Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Sermon at Parish Mass Harvest Thanksgiving 2014

Deuteronomy 28.1–14
2 Corinthians 9.6–15
Luke 12.16–30

Today we celebrate God’s goodness in creation, God’s abundant generosity. All the blessings of the good earth that are described in our reading from Deuteronomy this morning come to us from God, who is the creator of all. Existence itself is God’s gift, and all created things owe their being to God.
That includes us, as well as the crops and gifts of the earth. But human beings have a unique place in the material creation. Part of our nature, our created existence, is that we speak and think and reason. So human beings have a role, within, creation, of giving voice on behalf of the rest of creation. 
Everything that exists praises God, and gives worship, by the very fact of existing. To worship God is to give God his worth, that is what the word means. But human beings are called to offer rational worship. Worship with our minds and hearts, as well as with our existence. Worship in accordance with the Word of our existence, Jesus Christ through whom all things exist. And that is what we are doing today. 
But worship is not confined to church. St Paul says in Romans 12, “present your bodies [that is, your whole lives] as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”. And part of our worship is to recognise that creation is God’s gift and not our possession. Being the rational part of creation it is our duty to ensure that the earth is sustained for the future and that all people have what they need. This also is part of our worship. We worship by living in tune with creation.
But human sin impairs the role of humans as part of creation. We grasp creation as our own instead of receiving it as gift. The rich man in today’s gospel reading does this. He had abundant crops but he shouldn’t have had to ask “what should I do with them?”. He should have known that his abundance was given to him to supply someone else’s need. If he were living in tune with creation it would have been second nature to him to give away his surplus to those who didn’t have enough.
So human beings fail to fulfil our created calling. We fail to offer God rational worship in our lives. But, in our failure to live in accordance with creation, Jesus comes as our Saviour. He offers us the gift of new life and new creation, revealed in the resurrection. He brings us back to a right relationship with God in which we are once again in tune with creation.
Our attention to those in need is part of this. So today we are collecting food for the Muswell Hill soup kitchen and money for WaterAid.
And we do so as we gather for praise and worship. It is part of the same action. Our worship today is not something we decided to do ourselves. We are doing what Jesus told us to do, celebrating the Eucharist he gave to his Church. Do this, he said, in memory of me.
The only truly perfect worship ever offered to God is that offered by Jesus, the Son of God. As he is himself God he alone can give to God the infinite worship that is his due. As he is also human he offers that worship as our representative and head. That worship was expressed in his whole life, from his incarnation to his self-giving even to death on the cross. 
But that once for all offering has not gone away. Jesus’ worship of the Father, his self-giving even to death, is made present and effective for us in the Eucharist. “This is my body which is given for you.” In the Eucharist Jesus offers his own perfect worship to the Father, and through our participation in the Eucharist we share in that act of worship. 
Jesus’ perfect worship of the Father brings about the redemption of creation. In the sacraments our worship is joined with creation in the very things we use, filling and transforming them with the Spirit of God.
So we use water, the most basic and necessary element of our creation, for baptism. The outward sign, pouring of water, conveys the inward grace of spiritual cleansing and being joined with Christ in his death and resurrection. 
Bread and wine, food for our bodies, in the Eucharist become the body and blood of Christ, truly present with us under these outward forms, offering his worship continually to the Father, feeding us spiritually with his risen life.
Olive oil, taken and blessed by the Church, becomes a sign of grace and a means of healing for those anointed in the name of Jesus.
As members of the Church we offer worship, in Christ, on behalf of the whole creation, restoring and healing what was lost, gathering all into the harvest of God’s kingdom.
Today we celebrate as Layla becomes a member of the Church through holy baptism. By this sacrament she will be raised up with Christ and consecrated as part of his holy people, his royal priesthood. Because she will be in Christ she will share with the whole Church the holy duty and joy of offering right worship to the true and living God. 

This is worship that we offer in tune with creation, not only in church but in our lives, in our care for the poor and needy, in our work for justice and equity in the world. Through the worship offered by Christ, which is the worship of his Church, the whole creation is being made new. To that worship, Layla, we welcome you today.

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