Christ Church Cathedral Grafton
Creation Sunday 2: Fauna and Flora
8 September 2019
[ video ]
During this special series, the season of creation, throughout September we are exploring various aspects of the web of life; that complex and subtle web of relationships between all of us and all of existence.
Last week we reflected on the oceans, that vast body of waters from which all life has emerged.
This week, our focus moves to fauna and flora, the animal kingdom and world of plants found in all their abundant diversity across our glorious planet.
In the ancient Hebrew poem which opens the Bible, we observe a symbolic symmetry between the creation of dry land, the sea and plants on day three, and the creation of animal life (including humans)—creatures who live on the dry land and eat the plants—on day six.
All animals depend on plants, not least for the oxygen they generate. Sea creatures, birds, land creatures are all connected in the fragile web of life.
The Bible encourages us to see all of this as God’s design.
The Scriptures also affirm that this is all good. Every aspect of creation is assessed by God and pronounced to be good, while on Day Six we are told that God saw everything that s/he had made and “indeed it was very good”.
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! (Psalm 148:100
It is often easier for us to recognise our affinity with the animal kingdom.
As sentient beings, we discern a kinship with the animals that is reinforced by our knowledge of evolution, by the study of our skeletal structures and—more recently—by DNA research.
For many thousands of years, humans have shared our lives with some animals more than others: dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, camels, goats, sheep and cattle among many others.
We have changed through this relationship and so have they.
- Companion animals
- Wild animals
- Working animals
- Production animals
- Dangerous animals
- Scary animals
All creatures “great and small”
The diversity of animal life is one of the great ecological assets of our world, and yet that diversity is threatened by our collective actions.
A recent UN report advised that one billion species at risk of extinction.
“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point,” said Prof. Sandra Díaz (Argentina)
According to the IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson:
“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
The scientists tell us that it is not too late to turn things around, yet we may wonder what all this has to do with religion.
In fact, for people of faith the future of the planet has everything to do with religion.
It is not just we humans who are beloved by God and for whom God has a dream of a blessed future in perfect harmony and peace. That vision extends to all God’s creation: all the animals, all the plants, the earth itself and the oceans as well.
When we understand our role in the scheme of things, we see ourselves stewards of creation.
If we take our creation theology seriously then we must do all we can to save the planet from the catastrophe that is about to befall us.
From grasslands to forests
There is a similar diversity among the plants, but we tend not to relate to our plants in quite the same way we engage with at least some of the animals.
They mostly seem not to be sentient beings, although some avid gardeners insist that their plants respond to more than light and water.
From the beauty of a delicate new bud to the grandeur of a mighty rainforest, the plants evoke a response of awe, admiration, connection and presence.
Some of them have a brief life cycle that makes us seem like the ancient of days, while others live for such a long period that we seem insignificant beside them.
They feed us and they provide the oxygen we need to survive.
Yet we have cut them down, cleared them from the land and set them ablaze … almost always in the search for commercial gain.
We have sold our soul, and what have we achieved?
As the ancient forests of the Amazon blaze with fire we are not just burning down the house, we are giving the animal kingdom a massive case of emphysema.
We are destroying the living creatures who create and purify the air we need.
There is no need to argue about original sin.
Our latest sin is both foolish and self-evident.
Consider the lilies
Well might the sage of Nazareth urge us to consider the lilies, to reflect on the ravens … to look beyond our own insecurities and see the bigger picture.
Do not be anxious, says Jesus.
Your father knows what you need.
Relax, focus on what really matters.
Let God take care of those things we really do need.
Focus our best energies on the things where we can make a difference.
That is not permission to ignore climate change.
But it is an invitation to stop and smell the roses, to see the staggering diversity of creation that we mostly rush past in our glass and steel cages, or with our faces turned to our smartphones.
If Jesus were here today, perhaps he would revise those words from Luke?
Maybe he would say, “There is a good kind of anxiety and a bad kind anxiety.”
It is right to be anxious about creation, but it is wrong to be anxious about our accessories and our comfort.
Actually, he did say that even in Luke:
“Do not keep striving for what you are to eat … and wear;
… instead, strive for God’s kingdom …”
Or in even more direct terms:
“Stop stressing about your first-world problems,
and look at what is happening in the world around us!”