We had a glorious service on Sunday to celebrate God’s creation and remember our call to be caretakers of God’s world. Here is the sermon from Janet Kern and music from our choir and musical guests Fellswater. Click to listen. The full text of Janet’s sermon is below.
Anthem “Crossing the Bar”
“Responding to God’s Call for Creation Care”
October 4, 2015
May the words of my mouth and the inspiration of all our hearts be always acceptable to you, O Lord, our Strength and Our Redeemer.
Thank you Kate, for inviting me to speak today – it’s such a privilege and honor to be standing here for this very special service in this very special place, and I thank everyone here for opening their hearts and minds to what I have to offer today.
The first thing you need to know is I am actually not going to preach to you today, or at least that’s not my intent. That’s because honestly, I am not qualified to preach – really on any topic, and certainly not on environmental stewardship or creation care. However, I do feel comfortable speaking to you today as a witness – as someone who has considered for many years now, what my role is – as an individual, as a community leader, as a member of this church, and perhaps most importantly – as a person of faith – in caring for God’s creation. And now, as Climate Change has progressed from an “issue of concern” to a global crisis, I feel that much more compelled to do something, however small, as a witness for the earth. So again, I thank you all for this opportunity.
So – let’s get started. I have to credit my son, Eric, with recognizing that I must start with joke… thankfully, he also provided it for me:
How many environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Trick question: environmentalists can’t change anything.
On that note, I hope to convince at least a few of you of two things (1) that all of us here today actually are environmentalists and God needs us to see ourselves as such, and (2) that together, if we have the will, we CAN actually change light bulbs and much more.
Celebration of Creation
We are so fortunate to have this Celtic service to offer us so many different ways of experiencing the fullness of what God has created for us.
We have Readings that take us back to the beginning –Chapter One, Verse One – the marvelous story of creation in Genesis.
We have special music and guest musicians who offer us new sounds and new rhythms from a rich tradition known for its love of the natural world.
As we said the psalm responsively with Ian reading verses in Gaelic – we prayed to God for overflowing abundance in every aspect of life – and asked that the meadows and valleys “shout for joy and sing.”
Later we will say new words for the Creed, Prayers of the People, the Confession and the Lord’s Prayer – words that evoke new images of God as both male and female, as “Earth Maker, Pain-bearer, Life giver.”
As we move through the service, and embrace these new rhythms and sounds we allow the music and poetry to blanket us and remind us how much we love Creation; we are inspired by the new; we are refreshed by the spirit we know is always present with us.
But I believe there is more. Flowing through the music and images, God is calling to us.
In fact, God has been calling to us for a long time, but sometimes it’s harder to hear because the words and rhythms are too familiar, and we (adults especially) have become very attached to the rote – the familiar. But this service opens some new channels for us to hear God’s voice…and it gives us a wonderful chance to respond in new ways…if we are willing.
I believe God is calling to each of us to be environmentalists.
Being an environmentalist means combining that love we all have for the natural world with a commitment that includes making sacrifices to defend and prioritize its well-being above other things in our lives.
So, are you willing to be an environmentalist?
I hope so, because honestly, God needs as many of us as She can get.
God is calling to us because God needs us.
After all, we have been given a great gift. It is our home. God wants to hear from us about how we plan to care for it, especially now when we have taken more from it than we can easily return.
It is an overwhelming task – this urgent call to respond.
And how can we not be overwhelmed? We work hard to live responsibly and try to lead balanced lives and model that balance for our children and others – and we do our best to respond thoughtfully to all that comes before us in a given week at work, school and church, in our town, our state, our country – the world: and yet, the further we go in trying to engage and embrace the wider world, the more overwhelmed we become.
And when it comes to the issue of climate change and the implications for the future of our planet, humanity, the less privileged global citizens who are already suffering and who will suffer more – we are not just overwhelmed – we are beginning to despair.
But our Gospel reading for today tells us that indulging ourselves in those feelings is simply not an option.
In Matthew’s Gospel that Andrew read, we are told in short, to not be anxious about worldly things – God knows what we need and will provide it, just as he feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field. “Seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness”, we’re told.
Let’s be careful here. This passage is NOT saying “don’t be anxious because God will take care of everything”; No. It’s saying that there is no need to spend our time and energy questioning and worrying about whether we have enough. We have everything we need. We should turn our sights the Kingdom of God.
I would add that not only is there no need to be anxious – there is no time to be anxious. God needs us now.
So, here we are – at the precipice of my sermon.
God is calling to us. How are we environmentalists to respond??
What does it mean to “Actively seek a path to care for creation”? What can we, as people of faith do to combat climate change, to help make our communities more resilient, to prepare a response to the inevitable suffering that we in the developed world have brought to those most vulnerable?
I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint all of you who were kind of hoping to get an updated list of the 1000 things every good environmentalist should do. That would be too easy – for both of us.
Changing a light bulb isn’t the point; recycling, re-using, buying local, organic, fair trade, lowering your carbon footprint, divesting of your investments in fossil fuel, composting, using low-flow shower heads, riding your bike to church – and the myriad of other important actions any of us can (and should take) is really not the point. As individuals, as people of faith, and as environmentalists, the actions we take – the decisions we make with respect to the environment – we take those actions and make those decisions because we believe them to be moral and yes, “what Jesus would do”. But they are personal and individual and between each of us and God.
As members of a community of faith, – not stewards of a building, not friends and colleagues, not teachers and students, or vestry members or choir members or ministry leaders – but simply as professed members of a Christian community. I believe we must answer the call differently from how and why we do it as individuals.
So how do we answer God’s call?
The answer I have will come as no surprise to many of you who have known me for a while. As I explained to those at the mission committee meeting last week – I can’t really help myself. I see the world as one giant web of connections – people, ideas, actions, prayer. One leads to the next, and then the next, and if we can each look up and outside of ourselves, we will see so many opportunities to join together and we will find over and over again, how powerful this thing called “community” is.
So while anxiety in all of its forms – keeps us focused inward, seeking comfort from the familiar- Caring about something – passionately caring – insists that we actively seek– and this takes us outside of ourselves, engages us and connects us to others who share our passions and concerns.
So our response to God – our responsibility to God – is to connect with one another – to actively create those connections, maintain them, nurture them.
Start a conversation; Learn from others. It might mean stepping outside your comfort zone just a little bit. Actively engage with others in a way that proclaims your belief/our belief that we each have special gifts and talents that compose the community – a body- and furthermore that that body in action is greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts.
God has shown me time and time again the power of community. Together, we here at Redeemer and in Lexington and the region have joined together at those times when we have heard God’s call to: house refugees, to feed the hungry, to turn our backs on religious intolerance or intolerance of any kind, to save a local farm… We have rung our bell; we have joined hands; we have lit candles; we have signed petitions, we have marched and we have spoken up.
The change we can effect as a community of faith, as environmentalists who are willing to stand together and work together for God’s creation – God needs that change to be of a magnitude even greater than the collective love we feel for our families, each other, our home…for Creation itself.
So yes, I believe that the Kingdom of God we seek is Community.
Not the kind of community that is necessarily familiar or easy. God is calling us to be in community in new ways – unfamiliar ways perhaps: to stand up and be heard when we’re not used to standing up, or being heard for that matter – to take risks, be willing to fall, …and we WILL fall.. but we will know that another will be there to catch us – and we will catch others and thereby strengthen those bonds that tie us together.
This new kind of community is one where you don’t wait for someone to invite you or tell you what to do: YOU initiate, YOU ask questions, YOU help make connections with others. It is active, seeking, sacrificing, helping, connecting, growing, encouraging, listening, discerning, and then doing it all over again.
Here in Lexington and neighboring towns, we could not be more fortunate for the resources and knowledge available to us– people who have made it their life’s work to understand our physical and natural world; community leaders who volunteer their time to organizing events and raising awareness; elected officials in local and state government who are committed and responsive to better public policy and laws that work within a larger, complex political and economic system.
Thanks to so many people doing so much work, there as many opportunities to seek and learn and connect as any good environmentalist could want. So that’s the list to make: 1000 new things I can learn from others about our natural world and climate change.
I can help you get started:
First, everyone should grab a friend and watch the new documentary “Of Ants and Men” that just came out about the extraordinary life and work of biologist Edward O. Wilson, who of course lives right here in Lexington. You can stream it at pbs.org. It’s not only inspiring and educational – it is astounding how much we can learn about humanity and our need for community – by studying ants.
Next, there are two events – a movie and a talk on two subsequent Saturday nights – Oct. 17 and Oct. 24. I have a few flyers here, sponsored by LexGWAC and the Cary Lecture series. My hope is that many of you will come to the Great Hall Celebration on the 24th from 5 – 7pm and then together we can head over to Clarke Middle School to hear Naomi Oreskes talk about the “Dynamics of Disbelief” as part of the Cary Lecture Series. I have some flyers and would be happy to talk with anyone about that after the service.
What ever you decide to do – whatever connections you decide to make as you move beyond this service and into the world as a newly ordained environmentalist, keep this in mind:
The opposite of “faith” is not “doubt”. The opposite of faith is “certainty”.
If we do this right, we’ll be entering unfamiliar and uncertain territory. That is why we need to hold fast to our faith and each other.
My prayer for all of us as we seek the Kingdom of God, is that as we respond in kind to God’s call to care for God’s creation – that we joyfully forge forward through the weeds of uncertainty, connected one to another by faith and understanding.
God is calling to us. Creation needs us now. And we have everything we need to respond.