Posts From August, 2022

Environmental Stewardship‎

Genesis 1:26-31‎

Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras

Environmental Stewardship: Genesis 1:26-31

August 14, 2022


We heard on the news about unprecedented heat in the United States, floods in the state of Kentucky, and wildfires in California. We can no longer only talk about environmental stewardship on Earth Day; we should discuss it more. The creation story in the book of Genesis describes how God loves the world and our responsibility towards it. Let us explore the text today.

  1. Then God said, "Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness…So God created humans in his image,
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.


According to God's image, Imago Dei means we are being fashioned as God's physical representatives on this planet. We are the embodiment of God's sovereignty on earth and are appointed as God's custodians and stewards over the world.

  1. 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.

Because we are God's representatives on earth, God commands us to “have dominion over,” "take possession of" and "rule" all of God's creation. We are not owners of the earth but stewards and renters. God entrusted us to manage and take care of the planet earth. So, we are not entirely free to do with it as we wish. Genesis 2: 15 explains the purpose of human creation, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Hence, our purpose is to cultivate and take care of the land and everything God created, not to abuse them for profit or pleasure. God empowers humans to care for the earth as God does in love.

Do you think we follow God’s command to care for the planet? Some of us do, but the majority don't. Human activities pollute the land and water. "The causes of freshwater pollution are varied and include industrial wastes, sewage, runoff from farmland, cities, and factory effluents, and the build-up of sediment. Emissions from factories and vehicles are released into the air."[1] The result is excessive heat, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods.


We have a global ecological crisis, which leads to an increase in "migration, food insecurity due to changing agricultural landscapes, national security issues, and health problems."[2] The global ecological crisis is spiritual too. When we have a good relationship with God, we have a good relationship with the earth and animals. How did we violate God's commandment to take care of the animals?


  • We put "Four or more egg-laying hens are packed into a battery cage, a small wire enclosure that none can spread her wings. Being held in such close confines, the hens peck at each other's feathers and bodies.
  • We force pregnant sows to spend their pregnancies confined to a gestation crate—a metal enclosure scarcely wider and longer than the sow herself. Unable to turn around, sows develop abnormal behaviors and suffer leg problems and skin lesions.
  • We confine growing pigs to slatted, bare, concrete floors. Stressed by crowding and boredom, they frequently bite and inflict wounds upon their pen mates.
  • In factory dairies, cows spend their entire lives confined to concrete. To boost production, some cows are injected with the growth hormone rBGH or rBST, which increases a cow's likelihood of developing lameness and mastitis, a painful infection of the udder."[3]

In 1999 "A European Union scientific committee had evidence to show that a growth hormone used in U.S. cattle production is a "complete carcinogen and warned that other hormones could cause a variety of health problems."[4] Despite the FDA’s disagreement with the EU, the EU insists on importing only food and meat labeled with non-genetic modifications from the USA. We are not only harming the animals and polluting the air and the water, but we are also harming ourselves.


For example, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is on the rise. Dr. Selah Naser of the University of Central Florida found a link between autism and consuming processed foods during pregnancy.[5] Other scientists found a link between processed foods and dementia and cancer. What are we doing to ourselves?


Someone might challenge me by quoting (Gen. 1:26), God created us according to God's image to "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." My answer is yes. Still, I do not understand God’s command to mean abuse God's creatures and the earth. Subdued and dominion means accepting our responsibility to take dominion over the earth and to be a part of preserving, sustaining, and caring for the earth and all God's creatures.


  1. God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the air and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food."


God is inviting us to share with the animals what the earth produces. God did not create the earth to feed humans alone but also all of God's creatures. That means I need to preserve the forests, valleys, and wildernesses that the animals depend on for food. I shouldn't destroy these places for my profit.



Is there any hope?

Of course, there is hope. God is still working in this world. Jesus Christ died for us and showed us how we should live for each other and seek the well-being of our neighbor and the welfare of God's creatures because God loves the world, which includes humans, nature, birds, and all animals.


Dialogue is already underway in our nation and our Church. Public concern is growing; some public policy is shifting, and private behavior is beginning to change. From broader participation in recycling to negotiating international treaties, people are searching for ways to make a difference on behalf of the environment.[6] The ELCA takes environmental stewardship seriously. For example, our seminaries offer courses about ecology and Christian worship, ecology and theology, and environmental sustainability. Every one of us can take small steps to be a better environmental steward. Do not undermine your small steps.   







Luke 13

Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras

Luke 13: 32-40

August 7, 2022



Parker Palmer, a wise Quaker writer, told some years ago a story about his experience on airplane. “Palmer was a passenger on a plane that suffered the fate some of us have experienced. The plane pulled away from the gate, taxied to a far corner of the airport, and just stopped. He could hear the engines wind down, and his heart sank.

The pilot came on the intercom and said, “I have some bad news and some really bad news. The bad news is there’s a storm front in the west, Denver is socked in and shut down. We’ve looked at the alternatives and there are none. So we’ll be staying for a few hours. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that we have no food and it’s lunch time. Everybody groaned. (This was back when they still served meals on airplanes.) Some passengers started to complain, and some became angry. But then Palmer watched as one of the flight attendants did something remarkable.

She stood up and took the intercom and said, “We’re really sorry folks. We didn’t plan it this way and we really can’t do much about it. I know for some of you this is a big deal—you are really hungry or you have a medical condition and need lunch. Some of you might not care one way or another and some of you need to skip lunch. So I’m going to pass around a couple of breadbaskets and ask everybody to put something in the basket. Some of you brought snack, something to tide you over, some of you have a few LifeSavers or chewing gum or Rolaids. And if you don’t have anything edible, you have a picture of your children or spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend or a bookmark or a business card. Everybody put something in and then we’ll reverse the process. We’ll pass the baskets around again and everyone can take out what he/she needs.

What happened, Palmer said, was amazing. ‘The griping stopped. People started to root around in pockets and handbags, some got up and opened their suitcases stored in the overhead luggage racks and got out boxes of candy, a salami, a bottle of wine. People were laughing and talking. She had transformed a group of people who were focused on need and deprivation into a community of sharing. A world of scarcity had become a world of abundance. [1]

Scarcity terrifies us and makes us greedy and selfish. It distracts us from serving our neighbors in need. A scarcity mindset makes fear a central of our lives. The opposite of scarcity is abundance. Jesus knew that his followers were impoverished and lived by a scarcity mindset. He intends to free them from a scarcity mindset and to live in the abundance of the kingdom of God.

In the verses that precede today's gospel reading, Jesus tells his followers, "9 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (10: 39-31).

The passage for today continues with the same teaching—trusting God to provide for you and serve your neighbor. The text plays out in two movements. The content of the first deals with wealth and possessions. The content of the second deals with preparation and service. I will explain the two movements.

The content deals with wealth and possessions.

Jesus wants to calm down his followers' anxiety by assuring them that the kingdom of God is already theirs. He uses a tender statement to talk to them, "Do not be afraid, little flock." This statement reveals our Lord's gentle and compassionate heart. He perceives his followers as little lambs who need the protection of their parents and their shepherd. The main point of the text is not to find security in wealth but to put our trust in our heavenly Father. To have the kingdom of God means not to attach much importance to earthly wealth but to heavenly one.

Our Lord Jesus encourages us to overcome our fears and "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven" (v. 33). This is a huge step to take. I want to ensure that you understand that Jesus "doesn't mean to sell all one's possessions; he doesn't even say the word 'all!' A little wealth does no harm." [2] Jesus invites us to be compassionate to those in need. He wants us to use our possessions to help others. Our Lord wants us to shift our understanding of almsgiving from an expression of sharing our excess with the poor to an expression of solidarity and sharing privileges with others.[3]

Jesus introduces us to a new world order where sharing resources is the foundation of the kingdom of God. Greed, selfishness, and earthly possessions are not part of this kingdom. Solidarity with the oppressed and the poor is embedded in its system.

The Content That Deals with Preparation and Service.

Jesus invites his followers and us to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ through serving others. Being generous to others is connected with service. Jesus gives two parables to prepare us for his second coming. A parable about slaves who wait vigilantly for their Lord to return home (12:35-38) and the parable of the householder who needs to remain alert because a thief will not let him know when the break-in will occur. These two parables describe how Jesus responds to our readiness and his coming suddenly. Jesus reverses the order between slaves and master. The master takes a role of a slave and serves food to his faithful servants. This master symbolizes Jesus Christ, who will reward us for our faithfulness.

How this teaching applies to us today?

During Jesus' time, the Roman economy suffered from inflation (an increase in prices). Jesus experienced inflation. Now, inflation hits many of us right where we are most vulnerable—in our wallets. Take, for example, how inflation increases your cost of living. More and more people are becoming poorer. I'm sure many of you used much of your savings to cover your expenses or help your family in need. The rise in gas prices has affected us. Lots of people are worried about what to eat and drink. However, do not let inflation stop you from serving your neighbor and preparing for the coming of our Lord.


Jesus encourages us not to invest our deepest treasure in the things of this world because we will find ourselves no longer serving God but money (Matt. 6:24), which can lead to anxiety coming from the uncertainties of money (Matt. 6:25-34). As all of us know, our money is eroded by inflation. What will happen to our money if the stock market crash or the bank fails? Can you be sure that what you saved will be enough to handle the inflation or crash of the market? No, but you can be sure that our Lord will continue to provide for you and find a way to help you to stand on your feet. Our gracious God opens new ways by which we can more adequately and wisely meet our obligations and needs.

For us who experience inflation, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (v. 32). Calm down your anxiety and trust the Lord, who promised to take care of you. Calm down and trust the Lord, who will provide for you. As we face this inflation, let us continue to help our neighbor who is in need. By doing so, we claim that we put our security in the Lord, not in earthly possession. Let us stand in solidarity with the underserved because by doing so, we claim that the kingdom of God is here on earth. When we serve our neighbor, we prepare ourselves for the second coming of the Lord, who will reward us.