Bible passages: Job 39.1-12, 26-30; Psalm 104.14-23, 31; 1 Corinthians 1.10-23; Luke 12.22-31
I am indebted in this sermon to the late Barry Leal, for his second ecotheological book: “Through Ecological Eyes: Reflections on Christianity’s Environmental Credentials”. Chapter 4 is entitled “Animals and Birds in Creation”. Barry begins by mentioning the so-called mass-extinction event that humanity is precipitating at present. Humankind is responsible for much misery, death and even extinction among the other species of life on this planet, using different means. The stories of slaughter till near-extinction and actual extinction are rife in the histories of European colonisation: For example, the plight of the bison in North America, nearly driven to extinction; and the passenger pigeon which is now extinct. So are the Norfolk Island kaka, a local species of pigeon, several species of parrots, and many other species, all victims in the 6th major species extinction. And whales around the world, slaughtered for their meat and blubber.
But still, with species going extinct, poachers keep killing. What is of more concern, is the effect that the reduction of habitat is having. That is particularly so in Australia, which is seeing fauna go extinct at a faster rate than in any other country. Koalas are perhaps the best example of this. Their food needs are so specialised that if you clear the wrong kind of gum trees they can be left without food. Then there are the more commonly seen means of death such as roadkill. We can and often do treat our domesticated animals with great brutality too. Barry Leal noted that the great French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes formed the argument that helped humans arrive at the conclusion that somehow it was OK to treat animals like this. Animals, opined Descartes, are actually just complicated machines. They do not have spirits as humans do. This removed the inhibition to engage in cruel exploitation of animals. But despite Descartes we know that our pets are more than machines. They ARE sentient beings. On the basis of DNA studies we can now say that the animals are not much different from us. So, we are ambivalent in our attitudes to earth’s fauna. Long past the time when we actually competed with predators and megafauna for our own survival as a species, we both love animals and we exploit them and kill them ruthlessly, in all sorts of ways, for many different reasons. Biologists think that over the course of my lifetime the number of living creatures on earth has been reduced by more than half. So what do we do, particularly because we have the power, and some have the motive to actually destroy the biota? Well, Christians need to do what we have always done - we need to search our scriptures and our traditions, even as we seek to come to terms with this huge existential threat that we humans are ourselves responsible for. And we’ve already started doing this this morning. Job 39.1-12, 26-30, in the Old Testament, describes ‘The Kingdom of the Wild’. God shows Job the kingdom of the wild, over which he as a human has no control, but where God’s Wisdom and nurture are ever present. Each part of nature has its ‘way,’ a reflection of that Wisdom. In Psalm 104.14-23, 31 ‘Survival and Celebration in the Wild’ God not only nurtures and sustains all creatures of the wild, but also joins with them and us in celebration. 1 Corinthians 1.10-23 describes‘The Wisdom of the Gospel’. The Wisdom of God may be evident in creation. The wise of the world may search for wisdom. The message of the Gospel, however, which may se