2016creationocean01For most of the last two thousand years, theology has focused on our relationship with God and with each other. Now we are realizing that loving our neighbor includes loving the whole of creation. As a reflection of this we will be celebrating the Season of Creation during September. This is not yet part of the normal Anglican cycle but is a liturgical tradition started in Australia some twenty years ago. As we turn our attention more and more to the spiritual significance of the planetary ecological crisis it seems important for us here at St. Benedict’s to join with others across the world in this seasonal focus.

Danna Joy Images

Danna Joy Images

It is not surprising that many of us feel closest to God when we are looking at an amazing sunset or when we are in the mountains. Creation has been called the “pillow talk” of the Trinity. It is God’s self-expression of love flowing out of the Father and the Son. Through interacting with creation with our spiritual eyes open, we experience God.

BonaventureThe Franciscan theologian, Bonaventure, said that creation is both book and mirror. [1] It is like a book because it is the self-expression or the speech of God; creation is not something separate from God but emerges out of the innermost depths of the life of the Godhead.

 

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Every being  – whether a grain of sand or a star or a fish reflects the Godhead as its source, its reason to exist and its ultimate destination, when all things are gathered up into God.

Creation is like a mirror, because everything in some way reflects the power, wisdom and goodness of the Trinity – the face of God is reflected in the way every being expresses itself. Thus every creature is a symbol and sacrament of God’s presence and God’s love.

Danna Joy Images

Danna Joy Images

Since God is absolutely free there is no necessity for God to create – it is all God’s gift and grace. God creates because God wants to reveal and communicate Godself in the fullness of divine love. From this perspective we can see that Creation is only the prelude to the fuller expression of God’s love in the Incarnation. John’s gospel tells us that nothing is made without Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfect divine-human who exemplifies the meaning and purpose of all creation. And that meaning and purpose is the praise and glory of God in a communion of love.

It is possible, that in that extraordinary way that God has of turning everything upside down, that the ecological crisis is a new opportunity for God’s glory to be seen. And this is the source of our hope. God’s love is expressed not just in human lives and relationship but in the whole of planetary life. As we respond with love and compassion to the plight of our world, so God is lifted up.

*Today, the first Sunday of Creation is Ocean Sunday.

Danna Joy Images

Danna Joy Images

We use water to express many of our own understandings of spiritual life. As Anglicans, the way we pray expresses our faith understandings, so I’d like you to turn with me to page 306 in the red Book of Common Prayer, to the Thanksgiving over the Water.

 

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are
buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his
resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his                                       fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in
the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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So water is a symbol of God’s new creation and our deliverance and release from all that holds us back; the children of Israel came through the water of the Red Sea as they were liberated from Egypt – the event that gave them their self-identity and is still celebrated every year at Passover; in the waters of the river Jordan, Jesus the Christ was identified as both human and divine; in the water of baptism we are released from the power of sin and are raised with Christ, reborn by the Holy Spirit.

In the gospel reading, we heard about the disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee. FishermenProject_Body_pic_1 (1)Throughout Jesus’ teaching he used images from the lives of the people and from creation. In this story, Jesus used their everyday activity on the water to talk about the reign of God. The men had worked long and hard for very little reward but when Jesus tells them to put their nets in on the other side, they bring them up full of fish.

FishermenwithfishThis was a miraculous sign which encouraged Simon Peter and his friends to follow Jesus to become fishers of humanity. But we can also see it as a parable for our own lives. How often do we try to do things by our own wisdom and in our own strength without turning them over to God? We work hard and we try to think things through carefully and do our very best, but we often don’t invite the Holy Spirit into the situation. We forget that God’s way works and ours doesn’t.

The water is deep and dark and fishermen can’t see where the fish are. We never have all the facts of a situation. Asking God to work in our lives and bring about the very best outcome for everyone concerned including ourselves only make sense.

That’s the good news. The not so good news is that there aren’t so many fish in the oceans any more. Rising temperatures, overfishing and pollution have radically reduced the fish population. Put your nets into the water today and you’re as likely to come up with trash as fish.

TrashBut that can change and many people are working to bring about change. We have banned plastic bags locally because they found their way into the ocean where they were eaten by sea mammals causing tremendous suffering and death. It takes 10 to 30 years for a plastic shopping bag to break down, and 400 years for a plastic beverage holder. The more conscious we are of disposing of our trash carefully, and of buying things with less packaging so that we don’t have so much trash in the first place, the less trash gets into the ocean.

You can also join in the annual coastal clean-up coming up on September 17 to collect trash that would otherwise find its way into the ocean. They still need volunteers along the Morro Bay coastline. If you would like to be part of a St Benedict’s trash pick up team, please let me know.

seafoodwatch-consumer-guideAnd there are fishermen who are fishing in sustainable ways which avoid overfishing or killing other marine life or unwanted fish. Locally we can buy responsibly and sustainably caught fish. Every time you buy ethically produced or harvested food, you support the fishermen and the farmers and your choice makes a difference. Yes it’s a small one but it will be multiplied by others.

Jesus took five loaves of bread and two small fish and fed 5,000 people. God multiples our small actions so that our dying oceans can be renewed and marine life flourish once more.

July2016It was great news this week that the United States and China both ratified the Paris climate agreement. But the climate change news is not good;  July was the hottest month on record and marked 15 consecutive months of record-breaking temperatures.[2] It is going to take more than government action to bring about change. It is going to take each one of us co-creating with God to find new ways to reduce our own carbon footprint.

And that is our calling in this day and age. Jesus calls us, like the disciples, to change the way we’re doing things, to take the counter-cultural route and fish on the other side.

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We are called to recognize that we are not separate from any part of creation, especially the oceans. After all, we are each more than 60% water. We are called to recognize that as we love and serve Creation as stewards who care and live responsibly, so we are loving and serving God.

May God give us the grace to do so.

 

[1] See Ilea Delio et al, Care for Creation, Chapter 2

[2] https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/