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The Rev. John A. Buerk serves as assisting pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1080 Main St., pastor emeritus of Parkside Lutheran Church, and as ecumenical officer in Western New York for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

A minister for more than 40 years, he served as pastor of Buffalo's Parkside Lutheran Church for 28 years before he retired from that position last August.

Following is an excerpt from a sermon he delivered this summer at Holloway Memorial Chapel, Point Abino, Ont.


One of the weeks at the Chautauqua Institution this summer was devoted to the care of the earth. Every speaker emphasized that we are in big trouble with the environment.

Peter H. Raven, a famous botanist and environmentalist, was especially poignant. He noted that "there are about 10 million organisms on earth, and if one of them should disappear, the other 9,999,999 would cheer. That one would be us."

Humans throw off the ecological system unmercifully!

At the time of Jesus' birth there were several hundred million people on the earth.

In 1950 the earth's population was 2.5 billion, and 3.6 billion have been added since then with the last billion being added in the past 12 years!

The results are potentially catastrophic:

Of the land that was devoted to agriculture 50 years ago, 20 percent has been lost to over fertilization and urban sprawl.

A third of the world's forest have been cut down in the last half century.

And what are the results of all this?

Well, one in four people go to sleep hungry every night.

Every day 35,000 children die of starvation or starvation-related causes.

Eight percent of the ozone layer is gone which has given rise to a serious increase in skin cancer.

We live with pollution, and it effects our breathing, and our eating and our surviving.

Another part of the problem is our greed.

Ghandi once said: "The world has plenty to satisfy everyone's need, but not enough to satisfy our greed."

It's interesting that poor people do not want the rich to become poor; they just want to have what the rich have.

And, of course, it isn't easy to come to grips with our affluence.

Who was it who said: "He who owns much is owned by much?"

We must keep working at making things better.

We have to get beyond the idea that "If at first you don't succeed, you get new batteries."

I thought that, when Warren Buffet was in Buffalo, he had a good response to someone who asked him what he was providing for his children.

He said that he wanted them to have enough to do whatever they wanted to do, but not so much that they could do nothing.

So, this leaves us with our responsibility as religiously committed people.

Certainly one thing we have to do is to help provide food for the world.

One way to help with the demand for food is through the genetic engineering of food, especially for Third World countries, even though there is resistance to this from some quarters.

A second thing we have to do is be sensitive to our consumption of energy and water.

It's nice to have strawberries all year long. But we have them because we dump water on the desert to make them grow.

As Dr. Raven pointed out: "people cannot turn their backs on pain, suffering and starvation.

"And what does all of this have to do with our faith and the Biblical witness to it?

Well a lot - all the way from the first chapter of Genesis to the New Testament.

Remember those words from the story of Creation: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female, he created them.

And God blessed them, and God said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (1:27,28)

God put us in charge of the earth - it's our responsibility.

And that means more than going to church.

"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to the garage makes you a mechanic.

The epistle of James does a good job at summing it up: "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?"

"If a brother or sister is ill-clad and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (2:14-17)

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