September 1, 2019

 2019 Sept1

Stewards of Creation

Proper 17 – Year C
A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

 

This section of the Creed ties together our Old Testament lesson and the Gospel. Rather, “through whom all things were made” comes straight from John 1:3, and it reflects back onto the Creation stories in Genesis. Jesus as the Eternal Word or Logos was

 

  • “God said, ‘Let there be light’,
  • He was God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters’,
  • He was God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place” and so on.

 

Jesus of Nazareth was the embodiment of this Eternal Logos. When put alongside “A wind from God swept over the face of the waters” we see that it was the whole Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, responsible for Creation. The Godhead is also responsible for the ongoing life of Creation, and so are we as humanity.

 

God created human beings
to create.

 

In Genesis 2, which we could have read for this morning’s OT reading, Adam is co-Creator with God.

 

“[O]ut of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”

 

And when Woman is finally created as Man’s Helper and Partner, together they also create.

It is important for human beings to create, and not just procreate. We build, draw, cook, write, compose, grow and produce. Our innate need to create goes all the way back to our own creation and the creation of Creation. Think about all the things you have created:

 

  • Gardens
  • Banquets and BBQs
  • Houses
  • Innovative Programs and Curricula
  • Sculptures and Paintings
  • Businesses and Companies
  • And most preciously, those of you who have created children.

 

Your creations are precious,
they are valuable
beyond measure.

 

Whether or not your creations are of any value to someone else, they are so valuable that you cannot conceive of your creations not being a part of your life.

 

Yet, destruction happens. A garden is vandalized. A house burns down. A business falls into ruin. A child is injured or dies. Every person here has probably experienced the loss of something you created, and it was devastating. We were created to create, and when our creations are destroyed, so are we.

 

On the cosmic scale, all that there is was made through Jesus Christ. Through the Eternal Word, both light and life come into being. By John connecting Jesus to Genesis, it is through the Word – Jesus, the Incarnate God, who is both light and life – that God who is both invisible and unheard is revealed. And the light is linked to life.

 

“The life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.”

 

John continues the Judaic them of the cosmic and spiritual battle between light and darkness. Light is life, goodness, holiness, Creation; darkness is evil. The spiritual struggle that John is presenting his readers is that we have a choice between the light and the darkness, between life and death, between Creation and nothing. John makes it clear that the Light that the Darkness did not overcome encompasses all of Creation. John and Genesis together show that all light and life is imbued with God. Indeed, the Incarnation – the coming to earth of God as Jesus Christ – was the sanctification of matter: Jesus Christ opened the way for earthly objects to be holy. Our caring for Creation, then, is caring for holy things.

 

The spiritual battle between the
Light and the darkness, of
course, isn’t Jesus’ battle;
it’s ours.

 

In the case of Creation, taking our role as stewards of Creation seriously is to choose light. Did you notice that the 6th day wasn’t included in the reading? That is because we are to focus on the responsibility we have for the rest of creation instead of on ourselves. As stewards of Creation, God is expecting that we put the same tremendous energy into caring for the earth as we put into our personal creations. Our own creations are often at the expense of God’s Creation, but that does not need to be the case if we fully understand that everything in Creation, everything around us is imbued with God’s own holiness.

 

Everything asked of us as people of faith requires some level of discomfort. Our role as stewards of Creation is no exception. And like other aspects of our faith practice, there is a wide range of involvement in the stewardship of Creation. To be an Eco Warrior requires a lot of personal energy and personal sacrifice.


Think of the level of energy and
sacrifice you put into your
business, your career, your
children, and translate that to
caring for Creation.


Yet, those who consider themselves Eco Warriors would say that their sacrifice is nothing compared to what is at stake if we continue to destroy the earth. And you would say that the sacrifice for your creation was worth every ounce of effort and pain, pain that led to joy.

 

There are simple actions we each can take that are not too much of an imposition.

 

  • drive less and when we do, in low emission vehicles.
  • fly less
  • eliminate your food waste
  • eat less meat
  • use fewer disposable items and buy items that have less packaging
  • continue the water-saving measures you employed during the drought even though we are no longer in a drought...because we know we will be in drought again soon.

 

As a church family, we can consider changing our landscaping to low-water native species, carpooling to church and stopping the use of disposable dishes and silverware at Coffee Hour, and resuming the use of the Corelle that we have had for decades.

 

These may seem small, but when aggregated with hundreds, thousands and eventually millions of others, we can make a difference. And when we think about our stewardship of Creation as tending holy things, it becomes a spiritual practice rather than a chore or something we feel guilted into doing.

 

As people of faith, our endeavor is for our whole lives to be spiritual practice. Those creations of yours: they are beautiful and precious because of the discipline you put into creating them, and that discipline, for many, is a spiritual practice. Think about authors; they create the books we read. Many of them have routine disciplines which are very much like spiritual disciplines:

 

  • In a 1954 interview with George Plimpton in a café in Madrid, Ernest Hemingway offered his discipline for writing: “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible…You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again...When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty…”

 

The whole interview reveals what most of you probably developed as you worked on your most precious creations. This is how we are to approach our vocations, the raising of our children, the living of our lives – and the caring for Creation, God’s holy things. They are all spiritual disciplines.

 

Next week, Dr Margaret Bullitt-Jonas will be in our Deanery and our Diocese leading workshops and a retreat on earth care and climate change. The opportunities here in SLO County point us directly to developing our care for Creation as a spiritual exercise. On Tuesday, September 10, Dr Bullitt-Jonas will give two workshops, and the title says it all:

 

  • Earth Care, Soult Care: How can caring for the Earth become a spiritual practice that deepens our relationship with the Sacred?
  • The next day, she will help us develop that further with a workshop entitled: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves: Stepping into the great work.
  • Then at the end of the week, she will lead a clergy retreat on Prophetic Leadership in a time of Climate Crisis.
  • And then a Climate Change Conference for the whole Diocese.

 

So, those little actions you can take to help do your part to save the planet can actually be turned into a spiritual exercise. As people of faith, that which we want to make better in this world will come through not only prayer, but through spiritual discipline. Like every spiritual discipline, it requires education and, most of all, practice. There is plenty of education out there.

 

The Episcopal Public Policy Network offers a Creation Care series of newsletters, all grounded in scripture and prayer. A recent newsletter points out that we are part of God’s Creation, which is in our OT reading. The newsletter points out that we have the freedom to reason, and that our misuse of our freedom to reason and the misuse of our God-given abilities lead us to live out of harmony with God and Creation. The newsletter calls us to contemplate:

 

How can we use our unique freedom to reason and create to live in better harmony with Creation?

 

And that question leads you to the practice of the spiritual discipline of caring for Creation. The time to become educated and to start the stewardship of Creation as a spiritual discipline is now. It’s similar to another author’s discipline:

 

  • E.B. White, who wrote Charlotte’s Web, said “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

 

The ideal conditions under which to develop stewardship of Creation as spiritual discipline is now.


And when it becomes a spiritual
discipline, it becomes yet another
engagement with the Holy,
with God.

 

And then we begin to see God in Creation and realize that our destruction of Creation is living out of harmony with God. We are always striving to live in harmony with God, and that means living in harmony with Creation.

 

At the end of each day of Creation, God looked at what He had made a declared it GOOD; Jesus came and made it holy. Let us always choose light and life and develop the spiritual discipline of our God-given role as stewards of Creation.

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