|Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Pentecost 17, Year C – Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||October 6, 2019||Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||2 Timothy 1:1-14,Luke 17:5-10|
|Season of Creation 5, Year C||September 29, 2019||Season of Creation 5, Year B||Proverbs 8:22-31, Ephesians 1:3-10, Luke 24:13-35|
Season of Creation 1, Year C
Sermon Date:September 1, 2019
Scripture: Genesis 1:1-25, Revelation 22:1-5, John 1:1-5, 14
Liturgy Calendar: Season of Creation 1, Year C
Some people here today have had the luxury of designing a home for themselves, taking into consideration everything they’d want in a home and hopefully, for the most part, having their dream design become a reality.
In the beginning, God designed a home, a home in which God dwells, a home in which God delights, a home which God calls good.
The earth is God’s home.
From a shapeless dark gray gloom, God created the perfect dwelling– light, the sky, the land, the seas, vegetation, the sun, the moon and the stars, fish, birds, and on the ground, every living thing—cattle and creeping things and the wild animals of the earth, a more beautiful dwelling than any palace or building that any human being has ever constructed.
Nothing goes to waste in this creation. All this creation has a purpose, and every bit of this creation depends on every other bit of creation.
And some of the ways that one part of creation works to provide what another part needs would surprise you. For instance, did you know—I didn’t—that “the atmospheric oxygen that we depend on has humans comes predominantly from the ocean.” I found this out by checking out Dr. Christopher Baird’s website on science. He is a professor of physics at West Texas A&M University.
“According to National Geographic, about 70% of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from marine plants and plant-like organisms—mainly phytoplankton—too small to be visible to the human eye by itself—although we can see them when they clump together. So “the oxygen we depend on from breath to breath is provided mostly by a vast army of invisible sea creatures.” https://wtamu.edu/~cbaird/sq/2013/01/05/how-do-trees-give-earth-all-its-oxygen/
So what would happen to all of the life on earth that depends on oxygen to breathe if the ocean became so damaged that the phyto-plankton disappeared?
Trees also use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce energy and to release oxygen. We, and the animals, breathe in the oxygen and breathe out the carbon dioxide.
In the creation story, in the second chapter of Genesis, “God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden in Eden.”
Recent science has shown that spending time in forests and in places with trees boosts our immune systems, increases our energy, decreases anxiety, depression and anger, and reduces stress and brings about a state of relaxation. Spending time walking in a forest also improves our quality of sleep.
Trees also have healing properties. Studies have shown that patients in hospitals whose hospital window allows them to look out at nature need less pain medication and are discharged sooner after surgery than those whose windows look out on walls, or those whose rooms are windowless.
Some of our most common medicine comes from trees. The essential ingredient in aspirin comes from willow bark.
But back to God and this home that God is designing–
Once this new home is complete and God rests, God spends time in this lovely dwelling. God walks in the garden in the cool of the evening breeze. Later in Genesis, God visits Abraham under the oaks of Mamre.
Psalm 23 refers to God as the Lord, as our shepherd.
Shepherds spend most of their time outdoors in the natural world. The good shepherd knows the earth intimately, the hidden meadows, the quiet spring fed pools of water, the rocky dangerous paths. And those who follow this shepherd, will dwell in the shepherd’s house forever—this home of springs and meadows, smooth and rocky pathways.
And then Psalm 24 begins with these words.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.
The earth is the Lord’s—this dwelling place of God is God’s creative and ever evolving playground, God’s resting place, God’s ecstasy and joy.
In Psalm 84, the Psalmist marvels at the beauty of God’s home, not just a temple made with human hands, but also God’s dwelling place in the natural world.
How lovely is your dwelling place, God!
In your home, even the sparrows and the swallows find a home where they may nest and raise their young. Your home has pathways that go near cool springs and pools, and there’s light, your light. In your home, we can go from strength to strength.
The psalmist cries out that he or she longs for these courts of the Lord’s house. I’d rather be a doorkeeper in your house, God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
If there’s any doubt that God created the earth as a home for God’s self, the gospel according to John dispels that doubt.
The gospel starts out as the first story of creation begins. “In the beginning,” John says.
And John goes on to say all things were created at the beginning through the word Jesus, and now here comes the radical reminder that God does indeed consider this beautiful creation home.
“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of truth and grace.”
A misguided theology is to think of the time Jesus spent on earth as some sort of temporary sojourn in alien territory in which Jesus lives and dies as one of us, God raises him from the dead, and at last Jesus gets to return to his real home, heaven, once more leaving this inferior world behind.
Jesus was deeply connected to the natural world. Jesus was born in a stable—probably a cave used as a shelter for animals—surrounded by God’s creatures. Jesus spent most of his ministry outdoors and he used many examples from the natural world to teach the crowds about the nature of God.
And his death took place on the cross fashioned from a tree, he was buried in a garden, and after his resurrection he first appeared in that garden to Mary Magdalene.
If Jesus, God incarnate, dwelling as a person here on this earth weren’t enough to convince us that the earth is God’s dwelling place, beloved by God, then the last book of the Bible, Revelation, should convince us that God loves this earth as God’s own dwelling.
In Chapter 21 in the Book of Revelation, as the holy city comes down out of heaven from God, God says, “See, the home of God is among mortals.”
God has renovated the first creation, and in God’s renovated home on earth, this second creation, the heavenly city, are the essential elements for life that God included in the first creation back at the beginning—light, water, plants, specifically trees.
The Light is God, the river of the water of life flows from the throne that God shares with his Son, and trees line this river– the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit for each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
God has loved us enough to share God’s own dwelling, the earth, with us. Next week’s lectionary scriptures spell out God’s expectations for us as those with special responsibilities for all that God has made.
But for now, revel in and wonder at the lifegiving beauty of the natural world around us. We walk on holy, lifegiving ground, and we breathe in God’s goodness with every breath of air. May we open our eyes to see God’s gracious hand continuing to work in the world around us and to rejoice in the whole creation.
For as Elizabeth Barret Browning wrote,
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes”
Dr Qing Li. Forest Bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness. New York, NY. Viking, 2018.