Creation Time 2
Continuing the September theme of creation, here is Rev john Rackley’s second sermon, preached on 20th September.
Scripture: Proverbs 3:13-26; John 1:1-9
John Woolman was a North American Quaker who wrote a journal of his experiences as a business man and travelling preacher in the 16th century.
He believed that a life of wisdom arises from making justice for people, animals and the rest of creation.
In his journal he tells a story from his childhood when he killed a robin on her nest and then when he realised that her brood would starve he killed them too. This memory haunted him into adult life and as he went deeper into the Christian way of life he began to work at the relationship between justice and the created order.
Following John 1:9 he asserted that animals and humans exist through the same ‘God-breathed flame of life’. Animals deserved as much compassion as a human being. All cruelty against an animal was a break in the trust God had placed in humans as his creation partner.
He argued for the abolition of slavery and against the theft of land from indigenous people. He declared excess wealth leads to power which can lead to the abuse of power and ultimately war. When wealth creation becomes self-serving it turns allies into enemies and neighbours into opponents. It also turns the earth into a resource to exploit.
He wrote: The primary business of Christians is to turn all the gifts and treasures we possess into a channel of universal love.
Since God watches over all creation with love and mercy, the further we travel on the Christian journey the more we will exercise the gracious love of God for creation. He realised that we cannot do this without God’s love in our lives. Pure wisdom seeks the life of God in all things.
This is ECO-EVANGELISM. It is bringing the Good News of Christ to all of creation not simply the human part of it. What John Woolman reminds us is that the way we acquire wealth can be oppressive – so that rivers are poisoned, forests torn down, animals become extinct and children dig for blood diamonds.
We may believe that creation is beautiful and that we can walk with our God in the garden in the evening light but whilst the light lasts the garden of this Eden needs taken care of.
Last week Jenny who was leading the service showed a story of the effect of climate change on the life of a Pacific island. It highlighted that change in how the islanders now ran tourist boats to the coral reef which was already showing signs of dying as the water temperature increased. I watched this with growing discomfort. It reminded me of the time I visited the Red Sea and walked on a coral reef. It was brown and dusty. I was walking on death. I was an ignorant tourist and I am chastened by my insensitivity and lack of responsibility.
Donald Nicholl describes a visit to the Grand Canyon:
One spring morning I set out at dawn and walked from the top of the Grand Canyon down the steep path that leads to the bottom where the Colorado River flows, some seven thousand feet below. As you descend you can observe the walls layer upon layer of the sediments that have formed over millions of years, and you can relate those layers to the successive species of living creatures, both fauna and flora, that dwelt upon the earth before we appeared: Permian ferns and crinoids and armour-plated fish.
Observing the traces of them in this way you feel a true kinship with all those beings, know that they and trace your existence back to the first moment of transcendence when life appeared on this earth.
And then you begin to reflect that the very eyes with which you are observing these wondrous evidences are themselves the result of millions of years of striving for light, ever since the first pin-hole appeared on those primitive marine creatures, the cephalopods. And you are the beneficiary of all that struggle for light, the heir of all that agony.
And as you gaze at your hands or think of your ears or of your tongue it takes your breath away to envisage the innumerable strivings that had to be attempted before you could see and touch and hear and taste and see.
Had any breakdown in that series of stirrings occurred it could have destroyed that possibility for you to hear and see and sing. The breakdown was prevented by untiring faithfulness on the part of millions of beings.
The mere thought of this makes you realise what an incredibly hard-won privilege it is simply to be a human being; and at the same time it is an awesome responsibility.
Every human being has a responsibility towards all those creatures whose agony and groaning has given him birth.
Our reading from Proverbs declares
“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth ….do not be afraid of sudden panic… for the Lord will be your confidence”.
In the midst of the Old Testament there is a group of books which come from the Wisdom tradition. They include Job, Ecclesiastes. Song of Solomon and Proverbs –there are others in the Apocrypha. I think they are important for this time of COVID uncertainty and climate change.
What the tradition seeks to do is move living by faith in God out of the world of religion and into the world of daily life, human experience and creation care. The writers seek to blend belief in the Creator with the discoveries of human experience and insight. They propose a faith for our times.
Recently David Attenborough, a man of Leicester who has never openly embraced a religious view of life ended a programme on the mass extinction of animals by telling us that he would not live to see the outcome but he knew that unless we all take responsibility for what is happening to our climate we are living without hope.