Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Earth Day, A Celebration of God's Love

Should Environmental Concerns be a part of the gospel proclamation of the church?

This week I am working on a sermon for Earth Day Sunday. Having done some environmental justice sermons before what most often seems to be the hurdle to jump is the political overtones. In trying to encourage Christians to think about the environment from a Biblical perspective, I often hear responses from a political perspective, from the left or the right, republican or democrat, conservative or liberal. While I must admit that my own awareness of the environmental 'movement' came after watching Al Gore's video, I very quickly began to study the bible with eyes open to what it had to say about Creation, so that the theology of the church I serve would be shaped by theology and scripture as opposed to politics.

This weeks sermon is inspired by a number of sources;

First; John 13:34-35

34 "A new command I give you: Love one another . As I have loved you, so you must love one another . 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another ."

Second; Lk 12:27-28

27 "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Here is the point I am considering. We are commanded by Christ to love one another in John. The text from Luke illustrates God's love for creation by caring for creation. (I know that isn't the overall point Jesus is trying to make, but he is using God's love of creation to illustrate God's watch-care over humanity)

If we are commanded to love, to participate in the love of God as illustrated by Christ, and Christ himself refers to God's love and care for all of creation, even the lilies, are we too then, not called to love all of creation?

Three: Willis Jenkins in his book 'Ecologies of Grace' refers to the work of James Nash and summarizes Nash's thoughts with this; 'by learning to love nature, we participatively imitate God's love.

Caring for Creation then, becomes a spiritual practice in which we contemplate God's love for us through the beauty of creation. By making creation care a part of our spiritual lives, even through simple things like recycling, gardening, participating in farmer's markets, walking or biking instead of driving when we can, etc. we are imitating God's love and learning how to love more fully.

To see a previous Earth Day Sermon:

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

6 Prayer Steps to Healing Broken Relationships: The Painful Exercise of Building Community

This is Lenten Update 9:
Ok, so first of all, I know that Lent is past.
Here is the thing. During the final three weeks of Lent I got so distracted that praying the Office, Memorizing Scripture and abstaining from TV completely fell by the way-side.
First I spent a great deal of time for a week or more at the bedside of a dear friend and member of my congregation who was dying. Lots of long days and nights in the hospital with him and his family. It was a sad time to say the least, but an honor and a privilege to be included in such a intimate time with this man and his family. I did a lot of praying, but not the Office. I don't regret it one bit, although I'm still saddened by the loss of such a wonderful man. In these times caring for others had to take priority.
After that I had two weeks of flu-fighting and frankly, I couldn't be bothered with anything but sleeping and well.... other flu connected activities that I won't describe.

So I've decided to make my Lenten Disciplines my Easter Disciplines.

So two brief notes.
First, I ran across this beautiful post by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

In this post he speaks about how we react to our culture by wanting community, but then want it to come instantly and easily. But Community only comes through time and effort. I have experienced this personally and more profoundly as a pastor, as my church has a wonderful track record for welcoming the un-churched and the church-damaged, but still struggles with how to hold these folks long enough for them to develop the relationships they so earnestly seek. Building community can be messy and painful. We disappoint one another. So often I have witnessed folks new to the community of church distance themselves because of tension within the community.

How to rebuild fractured relationships?
1. accept that it is not something that you alone can do. In prayer you must trust that God can speak again to the chaos and create life.
2. Meditate on God's love for you. Otherwise the dialogue with the other will seem like competition or fighting. When we are firmly rooted in God's love for us, we can accept the criticism and pain of others as a gift.
3. Be silent. Don't respond. Don't form a defense or an argument. First, just listen. Perhaps the criticism is unfair or inaccurate. but that will only be clear after.
4. More prayer. Return in prayer to God's love and then ask God to reveal the wisdom of the other's words.
5. Pray for this other person. That God will allow you to see them as God sees them. That God will allow you to remain with them a moment in their pain, even if you haven't done anything to cause it, and it is being projected at you. Perhaps you didn't cause it, but your calm loving presence might be the gift God wants to give them to allow them to heal from this pain.
6. Keep up the holy conversation. express yourself truthfully. Listen carefully. Don't give up or give in and isolate yourself, but stay open. Read Phil 2 for a guide.