The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A

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First Sunday in Advent, Year B December 3, 2017 First Sunday of Advent, Year B Mark 13:24-37
Christ the King, Year A November 26, 2017 Christ the King Year A Matthew 25:31-46
Thanksgiving, Year A November 22, 2017 Thanksgiving, Year A Psalm 65
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A November 19, 2017 Proper 24, Year A Matthew 25:36-37
Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A November 12, 2017 Proper 27, Year A Matthew 25:1-13
All Saints, Year A November 5, 2017 All Saints’ Day, Year A Matthew 5:1-12
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 29, 2017 Proper 25, Year A Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Matthew 22:34-46
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 22, 2017 Proper 24, Year A Isaiah 45:1-7, Psalm 96, I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 15, 2017 Proper 23, Year A Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A October 8, 2017 Proper 22, Year A Isaiah 5:1-7, Matthew 21:33-46
The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A October 1, 2017 The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A Matthew 6:25-33
The Season of Creation, Week 4, Year A September 24, 2017 The Season of Creation, Week 4, Year A Leviticus 25:1-7, Hebrews 4:1-11, John 6:1-15
The Season of Creation, Week 3, Year A September 17, 2017 The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 3 Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Psalm 65, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Matthew 6:19-24
The Season of Creation, Week 2, Year A September 10, 2017 The Season of Creation, Year A, Week 2 Job 38:1-18, Psalm 139, Romans 1:18-25, Matthew 5:13-16
The Season of Creation, Week 1, Year A September 3, 2017 Season of Creation 1, Year A Job 37:14-24,Psalm 130,Revelation 4,Matthew 8:23-27

 

The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A

Sermon Date:October 1, 2017

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-33

Liturgy Calendar: The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year A


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For five Sundays, during the Season of Creation, we have considered how God made us from the dust of the earth, and how at creation God wove together our own welfare, the welfare of the earth, and the welfare of people everywhere into one seamless and perfect creation. 

Almost since the beginning of time, we people have misunderstood what God meant by giving us dominion over the earth.  We all know that people have used and still use the earth and its resources as material objects for their own enrichment.

But as Katharine Jefferts-Schori points out in a recent article in the Anglican Theological Review, the root of the word “dominion” is the Latin word “domus,” the word for home. 

To have dominion over the earth is to be a housekeeper of the home of all creation.  Our task, as the people of the earth, is to encourage the earth’s fruitfulness rather than to strip it of every life-giving resource. 

In Bible study on Wednesday, when we read the gospel, one of the members there stated in no uncertain terms that what Jesus was telling the people was nothing but pie in the sky.

How can you tell someone in Puerto Rico, who has just lost everything because of a hurricane, not to worry?   The whole island’s infrastructure has been destroyed and no one can yet see how they will manage to put their lives back together. 

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life,” does sound like an empty promise in such a situation.

The Episcopal House of Bishops has just spent a week meeting in Alaska.  The Bishops spent part of their time there listening to the stories of Alaska’s people.  They heard about the permafrost melting and destabilizing the rivers, an important source of food, and about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, disrupting for all time the environment in which the caribou birth their calves, a sacred place where life begins.  For the people of Alaska, drilling in the wildlife refuge would be like us drilling under the sacred spaces of our churches and cathedrals.  http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/09/27/a-word-to-the-church-from-the-episcopal-churchs-house-of-bishops/

I doubt any bishop who heard these stories said to these people, “Well, look at the rivers and enjoy the beauty of the caribou, and do not worry.  God will take care of you.”  That offered solution would have sounded like an empty promise and pie in the sky. 

So what could Jesus have meant by telling people who were living on the edge to look at the birds of the air and to consider the lilies of the field and not to worry?

What could Jesus be saying to the people of Puerto Rico and the people of Alaska, people all over the world who lack clean water, or who are starving? 

What could Jesus be saying to us, we who are blessed to have more of everything than we could ever need?

Jesus was reminding his listeners that God made creation good and perfect at the beginning of time.

Jesus was getting at the idea that when we truly look at our home in creation, the original goodness and perfection of God’s plan for all of creation and for all of us gets revealed to us, and in that perfection, we can see the promise of the kingdom of God that will someday come  to earth. 

We tend to get lost in the big picture as we miss the details.

So Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air.  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” 

Taking the time to look closely, to truly see the astounding miracles all around us, is to look back into the beginning of time and to see that God’s creative powers are all about love.  Only a creator who loved creation could have put together such a wondrous display of perfection and astounding beauty and set us in it to live. 

But we forget to see what is all around us. 

So Jesus says, don’t just walk past a lily in the field.  Stop and consider it.    

To dwell on the beauty of a flower is to peer into the perfection of God’s creation.  And to dwell on the beauty of creation can be a hopeful act, one that sustains people in the face of the most unimaginable disasters.

Here’s an example.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, the worst ecological disaster in American history, was brought on by the stripping of millions of acres of prairie lands of natural drought resistant grasses, and then a long drought, in which the topsoil literally blew away in choking clouds of dust, one dust storm so gigantic that even New York, Boston and Washington DC were covered in dust from the prairie lands, and ships three hundred miles out in the Atlantic turned gray from this dust before the cloud finally dissipated. 

Timothy Egan writes about his disaster in his book, The Worst Hard Time, which I highly recommend, although the events it describes are so horrible that I can barely turn some of the pages. 

In the book, Egan tells about one woman who lived at the epicenter of the disaster, choking from dust, who refused to give up hope.  The family’s starving animals could not survive the choking dust and finally had to be shot.  The children listened to each gunshot and cried with terror and heartbreak. 

When the slaughter was over, and the animals buried,  this woman took the children outside into the dust. They walked, choking and coughing,  across the dry earth desert with drifts of dust and dried up tumbleweeds to a homestead next to what was left of a small river, whose family had been able to gather just enough water to grow a tiny garden.  She had her children walk in the garden,  to look closely at the plants.   This small patch of growth was beautiful, and alive, and life giving in the midst of the death brought by the dust.   And she told them, this is what used to be, life everywhere.  Look at this, feel this, consider this, and know that someday life will return to this land.

She was helping her children do what Jesus was telling the poor, broken people of his time.  Consider the lilies of the field, and live in hope.

After the ecological disaster of the Dust Bowl, people realized they had damaged the earth and tried to figure out how to heal it.

Some of the prairie has been returned to natural grassland. Farmers radically changed their practices, no longer turning the soil upside down and leaving it fallow exposed to the wind. Other measures have also been taken, although this part of the earth will never be completely healed.

God made us the caretakers of our domicile, the earth. 

So we Christians have our work cut out for us.  God expects us to care for this world, and to be healers in this world. 

This healing and care cannot even begin until we take the time to open our eyes and truly see what is around us; to know that even in the midst of the degraded condition of the earth, glimpses of the goodness that God had in mind at creation are still visible.

That’s why we must first, before we do anything else, take the time to appreciate the natural world in its beauty and sometimes terrible magnificence, to see it as the dwelling God has given us rather than an object to be used up for our own benefit. 

This act of seeing is a prayerful activity. 

And this act of seeing results in praise, which is why during this season we have sung many hymns of praise to God the Creator.  The psalms are full of praise to God, maker of heaven and earth.  Today’s psalm reminds us to stand in awe of God for God spoke and everything came to be, God commanded, and creation stood firm. 

This act of prayerful seeing gives us hope and gives us an undying longing for  the kingdom of God to come on earth, which is why Jesus taught us to pray, that God’s kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.  In God’s kingdom on earth all of creation will be restored. 

So we can be people of hope, along with the writer of Revelation, who had the wisdom to know that creation will not return to its original  perfect state when the heavenly city descends to earth at the end of time, but will be transformed.   

God’s glory will be its light, and the water of life, bright as crystal, will flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.  And trees will be there, fruit bearing trees, with their leaves for the healing of the nations. 

In the meantime, Jesus tells us to consider the lilies of the field, and to see in their beauty the yet unseen beauty and fullness of the kingdom of God that will come to earth and will have no end. 

In the meantime, we are to work for the healing of the world, starting out by doing simple things like supporting God’s healing work through this church  with our pledges of financial support,

Simple things like making fresh produce available to our neighbors,

Simple things like seeing and giving thanks for the natural world around us, and caring for it as carefully as we can, perhaps joining groups that work to care for the environment, like Friends of the Rappahannock.

Simple things like planting a garden, or making a compost pile,

Simple things like listening to the stories of those whose lives are closely connected to the earth,

Simple things like singing songs of praise.

Simple things, like giving thanks.  It is right to give God thanks and praise. 

For in all of these simple things, hope resides, and the kingdom of God awaits. 

Amen. 

Resources: 

Jefferts-Schori, Katharine.  “Creation and the Effective Word:   Holy Storytelling, Creation, and God’s Mission.”  In Anglican Theological Review, Volume 99, Number 3, Summer 2017.

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2017/09/27/a-word-to-the-church-from-the-episcopal-churchs-house-of-bishops/

Egan, Timothy.  The Worst Hard Time:  The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006. 

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