The blessing of diversity

First Sunday in Creation Time
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
6 September 2020

St Francis of Assisi and the Canticle of the Sun

[ video ]

Spring has arrived, at least for those of us in the southern half of the world.

We can feel and see and hear urge of creation to renew itself and bring forth new life in all its abundance.

This is a good time to pause and reflect on creation—as we do in this annual season of Creation Time.

A time of jubilee

The theme for the Season of Creation in 2020 is: A jubilee for the earth.

In the Bible, there is an ancient Jewish tradition that all debts were to be forgiven every fiftieth year; the year of jubilee. We have no texts which describe that actually happening, but it remains a key concept for people of faith as we think about the baggage and bad debts we acquire over a lifetime. 

There comes a point where we need to let go of the past.

In this case, the jubilee is because 2020 marks 50 years since the first Earth Day events in 1970.

After drought, fires, floods, pandemic and climate change we might well be ready to settle the accounts with Mother Earth and set things back to how they should be.

It is clear that humanity has been mortgaging our lifestyle against the reserves of the Earth. We are deeply in debt and this may be a good time to declare a year of jubilee for the Earth, a time for a fresh beginning.

Biodiversity

Each Sunday during Creation Time has its own theme:

Biodiversity (today)
Land (next Sunday)
Water (the week after)
Climate Change (last Sunday in September)

Like me, I am sure you were appalled to learn of the massive death rates among animals and insects during the apocalyptic fires that raged across our ancient land last summer.

The numbers are staggering.

More than one billion animals, and that does not count large populations of insects and other species, or the ongoing impact due to loss of vegetation in burnt out areas.

This is not the time and place for a science lesson, but we have all noticed that our cars are not plastered by as many insects as used to be the case after a night-time drive in country areas.

Biodiversity is essential for the planet, for the well-being of the web of life, and indeed for our own survival as well.

Since one of the five marks of mission for Anglicans is to “safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth,” this is part of our work as people of faith.

We recall that the opening chapters of the Bible give humans the role of stewards of God’s creation, called to care for and tend the planet.

Our task is not simply to share the good news with other people, but to work towards the redemption of all creation. Hear what Paul says in Romans 8:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [Romans 8:19–21]

Paul is saying that all of creation is to be caught up into the great redemption and to share the glorious freedom of the children of God. The whole of creation. In all its glorious diversity.

Now that will be the jubilee to end all jubilees!

Social diversity as well

As we celebrate biodiversity, let’s also consider other forms of diversity even within our own social circles.

There are various ways in which we need to celebrate and protect diversity:

Churches—we seem increasingly afraid of diversity, and we split off into sects of like-minded people who pray in certain ways, like particular styles of music, prefer one theological orientation over another. Congregations are becoming less representative of the theological diversity that exists within the kingdom of God. Worse still, the people found inside the churches rarely represent the diversity of the community around them. We need to recover the inclusive DNA of broad-minded Anglicanism and halt the slide into sectarian irrelevance.

Community—we see the struggle over diversity and social inclusion in the wider society as well. This is a challenge across the nation, but it is especially evident in regional areas. On the rare occasion when I see someone from another culture walking towards me at Grafton Shoppingworld, I feel a surge of delight welling up within me. My life is blessed by the diversity they bring into our community. But I wonder how easy they find it to claim a place in our community, and whether they feel ‘at home’ amongst us.

Family and friends—if all my friends look like me, speak like me, enjoy the same food as me, vote like me and enjoy the same recreational activities as me, then something is awry. There is a deep lack of diversity in such gatherings of clones. We become culturally inbred and our humanity is diminished.

So let’s be passionate about the need to protect and increase biodiversity, but let’s also use these next few weeks to reflect on the diversity of our church, our community and our personal circle of family and friends.

Reach out someone who seems different from yourself, and see what blessings may come from building relationships beyond our comfort zones.

The world will be a better place.

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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