During our Intergenerational Service on Sunday, Revd Jackie’s sermon considered the themes covered in the Church of England’s Season of Creation theme. If you missed the service, or would like to read the sermon, the text is below and links to the reading from Luke 12: 22-34.
Also, don’t forget about our weekly Outdoor Communion Service that takes place every Wednesday morning at 9.15am. This is a simple service, lasting about 20 minutes, which can bring a brief pause for calm reflection during the middle of the week.
We aim to hold services outside in St Andrew’s church garden every Wednesday, weather permitting.
God so loved the world – A theme I want to break into three parts.
I don’t know about you, but over the past few weeks, months, I seem to have been experiencing the power of God’s creation, in fact most of the world has been experiencing the power of God’s creation! I have dragged Pippin out on walks in the pouring rain – much to his great disgust, I must say. I have heard the mighty thunder, wandered through the woods and forest glades, feeling the rain on my coat, and listened to the birds exchanging stories above me in the tall trees. And that view from the top of the Rigi, across to the Pilatus, and other mountains, especially when the cloud line is below the Rigi summit and you feel as if you are on an island in the sky!
Looking down into the valleys below – Then sings my soul. Then I really feel close to God. I consider all the works God’s hand hath made, and my soul sings. Because it is good, and God saw that it was good. All of it. From the cricket sunbathing on the path, the red-backed beetle scurrying out of the way of feet, to the majestic stag bellowing across the valley, and the bear stocking up on food ready for the long winter hibernation. All are good because God saw that they were good.
And that should be enough, shouldn’t it. That they are good, that they have value for being what they are – the bird, the marmot, the bear– do we need to justify them? Their existence? They just are. They fit in with how the world is. Without them something is missing, some part of the great chain of being is gone and the chain weakens. And there was evening and there was morning.
God so loved the world. I was asked when this season of care for creation began why it was something we should be addressing in church. And this famous phrase from John’s Gospel sort of answers that question: we have to love God’s world because God so loved the world. God so loves the world. And we are made in the image of God. We are God’s people on earth, made in God’s image, God’s representatives, and therefore we have a responsibility, called by God to be in the world to act out God’s love, God’s compassion. In the words of Ian Bradley, a Christian writer on the environment,
“If we are in God’s image then just as God acts justly, creatively, with love, compassion and mercy, so we too must act justly, creatively, with love, compassion and mercy.“
Throughout the Bible we hear how God cares for and loves what God has created: for the ravens; how God clothes the lilies in the fields in finery, and in Matthew 10, verse 29, Jesus says: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. God sees what happens to creation. God sees when creation is abused, exploited, destroyed, when even the little creatures, the ones we overlook or discount, are damaged. And if God sees, we, in God’s image, as God’s representatives, should see too, and care, and love those creatures. This is not a “nice-to-have” part of our faith, it is central: we are in God’s image, we are to be God’s hands, feet, heart in this world, and so we must love as God loves, and we must love what God loves: all God’s creatures, however unlovely. I have preached so many times on how we must love those whom God has made in God’s image: our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters here and across the world. But God’s love is bigger than just humanity. In the words of that Sunday School song: wide, wide as the ocean, high as the heavens above, deep, deep as the deepest sea is my Saviour’s love. It covers the birds of the air, the creatures of the sea and all that lives on the land. All those things that God saw were good.
And God so loved the world that God gave us to be stewards of God’s creation. The word used in Genesis is dominion which has caused some misunderstanding. Dominion suggests control, dominance, dictatorship: it’s all ours therefore we can do with it what we want! But. In the Old Testament, Kings with dominion did not have the power to rule as they wanted, and do what they wanted. They were ruling in place of God, the ever-loving God. And as such they were expected to rule with compassion, justice and mercy. They ruled as God’s representatives and they knew that God would demand a reckoning when God came to claim what belonged to God. Our dominion means that we hold the earth in trust for God. We steward the resources, the creatures, caring for them as God would want, protecting and preserving them and the whole of creation. This is a solemn duty: God has entrusted us with God’s creation. And God will challenge us on how we have upheld that solemn trust. What have we done with what God has entrusted to us? And we are not just holding creation in trust for God, but for future generations, As Chris Park (another Christian Environmental writer) says,
“We do not pass this world on to the next generation, we borrow it from them. This world is not ours, it is God’s and it belongs to future generations. We are merely stewards. We have a solemn duty, a calling, a vocation to care for God’s creation as God would, as God does.”
And this is what makes Christians different. This is what makes our call for creation, for environmental protections, different. We don’t do it for us. These things will help us because they will help the planet survive, but we don’t care for creation for our own selfish reasons, we do it because we belong to God. Because creation belongs to God and if we borrow something, if we are entrusted with something that belongs to someone else, we have a duty to protect, preserve and hand it back safe and secure. We can use it, but not abuse it. We are responsible to God for this beautiful, powerful, breath-taking creation and whatever we do with it, we must be prepared to hand it back safely to God. And just as we belong to God, and to each other, we also belong to creation as part of God’s created order, so by protecting God’s creation from abuse, we protect each other, all humanity from abuse. Everything belongs to God, and of God’s own do we offer God.
So, my three points:
First, creation is worth it, because. Because it has value in and of itself, an intrinsic value through the love of God. All things, including us, were created by God, for no other reason than God wanted to create and love them.
Second, as God’s people, made in God’s image, we are to love God’s creation as God loves it. It is who we are. And as God’s children in the world, we should act with compassion, justice and mercy, towards all creation.
And finally, we are not possessors of creation, we do not own it, but we borrow it from the next generation, and steward it for God, holding it in trust for God, and we will be held to account for what we do with it. The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is.
Our task is to ensure it is stewarded well, that it is used lovingly and carefully, so all generations can see the stars, hear the mighty thunder, wander through woods and glades, hear birds in the trees, look down from mountains, hear brooks, feel gentle breezes, and in so doing can consider all the works God hand has made.
Then our souls may sing: how great thou art.
Bradley Ian (2020) God is Green: Christianity and the Environment, Darton, Longman and Todd/Kindle
Park Chris (2013) Caring for Creation. Towards a Christian Environmental Theology, Harper Collins/Kindle