July 28, 2019

“Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the Lord”
Psalm 150
A sermon for Hawaii Kai UCC by Janice Ogoshi
July 28, 2019 (Pentecost +7)

 

(Photo source:  Hakai Magazine website, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/instant-ocean/ Accessed 7-26-2019) 

This is Biosphere 2, which is located in Oracle, Arizona, outside of Tucson.  The 3.14 acre complex was built by a private company called Space Biosphere Ventures from 1987 to 1991.  It is now a research station owned and run by the University of Arizona.  It was named "Biosphere 2" because it was meant to be the second fully self-sufficient biosphere, after the Earth itself.  Researchers study Earth processes, global environmental change, weathering, landscape evolution, and the effect of drought on rainforests, among many other projects.  Because of its systems and size, scientists can do controlled experiments at an unprecedented scale. 

Biosphere 2 was originally built to see whether a closed ecological system could be made that would sustain human life in outer space.  It has seven areas:  a rainforest, a desert savannah, an ocean with a coral reef, mangrove wetlands, a fog desert, a farm and a human habitat.  From September 26, 1991 to September 26, 1993, eight people lived in Biosphere 2.  They learned to live on all they cultivated and ate what the team’s medical doctor called a “healthy starvation” diet, which was nutrient-rich but low on calories.  They were always hungry.  They also learned to manage the various biomes, trying to balance the many interactions that took place between the plants and animals.  For example, they had to harvest algae that threatened to take over the coral reefs, and monitored and managed the ocean’s water quality.  Unfortunately, they could not keep out roaches and ants.  Towards the end of the two-year mission, the oxygen levels had dropped to a dangerous level, and rather than stop, the decision was made to pump pure oxygen into the system so that the team could complete their experiments. 

It was interesting to read about Biosphere 2 and the experiment of those people living in the closed system.  While it has been hailed as a successful scientific achievement, my own takeaway from learning about Biosphere 2 is that the world that God created is magnificently complex, interconnected and interdependent.  We cannot completely replicate what God has made.  We try, but we don’t have the capacity to make even a miniature ecosystem like the Earth.  All that I read made me appreciate more and more the wonder of this world God made and set us in to live.  While I don’t expect all scientists to make the move from what they observe in nature to praising God for it, I can’t help marvel at the complexity and beauty of creation.  God created all of creation to be interconnected and interdependent in ways that we comprehend only partially.  If Biosphere 2 has a message for us, it is that the world that God created truly needs to be appreciated for all its complex wonder and glory and we need to take seriously our responsibility to care for it. 

This responsibility is not only about making sure creation thrives—that really is God’s work—but the ultimate goal is for all creation to give glory to God, to worship God.  When all that has been created by God is as God created it to be, it brings glory to God.  All creation worships God.  Everything that has breath praises the Lord.  This is what our Scripture reading calls forth—praise and adoration to the Creator God. 

Psalm 150 is the last entry in the songbook of Israel.  As the last psalm, it appropriately calls us to continue to worship the Lord.  It motivates us to praise the Lord by telling us where, why, and how to worship, and who should worship. 

Verse 1 gives us the where:  “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens” (v. 1).  God is to be praised not only in the temple or here in this cafeteria, but in his mighty heavens.  Earth and heaven and every place in between are appropriate locations in which to worship God. 

Verse 2 tells us why God deserves our worship:  “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness” (v. 2).  [Think about one thing God has done in your life, and one quality that you appreciate about God.]  We worship God for what God has done, is doing, and will do.  God has created, saved, and redeemed us.  God sustains, forgives, heals and encourages us in our lives of worship.  God is working to renew creation to its fullest expression through Jesus Christ.  We also worship God for being a great God who is loving, forgiving, merciful, kind, steadfast.  God deserves our worship because of all that God has done, and all that God is. 

Verses 3-5 describe how to worship God.  A symphony of instruments are to be used to create music in praise of God:  trumpet, harp and lyre, timbrel, strings, pipes, cymbals.  These were the instruments Israel played, and all of them were to be used in worship.  Dancing and clashing cymbals indicate an exuberant worship—no holding back, joyful dancing and singing and music making.  God deserves the most joyful, enthusiastic worship we can give.  I know it’s hard for us reserved folks, but sometimes it’s good to cut loose in worship, to shout and sing and laugh and dance because of all the blessings God has given to us. 

And finally, verse 6 tell who should worship: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”  Everything, everyone, anything that has been given breath, all that have been given life are to praise God.  All of creation is invited to give God glory.  This exuberant, joyful worship happens when all of creation thrives as it was created, when creation lives fully into its God-given awesomeness.  When creation is allowed to be all that God created it to be, God is glorified and praised. 

So our job as stewards of creation, is to enable the adoration and praise that God deserves.  We invite and free creation to praise the Lord when we nurture its true nature.  When creation is what God created it to be, it worships God. 

When the skies are blue, when the sun and moon provide light, they worship God.

When glaciers do their thing of collecting snow and moving rocks down the mountains, when volcanoes erupt and form new land, they give glory to God.

When flowers bloom and give off their fragrance, they worship God.

When animals forage and move seeds around the forest floor, they give glory to God.

When caterpillars turn into chrysalises, which then turn into butterflies, they worship God.

When hens gather their chicks under their wings, they give glory to God.

When plants grow where they’re supposed to and do their photosynthesis thing, turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, they worship God.

When fish feed off coral reefs, they give glory to God.

When the stars and planets revolve in their orbits, they worship God.

And yes, when flies eat decaying matter and help process nutrients for plants, they give glory to God.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! 

The highest purpose of creation is to give praise and worship to God.  When creation exists in its splendor, it cannot help but point to its creator.  When we humans, along with all the plants and animals, the land and the oceans, the mountains and rivers live according to God’s design, we bring glory and honor to God.  When creation is nurtured and does what God created it to be, it gives God praise and worship.  

Our role as caregivers is to enable creation to be all that God created it to be and thereby give glory to God.  We care for our fellow creatures so that they, together with us, in the interdependence that God has designed for us, all can continue to sing God’s praises. 

God’s creation includes the church.  Hawaii Kai UCC has been created by God, and when we live together and function as the Body of Christ, when all our members use their gifts, when we love one another and serve God together, we give glory and praise to God.  Today we mark the 36th anniversary of the day when seven members of Makiki Christian Church were commissioned to begin a new ministry, a new church in Hawaii Kai.  That was a work of God, born of prayer and faithful discernment.  When you think about our history and life together, all the people who have been a part of our congregation, all the events that have been held, all the support and encouragement that we have given to and received from each other, you have to point to God’s presence and work among us as our source.  There is no other explanation for the life of the church.  God created this church for worship, to live together in ways that bring glory to God.  When we live as God created us, our life as a church is an act of worship and praise to God. 

So, friends, let us continue to take up our call, our responsibility to care for creation, to care for all that God has created.  When we clean up our neighborhood or reduce our use of plastics or walk rather than drive, when we cultivate gardens or care for animals, when we cultivate relationships with our neighbors or participate in the life of the church, we are caring for God’s creation.  And in being caregivers, we are freeing God’s creation to sing God’s praises. 

Thanks be to God for this wonderful, majestic, and unique world in which we live.  May we, and all creation, all that has breath praise the Lord!  

Sources for information on Biosphere 2:

--“Biosphere 2”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2

--“Biosphere 2:  What Really Happened?” by Mark Nelson,  https://dartmouthalumnimagazine.com/articles/biosphere-2-what-really-happened

--“How Living Inside Biosphere 2 Changed These Scientists’ Lives” by Anna Nowogrodzki, http://mentalfloss.com/article/81553/how-living-inside-biosphere-2-changed-these-scientists-lives