Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm
Christian communities throughout the world are observing “Creation Season” in the month of September, running through October 4, the feast day commemorating the life of Francis of Assisi.
So what is Creation Season, and what’s the big deal?
Following Jesus, being Christian, is about relationship. It’s about our call to direct our lives more and more into right relationship with God and right relationship with our neighbor, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Following Jesus is about realigning and tuning the ways in which we live to be more like the example that Jesus gave us, in his own life: J lived in right relationship to God and to all that was around him.
In Creation Season, we extend our awareness and concern beyond our relationshis with our fellow humans, which is ordinarily our focus, to encompass, also, our relationship with the natural world that God has given us. It is our blessing to come to know God through the beauty and power of the world we live in. It is also our work to live our lives in ever greater stewardship of “this fragile earth, our island home”. Creation Season is a time when deepen our awareness of this.
I grew up in suburbia, in the greater NY area. We didn’t think about where our trash went or about how we heated our homes. Of course there would always be plenty of water! I took a lot for granted. I didn’t feel connected to folks in other parts of the world where people living in different geography and climate struggled to feed themselves. I certainly didn’t think about ways in which the choices my family and nation made affected those people’s lives, or affected the natural world itself.
Today we know differently. We face an unprecedented crisis of climate change. It’s caused by fossil fuel use affecting the atmosphere, raising temperatures, and changing the ecosystem in which we live. It is caused by destruction of huge areas of ecosystem for the purpose of economic gain. Hurricane Florence, currently devastating the coast of the Carolinas, is testimony to the reality of climate change.
This summer, record-breaking heat waves swept the globe. The global heat wave caused deadly fires not only in our own western states, but above the Arctic Circle as well. We’re on track to join 2015, 2016, and 2017 as the four hottest years on record.
Here in beautiful Western Mass we are largely protected from the most devastating effects of climate change. It is the poorest people of the world who are most impacted by the damage that the choices of the developed world has caused.
I read this week that what has been the strongest and thickest ice in the Arctic is breaking up for the first time. Scientists are worried that when the polar bears who hibernate in Greenland emerge next spring they will find that their hunting grounds may have literally floated away.
Back to what I learned growing up – while I heard a lot in church about God caring about humans, no one ever said anything about God caring for the rivers or the trees or the other living creatures that inhabit our world. We were very complacent, and we were arrogant.
The indigenous peoples of the world have always recognized that the world itself is sacred, that the whole of nature reflects the presence and power of God. Francis had an inkling of it in his tribute to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
Scientists are discovering amazing things about the other beings with whom we share the planet. I understand that octopi have a range of personalities, solve problems, play jokes and share affection with marine scientists.
The book The Hidden Life of Trees makes the argument that that trees are social beings that can count, learn, remember, and warn each other of impending danger.
Surely, God cares deeply about this beautiful and complex system that God created and, according to scripture, declared to be “good”.
Surely nature and its creatures are beloved of God, just as we and God’s other human children are beloved.
Surely, God calls for us to care responsibly for this world that God has entrusted to us.
In today’s gospel from Mark, J begins to teach the disciples that following him means losing one’s life. It’s a critical point in the gospel:
Peter has the right answer – “You are the Messiah” – but Peter doesn’t understand what that means. And so J begins to teach them a truth that goes completely against the grain and is so incomprehensible that even up to the very end, they can’t absorb it:
Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
This teaching is, again, about relationship. Being in right relationship means being willing to sacrifice. Loving means willingly losing those things that make us comfortable, that let us feel safe, for the sake of the loved one.
I think that taking seriously our responsibility for creation is one of the ways that we need to “lose our lives”.
I do not like thinking about the ways in which we are destroying the environment, and I frequently avoid it.
But we all need to work on this if we love God and want to follow Jesus. We’re not going to reverse the environmental damage that we human beings have done so far, but that is no excuse for not trying.
I invite all of us to pause and see, hear, smell, taste and feel the presence of God in the world around us.
I encourage all of us to take this Creation Season as an opportunity to think about the things that none of us like to think about in relation to the ways in which the environment is suffering, and to learn more about what we can change to make things better.
I hope that in this Creation Season every one of us will commit to doing some of the things that will make it better – to making some of the small changes that together will make a difference.
I ask you to pray about these things – to pray for greater wisdom and resolution for all of us, and particularly for those who hold the authority to make the big decisions that impact our world.
For the next four weeks we will be using the creation care liturgy we are using this morning. May its words help us to remember that we are part a beautiful, complex web that is loved by God, and may we learn to love it in ways that preserve it.
And let us also believe and trust that God is at work through us and beyond us and that our sincere efforts to love and care for God’s world will help God heal the planet. Amen.
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