Sermon–Blessing of the Animals–October 5, 2014


Creation Care Sunday

October 5, 2014

William Bradbury


Genesis 1:20-25

Canticle: A Song of Creation II

Romans 8: 18-25

Matthew 6:25-34

Back 13 years ago there was an exceptionally bright boy in my son’s high school class. I asked his mother what it was like to raise such a prodigy and she said it has been a challenge ever since he walked into the kitchen at the age of 3 demanding to know: “Who am I and why am I here?”

She said she was at a loss to respond because he was so young. Her other problem was that these are questions our culture would rather we not ask.

But when we don’t ask, when we don’t wrestle, with these questions then we run the risk of missing the whole point of our existence and thus living pointless lives. This is, of course, exactly where our consumer culture wants us to be. If we don’t know who we are then the advertisers get tell us who we are and what we need to buy in order to be that person.

Like the bumper stickers that say: “Born to shop” and “the one who dies with the most toys wins”.

Some people don’t have a better answer.

In the 6th century before Christ the Jews were in exile in Babylon—modern day Iraq–living in a powerful military culture whose gods proclaimed they controlled the future. In response the Jewish community of faith produced the creation story, part of which we heard read this morning.

It is a liturgy, really, that as scholar Walter Brueggemann says “cuts underneath the Babylonian experience and grounds the rule of the God of Israel in a more fundamental claim, that of creation….Its affirmation is: this God can be trusted, even against” the experience of being in exile as strangers in a stranger land. Genesis, Page 25

The creation liturgy tells the exiled Jews and us that we are creatures of the living and loving God—that’s who we are. And further, that we are creatures who have been given an important role and responsibility in creation: we are to be the shepherds of creation. Our role is not to use creation for our own self-centered gratification. Rather, our role is to serve creation for the well-being of creation—that it may be fruitful and multiply. This is what it means to have dominion over creation.  

We are God’s adult children who have been given a vocation, a calling, a job, by Creator God, to protect and nurture the rest of creation.

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to the fish, birds, animals, and to the earth itself.

That’s who we are and that’s why we’re here!

But something has gone terribly wrong. We’ve forgotten our identity as creatures of Creator God, and lost touch with our vocation to care for the earth. Things have run amuck. To the point that Saint Paul says in Romans: the whole creation groans for that day when the children of God will remember who they are and begin to care for creation again.

The creation story in Genesis is written precisely to reintroduce us to creator God and our role in God’s plan.

Later in Genesis we hear about our rebellion in the garden and our refusal to listen to God and to care for creation.

Iconic 60’s folk singer Joni Mitchell wrote a song with the lines:

“We are stardust, We are golden,

And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”

To get back to the garden—to that time where we knew who we are and why we’re here—is a deep urging of the Spirit in us.

In the sixties we thought we could walk back into the garden by throwing off the military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned us about, and letting our hair grow long as we listened to great music. It was a start.

In the nineties we thought we could get back to the garden by joining the culture, but it only produced wealth for the few and misery for the many when the economic bubbles burst.

In our time we have bought into the illusion that unending war is the answer since, unlike in Vietnam, we can pay others to fight for us.

But there is no way back to the garden except through the recovery of our identity in God and our work for God, what Jesus calls seeking God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, that is, God’s way of living (see N.T. Wright’s translation of the NT: The Kingdom New Testament)

Jesus the Messiah is sent by God to reconnect us with God by overcoming the effects of our rebellion and showing us to the way forward, through his sacrificial life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus tells us that we cannot find our place in creation through worrying about what we shall eat, or what we shall drink, or what we shall wear.

He says over and over: “Do not worry.”

But as long as we are disconnected from the awareness of God, then worry will be our default response to our fragile lives.

This worry is a symptom of the problem, just as a fever is a symptom of an infection.

This worry ruins our ability to go with the grain of the universe—just as worry ruins any sport we try to play.

Do not worry, he says, for your heavenly Father knows you need all of these things: rather seek first God’s kingdom and God’s way of living, and all these things shall be added unto you.

We seek God’s kingdom by trusting Jesus Christ—

We live as God intends by letting the Spirit of Jesus lead us out of worry about ourselves and into the service of others.

Jesus says look at God’s care for the birds of the air and the grass of the field and imagine and believe that care exists for you too!

  This, he says, requires the gift of faith, of which we have so little. So we should pray for the faith to believe in Christ, God’s gift for us.

This doesn’t mean we won’t worry, but rather it means we now have someone with us that is stronger than our worry.

When I was a little boy and attended University of Georgia football games with my father, sometimes the sidewalks got so crowded he would take my hand. The moment I felt that connection to him I could feel my fear lessen and my confidence increase.

What is there to worry about when we know Creator God is holding our hand and leading us into a life where our focus is off ourselves and onto our job—the care of creation.

Notice also that in Genesis 1:22 God blesses some of our fellow creatures.

God blesses us so we can bless our pets and God blesses our pets so they can bless us by teaching us who we are and why we’re here.

I saw a bumper sticker Friday night that showed a paw print and in the middle of the paw were the words: “Who rescued who?”