Sunday, September 9, 2018

Creation Season 1: Transformed to rise

The community of St. David's has practiced Creation Season for decades and encourages others to do the same. We also join tihs year with people around the world celebrating and giving thanks for creation. Today's global focus is land.

Lectionary: Genesis 12: 1-2; Psalm 126; A poem by Mary Oliver, The Messenger; Matthew 13:33.

Note: If the above player doesn't work on your device, click HERE for an alternative audio format.

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Columbanus, a 6th century Irish monk, once said – ‘If you want to know the Creator, first get to know the creation.’ Celtic spirituality recognizes and affirms the presence of God in all creation. In the Celtic tradition, a stony dirt path is not disrespected as a dirty or unsophisticated means for travel; it is acknowledged as being part of the skin of the earth and, therefore, is treated with respect as it is traversed. Squirrels aren’t just rodents who outsmart every human effort to protect birdfeeders; they are recognized as living messengers of God’s playfulness and resourcefulness, and are honored for their purpose.

Medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich spoke of Jesus’ “homely” love for us; and by homely she didn’t mean unattractive; she meant simple, cozy – like the feeling of being safe and comfy in your own home. This is love that is intimately familiar. This love wears warm ups and fuzzy slippers and offers you hot cocoa or a glass of red wine, and pats the couch next to them, showing you where to come sit and relax.

When Jesus spoke of God’s love for us he often used homely examples, as in today’s gospel from Matthew. The kingdom of heaven, Jesus says, is like yeast that a woman mixes with flour until all of it was leavened.” The many bread bakers in this congregation know that kneading the yeast, warm water, and flour together transforms it into a dough that rises; but it takes time and the dough has to be at rest while the transforming process happens within it.

In God’s house, our divine mother kneads her creation with what it needs to be transformed so that it will rise. All of creation rises to life by the intentional action of God.

Creation, like bread, has many flavors, colors, and textures. All, however, are expressive of the divine reality.

It seems silly, doesn’t it, to judge rye bread as superior to all other breads? And what about those who love caraway seeds in their rye bread and those who hate them? It seems even sillier to judge caraway loving people as inferior to caraway hating people; yet we do this sort of thing all the time in many ways. We sub-group and divide ourselves as if we are not all made from the same dough kneaded by the same heavenly woman.

One risky way we practice this sin of hubris is by judging ourselves as superior to the rest of creation. Humans are part of creation, not separate from it, and God has chosen us to be stewards of God’s creation – all of it – not just the parts we deem worthy or convenient.

Today we join with worshippers around the world celebrating and praying for creation; specifically, the land. Many people raised in modern western culture view the land as a natural resource meant to support human life. We cultivate the land and eat from its bounty. We plant beautiful gardens and dress our homes and our altars with its fragrant blooms.

All of this is right and good. Where we fail is when we see the land ONLY as a resource for our benefit. The land is a living part of creation that offers its gifts to all of us: humans, animals, insects, and every living thing that walks, crawls, flies, and swims on the earth.

True to our Celtic tradition, our work as Mary Oliver says, is to love the world, every specific part of the world God calls into our consciousness. That will be different for each of us, and there’s a purpose to that. We can only serve the part we are called to serve; which is all we’re expected to do. But together, we can be stewards of the whole of creation.

We are richly blessed with places throughout our diocese, located in the unique, miraculous ecosystem of Western North Carolina, where you can feel the presence of God in the earth, in the trees that are rooted in the earth, in the mountains, rivers, creeks, and caves. For example, there is a place at Kanuga near a tree by the lake, where if you lay on the ground and listen, you can hear the heartbeat of the earth. There is a path at Lake Logan where you can see and feel the life energy of the trees moving from the leaves into the atmosphere. In that place, as you walk reverently by, the trees seem to welcome you into a safe, loving embrace. There is a grove of trees at Valle Crucis teaming with bird and insect life where you can hear the voice of God singing peace in the symphony of their sounds at sunrise and at sunset.

Once as I sat with a friend near a creek, a beautiful red belly water snake came slithering past my left hand, which was resting on the ground propping me up. The snake continued its path alongside my left leg and went beyond us to a covered rock place at the edge of the creek about 4 feet in front of us. The snake curled up there but turned and faced us. All three of us sat there for a long time, looking at one another, listening in silence, except for the sound of the water which drew us all to it.

I’m not usually afraid of snakes. In fact, I’ve loved them since I was a child. But I was unfamiliar with this particular snake, so I offered it my respect as it slithered past me. As my friend and I sat with the snake at the creek’s edge, we pondered what gifts were being offered to us by the presence of God in the snake. We discerned of change and new life, of new skin – the same us, but new and different somehow.

When we got back to where we had cell phone reception my friend and I looked up the snake we had encountered. We were relieved to learn that it was not venomous, though it does have fangs and can be aggressive if its hungry. In its presence, however, we were not afraid. We were with a member of our creation family who happened to be a reptile.

That’s the point. We enter in relationship with creation when we are in it. “According to a study done by Hofstra University, most Americans are far less connected to nature than our parents and grandparents were… only 30% of their children play outdoors every day. In fact, children today spend 90% of their time indoors and they spend an average of 50 hours every week using electronic devices, according to the Children and Nature Network. Adults are increasingly disconnected from nature too.”

This is where we come in and why celebrating Creation Season is important (yes – you’ve converted me!). While we wear these body-clothes as Mary Oliver calls it, we are stewards of this creation to which we belong. But it’s hard to serve a relation you don’t even know.

So, as we walk through these 8 weeks of Creation Season, how can we as a church community, build relationships between ourselves, our community, and the creation in which we live? It matters to us – to our health and well-being. It matters to the part of creation in which we live; and it matters to the earth, because the well-being of our small part of creation is connected to the well-being of the whole earth.

Something for us to ponder together…

We have a plan that is developing for this Creation Season as people approach me offering to share their expertise and passion. We’ll be posting these opportunities as they finalize. I may be calling on some of you who have been recommended to me to ask you to consider sharing your wisdom and experience. Keep watch in the Coracle, our Facebook pages, and your emails.

In the meantime, let’s close with this prayer I found from Fiona Murdoch, from Eco-Congregation in Ireland

God of the universe,
We thank You for Your many good gifts -
For the beauty of Creation and its rich and varied fruits,
For clean water and fresh air, for food and shelter, animals and plants.
Forgive us for the times we have taken the earth's resources
for granted
And wasted what You have given us.
Transform our hearts and minds
So that we would learn to care and share,
To touch the earth with gentleness and with love,
Respecting all living things.
We pray for all those who suffer as a result of our waste,
greed and indifference,
And we pray that the day would come when everyone has enough
food and clean water.
Help us to respect the rights of all people and all species
And help us to willingly share your gifts
Today and always. Amen.

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