Fifth Sunday in Creation Time
Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
4 October 2020
… to be fully alive is to appreciate our place within the web of life in all its diversity …
[ video ]
For five weeks now we have been observing the special season of Creation Time, coinciding with Spring in our part of the world.
Our overall theme has been: A jubilee for the Earth.
In this context jubilee does not means simply a 50-year anniversary, but a time for forgiveness and a fresh start.
In the biblical texts, every 50 years all debts were to be cancelled and all ancestral lands restored to the families which previously held them.
Whether or not this covenant ideal was actually practiced in ancient Israel, it is a biblical model for our relationships with each other, with the Earth, and with the diverse web of life of which we a part.
We might paraphrase it with phrases like “wipe the slate clean” or simply, “starting all over again.”
Of course, it is not that simple since we cannot just hand back land which has been devastated, forests which have vanished, species which have become extinct, or water reserves which have been wasted or polluted.
In addition to restoration we need to embrace the concept of restitution.
Restitution imposes real costs on actual people and on businesses, as well as some obligation to go the extra mile and give back even more than we have taken and destroyed.
Apart from the political controversy and the financial burdens, can it even be done?
Are we already beyond the tipping point, have we passed the point of no return?
Some people think so.
This is not the place and I am not the person to resolve that dilemma, but we all have to live with the realities of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, land with depleted soils, insecure water supplies and creeping climate change.
We are not alone in this, since the same applies to every other creature on planet earth. We are indeed in this together. We are not alone. No matter who is responsible for the situation, we are all in this together.
That is surely one lesson we have learned during the current pandemic. A tiny virus which we cannot see, feel, hear or smell is turning our lives upside down.
There is indeed more to reality than what we can see, although in this case we have created the tools which allow us to track both the presence of this virus as well as its modus operandi.
Maybe our best researchers will find a vaccine, but perhaps we shall just need to change the way we live in order to avoid losing many more lives and a vast number of livelihoods.
We are not alone.
We are part of an amazing web of life in all its diversity.
St Francis of Assisi seemed to sense that life is about relationships; with each other, with other sentient life forms, with the physical world, with poverty, and even with death.
Our texts and our music today invite us to see life in this way.
Not as resources over which we have some agency, but as diverse expressions of God’s own essence.
Not as threats to be avoided or defeated, but as opportunities to deepen our intentional engagement with God’s eternal work in creation.
Even Sister Death is to be welcomed as a guest who ushers us into the next stage of God’s great plan for the universe.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; … [when] … creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:19. 21–23]
Together with every other creature, we yearn for the day of redemption.
More than that, we are a voice for the Earth as it looks for that day of jubilee. Our prayer is for the Spirit of God to move once more upon the seething waters of creation and renew the face of the earth.