Scriptures: John 1:1-14, Psalm 33:1-9

How many of you have seen the T.V. series, “Doctor Who?” You remember the basic premise: The Doctor, a humanlike extra-terrestrial, is the last of the Time Lords, travelling space and time in the TARDIS, his traveling machine which looks like a 1960s blue British police box. Courtesy of the internet, Keith and I have been time-travelling, watching old episodes from the newest BBC series, beginning in 2005. In an episode called “The End of the World,” the Doctor and his companion, Rose, arrive, in the year 5 billion, to a party with the universe’s rich elite, gathered at a viewing platform to watch the “artistic event” of the end of planet Earth.

Of course, some mayhem inevitably ensues wherever the Doctor shows up, and I won’t spoil it for you, if you haven’t seen it.  But at the conclusion of the episode, we find Rose and the Doctor watching asteroids which were once Earth floating by a giant red sun. Rose says, “The end of the Earth. It’s gone. We were too busy saving ourselves. No one saw it go…” They stand in silence, then they return in the TARDIS to 21st Century Britain. Standing amidst a crowd of people going about their daily lives, the Doctor, who witnessed the death of his home planet, comments, “You think it’ll last forever, people and cars and concrete, but it won’t.  One day it’s all gone…”[1]

One of the things I love about science fiction is that, by taking us to an imagined reality, it can wake us up to our own. How often do you go about your day on Planet Earth, assuming that it will last forever? I do, almost all the time. It’s a necessary survival instinct, that we are able to live in kind of amnesia, forgetting that our existence is not actually a given. How would we function in all our little, daily crises, if we were constantly pondering the eventual end of everything and everyone we know and love?

But while it helps in many situations, we now live in an era when the human propensity for big-picture amnesia—we might call it “denial”—allows us to unwittingly continue in patterns of behavior which damage the environment that we and all other creatures of Earth require to continue existing. Scientists are more and more certain that our use of fossil fuels in the industrial centuries has precipitated changes in climate, which are already harming the world’s poorest people, let alone the plants and animals.

But whether or not you buy climate change science, few of you are unaware of one kind of environmental problem or another. The water and air in treasured places are not as clean as they used to be. Record-breaking drought and fire plagues some places, too-heavy-rains and mudslides in others, and unprecedented hurricanes sweep across the tropics. Human population growth in the Two-Thirds world has us wondering where the resources will come from should poorer peoples desire to live as we have grown accustomed. Inside ourselves we feel gnawing anxiety as we look at our world and wonder what legacy we are leaving for generations to come.

Starting today, through September, we are celebrating the Season of Creation. On these Sundays, we will worship God as we do every Sunday. But we will do so from a different angle than we may be accustomed, focusing on the Creator’s grace in the gift of Creation. It is a chance to wake up to the present moment, looking together in grateful awe at what God has made, joyfully marveling at how God has, in Planet Earth, provided a home and a sanctuary for a myriad of splendid life-forms. It is a time to celebrate the privilege of our very existence as creatures inhabiting such a beautiful world. It is also a time to lament how human beings have separated ourselves from God’s grace in creation and abused the gift of life. And it is a time to repent, to turn around and do things differently, that all life on Earth may flourish.

A couple of clarifications. First, in calling the Earth “God’s creation,” I am not arguing for or against “creationism,” the belief that scripture tells us how God literally made everything in 6 days. Personally, I do not believe the Genesis accounts are meant to be read as “science” that can be tested or proven. I read the Bible as a book of testimonies, in which people who encountered God have attempted to witness in their own words to God’s purpose, presence, and power.

Science and faith are two different perspectives on reality, both helpful in their own way, and not necessarily contradictory. There are many things scientific method cannot prove or disprove; and there are mysteries of life that only the eyes of faith can begin to see.  Yet, scientific method enables human beings to enter more deeply into the mystery of creation, and I am grateful for the tools it gives us to become aware and appreciate Planet Earth’s splendor and fragility.

Second, to marvel at Creation is not to equate it with the Creator. We do not worship heaven and earth in our celebration and lament; we worship the God of heaven and earth. Reading scripture in faith, we testify alongside our faithful ancestors that God is the author of all life, the source and ground of being, who is present with and for and within creation, the One who, in freedom and love, chose, and continues to choose, to fashion, redeem, and sustain the cosmos.

Genesis testifies that this God, with the Spirit hovering over the primal waters, created all things by speaking into the darkness, beginning with “Let there be light.”  The Gospel of John describes the same event in this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

The gospel writer is using a Hellenistic philosophical idea, the idea of the Logos, trying to conceptualize and name the “very core of our existence,” God’s creative impulse, “the organizing principle of the cosmos,”[2] the spark of light and life igniting reality.[3] The good news of John’s gospel is that this Word, this power and reality of limitless life, [4] through which everything was somehow created, comes from the Creator to become part of the creation, to be a particular man, at a particular moment and place in history. This man acts in a particular manner, “plunging deeply into the sinful, ignorant realities of our existence in this world.”[5] John identifies Jesus the Christ as the Creative Word uttered by God who is sent to redeem and renew the entire beloved cosmos, even as he restores human creatures to the lives for which he created us.

We are created to be God’s children, not children of Empire’s dominating and blood-soaked will, not children of consumer culture’s will to creature comfort at any cost, and not children of the will to self-made, individualistic autonomy. God’s children are people who are sourced in, redeemed for, sustained by, and participating in the limitless, endlessly creative abundance of God’s generous grace and steadfast love.

In the Season of Creation, we open our eyes anew to the wonder of this scandalous truth. It is another of those big-picture concepts that we so often close off to our daily consciousness, not just because it is difficult to fathom, but also because it seems nonsensical in our culture. John’s gospel tells us, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” Do we truly know the incarnate grace of Jesus Christ, present for, with, and within God’s creation?

To receive and believe, to accept and stake our lives upon the power of the Creative Word is to begin to see the Creation as God sees it, beautiful and brutal,[6] broken and blessed. It is to fall in love again with the world God has made, and be motivated by that love to a Spirit-led response to creation’s suffering.

As we enter the Season of Creation, I recommend the spiritual practice I’ll call “sacred noticing.” You choose a place, a little, nearby corner of creation, and you go there to sit and notice the world around you for at 15 minutes, three or more days a week. I first tried this at Waller Creek near Austin Seminary. It was a spot I’d often passed on my way to classes. Over three months of sacred noticing, I came to know and respect the lives of the plants, animals, water, and rock. I fell in love with them, and I wanted them to be well. That love motivated us to gather with others and clean up the creek and the park.

Here in La Grande last week, I chose the corner of 6th and Washington, near the church sanctuary entrance. There’s lots of traffic there, and at first all I could notice was the noise of the cars and trucks. They dominate the landscape, such that it doesn’t seem like landscape at all,  certainly not one that featured on a Planet Earth special!

But, looking closer, there are tall trees and thick grass; there are birds singing, there are squirrels, and there are people walking dogs which the squirrels taunt from the treetops. There are layers and layers of life, layers of relationships of creatures connected to each other. Therefore God is present on that busy corner and God loves all the people, birds, dogs and squirrels, all the grass, trees, mushrooms, and insects in that place. God sees all of us as infinitely precious, created and connected to God through Jesus Christ, the Creator of Earth who came to be part of Planet Earth.

Our job as God’s children is to stay awake and receive this incredible reality, keeping our senses alert, refusing to forget that all of us who live under the light of the Sun together draw our life from God. Our job is to testify to the Light of Life, to see it and recognize it and follow it in the world, even and especially in the overlooked corners that seem so segregated from the God’s grace. Our job is to worship and celebrate, lament and pray in company with all the creatures who dwell in the sanctuary of Planet Earth remembering, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

Our job is to fall in love with creation, loving as God the Creator loves, and from that love, act in ways that bless others, generations of children and grandchildren, squirrels and dogs, trees and rivers and stars alike. Alleluia! Amen.

Notes:

[1] From the transcript, found here: http://www.chakoteya.net/doctorwho/27-2.htm

[2] Cynthia L. Rigby, “Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 1, David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, 142-144

[3]http://thelisteninghermit.com/2011/12/19/particles-in-the-cosmic-crib-christ-mass-day/

[4] http://thq.wearesparkhouse.org/yearb/christmasgospel/

[5] Rigby, as above.

[6] With credit to Glennon Melton of momastery.com, who coined the useful word “brutiful”—beautiful and brutal.

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