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

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sermon at Parish Mass Trinity 3 2015

Job 38.1-11
2 Corinthians 6.1-13
Mark 4.35-41

It’s not every day that a member of the PCC sends me a Papal encyclical to read. So when that happened last week I knew it must be something important, and it is. Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si, is addressed to all people on the care of our common home, the earth. In it he addresses not only climate change but also pollution, water, sustainability, biodiversity, and the huge imbalance between poor and rich nations.
This is not simply politics or social commentary. His argument is rooted in Jewish and Christian belief in the Creator. And he begins, and ends, with praise to God. The title of the Encyclical, Laudato Si, “praise be to you”, is the beginning of St Francis’ beautiful hymn to the creator.
Belief in God as Creator means that we recognise both the goodness of creation and its limits. The creation is not God and is not limitless. Knowing this prevents us from working ourselves to death or exhausting the earth. The institutions of the Sabbath and the Jubilee year in the Old Testament embodied this. A proper balance is needed, work and production balanced with rest and return.
Yet many of us in the world today, particularly in the richer nations, are carrying on as if the earth was inexhaustible. Our consumer culture has led us to expect instant satisfaction of every desire. Our throwaway society is littering the earth with rubbish and harmful pollutants. We burn fossil fuels as though they will last forever, and exploit the resources of earth and ocean as fast as we can. Meanwhile the poor, who are the majority of the people on earth, experience its fragility most keenly. Failed harvests might mean nothing more than higher coffee prices for us, but spell destitution for a farmer in the two-thirds world.
But to treat the earth like this is to act as though we were gods. It is to forget the absolute distinction between creation and creator. And it has consequences. If we do not sustain the earth, then the earth will not sustain us. In the Second Book of Chronicles the reason given for the Jewish people’s 70 year exile in Babylon is that their land had to catch up with all the Sabbaths it had missed. Judah had not lived in harmony with creation, so their land lay barren and desolate for 70 years.
Pope Francis in his Encyclical draws attention to the urgency of the crisis facing all of humanity. He is not alone. Last week leaders of the main faith communities in Britain joined together to launch a call for urgent action at the forthcoming international climate change talks in December. As the Pope and our own church leaders remind us, how we care for the earth is not peripheral or optional, it is a core part of our faith.
We have only one common home, the earth, just as the disciples in the boat had only one boat. If we sink our common home we are all lost. Like the disciples, humanity is in danger because creation is out of balance. So, like the disciples, we need to have faith in the creator. We need to look to Jesus. He is both human and divine perfectly united in one person. He is in himself creation and Creator in harmony. He is the Word of creation through whom all things exist, the “reason why” of the universe, made flesh and come among us.
And this is shown powerfully as he restores harmony to creation by his word. The winds and the waves obey him, and the terrified disciples on the boat are saved.
In Jesus we see that the Creator and the Redeemer are one. Too often we tend to spiritualise the idea of redemption. Our souls will go to heaven when we die so what happens to this earth doesn’t matter. But that is not the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus is the Redeemer of the world, the cosmic Saviour, the Lord of all creation.
To be in harmony with creation we must begin by being in harmony with the Creator. In Jesus, that harmony is restored, and the world is reconciled to God. And this issues in our lives in worship, which is not just what we do in church but how we live our lives.
Pope Francis in his encyclical calls on legislators and politicians to do far more to tackle the environmental crisis. But he also calls ordinary people, everyone, to a new lifestyle, what he calls “ecological conversion” in our daily habits. The consumer choices we make, how we use energy, deliberately choosing to live within our limits. Simple daily things that everyone can do. Turn off unnecessary lights. Put on more or less clothing according to the temperature, before we switch on the heating or air conditioning.
If we do things like these we automatically start living more in tune with creation, which means living more in harmony with the Creator. As Pope Francis points out, this is rooted in a contemplative outlook that comes from faith, we are “conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us with all beings.” This in turn engenders solidarity with the whole human race, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged, who are most exposed to the effects of environmental crisis.
We need to recover the balance and harmony of Creation. We need to pursue a path of ecological conversion, so that how we worship is joined up with how we live our daily lives.
The times are urgent. Humanity is in danger, the passengers on this little boat, floating through space, are threatened by catastrophes of many kinds. We need to cry out to the Lord, “Teacher, save us, or we perish!” And we need to learn from him how he is redeeming creation, and how we are to take our part in that work of redemption.
Pope Francis concludes his encyclical with a prayer, which seems a good way to conclude this sermon as well.
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.

Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory.

Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good.

Praise be to you!
Triune Lord,
wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.

Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty.

Praise be to you! Amen.

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