What a blessing it is to live in Santa Barbara! One might expect that after living here for decades, as many of you have, the beauty of this place would fade into the background. But that does not seem to be the case. People express their gratitude for the gifts of this place in words and in actions. Walking, sailing, biking, gardening, surfing, hiking, bird watching, paddle boarding—the list of activities that people use as a way to dive into nature and become more connected with it is long. It’s no wonder there are so many 90 year olds in this town! If you are a native you might think that all this outdoor activity is normal, but as one who comes from a much harsher climate, I am well aware that Santa Barbara offers a unique way of life.
With all of this engagement with the natural world, it’s also no surprise that Santa Barbara is known as the birthplace of the Earth Day movement. Porter Spencer was the first person to enlighten me about this history. I looked it up and sure enough, in 1970, after a massive oil spill, students from UCSB began sit-ins on the wharf, triggering a movement that would take hold across the country. Maybe some of you were there? While we are still facing a serious ecological crisis, the movement that started over 50 years ago has had an impact on the conscience of the nation.
As Christians we have a particular obligation to commit ourselves to the environment. As we will hear in our scripture reading this Sunday, the first responsibility given to us by God is to care for creation. That we have fallen short of this commandment is excruciatingly apparent. So we strive to repent, to turn around and go in a new direction. That is what Earth Day Sunday is all about: it is a form of communal repentance, a prayer that God would restore our hearts and give us the will to work toward a renewed creation, and the energy and insight to move forward.
So I hope you can be in worship this Sunday as we observe Earth Day through songs, prayers, Scripture and sermon. Let the whole earth rejoice!