220904 Pentecost 13C Creation Season 1. Jeremiah 18:1-11Psalm139:1-512-18 Luke14:25-33
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
The first Sunday in the Season of Creation this year is dedicated to prayers for Creation and our local ecology. What is Ecology? We hear the word often enough, but do we know what it is? One definition is that it is the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings, for instance, the study of humans and their relationship with the environment gives us human ecology. Alternatively, studying a food chain in a wetland area gives wetland ecology while the study of how termites or other small organisms interact with their habitat or chewing their way through the timber of your home’s window frames, brings about niche construction ecology.
Anything that hinders the relationship between organisms and their habitat or natural environment is something that is harmful, unnatural, and ultimately destructive, such as anything that pollutes, contaminates, or contains and emits high levels of carbon to name a few.
The burning bush is the Symbol for the Season of Creation in our year 2022 Today, the prevalence of unnatural fires is a sign of the devastating effects that climate change has on the most vulnerable of our planet. Human greed and land misuse lead to the disintegration of ecosystems, the destruction of habitats, and the loss of livelihoods and species at an alarming rate.
Creation cries out as forests crackle, animals flee, and people are forced to migrate due not only to floods and fires, but also to the fires of injustice that greed has caused. Jeremiah was told to go to the potter’s house to listen to the word of God and he heard it in the potter reworking the clay. We are told to listen to the cry of Creation in the story of the burning bush. The fire that called to Moses as he tended the flock on Mt. Horeb did not consume or destroy the bush. This was a flame of the Spirit that revealed God’s life sustaining presence. This holy fire affirmed that God heard the cries of all who suffered. God promised to be with all who seek deliverance from injustice. During the Season of Creation, this symbol calls us to listen to the voice of creation, and faithfully respond through worship, repentance, and action. Moses was told to remove his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground in God’s presence. May this symbol move us to remove the “sandals” of our unsustainable lifestyles that disconnect us from creation and our Creator, contemplate our connection to the holy ground where we live, and listen for the voice of creation.
In today’s gospel, which could be described as being about the nature of discipleship, ‘Jesus asks us do we really want to be ‘his disciples,’ his dedicated followers, to carry the cross? Once we become aware of the true nature of Christian discipleship, we also become aware that we are quite unable to pay the membership fee, the cost in human terms is beyond us. This discipleship necessitates a complete detachment from existing relationships, the ones that humans hold dear, especially the family so highly valued in the society of Jesus’ time. And it is a pretty big ask these days!
We all have our own immediate responsibilities, family, farm, work, school, illnesses, sadnesses, so many other entanglements.
We are sometimes lost in the ‘big crowd of followers,’ living our lives, rushing around from one engagement to the next and now we are being asked to carry a cross on top of all this! Who is going to sign up for that?
But, in another age we signed up for training for football and different sports, years of primary school then more in secondary school, degrees and further education courses, we sign contracts, and some sign life contracts in marriage. It seems that we can make commitments. So, in this Season of Creation, can we commit or sign up to protecting our actual home place, Our Common Home, the precious blue planet lovingly created by God as a home for all creation? Can we respond to the threat of a total climate breakdown and devastating biodiversity loss?
Are we willing to sign up to change our way of life, how we heat and cool our homes, travel, farm, garden and even shop and eat? These are huge asks, in fact a new kind of cross. But this is a cross that we can embrace with joy and no doubt some pain too as we leave behind old ways of being. Joy can come as we work with Jesus and other dedicated followers in our communities to co-create a new and transformed Common Home, where farmers can feed their families, indigenous peoples can live in their home place, people in cities can breathe clean air and all of us can have clean and safe drinking water and of course where nature and all God’s creatures can thrive.
Once we make our relationship with Jesus the centre of our life, then all other relationships will find their proper place. What appears to be a call to utterly abandon family and friends enables us to discover our relationship with family and friends in a new way.
These relationships become an extension of our relationship to Jesus and our relationships with our neighbours and family are enhanced as a result. And taking up our cross is not as forbidding as first found. This may have come as quite a shock to the Jewish crowds of the time as the notion that Jesus was the Messiah was gathering momentum. Discipleship is a call, a challenge and not an imposition and Jesus wants us to be sure about what we are getting ourselves into. The implication is that if we think about it, then all a sensible person would do is surrender. With our admission that we cannot be faithful and committed disciples of Jesus comes the grace of Jesus that enables us to do so.
The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to become part of the new family of Jesus, an extraordinary family made up of the most unlikely people. The disciples in the Gospel provide the assurance in faith that this is so. They failed to be loyal disciples of Jesus, to carry their cross, but through the gift of the Holy Spirit they were empowered to become the kind of disciples that, humanly speaking, was quite beyond them. So let us continue to pray together and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we begin our celebration of the Season of creation and take steps, no matter how small, to live in harmony with all of God’s creation, as we learn to walk more gently on God’s ‘holy ground.’ Amen.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF