Monday, 11 September 2017

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 10 September, 2017

Readings:  Proverbs 8: 22-31  Revelation 22: 1-5

We pray:
May you speak into our hearts and minds today O God, guiding us in your way and encouraging us and strengthening us for the journey in Jesus name.  Amen.

Our readings for today are, we could say, the bookmarks between which we exist – the beginning of time when the expectations for a world deeply cared for by humankind were strong , and the final chapter where the revelation of the end time when Christ comes again is imagined.  Both are places of great exuberance and beauty, of peace and reconciliation, of surplus and healing.  And if we want to imagine what that might look like today hear these words by Rob Ferguson from a ‘A Springtime Carol’ that picture a world where that same creation has the freedom to be full of all it could be. 
Look around you, see the bursting, life is breaking out, the earth is full.
Yellow, purple, green refreshing, snow is melting fast upon the hills.
Hear the river waters chuckling, [the] blossoms blowing, [the] flowers glowing, [the] mountains shine!
Look around you, see the bursting, life is breaking out with love divine!
It is a powerful picture – creation at its most productive, beauty surrounding us, at one with nature and with God.  And that sense of love just bursting out, unable to be contained is so compelling.

It is the same sense of awesomeness when we hear the words of Sophia, Wisdom from the Proverbs reading – rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race.  Sea, sky, land and all that inhabits it is blessed by God. 

I feel fortunate indeed to live in a land that enables me to imagine the possibility of that – to have an upbringing that includes communing with nature in that life defining way – to have children that understand it too – one of them wrote a poem about being down at a place we call ‘The Heads’ at the outflow of the Owaka River which I have in from of me in my office – it grounds me.
Celtic Christian spirituality understands that deep connection with the land – that we are intricately bound and earthed in the seasons and the dirt and the water that sustains us and that we are responsible for nurturing and caring for creation.  In Maori spirituality too is a deep understanding of being anchored in the land – it is who we have been, who we are and who we will walk into the future with.

And as Christians we are asked to have that same connection with God’s creation: we are asked to do more than simply experiencing this amazing world, we are asked to care for it, nurture it and sustain it for those who are yet to come. 

Yet we are pretty much doing the exact opposite – our planet is in pain, even in this slice of what was/is considered a veritable paradise.  Our rivers, our land, our skies, our flora and fauna, the ocean that surrounds us all full of chemicals and plastics and poisons that are killing it.
The world has fallen prey to a ‘don’t care’ attitude from the vast majority of our people.  Humankind no longer delight in this world but treat it as ours to exploit, trash, use in whatever way we desire.  When money is valued over environment, convenience over sustainability, the now over the longterm then the earth and all that is in it suffers.

Why is our Christian voice not shouting into this disaster?

Hear these words from Shirley Murray:

Where are the voices for the earth?
Where are the eyes to see her pain, wasted by our consuming path, weeping the tears of poisoned rain?

Sacred the soil that hugs the seed, sacred the silent fall of snow, sacred the world that God decreed [of] water and sun and river flow.

Where shall we run who break this code, where shall tomorrow’s children be, left with the ruined gifts of God, death for the creatures, land and sea?

We are the voices for the earth, we who will care enough to cry, cherish her beauty, clear her breath, live that our planet may not die.[1] 

This is a lament for our world; do we hear it?  You know if you read the book of Lamentations from the Hebrew Scriptures, as some of us have just done, you have this overwhelming sense of despair – of the people of God realising that they have got things so wrong that is appears there might be no way out this time.  Is that where we are at today? 
And even if we are not, if we still allow hope for better care of our earth, some don’t seem to grasp the urgency of it.  Our governments don’t – our retailers don’t, our consumers don’t, we don’t.  And in fact within the church some of us don’t actually see care for the environment as part of our Christian purpose.  Pope Francis has something to say to that:
"It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience."[2]

Wise words, challenging words that give us no wriggle room at all.

Where is the hope for saving of our world?  We are it – as Christians we walk alongside and sometimes in front of all those others who care deeply and passionately for this earth and its inhabitants.  It is essential that we recognise our close relationship with the land, with God’s creating presence  here on this planet and beyond - and that it has been given into our care, our responsibility until the end time.

Imagine this:  springs abounding with clean water, mountains piercing an unpolluted sky, earth and fields and soil without rubbish and chemicals and with time to rest, seas without plastic - once again safe for the creatures of the ocean, sustainable farming and ecologically responsible urbanites, landfills running out of business and air that is sweet.  This our prayer, and God grant that what we pray for we would work to bring about.  Amen.

Margaret Garland

[1] Words Shirley Murray from Faith Forever Singing  #75
[2] Pope Francis, Laudato si', §217.

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