Saturday, 3 June 2017

Eco-sermon - Space for Grace : The Fulness of Faith and Holiness of Wholeness

Space for Grace : The Fulness of Faith and Holiness of Wholeness 
Readings : Psalm 19 and Colossians  1 :15-20

When people gather to hear eco-sermons, it will be within the freshness and fear of Pentecost AND amidst the 40th birthday celebrations for the Uniting Church.
This piece, then, is offered in memory of those who invite us to bring both vertical and horizontal themes to the cross, where confession of brokenness and promise of resurrection intersect.
I wondered what good news we might be challenged with… especially when I realized we had been set an essay topic, or a scenario, rather than a set of bible readings or a proposition about God. 
I wondered if the organizers were really wanting a green theology, a word of prophetic challenge or a teaching testimony to the Creator? 
The present con-text we have been offered describes a changing awareness of the place of human beings… it begs the questions: An awareness that changes from what… to what?

With my Buddhist background, I find it curious that there is an increasing emphasis on ‘mindfulness’. Often this is described as an intentional awareness… of surroundings, self and others.  
Are we, I wonder, intentionally aware of the place of human beings ? 
Do we increase our awareness by including words about people and their place ? 
Perhaps we could commence with an acknowledgement of Land ?

God’s Land
When we see the Land as markers in the revelation of God, 
we stop thinking of ourselves (humanity) as the centre of all creation. 
When we see God as the centre and God’s creation as receiving life from God, 
we see a different pattern, helping us to find our special place.

(A symbol of the Land may be used as a focal point for this prayer: earth, sand, rocks, plants… )
This is God’s Land.
Many have gone before who have honoured God by caring for the Land, 
in the ways they have lived and in the stories they have shared.
We give thanks for the First people, 
who have held as sacred the duty of protecting the Land 
and living in harmony with it.
May God honour and bless them – now and to eternity.
(From Wide and Deep, A.Koh-Butler, 2017)

Indeed, if we regard the Land as sacred and acknowledge a special relationship between First Peoples and the Land God placed them on, perhaps we read the revelations of God in sky, sea and scripture with a refreshed sense of the mysteries of God. 
If we hear Psalm 19 or Colossians 1 in the voices of First Peoples, perhaps we can step back from colonial interpretations of justified dominion and domination, 
instead remembering the context of People dispossessed of their relationships with one another and creation, longing for the liberation to claim ‘home’ sovereign. 
Could such a dream of sovereignty offer a foretaste of the Kin-dom of Heaven? I wonder ?
If, on this Land, those of us (who are Second Peoples) sought to learn from the heritage of 60,000 years of interactions between Land and People, what might change? I wonder?
Perhaps as Second Peoples, we might tend to our awareness, not only of First Peoples, but also of one another?
Perhaps we might recognize and learn to value the blessing of Pentecost’s diversity, where the Spirit enables people to proclaim and hear and understand in many languages and cultures, rather than privileging a dominant language that requires assimilation and loss of identity (and connection with land). 
In that creative moment of complex understandings, the spirit makes clear that it is not part of God’s plan that any one language shall have dominion over others… rather, the foretaste of Heaven is found in new understandings, arising from crossing cultures and embracing difference. 
Might we welcome and celebrate such exchange ?
Might we offer sacrifices of praise as part of our Covenant with God and First Peoples ?  - bringing into new exchange the graces we could gift from across the seas ? 

Tide turns
The moon crosses sky 
and the waters respond:
It is time to move 
to the rhythm of Heaven.

The pull of the depths 
call to the shore:
Turn to the longing 
deep in your soul.

We look back to former ways 
in confession
before turning our hearts 
in repentance.

As we set our sails 
to the new tide,
we set ourselves toward 
the promise of pilgrims.

Perhaps, together, we might reclaim a holy identity for humanity? Not as individual human beings, choosing our own paths and setting the many pillaging agendas for the earth… 
but claiming the place prepared for us within God’s Created Order… a place of honour and delight, as we experience the true Realm of God as the Children of God ?
Could we see ourselves as Co-creators, learning the imagination of God ? 
Might we find ourselves beating swords into ploughshares ? 
Might human peacemaking between peoples lead to shared goals of restoring relationships with the rest of creation ? 
In the age of the anthropocene, we are indeed becoming aware that God’s creation has been reshaped by humanity. 
(Some place the commencement of the anthropocene – the age of human influence upon the earth as dating from Trinity – the name given to the first test of a nuclear weapon…) 
In our dehumanizing of ourselves and one another, we have led to the diminishment of creation. Yet, reading the story of the incarnation of Jesus Christ promises to us that salvation has come within reach of our hands. 
In God’s embodiment into creation, as Emmanuel, God with us – we discover a new purpose for humanity…. Not as destroyer of creation, but as restorer. 
Perhaps Holy People could find themselves tending to the Healing and Wholeness of Creation as gardeners? 
Being sanctified (made holy) by their engagement with wholeness ? Being inspired by the glimpses of Heaven’s reveal? (I speak only of the glimpse, for I do not presume that we will effect repairs and restoration within our era.) 
We could, however, proclaim the message that Heaven’s version of Earth is worth striving for… and this aim is, in fact, a KPI of the Mission of God. 
If church is breathed into being by the Spirit so that the mission of God may be served, we can expect the Spirit to require of us that Church is oriented and organized to bless God in the way we tend God’s creation. 
Surely such orientation must see us leading the way, rather than following reluctantly, when it comes to adopting practices that demonstrate our faith in the Generator of Life ? 
Would this see every church, school, manse, hospital and aged care residence turn green as a missional imperative ? Would we begin to recognize that delaying such action represents our ongoing corporate sin ? 

(Perhaps you did not expect a turn or burn sermon from me?)
Within this body beats the heart of a grandma.

When we consider the question of faithful life, we do so in the face of death. 
How many species face extinction ? How many grandchildren will live ? 
I believe in the promise of God to the ‘children of Abraham’: there is a place where the potential of Heaven will be revealed and experienced. 
It is up to us to follow the path of God, revealed in the Way of Christ. 
By restoration of relationships (with God, one another, self), by turning from greed and the habits of taking from the earth, we can learn the way of grace and true harmony… the shalom Jesus breathed upon the world. 
To live faithfully, we must live as if we believe there can be a future for those who are and those yet to be – a future where Heaven continues to be revealed, rather than being a myth of memory.
We must treat our home as a space and place for the grace of God to be revealed and enjoyed. We must tend to this place as the Temple of God’s own hand… the great testimony to holy wonder.
To the Creator be all glory, now and always !

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