Sunday, September 9, 2018

“A soon as you open John's Gospel you are aware that you are breathing a different
air from that which you encountered in Matthew'. Mark and Luke. It has often
been described as 'a magic pool, in which an elephant may swim and an infant
paddle ‘. My sense of it is that it is a journey into the mystery Of who Jesus is,
inviting us ever deeper, as the story unfolds. One aspect of Jesus' identity that the
reader might' find 'helpful is to think of him as a being. Who performs on two stages:
the heavenly stage ('up there'), which he leaves for a while to walk on the earthly
stage ('down here'), from which he returns, but taking with him all those who
belong 'up there'.
The reader will do well to remember that this is a very rich Gospel, whose
meaning emerges slowly, over a Lifetime of reading.”[1]

The first chapter of John’s Gospel connects Christ with creation in a most spectacular way. John informs us that all of creation, including planet Earth, is the result of the impulse of the Word from God (1.1-2). That Word is here identified with God.  That Word, which precedes creation, is the impulse to create everything, whether it be the physical world or unseen worlds.

It is sobering to contemplate that in today’s world many sects of contemporary Christianity makes peace with environmental degradation even as it claims the gift of special revelation of God’s “goodness” in Christ and creation. I suspect that that many of us, upon hearing in the prologue to John’s Gospel that the light of the world came into the world but “the world did not know him” and did not “accept” him, take comfort in a kind of ironic hindsight: while the world of Jesus’ time rejected him, surely those of us who have inherited two thousand years of the church’s proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” would not make such a mistake!  At least that is what we like tell ourselves. But if we Christians do not look upon creation and see first and foremost the divine intention that such creation bear enduring testimony to God’s goodness, then are we not even more worthy of blame than those who rejected God’s testimony in the first place? The more we claim to worship the Creator God and the Incarnate Word yet treat the material environment as something less than God’s good creation through which God intends to be honored, the more hollow our testimony becomes.

There has been among Christian culture an ambivalence—concerning the goodness of creation. There has been a pattern of viewing creation as less good than the non-material, spiritualized “heavens.” Such favoring of a nonmaterial heaven over the created Earth informed an eschatology of escapism, in which the culmination of the lives of individual believers as well as the Earth itself results in the end of creation and the advent of a totally spiritual “heaven.”

This may be translated into some contemporary theologies such as “Only visiting this planet” or “This world is not my home.”  This idea that we belong to heaven and not of this earth allows Christians to toss care and love of the earth aside.

As scholars such as Barbara Rossing, N.T. Wright, and Norman Habel have insisted, this escapist “tradition”—which arguably remains the single most dominant eschatological ( or end of times) mindset present among Christians of all denominations, no matter how liberal or conservative—completely misrepresents the biblical witness, beginning with Genesis and culminating in the book of Revelation (where the author bears witness to God’s renewal of the face of the earth). Fidelity to the scripture—a hallmark of much theology and preaching—requires that we be no less celebratory of creation (and no less vigilant against that which would degrade creation) than are the Bible’s own texts.

We need to recognize as central the affirmation of creation’s goodness. The popular belief among Christians that the point of earthly life is to make it to a nonmaterial “heaven” (at which point the earth can be dispensed with) should make one thing clear: the fight to honor creation as part of our Christian faith in our time is, among other things, part of the church’s ongoing fight against this concept that creation is lesser in our culture and in our church. The church fathers thought that fight was worth winning for the sake of God’s church; similarly, we feel that the fight is worth winning for the sake of God’s world.

The theologian Stanley Hauerwas has pointed out the importance of “preaching as if we have enemies.” While many of us might wish to think of the default setting of Christian rhetoric being peacefulness, Hauerwas’ point is that bad theology has real consequences—for the church and, by extension, the world. We see that in the ways in which escapist Christian theologies have aided and abetted Christian apathy towards environmental abuse. [2]

Today we celebrate, the Word that precedes creation as it is identified as the second person of the Trinity.  In Genesis One life first emerges from Earth on Day Three.  In John One life, in all its dimensions, is located in the Word, the creative impulse of God that initiates creation.  In a special way, this Word that brings light into the world, recalls the mystery of Day one.

“and the earth was invisible and unformed; and darkness was upon the abyss, and the spirit of God was rushing upon the water. And God said let there be light, and the light came to be! And God saw the light that it was Good; and God divided between the light and the darkness. and God called the light day and the darkness was called night and there was evening and there was morning Day one.”
Actually, thinking of it, what does genesis say about creation

God saw the light, that it was good
And God called the firmament heaven and God saw that it was good
And God called the dry land earth and the system of waters he called seas and God saw that it was Good.
And the Earth brought out herbage of grass, sowing according to its kind and according to its likeness and a fruit bearing tree which yields fruit, whose seed is in it according to its kind on the earth and God saw that it was Good.
 And as Genesis speaks of the sun and moon to rule over day and night and to divide the light and the darkness and God saw it was Good
Here is something we do not pay attention too much “And God said ‘Let the waters bring forth creepy-crawlies, that have living souls… and God saw it was Good
And God made the wild beasts of the earth according to their kind, quadrupeds, and creepy crawlies, and the wild beasts of the earth according to their kind. And God saw that they were good.
And God saw everything that was made, and LOOK! It was very Good. (Genesis1:1-31 abbreviated)

“And all of this came into being through the word and apart from the word nothing at all came into being” (John 1:3)

By this evidence we can see the earth as nothing less than sacred…Holy Ground, Holy sky, Holy creatures all created Good…All created through The Word; The Word which was, is, and will always be Christ.  We have at times lost our way.  We have forgotten how to care for the land and the air that we may live in harmony with it.  We instead have tried to control and manipulate it so that we can benefit from it with no consequence and yet, we are learning there are consequences to all we do.
One fine example is here in the bay area…

“From the Gold Rush until the 1970s, San Francisco Bay shrunk by about one-third, due to diking, dredging and filling to build highways, airports, farms and neighborhoods. Although modern environmental laws stopped that practice, scientists, government leaders and local officials have been on a slow campaign to enlarge the bay and bring back fish, wildlife and public access over the past two decades — a mission that also includes restoring wetlands to help protect Bay Area communities from sea level rise as the climate continues to warm.”[3]

“Wetlands are important features in the landscape that provide numerous beneficial services for people and for fish and wildlife. Some of these services, or functions, include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods. These valuable functions are the result of the unique natural characteristics of wetlands….

The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients and primary productivity is ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding.

Wetlands' microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen and sulfur. Scientists now know that atmospheric maintenance may be an additional wetlands function. Wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus, wetlands help to moderate global climate conditions.”[4]

Just Monday we took a ride out to point Reyes. We passed salt marsh, and wetlands and the natural wonders that our unique landscape of the bay area creates. Being good care takers of the earth isn’t just to preserve these natural habitats for their beauty but also in the long run it protects the environment in which we live.

It is a little overwhelming to speak of the earth as a whole, for no one as experienced the earth as a whole. We know what we experience. We know the land we walk on, we know the land we visit, we know the field we care for.

So during this season of creation I will attempt to make things relatable to us here and now as we live in the bay area. This is why today I am speaking about the wetlands. Many of the foods we enjoy come from wetlands.  Did you know “Most commercial and game fish breed and raise their young in coastal marshes and estuaries. Menhaden, flounder, sea trout, spot, croaker and striped bass are among the more familiar fish that depend on coastal wetlands. Shrimp, oysters, clams, blue and Dungeness crabs likewise need these wetlands for food, shelter and breeding grounds.”[5]

Many of the foods we love come form the areas we are trying to restore so we as consumers benefit from caring for the wetlands as well as all the earth.

As I was seeking resources and inspiration I cam across a web-page that had a list of things we can do to care for the earth.

Things we can do to care for the earth:

- Respect all as God's gift; the earth, all species, people, property.
- Reduce, reuse, repair & recycle.
- Ask "Do I really need this?" before buying it.
- Use recycled paper wherever possible eg kitchen & toilet rolls.
- - Compost kitchen waste.
- Recycle glass, cans, plastics, cardboard, office paper, newspaper.
- Recycle paper to save the rainforests.
- Choose environmentally more friendly washing & cleaning products.
- Don't leave electrical appliances on standby. (This is a hard one)
- Switch off lights when they are no longer needed.
- Use only as much water in the kettle as you need.
- Use cooler washes, shorter cycles & fuller loads in washing machines.
- - Shop locally and buy local produce.
- Buy organic fruit & vegetables.
- Buy 'Fair Trade' products. (fair trade Christmas boutique is November 10th)
- Grow your own vegetables organically or grow herbs in pots.
- When buying electrical appliances, choose the most energy efficient.
- Recycle non-rechargeable batteries or dispose of them safely.
- Walk, cycle or use public transport wherever possible.
- Use a fuel-efficient car with low CO2 emissions.
- Moderate car speeds cause less pollution than fast speeds.
- Consider installing renewable energy systems into your home.
- Donate old clothes, furniture, toys & books to charity shops.
- Learn to identify the wildlife species around you.
- Learn how environmental issues are linked to poverty.
- Become active - walk daily & connect with nature around you.[6]

The climax to the reading from John One is the amazing Christ connection in verse 14.  This eternal Word that precedes creation becomes part of creation.  This Word, that is the very God who brought Earth into being, becomes part of Earth as ‘flesh and blood”! This God that caused Earth to be born out of primal water, is now born from the waters of a woman.  

So, the Earth story continues.  God becomes part of Earth to redeem the creatures of Earth. The dwelling of God in this piece of Earth whom we know as Jesus is described using the language of God’s glory ‘dwelling’ in the tabernacle in the wilderness.  That glory or presence of God is now revealed to be present in a human being, and part of Earth.

I have avoided use of the term Global warming…do you want to know why…because it doesn’t matter the simple sacred story is this earth is sacred and God sees it as Good therefore we are called to care for it and care for it better than we have been. This is not a matter of science but a matter of faith!

May God bless you and each of us as we seek ways to be better stewarts of this sacred space, this earth this Holy Ground Amen.

[1] King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013.
[5] Ditto

No comments:

Post a Comment