Saturday, February 09, 2008

Time to Change the Light Bulb

Genesis 1:1-2:3

God said, “let there be light” and there was light.” And when God saw the light, God said, “That’s good!” Indeed, light is good. As you know, it’s kind of difficult to see where you’re going in the dark, so having some light can be helpful.

In the beginning of time, you had the sun – not bad during the daytime – and then there was the moon – it gives off some light, but it’s pretty limited. In time somebody discovered fire, and fire helps a lot. Over time the campfire gave way to the candle, and the candle to the lamp. Every advancement in lighting made living in-doors and going about at night just a bit easier. Then came the biggest revolution in lighting history. Back in the 19th century somebody figured out how to hook up lights to electricity and everything changed. Even though he wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of the incandescent bulb, a guy named Thomas Edison came up with a long lasting filament and history was made. In fact, his idea worked so well that we’re essentially using the same technology today as we were in 1880. Edison’s invention has been a great success, and we give thanks for it every time the lights go out and then come back on. There’s just one problem; these bulbs use a lot of energy. While it’s hard to give up something so successful, perhaps it’s time to change the light bulbs!

There’s a new kid on the block – actually a couple of new kids. Maybe you’ve seen them; they’re called compact fluorescent bulbs (of CFL’s for short) and LED’s. These lights are much more energy efficient. A CFL bulb uses 70% less energy than a typical incandescent bulb. Now, I’m no math wiz – unlike Bill – but that seems like a big difference. Just think if we exchanged just one million incandescent bulbs with CFL’s we could save 400, 000 megawatt hours of energy in one year. That would keep 200,000 tons of green house gases from being released into the atmosphere. The amount of energy saved could power 60,000 homes for a year, and is the same as removing 31,000 cars from the road. And, that’s just 1 million light bulbs. Just think what would happen if we all did this?

1. A Lenten Challenge on Evolution Sunday
So, why am I talking about light bulbs? Besides the fact that light is referred to in Genesis 1? The answer is that besides being the Sunday before Valentines and the first Sunday of Lent, this is also Evolution Weekend. Yes, we’re doing Evolution Weekend again this year, and as I was thinking about what to do with this day, I thought – hey, let’s talk about the environment. As you may remember from last year, Evolution Weekend not only coincides with Darwin’s birthday, it is an opportunity to consider the relationship of our faith to science.

You may have heard that religion and science are at war. There are those who say that science has made religion obsolete. There are others, on the other side, of the spectrum, who say that Charles Darwin, and scientists like him, is the devil incarnate. You have to choose. And there’s my problem, I don’t want to choose. In fact, I’ve come to believe that my faith can live in peace with science, including evolutionary science.

Because Evolution Sunday falls this year on the First Sunday of Lent, I thought maybe this year we could combine the two observances. Evolution Sunday challenges us to learn from the witness of science. Yes, it challenges some of our cherished ideas, but the end result is a stronger faith. As they say, Darwin is here to stay, so how are we going to deal with him? Lent, on the other hand, calls us to a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, and sacrifice. Maybe this year, instead of giving up chocolate or Doritos, we could do something more constructive. Perhaps we could take some time and change some light bulbs, turn off some appliances, drive a smaller car, and do something good for the environment.

2. Our Connection to the Creation

We’ve already heard the grand poetic statement of Genesis 1, which celebrates God’s act of creation. This passage can be taken in two ways. We can interpret it as saying – God set this earth up for you to do with as you please. You’re the master and the earth is your servant. That’s been a popular way of looking at things, but if we look at Genesis 1 through the eyes of the evolutionary scientist, maybe we’ll begin to notice the connection between humanity and the earth. I think this connection is even clearer in Genesis 2. There in the second creation story, God takes some dust and makes a man from it. That dust of the earth is symbolic of the building blocks of the universe. The Bible and Science tell the story differently, but in each of these stories I hear the message – you are connected to the world in which you live. So be good to it.

3. Our Calling as the Imago Dei

Going back to Genesis 1, we read that God creates humanity in God’s image – male and female. Bearing the image of God, which in Latin is the imago Dei, we’re God’s representatives on earth. These first humans are told to be fruitful and multiply and in most translations, they’re told to take dominion over the earth. One of the reasons why our environment is under such a great threat is that too many of us take this to mean – you can do with it, whatever you want. Listening to the voice of science, I’m drawn to the idea that our calling as human beings is to take care of the creation, to be stewards rather than masters of it.

4. Our Responsibility for the Earth

We’re observing Evolution Weekend again this year because God could be, and I think is, wanting to use science to tell us something. Science tells us that we’re all connected. What’s bad for the polar bear is ultimately bad for us. If the Arctic ice pack disappears, not only will the bears disappear, but so might cities and islands all around the world. Global Warming, Al Gore said, is an “inconvenient truth.” There are those who deny that there’s a problem and others say that a solution is too costly. But if we’re willing to listen, science could offer us some solutions, solutions as simple as trading those old incandescent bulbs for some CFL light bulbs. If enough of us do this, then we can make a difference.

If you look at the card stock insert in your bulletin this morning, you’ll find some ways of doing just that – making a difference. But I don’t just have an insert for you; I actually have light bulbs to give to you. Thanks to the City of Lompoc, each of you will get to take home your own CFL bulb. All I ask is that you take that bulb and replace an incandescent one with it. Now, I know that some of you are resistant to change. You’ve been using those incandescent bulbs all your life and you just don’t think that these new fangled bulbs will work as well. My Lenten challenge to you is to let go of those fears and make the change. At our house we’ve replaced almost all of the bulbs, and we’ve got plenty of light! So, with no further ado, and before we sing our invitation hymn, it’s time to pass out the bulbs!
Preached by:
Rev. Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lompoc, CA
Evolution Sunday/First Sunday of Lent
February 10, 2008

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