Ezekiel 17:22-24
2 Corinthians 5: 6-10
Mark 4: 26-34
Last week I watched a documentary called “A Plastic Ocean”. The documentary is about a documentary filmmaker who discovers that the world’s oceans are brimming with plastic waste and decides to investigate the pollution’s environmental impacts of it. His discoveries are really shocking. Tons of plastic waste are constantly dumped into the ocean every day. We don’t see it, but it is there. Although it is difficult to identify exactly how much plastic is in the ocean due to micro-particles and the amount that has sunk to the bottom, most scientists estimate that eight million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year – adding to the estimated 150 million metric tons currently circulating our oceans. To put that number into perspective, the amount is equivalent to a garbage lorry full of plastic dumping plastic into the ocean every minute.
Why is this bad?
The world is currently producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic each year – a significant amount of which will end up in the oceans. Unfortunately, although plastic is a useful product, many of these products are created for single-use – with an estimated 50 per cent of plastic used once and thrown away. Not only is this harmful to the environment and the oceans, but it is also harmful to wildlife – where it impacts nearly 700 species in the ocean, and humans. The fish eats the micro-plastic so that when we eat it we also eat micro-plastic. It is really as terrible as it sounds!
What can we do? Can we really stop using plastic? And also, what has today’s gospel have to do with it?
How does God’s kingdom looks like? What picture shall we give of it? says Jesus and tells the crowd the parable of the growing seed and the mustard seed. Let’s focus on the mustard seed, which is very small. The seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimetres in diameter. Very very small! However, Jesus says, the mustard seed is the smallest an the start, but it grows into a large shrub. That’s Jesus picture of what God’s way of working, God’s way of growing the kingdom, is like.
After watching the documentary about “A Plastic Ocean”, some friend of mine shared with me a video of a scuba diver who was cleaning the bottom of sea by himself picking the plastic bottles one by one and putting them into a bag, as if he were doing a sort of recycling collection. Now, I’m sure he knew that there was no way to clean the whole ocean by this hand recycling. But He certainly sent a message to the public and small example of what to do. I’m not a scuba diver, and none of us probably is, but there is a lot we can do looking at the example of the scuba diver: we can’t solve the plastic problem on our own, but small changes can make a huge difference. If the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, those small changes are our God’s like mustard seeds. Choosing to forgo straws, as many restaurants have begun to do, lessens the plastic waste and protects wildlife, are certainly things we can do, or already are doing.
Switching to reusable bags when shopping can also make a difference – as single-use plastic bags are a large part of the problem. And being aware that knowing the proper way to recycle common plastics is necessary if we want to keep plastics from the ocean. All these small changes are affordable and doable, and very much in tune with today’s gospel. The kingdom of God would then look like a place where we take care of the environment, our planet, our oceans, the flora and the fauna. It would a kingdom of God where we don’t feel daunted by the forces of destructions that very often are generated by ourselves, and counteract them with the mustard seeds that can make a real difference to our lives and our future, and the future of our children.
This is also making sense of the Scriptures we read every sunday, and know that they talk to us and engage with our world as it is. I don’t know if you ever heard of Rocha Uk. It is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world. They do it in response to the biblical mandate to care for the earth, and a demonstration of the Christian hope for God’s world. They do this through:
– practical involvement in nature conservation projects and ecological research;
– campaigning on biodiversity issues;
– engaging with churches, schools, communities and individuals.
They have also developed Echo Church, which is a brand new award scheme for churches in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth.
To participate in the Eco Church scheme, we can register our church at Eco Church. We can then begin completing the online survey by indicating how our church is caring for God’s earth in our worship and teaching, around our buildings and grounds, in our community engagement at local and global level and in our personal lifestyles as church members.
It is basically a survey, but it also encourages us to do more and be the mustard seed of the Kingdom of God where in their local areas.
Can we see all this as part of God’s plan? Because saving the planet would mean saving ourselves. If this is not a fresh vision of God, the creator, coming to rescue his people by saving the planet before it is too late, I don’t really know what it is then! There is certainly a call for action here, which is profoundly rooted in God’s vision for the humanity. Do we feel the urgency?