Sunday, September 10, 2023

With all Creation

 Sermon peached on the 15th Sunday after Pentecost (observing Creation Season) at Church of the Redeemer, Addison:  Exodus 12:1-14.

          We continue this morning in our second of five weeks celebrating God’s creation and our responsibility as part of that creation.

           The readings began in the Book of Exodus with the institution story for the Jewish Passover.  We read this same story on Maundy Thursday, the day we celebrate Jesus’ gift to us of the Eucharist.

           In regard to God’s creation, the Passover story reminds us that God frequently uses the creation as a means of communicating with us.  This is, of course, true for us in the Eucharist, where common things of the earth—bread made from wheat and wine made from grapes—become the means by which Jesus shares the offering of his own body and blood for our redemption.

           But there is more of the creation in the Eucharist than the simple use of elements of it as symbols.  The creation is not just a subject in our celebration. The creation is an active participant.

           We are using Eucharistic Prayer D for the remaining four weeks of our celebration of creation.  One of the reasons I chose it is because the place of the creation in our celebration could not be clearer.

           Leading up to the Sanctus—the “Holy, holy, holy,” we pray:

 Fountain of life and source of all goodness, you made all things and fill them with your blessing; you created them to rejoice in the splendor of your radiance.

           What do these words teach us? They teach us not only that God made everything.  That assertion is important. The creation is God’s doing.  That answers the question of how? How is the creation made? God.

           But the prayer goes on to answer another question:  Why? Why does God create?  “You created them to rejoice in the splendor of your radiance.”

           The purpose of creation—every bit of it—is to praise God.  That does not mean that the purpose of all creation is to advance God’s ego needs.  No, to worship God is to be in relationship with God.  Worship is the exchange of love.  And the prayer teaches us that this exchange of love with the Creator is what all creation is made for.

           The prayer goes on:

 Countless throngs of angels stand before you to serve you night and day; and, beholding the glory of your presence, they offer you unceasing praise. Joining with them, and giving voice to every creature under heaven, we acclaim you, and glorify your Name, as we sing, “Holy, holy, holy …”

           Our job is not only to sing the praise of God for ourselves, but to give voice to every creature under heaven.  When we sing the “Holy, holy, holy,” we do not sing alone. We sing with all that God has made.

           And here let us be careful to note that we do not sing for all creation because it is too dumb to do so. No, creation, lives in praise of God all on its own, without our aid.  The part we play is to give that already praising creation the additional power of human language.

           Sing “Holy, holy, holy” and imagine as you are doing so, joining with “all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small” but also every blade of grass, and especially at this time of year imagine every luscious tomato and ear of corn.

           I am reminded of the reading from Pope Francis we had last week:  “Nature,” he said, “cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.”

           To forget this union we are in with creation, which we celebrate when we sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” is a very dangerous thing. Brother Keith Nelson of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic order, put this danger quite starkly as we just heard:

 When we violate, abuse, exploit, or even simply ignore non-human creatures, we are rejecting a core dimension of our humanity and of God’s calling for us. We are crucifying the earth. We are interrupting, speaking over, or bickering with God’s gentle language of love, in which each creature is like a syllable of the living Word.

           “We are crucifying the earth.”

           As I said, stark words. But important ones.  It is the exact opposite of what Eucharistic Prayer D says is our place in the creation:  to rule and to serve.  To crucify is not to rule; it is to abuse. And to crucify is not to serve, but to use, even to enslave.

           Perhaps it is best to leave today with that stark statement:  What is going on around us is that humankind—we—are crucifying the earth.

           So in our celebration of creation in our own day there must be a firm note of penitence, for what we have done and left undone in regard to God’s creation.  Our use and abuse must stop and we must learn to act differently.  How to act differently will be the question I will try to answer next week.

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