We are at the close of The Season of Creation: a time in the Church year when we mark the wonder of God’s creation and our part in this whole world God so loves.
It begins each year on September 1, the Day of Prayer for Creation of the Orthodox Church, and now a gift to us all. The Season ends on October 4, the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. Francis is known for his love of animals and the earth, as well as for his commitment to a life of simplicity in communion with God and nature.
The Season in between these dates is a time for joining in prayer and action for our common home. And it is a call to continue to live in the same way over the whole of year, and the next, and the next.
With the pandemic devastating so many millions of people around the world, and the disruption and loss of lives and livelihoods, our focus has necessarily been upon human need. Amidst all this, the Season of Creation has drawn our eyes and ears to a wider view, to a world shot through with the creative love of God. We have been inspired to listen to the Divine One’s call to us, to join in God’s creative renewal of the earth and of all who dwell therein.
It is a call which is especially hope-filled and life-giving in times when we are so aware of human fragility and need. As the psalmist tells us, “the heavens are telling the glory of God; their voice goes out through all the earth.” God speaks to us, loves us and calls to us through our very home.
It’s also a timely call, as we approach the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (October 31-November 12). The summit brings together people from across the globe to find ways of working together more courageously and urgently to address climate change – all the while acknowledging how difficult this is in the middle of all the challenges of the pandemic.
As human beings, we tend to see the world revolving around our own needs, yet as Christians, we acknowledge we are called to something more than this. We are called to extend our vision to the needs and interests of the world of which we are just one part, to understand the part that humans play in the wellbeing or otherwise of our world.
For some, the “call” is heard from the earth. For Christians, this call of the earth is a call to us from God. As we look more deeply into scripture, we can uncover threads of this call, even if they are sometimes buried deep or seem hidden from our sight.
As just one example, we so easily interpret the beloved verse, “for God so loved the world …” (John 3:16) as if it means, “for God so loved humanity …”. Yet the word chosen for “the world” which the writer of John’s gospel says God so loves, is “Kosmos” (cosmos). There are a variety of meanings for this word Kosmos, but there’s no doubt it draws our attention wide.
The vision of what God loves so deeply and dearly, and so desires to redeem, is cast wide. Right from the opening verses of the gospel, the scene is set wide. Echoing the creation stories in Genesis, the life of God fills the whole creation in the creative Word, whom we see and know in Jesus.
In the context of God’s creative and redeeming presence infusing the whole of creation, God comes to us in Jesus, calling us to turn to the beloved One who creates and renews life.
We affirm this in the Basis of Union: “God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end.”
Our (human) renewal and that of the world are intimately bound together. We are invited to be part of God’s renewal of the world. As Christians, we are called to this.
A commitment to the world God so loves, to work as co-creators with God for a flourishing world, is a matter of faith. A commitment to working to mitigate climate change is a matter of faith.
Over the past several decades, the Uniting Church has consistently acknowledged that a desire for flourishing life lies at the heart of God and of God’s call to the Church. The call has consistently been to commit to changes in human activity needed to work against environmental damage and climate change.
There is a rising tide gathering together people from all walks of life, crossing boundaries of age, status, wealth, education, age, cultures and faiths. The voices of science are rising ever more strongly. The voices of young people are rising, passionate in their acute awareness of the need, and that they will be living with the impact of the actions (or inaction) of past generations.
The voices of Peoples of the Pacific are rising up, bringing first-hand experience of the impact of increasingly extreme weather events and rising sea levels, and loss of land for food and home. The voices of First Peoples are rising up, bringing wisdom of the deep connection between land and people, expressing the pain and suffering of country.
These voices are calling us all to be part of the renewal of life. They are filled with passion and energy, inspired by a spirit of seeing the promise and possibility of change, and moved by hope and expectation. I see this as a sign of the Spirit of God moving amongst us, speaking to us through the earth and each other.
Right in the middle of these incredibly challenging times, this brings hope and a sense of deep promise: that God is close, present and at work in our very midst.
May the Spirit inspire hope within you. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with us all.
Rev Denise Liersch