Wednesday, October 3, 2018

"Season of Creation: Blessing ALL Creatures - Bring It!" Sermon, September 30, 2018

Community UMC, Quincy
“Season of Creation: Blessing ALL Creatures – Bring It!”
Rev. Andrew Davis
September 30, 2018
Psalm 124

            Whenever God’s creatures and wildlife around us comes to mind, all of the hymns we are singing this morning pop into my head, including this one back to my childhood…
                        All God’s critters got a place in the choir,
                        Some sing low, and some sing higher,
                        Some sing out loud on a telephone wire,
                        And some just clap their hands,
                        Or paws, or anything they got[i]

            As we conclude this series, “A Season of Creation,” we have talked about the importance of creation care, particularly God’s  non-human creations, along with stewardship or how we take care of God’s creations around us ranging from the mountains and sky; the trees and fruit; and all of God’s creatures, great and small. As we have been working through this series, we have been challenged, as anytime we get into the environment, climate change, creation care, and such, it can come across a little on the political side of things or touch a nerve here and there, mostly in part to our different experiences, backgrounds, and ways of understanding how we see the world and environment.  Even if this series has been challenging at times, according to the staff at BlessedEarth, a group that studies how faith and the environment intersect with each other (this is a long quote),
Scripture emphasizes care for God’s creation, and helps people start the journey.  Once people begin the journey, God works through the efforts and helps [everyone] along the journey of faithfulness around stewardship of creation.

People inevitably learn how interconnected humans are to the created world.  Nothing in creation is isolated...Care for creation and all creatures ultimately comes back to care for humanity.[ii]

            Everything ultimately comes full circle.  A little over six years ago at the UMC of Rancho Cordova, our music directors at the time, Jim and Jean Strathdee wrote a choral work in the mid-1990’s called “A Mass for the Healing of the Earth.” For Earth Day 2012, our choir at UMCRC led the worship service in “A Mass for the Healing of the Earth” and one of the most profound movements happens first is the Kyrie, which in the Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran traditions use as a call to repent of sins and seek God’s mercy. In the Kyrie for “A Mass for the Healing of the Earth,” the traditional Latin text of “Kyrie Eleison” (meaning Lord, have Mercy) was chanted while a slideshow of images of how harm is done to our planet and all of God’s creatures and I admit, it was hard to sing.  Yet this Kyrie was a call to repentance of how we may intentionally or unintentionally harm the earth and its creatures.  In the midst of a call to repent for harming the earth, the staff of Blessed earth further explains that
When we exercise our dominion [or how we dwell on the earth] in a way that does not demonstrate good stewardship, then all of creation suffers, including humanity.[iii]

            This is definitely some challenging stuff to consider and may not feel like good news necessarily, especially for generations after us.  On the other hand, we have seen natural changes happen on the earth over time and I know that not everyone is going to look at things the same way in how we care for creation or live amongst creation. 
As we engage with our text this morning, I admit that while doing my prep-work earlier in the week, I wrestled with how Psalm 124 fits into the context of all creatures, until you get to the last line “our help is in the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124: 8, NRSV).  It seems like we have destruction and battle imagery in the text of the Psalm here, along with the imagery of birds being trapped and being prey; yet, by turning to the various commentaries and aids in helping interpret the scripture, we’re dealing with an overall “unsettled creation” in this Psalm.[iv] It’s quite timely too, given the fires that have ravaged a good part of our state that have caused destruction of homes and displacing wildlife (although fire has been around for ages and caused by lightning before), or back East, seeing the damage of Hurricane Florence, or other hurricanes that have ravaged the East coast and Gulf Coast, or the heavy rains that have fallen on the East Coast causing flooding, along with drought that has gripped us on the West Coast in recent years, earthquakes, or tornadoes in the Midwest.  There are times when things are unsettled and all God’s creatures get caught in the middle.
            When we delve a little bit deeper in how creation can be unsettled, look at the Gospel account in Mark, Matthew, and Luke where the disciples are caught in a boat as a storm rages on Lake Gennesaret/Sea of Galilee when Jesus comes walking on the water.  Jesus invites Peter to step out of the boat and
while Peter remained focused on Jesus, he was able to do the impossible, walk on water.  Once he focused on the storms around him, he began to sink.  [In Psalm 124] David saw the storms around him [as reflected in the unsettled creation].  He felt the waves crashing around him and felt like a bird caught in the snare.  Yet as he reminded himself, “had the Lord not been on our side.” He had hope that the storms would not overtake him, that the snares could not hold him.  As long as he kept his focus on the Lord who was with him, then who could be against him?[v]

            David is in the midst of how all God’s creatures and creation are interconnected, through the storms, and through the imagery of being caught in a snare or being prey.  Even today, with God on our side, we can say bring it as we walk through times of unsettled creation and as we think about how we care for all of creation, from the mountains, trees, skies, and all of God’s creatures!!  That’s the good news right there, having God on our side when we believe and trust in God, even when we feel like we too are in storms or feel like prey, or birds trapped in snares.
Likewise, when we practice good stewardship with all of God’s creation (heartening back to the book of Genesis where God gives humankind dominion over every living thing), we too can bring on creation care, even if we may differ on how to be stewards and even when we’re not sure where to start.   Nevertheless, we can start somewhere, as “our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124: 8, NRSV).  God made us and all of the creatures, while giving us as humans a responsibility to bring it and take care of all that God has created, as we return to how we are all interconnected.  When we engage in the overall care of creation and God’s creatures, “the creation longs for the day when the people of God are restored to being the image bearers of God who exercise proper dominion, as first envisioned in Genesis 1.”[vi]
            So how do we bring it, and engage in the care of creation?  That’s the question we have before us as we go forth from this season of creation and into our next series of embracing the mystery of God.  How do we see the world around us when we spend time with creation and nature?  How do we protect and care for our mountains, forests, trees, waterways, streams, and all of God’s creatures for future generations to enjoy and spend time in?  More importantly, how do we see the renewal of creation?   Last Sunday, we sang an Easter hymn reminding us that “because of the Easter event [and] God’s ongoing work of redeeming the world, we help in a small way to release creation from its groanings” when we see to caring for all of God’s creation.[vii] The task of creation care may feel overwhelming at times, but look beyond the larger scale and start in a small way when it comes to bringing it and taking care of all of God’s creations and the creatures of the earth by practicing such stewardship, as we do it with God on our side.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the church say, AMEN!   

[i] "All God's Critters". 2018. Peterpaulandmary.Com. Accessed September 26 2018.

[ii] Ministries, Discipleship. 2018. "Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Preaching Notes - Umcdiscipleship.Org". Umcdiscipleship.Org. Accessed September 26 2018.

[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid. 

[vi] Ministries, Discipleship. 2018. "Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Faith Formation - Umcdiscipleship.Org". Umcdiscipleship.Org. Accessed September 26 2018.

[vii] Ibid. 

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