I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13: 34-35
We know this commandment. We hear it all the time. In fact we often hear it at weddings. But, just because it mentions love, doesn’t mean it is appropriate for weddings. In fact, I would argue that this passage is much more appropriate for funerals. That is the context in which it is given…. We are at the turning point in John’s gospel and Jesus is about to head to Jerusalem. He knows once he’s there that he will be arrested and everything that is going to happen. He’s telling his disciples what his last wishes are… he’s saying… I’m not going to be here in the same way you are used to anymore. You need to take care of each other. You need to look out for each other. Almost like a dying parent’s parting words to his children… behave. Do the right thing. Love one another the way I taught you.
Yesterday, I had the great privilege of walking in the March of Dimes walk for Babies with the Miller/Byerly family. I have to say it was hard. Not the almost 5 miles… but the event itself. I was a bit overwhelmed with the realization that every person there, was there because they lost a baby in their life… maybe not their own, but in most cases a family member or the child of a very close friend. There were so many t-shirts on families with the names of children who were born prematurely – 1 pound 7 oz. 2 pounds 3 oz. There were “in memoriam” t-shirts with the names of infants who had died. Some t-shirts had more than one child’s name on it. I can’t begin to imagine the suffering these families have endured.
The March of Dimes has done amazing work to help prevent premature births, birth defects and the ultimate loss of losing a child. They do everything from providing prenatal care for moms who can’t afford it, education about pregnancies, and research to find the causes of premature births and deaths in the first place.
One cause that has been linked to these things is pollution. In fact pollution is the cause of many diseases such as cardiac problems, Alzheimer’s, cancer of many kinds, asthma, allergies, and, yes, birth defects, and premature births.
We talk a lot about the environment. We need to recycle. We need to reduce our carbon footprint. We need to care about the effect we are having on the world God entrusted to us. Did you ever wonder why the Bible begins with the Creation story? It could be because God creating everything in the world and entrusting it to us to care for is actually important. But, like with so many things, we get lazy. We don’t really worry about it. We recycle and do what we can when we have the time and energy to think about it, but if it’s inconvenient or hard, we just don’t worry about it. I’m guilty of it too. But, if we think about it on personal terms… and it is so very personal.. maybe that would be the inspiration we need to make a change… even a hard change. Think about it like this… we all know someone who has had cancer. We all know someone who has lost a child… the Millers are members of this congregation. We don’t know that pollution is what prevented Scott from living. We don’t know if pollution is what caused the cancer of our family members or our friends. But what if it was? Would that inspire us to change? What if we could make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of our families, just by taking better care of the environment?
If we chose to eat food that was not processed and been sprayed with chemicals. What if we as a society did not have polluted water filled with lead and other toxins? You think it’s just Flint, Michigan? What happened there can happen anywhere. What if we did not have air pollution due to manufacturing, cars, planes. What can we do to cut down on our carbon footprint? Some of it is hard. But some of it is easy…
Consolidating trips when driving, paying attention to our grocery buying.. do you know that most Americans throw away 20% of the food they buy at the grocery store? Strive to have more recycling removed from your home than trash. Use reusable cups rather than disposable. Use cloth napkins at home rather than paper. There are so many things that we know we can do, we just don’t always stay mindful of those things.
What if we thought about it in terms of saving lives? What if we realized that if everyone reduced waste and cared for the environment there could actually be less disease in the world? That’s a huge motivator for me.
Love one another as I have loved you. That’s no small commandment. Jesus’ love for us was sacrificial. He did everything he could for us. His wish for us, maybe even his Longing for us, is to love one another. Let’s take care of each other. Be kind, be helpful, and let’s stop doing harm to ourselves and to each other by ignoring what we can do to help our environment.
The Rev. Anne MacNabb, April 24, 2016