Posted by Taylor Chazan

Summer 2018 Camp deBenneville Worship Service Sermon
Delivered by Matt Vasko on August 26, 2018

(Take a deep breath and enjoy the morning) I’ve always loved nature. Don’t you? Yeah! You know, when I was growing up, part of what formed my love of our natural world was trips I would take with my family to the National Parks. During the summer of 1986, when I was 13 years old, we camped at Yellowstone National Park for about two weeks. And I had never seen so much wildlife before! Bison, bears, moose, elk! Deer that would walk right through our campsite. I was in awe!

One night, our neighbors in the campsite next door invited us over for a campfire. We all sat around and roasted marshmallows and told stories. I still remember the mother of this family telling us a story about their neighbors from back home in Ohio and something that happened to them when they visited Yellowstone.

It seems that their Ohio neighbors had visited Yellowstone a couple of years prior, and you know Yellowstone has very strict rules designed to help keep the wild animals wild. But this family had a stray dog that kept visiting their campsite while they were there. And they figured that a stray dog isn’t exactly a wild animal. So they took to feeding the dog and petting the dog, and over the course of their stay that little dog had become something of a pet.
Now this wasn’t the prettiest dog. It had kinda pointy, ugly teeth and a hairless tail, but they grew attached to it none-the-less. And when it came time to leave, those kids were having a really hard time leaving that little dog behind. So the parents thought about it and they thought… it’s just a stray dog. No one has come looking for it and it doesn’t even have a collar. This dog could use a home and a loving family.
So, they packed it up in the family car with them and it rode back home to Ohio in the back seat with the kids. And the kids would take turns petting it and it would ride on their laps. It was sweet.

But when they got home, the dog started to act a little funny. It didn’t like being cooped up in their house in the city and then it started to nip at the kids. So, the mom finally decided to take the dog to the vet to get it checked out.
And the vet checked over the dog, ran a few tests, and said, “Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that this animal is completely healthy. The bad news is that it’s not a dog… it’s a RAT!”

It was a GIANT RAT!!!

I think that story has always stuck with me, because it has such a surprise ending.

But that’s one of the wonderful and amazing things I love about nature is its ability to surprise us. And one of the big ways that it can surprise us is in its resiliency.

The very same time that I was taking that trip to Yellowstone, scientists were sounding the alarm bell on a hole that was forming in Earth’s ozone layer (which is an important part of our atmosphere). One year later, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer was adopted, and CFCs and HCFCs were phased out. Now, thirty years later, nature is surprising us in the most wonderful way, and that hole in the ozone layer is healing. But it didn’t happen by accident. It happened, because concerned people took action.

And that’s what’s happening again with climate change. Concerned people are taking action. Forget about the current administration in the White House. They’re merely a speedbump in history. Around the globe thousands and thousands of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations are hard at work to help us solve our climate crisis. Hundreds of thousands of concerned people from all walks of life.

And Neighborhood Church is literally packed with concerned people (well, not today, because we’re all here). A little over a year ago at our General Meeting we voted unanimously to take action on climate change by pledging ourselves to become a Net Zero congregation. That means we are going to go from the estimated 168 metric tons of greenhouse gasses we were responsible for last year, down to zero. We must become carbon neutral both as a staff and congregation, and as individuals. And we can make that happen!

Members of our congregation, in the form of our Net Zero committee and Green Council, have been hard at work laying the foundation for this movement (yes, I’m calling it a movement). They’ve been changing out lightbulbs, taking quotes on solar power installation, and researching more energy efficient cooling and heating alternatives.

Soon, we all will ALL be called upon to do our part, and we need to be ready. We each need to start to understand and track our sources and amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. This means tracking our utility bills, the fuel we buy for our cars, the fuel economy of our cars, etcetera. Change can be hard, but soon we are going to be called upon to start to change our ways. For those of us with homes, we’ll be asked to consider solar power installation. We’ll all need to check our water use. Those of us who drive will need to consider alternative means of transportation or plug-in hybrid technology. And on and on and on.

It might be hard. But it will be worth it. It will help us live more closely to our Seventh Principle – Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

And the more people who get involved with this movement the better chance we have that nature will once again surprise us. We are part of something great! The movement toward a carbon-neutral planet. Neighborhood Church is at the forefront of possibly the most important movement in the modern world – the movement toward sustainability.

I believe with all my being that we as humankind can beat climate change. Our healing ozone layer is an example of the positive changes we can make on a global scale when we act decisively. We can turn this tide! Coming generations will enjoy a brighter climate future with a healthier planet not just for themselves, but for the entire web of existence! And now is the time to act! And we all need to do our part!! I’m ready! Are you with me?! I said, are you with me?!
Amen to that!

And may it be so.