Michigan State Capitol, Lansing
When the Israelites were about to enter the promised land in Deuteronomy 11, God told them, “If you love Me and serve me with all your heart and all your soul, then I will grant the rain for your land in its proper season: the early rain and the late rain. You will gather in your new grain, wine, and oil, and I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle—thus you will eat and be satisfied.” This was God’s plan: rain in its proper time, a healthy climate, and an abundant planet…But only if our love for the creator of heaven and earth is never compromised by our short-sightedness: “Take heed not to be lured away to serve other gods and to worship them.” What are other gods? The god of greed. The god of materialism. The god of exploitation. And especially, the god of fear. “For if you are lured away to serve these other gods, the Lord’s anger will flare up against you, and God will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord has given to you.”
God’s message couldn’t be clearer. God is not interested in market share, or output capacity, or deregulation. God wants our love and devotion, our stewardship of the earth, our appreciation and respect for the fragile ecological balance that sustains our lives.
Every morning, we Jews thank God for creating our body as a precision instrument: if a single organ is open when it should be closed, if a single cavity is closed when it should be open, our lives could not be sustained. So it is with our environment: if the average summer temperature increases by too many degrees, if Lakes Michigan and Huron recede by too many feet, if the proportion of greenhouse gasses to oxygen increases by too many percentage points, then whole species of plants and animals are threatened, whole sectors of the economy are in jeopardy, and the abundance of our fields, lakes, and streams is in peril.
In Isaiah 5:24 we read:
Assuredly, as straw is consumed by a tongue of fire and hay shrivels as it burns. Their stock shall become like rot, and their buds shall blow away like dust. For they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of Hosts.
Again, the message is clear: Things are heating up, as long as we choose to ignore the call…the call that comes just a few verses later in Isaiah 6:3, the call of the sacredness of God’s earth and everything on it, the call that blared forth from the mouths of angels in many tongues to the nations of the earth:
Kadosh kadosh kadosh Adonai tzevaoth
Sanctus sanctus sanctus Dominus Deus sabaoth
Holy holy holy is the LORD of hosts.
M’lo kol ha’aretz kvodo.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria Tua.
The whole earth is full of His glory.
It sounds so simple—just love God and appreciate the divine glory of every corner of our planet.
It means to keep our eyes and ears open, to ignore the false prophets of denial, who dismiss global warming as some kind of urban legend. For it’s not too late to heed Isaiah’s warning:
“Dull that people’s mind, stop its ears, and seal its eyes. Lest, seeing with its eyes and hearing with its ears, it also grasp with its mind, and repent and save itself. For how long? Till towns lie waste without inhabitants and houses without people, and the ground lies waste and desolate.”
We don’t need to wait that long. There’s an election coming up in just five months, and we can send the false prophets of denial back to where they came from.
And there’s plenty of work to do before November. Today you are going to learn about some exciting legislative initiatives we can support today, about your opportunity to buy a fuel-efficient hybrid SUV produced right here in Michigan by the end of the summer, about the findings of intrepid scientists and the contributions of responsible business leaders, and you will come away with a cornucopia of suggestions for reversing global warning, both through what you do in your own life and how you support the sacred work of the leaders in this field.
In the words of Isaiah:
“For as the rain and the snow drop from heaven and soak the earth, and make it bring forth vegetation, yielding seed for sowing and bread for eating, so is the word that issues from the mouth of God. Yea, you shall leave in joy and be led home secure. Before you, mount and hill shall shout aloud, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
Right now the trees are going it alone, absorbing as much of the carbon generated by us Michiganians as they can. So let’s give the trees a round of applause.
And now let’s be silent for just a few moments, turn off our motors, releasing no more CO2 than what we naturally exhale. And if we listen carefully, we may be able to hear the trees clapping their hands for the work we are doing on their behalf.
God bless all of you, and God bless this beautiful state!