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No Plastic Jesus

Updated: Apr 30


a message by Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens

Coral Isles Church, U.C.C.

April 28, 2024

Psalm 24  NRSV

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it, for the Creator has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers.

Genesis 1

1 When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was complete chaos, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

31 God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

I have to confess!  I am a sinner.  I use too much plastic.  I have tried to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but I still sin.  Some of my sinning is intentional.  I put stuff in those Ziploc plastic bags.  On purpose!  Some of my sinning is out of uncertainty.  I sometimes put the pizza box in recycling and sometimes I don’t.  I have heard you weren’t supposed to recycle them, but the boxes of a certain chain pizza place here in Tavernier claim they can be recycled.  So sometimes I put them in and sometimes I don’t.  I am a sinner, and I am trying to repent, but it can be difficult.


I am not trying to make fun of this issue.  It truly is a tremendously important issue.  The environment, creation, the abuse of the earth by humankind are not funny, but if I sit here and beat us all up for 15-20 minutes, I’m not sure I will win any converts.  So bear with me as a tack back and forth between serious and playful a bit here.  I have titled this message “No Plastic Jesus,” because that is what the material from the “Creation Justice Ministries,” was entitled.  There’s even a song with lyrics by this title.  I will share it with you in a minute, although I won’t sing it, so don’t worry.  But because my mind tends to free associate about things I have another confession of sin. Upon hearing the title “No Plastic Jesus” I immediately thought about another song called “Big Butter Jesus.”  Anyone ever heard it before?


Well, the songwriter, Haywood Banks, tells the story of the origin of his song.  He was driving down the interstate in Ohio when he suddenly spotted this 60-foot-high statue of what he realized was intended to be Jesus in the backyard of a roadside church.  The statue was an unfortunate shade of bright yellow, and the songwriter, confesses he immediately thought, “why that must be ‘Big Butter Jesus!’” The lyrics to the song go like this:

In southern Ohio

Just north of Cincinnati

I beheld a vision

Next to the expressway

Was a 60-foot Jesus

With his hands in the air

Looked like he's carved out of butter

Just like at the state fair

And the chorus goes:

Big butter Jesus

Sweet cream Jesus

Country-fresh Jesus

Unsalted Jesus

O promise Jesus

Imperial Jesus

Can't believe it's not Jesus

Oleo Lord


Ok, so now that I have confessed the ways my mind works – and I’m pretty sure I should repent of that, and I do try at times, let’s get a little more serious about our role as people of faith called to be caretakers, or “stewards” of God’s creation.


Our Psalm reading and the beginning of Genesis both remind us that it is God’s creation, not ours to do with as we please.  Unfortunately, we have sinned as a species.  Humankind has not been kind or a very good caretaker of God’s creation.  You know these things.  There have been those who have claimed the Bible’s use of the word “dominion” to describe our responsibility toward earth gives righteous privilege to destroy and dominate and abuse as we feel like it.  There are those who think the Bible authorizes destroying the planet as quickly as possible to bring about the return of their version of Jesus to initiate a non-Biblical concept they call “The Rapture” which will airlift those believing in it to an escape hatch to a distant paradise they call “heaven.”  These are the most odious of our human abuses of our responsibility as caretakers of God’s creation.  For the rest of us let’s be honest, we have resorted to passive claims of helplessness or powerlessness to change government policy or private industry’s gluttonous purposes.  That doesn’t excuse us.


None of this is helpful or funny.  Every one of us here is very aware of the problem as we see it daily.  The coral reefs are bleaching out.  The tides are rising higher and higher.  The fish that used to be abundant and large are fewer and smaller.  I don’t know how anyone can live on this fragile ecosystem we call the Keys and not be painfully aware of how much we need to change our approach to Environmental Stewardship.  But what are we to do?


Let me suggest three words to remember:  Celebrate, Innovate, and Activate.  As people of faith we should always be celebrating Creation in every way possible.  We claim a Creator God who is the source of all that is.  That is the story Genesis tells us.  And it confirms that God made it good – in fact, very good.  We should celebrate every way we can.  And that includes enjoying and appreciating the Creation that is all around us.  Celebrate what God has given us and that will help us take the next steps. 


The second word is Innovate.  Let us learn about innovations that help preserve, protect, and rebuild our world in positive, faithful ways.  Coral reef restorations, repairing the Everglades, learning about new ways to clean up, and restore what our excess has caused.  I am thankful that I don’t have to try to stand here and convince you that “climate change” is a liberal conspiracy, or that the melting ice caps is some “snowflake falsehood.”  So beyond ignorance or belief in conspiracy theories, let’s educate ourselves and give our support to ways to change the trajectory of our fragile planet.


That leads me to the third word: Activate.  Let’s do what we can to make a difference.  Let’s change our trajectory.  That’s what that religious word “repent,” actually means.  To change directions.  Do the little things we can, rather than be overwhelmed by what we can’t do.  Don’t use the “I can’t change the world, so I’m not going to change anything.”  I promise to work harder at not using plastic, at not wasting water, to learn more and act more on government actions that are actually harmful under the guise of being helpful.  I just signed a protest against a house bill that claims to help the environment, but is actually harmful.  If you are interested speak with me afterwards and I will tell you more. It was as simple as clicking on a link to an email to send a letter to our Congressperson to vote no.  Took 20 seconds.  Celebrate, Innovate, Activate and we can change the trajectory of our destructive habits on God’s Creation.


Those of you who are in the know, know that there was more to the Big Butter Jesus story than I told.  Evidently, one night a lightning strike hit that statue in Ohio and burnt it down to its wire framing.  In the coda to the song Haywood Banks sings,

Some blamed it on Satan

And boy, that would be frightening

But I thought it was Jesus’ father

Who was in charge of lightning     

And while I am amused at the thought of Big Butter Jesus, I am no fan of a Plastic Jesus.


In the material from Creation Justice Ministries was a song, “No Plastic Jesus,” which inspired my sermon title.  In it the songwriters[1] sing:

Plastic in our culture is almost everywhere

In our food and even mother’s breast milk

Carried to the ocean, toxically eternal

Disposable consumption in the landfill

Daily we make choices, choosing what’s convenient

Swapping out the truth for quick solutions

But easy and convenient are like a plastic Jesus

Leaving Earth with permanent pollution


Now is the time for a greater awakening

Creation longs for God’s children to see

Beyond our fear, convenience and

Shortsighted greed

There is enough with justice and love

Together we can

Together we will

Together we must

All creation is waiting for us

There is a sacred connection

Deeper than all that divides

All things are stardust and soil

Strands in the web of all life

There is no time for deception

There is no time for delay

Holding and healing and saving

This is our challenge today

There’s no plastic Jesus

Who can teach us how to turn

Money-changers’ tables over now

Give us Jesus, flesh and bone

Who understands our fear

Let there be no plastic Jesus here.


          As we celebrate Earth Day Sunday, let there be no Plastic Jesus here.  It is essential that we remember whose Creation this is.  It is not ours.  We are merely short – term tenants with a responsibility to follow the Boy Scout code:  leave it better than you found it.  Let’s activate our responsibility.  Let’s learn about and participate in the innovations that helps save and restore this planet.  And let’s never forget to celebrate both the creation and the Creator who has shared it with us.  The truth is, when we really understand how wonderful it is, we will truly appreciate the words to this next song, because both the Creator and the Creation are so wonderful that they are practically “Indescribable.”  AMEN.

[1] Alyssa Creasy, John Creasy, Ken Medema, Andra Moran, Bryan Sirchio, Beverly Vander Molen

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