Source: Sherman Publications

Spiritual Matters
Sacred service spiritual path to heaven on earth

April 25, 2012

April 22, 1970, the date of the first modern Earth Day observance, found me and my junior high school classmates stumbling through the mountains of Oregon’s Coast Range planting fir trees and picking up garbage in what was then known as the Tillamook Burn.

The Tillamook Burn was the site of a series of horrendous forest fires in the 1930’s and 40’s. Over 700,000 acres of 400-year-old fir trees were lost due to the fires that were caused by careless logging operations and smokers whipped up by coastal winds. The first fire burned for nearly 3 weeks before seasonal rains doused the flames.

There in 1970, over 36 years after the initial burn, the skeletons of the burned trees still dwarfed the young men and women who were hopefully planting year-old seedlings into the fertile mountain soil. The little yearlings only hinting at the potential they contained.

In 1973, the Tillamook Burn was officially renamed the Tillamook State Forest. This was a testament to 24 years of reforestation efforts where millions of seedlings had been planted by volunteers and lumber company reforestation teams. Yet, even today, the forest is but a shadow of what it had been and will again be long after all of us who participated in the replanting are gone.

I remember getting off of the school bus at the end of the day and walking behind my buddy Billy. Billy pulled out a stick of gum, popped it in his mouth and threw the wrapper on the ground. I yelled, “Billy, what the (heck) are you doing? We just spent the day picking up garbage and here you are trashing our street.” He just laughed. I picked up the wrapper and put it in my pocket.

My oldest boy is a member of the Clarkston High School Robotics team, Team RUSH. Part of their public service activities is to clean up after home football games. I have participated on a number of occasions and have made the observation that people can be such pigs. I sometimes wonder if they know what a garbage can is. Piles of cups, wrappers, junk of all kinds are casually left behind by the fans as if the world is their toilet. This experience has certainly awakened the kids who are volunteering to be more conscious of their actions.

People often ask, “What would Jesus do?” I can’t imagine Jesus throwing his trash to the side of the road or leaving it for others to pick up after him. “The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17. “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:21. In Genesis we are told that we have dominion over all the earth, vs. 1:26,28. Dominion includes caretaking and stewardship and doesn’t promote trashing the planet. I believe the Good Shepherd would also be the Good Steward of God’s kingdom on earth.

“It (the Kingdom) will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.” The Gospel of Thomas 113.

Earth Day 2012, with all its projects and activities, will have come and gone by the time you read this. Truly every day is Earth Day when we accept our responsibility to be good stewards. We have the ability to respond with peace, joy and love as we engage in this sacred service. May we all be awakened to the spiritual path of sacred service in God’s kingdom on earth.

Blessings of peace, joy & love

Matthew E. Long is senior minister

at Peace Unity Church & Holistic Center.