The Season of Creation
September 6 2015: This morning we begin a month long focus on The Season of Creation. As followers of Christ, our theology is deeply rooted in creation, the dust of the earth and the bountiful provisions with which God has blessed us. During this month we will post our sermon manuscripts here as a resource for those who may not be able to join in our Sunday morning Worship Celebrations. Here is today’s sermon for Earth Sunday, “The Art of Caring.” I pray that it will be a blessing to you and all of creation. – Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
The Art of Caring
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
September 6, 2015
Today we begin a month long observance of the Season of Creation. This diversion is an option offered in the lectionary. I don’t always take it; I didn’t last year. However, in light of all the concern for our physical world these days, concern which I deeply share, it seemed appropriate for us to embark on this adventure together this year. There is no focus in the rest of the church year on God the creator, no opportunity to reflect in a concentrated way on the foundations of redemption and sanctification, namely, the very creation itself that is redeemed and sanctified. For centuries, our theology, our ethics, and our worship have been oriented in two dimensions: our relationship with God and our human relationships with one another. Now it is time to turn our attention to God’s relationship with all creation and with our relationship with creation (and with God through creation). The experience of a Season of Creation through four Sundays in the church year alone will not bring the transformation in consciousness we need to address the ecological problems we face today in God’s creation. Yet unless we can see what worship can be like in a season devoted fully to Creator and creation, we will probably not adequately incorporate care for creation into worship throughout the rest of the year. A Season of Creation has proven to be valuable in its own right. Yet we also need the Season of Creation to wake us up and show us another way to do worship all the time.
I’m reminded again of Dr. Barbara Rossing’s word in her book The Rapture Exposed, that there is no planet dealership. There is no place where we can go to buy a new one after we allow ourselves, and yes it is human beings who are doing most of the damage to our plant, but if we allow ourselves to use this one up and destroy it, there is no place to get a new one. God gave us this one to care for. Hear that phrase, to care for. When did we forget that? So this morning, let us consider, “The Art of Caring,” as we listen to what God has for us this day. Would you pray with me?
Deuteronomy 10:14 reminds us that “The heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to Yahweh, our God. In Genesis 1:9, God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear, and it was so. Then just two verses later, God said, “Let the Earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seeds and fruit trees of every kind on earth bearing fruit with seed in it.” And so it was.” Notice that line for just a moment. “God said it…and so it was.” That’s a powerful thought to ponder. God said it, and so it was.
So those are just a few of the many places in the Bible where we hear about the importance of Earth, about God’s intention when our planet was created. God gave us all this beauty and all these wonderful fruits and vegetables to eat and to use for our benefit and to CARE FOR, to nurture, and to use in ways that would ensure, that according to God’s design, there would always be enough for everybody. And there still is…enough for everybody.
Notice the Gospel lesson for today. “In the beginning was the Word.” In The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary, we read, “God’s glory is revealed to us even more clearly in Jesus Christ (who was with God from the beginning). That very word that called Earth to appear from beneath the primal waters is now revealed in Jesus Christ. And in one of the most radical assertions of the Gospels, that Word became flesh…(and dwelt among us).” I hope you understand what that means, “God became flesh, and flesh is composed of water, air, soil, and light) – basic stuff of Earth. So “the Word” God – became part of the Earth. That means Christ, God and the Earth are connected from the very beginning of creation, and the incarnation of God came to be in the birth of a new creation…that we must care for. The art of caring.
Even ancient writers understood the interconnectedness of God and creation – long before all the environmental issues of our time. John Chrysostom emphasized the importance of God’s valuation of creation. He reminds us that God evaluated all of it is “Good and Very Good.” The he warns his readers of against what he calls, “the arrogant folly” of deviating from God’s valuing of the physical world.” You see, my friends, when we understand God’s appraisal of the physical world and the value God places on it, I believe we will do a better job of caring for it as a part of our own spiritual practice. When we understand what God says about our physical world – even the parts of it far away from here – and as we seek to align ourselves with the ways of God, the art of caring for our physical world will transcend our spiritual practice.
The Dali Lama writes, “We must strive to overcome these states of mind by’ developing an awareness of the interdependent nature of all phenomena, an attitude of wishing not to harm other living creatures and an understanding of the need for compassion. Because of the interdependent nature of everything we cannot hope to solve the multifarious problems with a one-sided or self-centered attitude. History shows us how often in the past people have failed to cooperate. Our failures in the past are the result of ignorance of our own interdependent nature. What we need now is a holistic approach towards problems combined with a genuine sense of universal responsibility based on love and compassion.” What we need now is the Art of Caring.”
How do we demonstrate our care and concern for God’s creation? Here are some practical ideas. Plant a tree – have you noticed how tall and beautiful that tree is that we planted outside my office a year ago? Do the same thing at home. Turn things off – light bulbs, computers, fans, appliances and the like. Recycle – I know it’s difficult to get in the habit, but just do it. I believe we can recycle more than we throw away. Recycle. Go vegetarian…at least once a week. One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. For example: It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. You will also save some trees. For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth – did you ever ask yourself why that water needs to run while you’re brushing? It doesn’t so turn it off. And now, perhaps my most fun suggestion to help care for the earth – Shower with your partner. Sneak in a shower with your loved one to start the day with some zest that doesn’t come in a bar. Not only have you made a wise choice for the environment by saving water, but you may notice some other added…um…benefits.
The art of caring – one final thought. Have you ever noticed how good it feels to take good care of living things – family members, pets, gardens, plants – the Earth? It always feels good to do the right thing and I believe these are what I call “Sprit moments.” When we do what is right it aligns us with the ways of God, and for me, nothing in my entire life experience has ever felt better than that. When we learn the art of caring, every body feels better. Every body lives into its fullest potential. Every body experiences the love of God and of God’s people. We live longer, our world is renewed as are our Spirits. We come to appreciate our blessings even more when we care for them. God is the master of caring. For us and for all of creation. Let us be faithful followers of God, Jesus, The Word that still dwells among us.
God bless you this morning. AMEN
Readings for the Day
The Wisdom of Marlee Matlin
“The Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.”
Genesis 1.31 and Psalm 33: 6 – 9
“God saw everything that had been created, and indeed, it was all very good.” “By Divine Will the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of Life. God gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle and put the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth be in awe of the Source of life; let all the inhabitants of the world revere the One Power. For God desired, and it came to be; God affirmed, and it stood firm.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.