Sermon:Creation Care Sunday–October 2, 2016


Creation Care—Pet Blessing

October 2, 2016

William Bradbury

Genesis 1:26-31, Canticle 12, Romans 8:18-25, Matthew 6:25-34

Triune God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…” So what is the image of God? In the words of Franciscan Richard Rohr: Triune God is a divine dance in which “The Father does not dominate the Son, and the Son does not dominate the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit does not dominate the Father or the Son, so that there is no domination in God. The divine life is a dance of shared power and shared love in which there is only a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality.”

Since we are made in the image of Triune God, when God says “let humankind have dominion over” every creature, we are being called to serve creation, not to dominate or control it. However, when we turn away from Triune God and forget who we truly are, we are willing to destroy creation if it makes us happy.

We give up sharing in the mutuality of the Divine Dance in a life of giving and go off on our own in a forced march of taking, where our desires for more and better cause us, like a two year old, to drive the car into a ditch.

I remember many times as a boy driving with my family through a town called Copperhill which is on the extreme southeast border of Tennessee. At that time in the late 1950’s Copperhill was surrounded by a series of hills with nothing on them but dirt: no trees, no bushes, no plants—nothing but dirt.

This was because the gases emitted from the local factories producing copper and sulphuric acid denuded the area of anything green. Of course it also destroyed the river and drove out the deer, bears, and birds. This is what creation looks like when human dominion is not connected to the Divine Dance of mutual self-giving.

Now we know humanity’s need to take from creation has caused a world-wide crisis. In October 2014 the New York Times reported that “the Pentagon released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.

The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts.” NYT October 13, 2014

We are created by God to be a blessing, but instead we became a curse.

Why is that? Well we all know the correct answer is human sin, but in today’s Gospel Jesus talks about it in a less theological and a more practical way: he says because we have turned our back on our connection with Triune God we have been overwhelmed by anxiety, which leads us to worry so much about food, clothing, and security, that our souls fall out of balance and creation is undone.

I love it when some of the children come to the altar rail for the Eucharistic Prayer. If they are not used to being there they will look back occasionally to make sure mom or dad are still there, looking out for them and protecting them. They’ll wave at their parents and their parents wave back, then the kids feel safe enough to turn back to see what’s going on at the altar.

Humanity is like a child who has lost connection with its parents. We’ve forgotten that we have a creator to look to. We are so wrapped up in anxiety we can’t see what is going on right in front of us.

Of course what the kids see when they turn to the altar is a recounting of how God is still looking at us, loving, and protecting us.

Jesus says: take this bread, broken for you; take this cup of my blood poured out for you in order to remember that I am always with you in love and healing—you are not alone, ever.

He gives us this liturgy so as we learn to find Jesus with us in church, we will learn to find Jesus with us at home, work, school and everywhere else we go.

So Jesus says five times today: do not worry, or in the New English Bible, do not be anxious, for your heavenly father knows what you need.

But Jesus also knows the human brain does not do well with negative commands: when I tell you not to think about a pink elephant, what do you think about? Just like when we tell a child not to be afraid it makes them more afraid.

So at the end of this teaching, Jesus tells us the positive thing we need to be doing. He says: seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.

Or using N T Wright’s translation: “Make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life” and all these things you have been striving for will be yours as well.

Paraphrasing C. S. Lewis he says, “Put the world first and you’ll find it gets moth-eaten in your hands. Put God first and you’ll get the world thrown in.” page 66 Matthew for Everyone

So what does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom? 

Jesus’ first words in Mark’s gospel are, “Times up! God’s kingdom is here. Give up your old way of thinking and have confidence in this good news.”

If the universe is a stupid and idiot place that doesn’t know us or care about us, then we are right to live lives of constant anxiety.

But, on the other hand, if the universe is the creation of Triune God who knows us and cares for us, then it is foolish to spend our days worrying. Rather it makes much more sense to join in the dance of divine giving.

There are really only three ways of being in the world.

When we are afraid and anxious our default setting is to be a taker. After all, if there is only a limited amount of resources in the world then we’ve got to take and take and take to protect ourselves.

A second way of being is to a trader—we’re willing to give in order to get. People often look at their life with God that way: I’ll give a little to church and God as long as they are willing to give back to me. I’m willing to trade.

But the people who follow Jesus’ example and teaching live a third way: They are givers. As Steve Chandler puts it, “They give for a living. They give their time; they give their advice; they give an offer of friendly service….They glow with energy. That energy comes from the giving concept they hold of themselves….Accomplished givers are not giving in order to get happiness in return. The happiness is already there. It lives inside the act of giving.”

In the 1980s the Powers that Be stopped taking from Copperhill and began giving to it. Now the hills are covered with forests and wildlife and the river is beautiful and pristine.

Jesus says: “the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is why we were created by Triune God: to lead creation in the divine dance of mutual self-giving.