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Delivered to the United Church of Jaffrey
Jaffrey New Hampshire
April 22nd, 2018
Thanksgiving in New England
My family usually goes to Virginia on Thanksgiving.
This is because my mother-in-law and her Husband John live down there in a little town in the Shenandoah Valley.
This year, however, Cary was on-call on Thanksgiving day, so we didn’t do our regular trip.
Instead we stayed at home.
We did have nice meal though — with a lovely crew of people that included my brother and his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Sheryl and her parents.
We volunteered to bring a ham and an apple pie, so I went down to Pekarski’s — a local butcher down on rte 116 — and bought a big ham. I headed over to Clarkdale Orchards too, and picked up a big bag of local “Gold Rush” apples.
Firm and tart, just right for pie.
Things were going swimmingly. I was sad not to be going to Virginia, but at least we were going to have a good meal — and an even better desert!
But every thanksgiving I face the same dilemma… You can’t heat a ham and bake a pie together at the same time.
So every thanksgiving, I solve the problem the same way…
I make the pie the night before.
Which leaves Thanksgiving day open for heating the hame.
So, on Thanksgiving morning, of course, I pre-heated the oven, pulled the ham out of the fridge. I took it out of the plastic bag it was wrapped in, and put the ham on our biggest roasting pan.
I admired it as it went into the oven. I was excited! It looked delicious!
Christmas at the Arctic Circle
December 25th. Christmas day.
Somewhere just below the arctic circle, a young Sperm Whale came to the surface.
It was a male. Only a few years old, but it was already a good size — 25 tons or so.
He had made his way, following the gulf stream, along the Atlantic coast, and now, when he came up for air, he was not far from Prince Edward Island.
He’d been diving deep — sometimes as far as 6000 feet below the surface, in search of food.
He loved to eat squid, which he caught in his teeth — sometimes diving for up to an hour to find them.
If he was lucky, he’d kill and eat a colossal squid — but these were hard to find. Most of of the time he ate medium-sized squid.
And when you are 25 tons you need plenty of medium sized squid.
So after about 10 minutes on the surface catching his breath, he he dove again.
At that moment, he was surprised to see the flash of something in the water.
It looked like squid.
But why was it so close to the surface?
He opened his mouth and caught it… but the thing had no taste.
It was like eating the ghost of a squid.
When you get a ham in the oven, you have some time — a few hours. And this, of course, is a good time to clean the kitchen…
I did some dishes,
Swept some stray flour from the floor.
Took out the compost.
Cleared some stray bowls and coffee cups from breakfast and put them in the dishwasher.
The plastic bag that the ham was wrapped in, was still lying on the counter.
We’re usually pretty careful about trying to recycle plastic bags. Cary is always on my case about it. We collect them and take them to the recycling boxes at the grocery store.
But this plastic bag one was yucky with meat schmootz from the ham.
I didn’t feel like rinsing it and drying it.
I just wanted it out of my kitchen, for God’s sake!
So I tossed it in the garbage.
I have one of those garbage cans that where you step on a lever and the top lifts up.
I stepped on the lever thing — the top lifted up — and I threw the bag into the open mouth of the garbage.
And that was that.
The ham was already starting to fill the kitchen with a delicious smell.
Good smell. Clean kitchen
Image & Dominion
Humans tell many stories.
We tell stories about the beginning of the world.
And these old stories have great power.
They have great power because they tell us how to live.
In the story of Genesis — for example — which can be found in the first chapter of the Bible, we are told that God made the earth for humans.
Not with humans.
But for humans.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
This short passage from the book of Genesis contains two words that are among the most important words in the Jewish and Christian religion.
The first of these words is image
God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…
When we say that we are made in God’s image, we claim that we are sacred, and that our lives must be taken seriously.
We also affirm that when we are at our best, we resemble God.
We create because we prefer beauty to emptiness.
And we want company — we want relationship.
We see the world, the sun and moon and ocean, and when we resemble God we declare that it is good.
The other word is “dominion”
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,
This dominion idea is a very dangerous idea.
If there is one word in the Bible that has had a destructive influence on the world, it is this word “dominion.”
Dominion is one thing, if you are talking about herding goats in the desert, cultivating crops, or following migrating elk.
Dominion is another thing when you are talking about mountaintop removal, strip mining, deforestation, over-fishing, destruction of habitat, polar ice cap melting, plastic pollution filling the seas…
A Dead Whale
In late February, the body of the Sperm Whale washed ashore near the town of Cabo De Palos, on Spain’s rocky southern coast.
The 33-foot long whale was found to be a juvenile male.
Marine scientists from the El Valle Wildlife Recovery Center who inspected the dead whale were surprised by its scrawniness.
Sperm whales are the largest predatory whale in the ocean. Males can grow to 120 thousand pounds — or 60 tons
This whale was a puny 13 thousand pounds — about 6.5 tons — barely more than one-tenth the size of a healthy adult.
Youth could not account for this small size.
Whatever it was that caused this whale’s death, it was also clearly starving.
The Good Shepherd
Humans have interpreters.
People who take old stories and give them new meaning.
One of those people was Jesus.
Jesus took the “dominion” idea, and filled it with care.
“I am the good shepherd” he said “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Jesus uses sheep and shepherd language to explain how God relates to humans.
What does God’s “dominion” over us look like?
The good shepherd pays deep attention to the sheep.
The good shepherd knows his sheep so well, that they “listen to his voice.”
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
If we want to resemble God…
To be in God’s image
Perhaps we should consider how God acts when God shows “dominion.
Sixty-four Pounds of Trash
I imagine the Marine scientists from the El Valle Wildlife Recovery Center standing over the body of the whale.
I imagine the scientists probably had a suspicion about the Whale’s cause of death.
I can imagine the sinking feeling that came upon them when they cut open the whale’s stomach and their worst suspicions were confirmed.
The scientists cleared a place on the sand next to the body, and began making a piling up what they pulled from the whale’s stomach and intestines…
Plastic garbage bags
Sixty four pounds of it!
Sixty four pounds of our trash clogging up the guts of this magnificent creature.
Can you imagine?
I don’t want to imagine it…
I don’t want to imagine what would happen to my insides if I swallowed a plastic bag.
The ghost of a squid.
I hate to think of it.
The very things that make plastic bags useful for getting our groceries across the parking lot to our cars — that they are lightweight and durable — makes them deadly if swallowed.
It makes me wonder
It makes me think about that bag I threw away on thanksgiving day…