Pentecost 12A/Creation 1A, 2011
(For further information, check out: <www.seasonofcreation.com>)
Genesis 2:4b-10, 15-22a
A Liturgy is also available
IMMERSED IN THE MYSTERIES OF ‘CREATION’
Today I am are returning to a venture some of us helped launch back in 2005.
The reshaping of part of the Revised Common Lectionary
by adding to it a new season... The Season of Creation.
Traditionally the church calendar or Lectionary is shaped around three years.
And each year has seven main seasons:
Advent, Christmas, Epiphany,
Easter, Pentecost, Lent.
And the rather long general time, called After Pentecost or Ordinary Sundays.
This additional season claims some of that After Pentecost time
by designating the sundays in September
traditionally associated with Spring in the southern hemisphere,
as the Season of Creation.
And each of those four sundays have been given a theme.
This year the themes are Forest, Land, Outback and River.
During this time we are being invited to:
celebrate Earth as a sacred planet filled with God’s vibrant presence;
embrace our kin in creation as our extended family;
confess our sin against creation and empathise with a groaning creation;
go forth on a mission to be partners in the healing of creation.
Why do this?
Well, we must have been living under a cabbage leaf
if we hadn’t heard the current universal debates
about the ecological crisis
and the way human beings are treating the Earth.
Planet Earth is in peril. All creation is suffering.
As you can imagine or already know, several folk have put their concerns in books,
at politically rallies, and
through the media.
One such person is Paul Collins. In his book God’s Earth, he writes:
“The beauty of nature and the wilderness has become vitally important for the spirituality of many people. It is increasingly in the cathedral of the environment that our contemporaries are rediscovering a way into the realm of the transcendent; they are discovering the sacred presence that stands behind the natural world” (Collins 1995:226).
And then this warning:
“There is only one non-negotiable, and that is we have only one world - this one - and it is here and nowhere else that we will find God. If we destroy the world, we destroy not only ourselves but the most important symbol of God that we have” (Collins 1995:247).
Similarly, David Suzuki has written in The Sacred Balance:
“Forty years ago ‘environment’ simply meant ‘surroundings’. What a distance we have travelled. Humanity has never before faced such a threat: the collapse of the very elements that keep us alive” (Suzuki 1997:6).
While more recently Bill McKibben in his book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, says
we live on a different planet than the one on which civilisation began.
Global warming and peak oil are not future problems for our grandchildren.
And the effects of our fossil fuel experiment are hitting us now.
The changes could hardly be more fundamental!
And they are irreversible.
“The earth that we knew – the only earth that we ever knew – is gone” (McKibben 2010:27).
A couple of years ago I actually wrote a Review of McKibben's book.
As I was writing it a couple of things were happening around me:
(i) News reports were coming in that the BP oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico was continuing to grow,
and all attempts to stem its flow were proving to be in vain.
(ii) McKibben was being interviewed on ABC Radio in Australia.
And while that very interview was happening, local radio reports were also coming in that
a water spout had crossed the coastline in far northern New South Wales causing extensive damage.
Callers to ABC North Coast reported there had been falls
of more than 270 millimetres (nearly 11 inches) of rain that morning!
So I reckon it is important stuff we are continuing to do this morning.
Celebrating our kinship with the environment.
That kinship was also heard in the reading of part of the oldest
Judaeo-Christian myth of creation.
All living things are our kin,
living in a forest vibrant with life.
While we are generally used to the stories called ‘parables’,
we are not so used to the stories called ‘myths’.
Indeed we usually misinterpret myths as stories that are untrue
or ‘sophisticated lying’, far fetched, or about
some underworld full of gods and goddesses.
This is to mistreat those stories.
Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth,
Joseph Campbell also says myths help us put our minds in touch with the experience of being alive.
In a truly wonderful comment I reckon, Campbell says:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical place will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what (myths) help us to find within ourselves” (Campbell 1988:5).
The Genesis myths are not to be taken literally as if they were history or science.
That’s the falsehood being taught as Creationism and (Un)Intelligent Design.
The Genesis myths are to be heard as stories offering clues
to the spiritual potentialities of the human life 'in relationship'.
And the new myth we need to hear at this time is:
we are all connected, and connected with the earth.
For many, the forest and the bush are ideal places to feel immersed in the mysteries of creation.
And the first Sunday in a ‘down under’ early Spring
is a good day to begin the celebration of the Season of Creation.
Because Spring calls us forward to a ‘new’ religious and economic sensitivity.
• Of the need to reconstruct a theology
which requires humans to remember their kinship with creation.
The ‘old time’ religion was centred on the individual.
The ‘new’ religion needs to be centred in relationships and the environment.
• Of the need to reconstruct a theory of economics
away from one based on infinite resources with an infinite capacity to waste,
to one that acknowledges we live in a finite world with a finite capacity
to store or dispose of all our waste.
Jesus attempted to model a new kind of community to his followers.
But for several reasons, some chose to turn away.
His model was too demanding.
His model was saying one’s actions should not just be seen
in terms of the end only,
but in terms of the whole network of effects.
They wanted to remain individuals,
so their own needs,
so their own sense of power, could be satisfied.
They couldn’t see that by not reaching out to others
- both out of concern as well as out of respect for the value of the other person -
they were stunting their own lives.
Those who turned away were people of small ‘size’...
To live the ‘new’ humanity which Jesus modeled,
requires us to become people of ‘S-I-Z-E’.
When we do, we begin to live in hope and can share in
the dream and the journey started by the Galilean.
Because the future is always different from the past.
And where there is life, there is hope.
McKibben, B. 2010. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Melbourne: Black Inc.
Roberts, E. & E. Amidon. 1991. Earth Prayers from Around the World. 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth. NY: New York. HarperCollins.
Campbell, J. 1988. The Power of Myth. Conversations with Bill Moyers. PBS TV. NY: New York. Doubleday/Bantam.
Collins, P. 1995. God’s Earth. Religion as if it Really Mattered. VIC: Melbourne. HarperCollins.
Suzuki, D. & A. McConnell. 1997. The Sacred Balance. Rediscovering our Place in Nature. NSW: Sydney. Allen & Unwin.