Learning to appreciate all creatures made by GodPublished 9:27am Friday, July 5, 2013
By the Rev. Cherie Daniel
Freeborn Congregational United Church of Christ, Alden United Methodist Church and Grace United Methodist Church in Kiester
Three years ago I was pondering a subject for worship at the Lime Creek Church on the Farming of Yesteryear site year Kiester. I was watching some television, a documentary on disgusting insects. Actually, it was a message from the World Health Organization encouraging more humans to eat more bugs, a plentiful source of protein-rich (and fiber-rich) food. Ugh. No divine inspiration, yet, for a sermon topic. So, I thought I might take a walk around the block to clear my head. The mosquitoes attacked. I hurried back home for some repellant spray. Still no inspiration. And still the need for a walk. So I ventured outside again.
I tried to think. I tried to concentrate. But there was this annoying, insistent droning or buzzing that interfered with my thought process. And I wondered, “God, why aren’t you giving me a sermon topic? This process usually works for us!” And then it hit me: the documentary, the mosquitoes, the droning cicadas were the topic! So, I looked up references to insects in “Strong’s Concordance to the Bible.” And this is what I found.
Most of us are acquainted the John the Baptizer. According to both Matthew 3:4 and Mark 1:6, John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey (which we assume was created by bees). Pretty important details about John and his ministry. We know he liked organic food and was sustained well by it. I don’t believe that many of us are going to follow his example, just yet.
And we have good reason. We are not to eat insects indiscriminately. Leviticus 11 has rules about which bugs we can and cannot eat. In verses 20-23 we read these rules: “All the winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you. But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind and the grasshopper according to its kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.”
We also know the problems too many insects can bring. Remember the plagues God brought upon Egypt when Pharaoh refused to release the people of Israel from slavery? The eighth plague was locusts. Exodus 10 records that Moses promised the insects would be everywhere: “For if you refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country. They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the last remnant left you after the hail, and they shall devour every tree of yours that grows in the field. They shall fill your houses, and the houses of all your officials and of all the Egyptians — something that neither your parents nor your grandparents have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’”
Of course, Pharaoh ignored the promise of catastrophe, “So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night; when morning came, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came upon all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever shall be again. They covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was black; and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left; nothing green was left, no tree, no plant in the field, in all the land of Egypt.” Bugs in Egypt caused huge problems, and reminded me of the Dust Bowl days in America. Thinking of this devastation does not leave a good taste in one’s mouth.
I could go on with references to insects from scriptures. In Revelation 9 there is talk about a cloud of locusts coming up from the shaft of a bottomless pit. These locusts are not eating vegetation, but only torturing humans who do not bear the seal of God on their foreheads. Ugh. The locusts were like horses equipped for battle: crowns of gold, human faces, hair like a woman’s, teeth like lions’ teeth, scales like iron breastplates, tails like scorpions. More ugh.
From Deuteronomy 28 we learn that God will bless the nation of Israel, unless the people do not obey God, and then they will be cursed by infestations of locusts and worms and cicadas. Simple obedience to God’s word will prevent these catastrophes.
And so we learn from Joel 2 that, even though the cutting locusts, swarming locusts, hopping locusts and destroyer locusts may ruin our crops, when the people repent, we can be glad and rejoice!
King Solomon, in a prayer to God during the dedication of the temple recorded in 1 Kings 8, had these words of hope: “If there is famine in the land, if there is plague, blight, mildew, locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever plea there is from any individual or from all your people Israel, all knowing the afflictions of their own hearts so that they stretch out their hands toward this house; then hear in heaven your dwelling place, forgive, act, and render to all whose hearts you know — according to all their ways, for only you know what is in every human heart — so that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our ancestors.
God created all things. God created all creatures. I want you to remember that most sacred connection when the buzzing, chirping, droning creatures begin to annoy you this summer. Remember (and sing with a new appreciation), as the favorite hymn suggests, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, O Praise ye! Alleluia!”