Introduction: The Season of Creation is a time to reflect on our interconnectedness with God and with all of creation. We’ll be taking some time over the next several weeks to think about our impact on creation – and its impact on us.
Focus scripture: Acts 17:17–28
I am proud to be known by my son as his tree-huggin’, granola- munchin’ little hippy momma.
When both the Gathering magazine and the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum suggested that we focus on the season of Creation from the beginning of September until Thanksgiving, I thought it was time to give it a go. Jim and I are planning to be part of a world-wide rally/march/awareness day on September 20th and 21st as a lead up to a U.N. Climate change meeting on September 23rd. The intent is to show our political leaders that we are dead serious about the need for a radical change in thinking and behaviour if we are to avoid or at least minimize environmental disaster. Environmentalists, scientists, theologians have been talking about the need to clean up our act for the past half century, with little heed being taken.
It seems that humanity has a strong denial gene combined with a penchant for consuming rather than conserving and protecting, and it leads us to the brink of disaster.
Our hope to have a fabulous banner made by that time, with the help of willing hands of this congregation and that you will join us in Salmon Arm on Saturday, September 20th (at 1 or 2 PM – not just sure yet…) under the banner Sicamous United Church – living with respect in creation. This comes from our UCC creed, which was updated in 1990 by the addition of the words, `we are called to…”live with respect in creation.”
The first Sunday of the season of creation relates to Forests. When I first looked at this tittle, I admit I thought, “Really, who makes this stuff up?” But then I started to think of forests, in the widest way possible. Much of our country is boreal forest, home to an amazing variety of wild life, and the economic backbone of many communities over the past one and a half centuries – forests turned into pulp and paper, veneer plants, lumber yards, log homes, chop stick factories… I grew up in a town where forestry employed much of the workforce, and Jim’s dad was a logger by trade.
But forests are more than just lumber. They are truly the lungs of the world. They are our very breath, producing oxygen, without which we mere humans die in a matter of minutes. You’d think that might garner a little more respect. So far, among the world leaders it doesn’t seem to jive with their economic priorities.
And… what does this have to do with the scripture readings today? Paul’s first priority was not to be an environmentalist, his priority was to preach Jesus, the Christ, the messenger and manifestation of the Holy, walking among us. He finds himself in Athens, quietly appalled by the peoples’ statuary of gods, clearly idols in the eyes of a good Jewish man like himself. But rather than go on a self-righteous rant, he works with what he’s got. “I see that you are very religious,” he begins, when invited to share his perspective with the local philosophers of his day. He notes that he has seen a shrine to `the unknown god”, and this is his opportunity to share the God who has transformed his life, through a mystical experience on the road to Damascus, and by opening his heart and mind. He calls this `unknown god’ the one who made the world and everything in it. This is the God we seek and yet this God is not far from us, but says Paul, in this Divine One, we live and move and have our being.
These words were penned so many years ago, and yet, it took until 1990 for us to add the words “to live with respect in creation” to our United Church Creed, and in 2006, the Song of Faith, a beautiful poetic expression of our evolving understanding of God, we held up Paul’s ancient words as we reflected on our connection with the Creator and creation. It reads in part:
Finding ourselves in a world of beauty and mystery,
of living things, diverse and interdependent,
of complex patterns of growth and evolution,
of subatomic particles and cosmic swirls,
we sing of God the Creator,
the Maker and Source of all that is.
Each part of creation reveals unique aspects of God the Creator,
who is both in creation and beyond it.
All parts of creation, animate and inanimate, are related.
All creation is good.
We sing of the Creator,
who made humans to live and move
and have their being in God.
From the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum for this week comes an amazing story by Dana Lyons who tells of camping out under a giant Douglas Fir tree in Washington state, after back surgery as a young man. He read books and played his guitar under that tree, and on the last day, a song seems to flow out of him. He simply called it The Tree. He looked up at the big Doulas Fir and said, “I bet this is your song.”
Several years later he was invited to a celebration on Orcas Island with the Lummi Indians who had won a victory in preserving an ancient burial site from condo development. He was asked to sing `the Tree’ but was reluctant because of all the hubbub and activity. He was told the chief wants to hear it and so he began. However he soon noticed something that had never happen before – while everyone seemed to be enjoying the tune, the elder Lummis were riveted, holding on to every note and word.
Afterwards he spoke with the chief and several elders and told them about his experience of how he came to write the song, and had always thought of it as the tree’s song.
“It is,” said the chief, “I recognize the tune.” And he spoke of how the Lummi First Nations get their music by listening to the trees – spending 3 or 4 days praying, fasting and listening to a tree until its song comes to them.
I was at a retreat at Sorrento Centre the end of May 2013 and as we heard about the director’s vision for the renewal of the place, one of our Frist Nations participants said, “You can plant your orchards, but don’t cut down the old trees, they’ve told me that they want to stay. I believe she heard them.
Several weeks ago, I talked about the sacredness of trees and we went out to the huge cedar in the back yard and hung our prayer ribbons there. I’ve since made more prayer strips and leave them, with an explanation in the thrift shop when it’s open. I know someone’s using it, as the gold and silvery strips I made are all gone. I invite you to put your prayers in the tree after the service as well. Trees are precious and powerful, vulnerable and sacred. This week take notice of a tree, a forest; and give thanks. Amen.