Monday, September 9, 2013

Season of creation

(adapted from a sermon at Pilgrim Church on 8th September)

On Sundays in September we celebrate 'seasons of creation', and we acknowledge the joy and delight we find in nature. Our Spring Festival next week will see our church filled with beautiful flowers and foliage. The garden bed alongside the driveway will be transformed into productive edible plants, and the vegetable garden in the corner will be given a spring clean ready for a new round of plantings. It is right we enjoy these delights.

But there is something deeper too as we recognize that nature and earth itself reveals God to us. As our spirits are lifted by beauty - and rugged awesomeness, we find God revealed to us. Photographer Ken Duncan loves to spend time in unique landscapes, which offer an invitation to pause and reflect on the beauty of our natural world. It was in such a time, on his own surrounded by nature, that he experienced a revelation of God and came to faith.

God is revealed in creation, as God has been revealed in the life of Jesus Christ, as God is revealed in each of us. God is everywhere, an embodied God always able to be revealed, ‘the ground of our being’ (Paul Tillich). “God is Love‟ rightly reveals love as energy which shapes life‟s relationships rightly, in ways that are more harmonious, empowering, joyous and just, reflecting “the divine‟.

Father Thomas Berry said, ‘We have no inner spiritual life if we don’t have the outer experience of a beautiful world.

He went on to say: 'The more we destroy the world the less a sense of God is possible...’.

It’s sobering to consider that a means to experience God may be diminished when the world itself is diminished through carelessness, and pragmatic decisions that sees earth as something to be used and exploited rather than treasured.

This understanding of God transforms our relationship to nature because the earth itself reveals God.

Jason John, who completed his doctorate in the area of eco-theology, says that ‘this understanding rejects human-centred theology which subtly endorses our destructive dominance of nature through human technology, in favour of a view which takes seriously the intrinsic value of all life. Our nobility as a species is contingent on us relating  rightly from a position of responsible dependence within the biosphere. Then, loving our neighbour includes loving nature. Then, unconditional love, grace or life abundant may begin to fill the Earth, for grace is that which is ultimately life-giving, allowing and enabling us to be who we really are’.

Australia has elected a new government (September 7th). As we go forward together, we need to be mindful about the common good, and policies that affect the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalized, the vulnerable.

But the knowledge of God’s self-revelation in creation also affects how we respond to projects and activities that exploit the earth. It changes how we relate to climate change. It changes our priorities about how we invest our money - whether into projects that are life giving or into those that damage the earth and damage communities.

The church can play a significant role in public discussion, decision making and advocacy on these vital issues, informed by a theology that recognizes God may be revealed in and through earth itself.

'In the season of Creation we celebrate Christ together with creation, we face the ecological crisis with Christ, and we serve Christ in the healing of creation' (Norm Habel). 
(Diaconal ministry has an important role to advocate not only for people on the margins, but for the welfare of earth itself, and for communities whose lives are tied so closely to the land).

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