. 2 Peter 3:13. Rev 21:1-5. The early Christians believed that heaven was not some vague, non-physical pace somewhere in the sky but rather a new form of existence, in the presence of God but with a very real and definite physical component. There is much debate about whether these passages are to be interpreted literally or figuratively. I found Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven to be fascinating on that subject. What we can be sure of is that God will bring in a new reality, redeeming body and spirit in a rewoven material world. We’re talking about a real existence with a physical component. Luke 24:36-42. When Jesus came back to life, he came back with a real physical body. 1 John 3:1-3. As Christians, we live this life in eager expectation of God bringing about something, indescribable. It’s beyond imagination! It’s an existence where every longing you have ever had, where the picture in your soul of this perfect life will be manifested. C.S Lewis says that our souls pine for the memory of something we’ve never had-and we feel it in our relationships, vacations, when we visit old places, we knew…we long, for the restoration of life as it was designed to be. It is this Christian hope that helped the first disciples endure hardships and persecutions. And it is this same hope that determines the choices we make today.

Hope is a powerful thing. People who have no hope tend to live shorter lives. Makes sense! If you have nothing to look forward to than your entire existence is here and now, in the present. Deep down, what we are really longing for is not just a carbon neutral planet, it is God’s promise of a restored earth and a restored humanity where every longing can be filled.  According to the biblical perspective, the way forward, therefore, is inner transformation (pursuit of God, right living and contentment) because we do not have FOMO! We know and trust in the life to come. That belief translates into greater respect and care for our environment and care for our neighbour.

When you have this hope, you care more for the earth and less for the things of this world. C.S. Lewis said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” He means that they did not make comfort in this world the center of their existence because they knew they had something better lasting to look forward to.

“It seems quite inexplicable to me that there are some Christians who claim to love and worship God, to be disciples of Jesus, and yet have no concern for the earth that bears his stamp of ownership. They do not care about the abuse of the earth and indeed, by their wasteful and over-consumptive lifestyles, they contribute to it.” Let these words be very far from describing how you live your life as Christian. 

Here are some practical things we can begin to do:

  1. Support environmental advocates
  2. Use sustainable forms of energy
  3. Switch off unneeded appliances
  4. Purchase necessities from companies with ethically-sound environmental policies
  5. Join local conservation societies
  6. Avoid over consumption
  7. Recycle (composting) as much as possible
  8. Get informed

Again, it goes beyond this to do list. I am talking about a change in paradigm that comes from an inner transformation which will change the way we live our lives here in this world.

God promises that there will be no snake in the next garden. But until then, let’s choose to not listen to this one and play our part in preserving the planet for us, our neighbours and our children.