by The Very Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops BC Canada
SECTION ONE: NOTES ON THE READINGS
GENESIS 2:15-17; 3:1-7
It is good to begin in the garden, or is it? The garden is that place where the necessities of life for all creatures including humans are nurtured, cultivated and enjoyed. It is a place of tremendous physicality; humans live and die depending on natural processes and access to agricultural bounty. We all must eat to both thrive and survive, or else we die. And we all die in due course and others take our place in the community of earth and in the company of friend and stranger alike. What we discover here is the role of limits, of what we take from the earth and how we take it and use it. Both the man and the woman take from a forbidden place, and suffer the consequences – a loss of innocence, a complication to an otherwise idyllic life. The serpent can be understood as an ultimate (climate) sceptic, a rebel voice constantly refusing the authority of a Creator God who simply says, “live within your means.” Strident voices are sometimes prophetic; at other times they are simply disobedient and wrong. And the consequences, for both persons and creation are tragic.
While the psalmist reflects on past sins and transgressions in an introspective way, he “groans” and feels the heavy hand of the Lord on him, our text broadens in speaking of natural disasters including both heat and drought: “Moisture was dried up in the heat of summer,” and flooding: “When the great waters overflow.” Within the experiences of nature many of us face calamity, and in our present time ask real questions of real events: How can floods ravage Zimbabwe and Mozambique, while fires continue to ravage the Australian continent and Southern Pacific Ocean waters rise extraordinarily. Let us not be “like horse or mule, which have no understanding.” Let us do our homework and discern how we continue to abuse the world God has given us for careful stewardship. Let us live according to the wisdom God shares with us, not only in scripture, but also in the science which continues to clarify the danger of ignoring sustainable limits.
If the Genesis text describes the consequences of bad decisions, Paul in his Epistle to the Romans has us move beyond sin and its consequences to the gift of God’s Grace. Paul’s message is indeed Good News, that all are welcome to receive God’s gift, Gentile and Jew alike. The truth is that those who receive the gift of righteousness will exercise dominion in life, a phrase which may recall dominion over creation (Gen 1:26), both which describe a responsible way of living, in Christ, which suggests amongst other responsibilities, sustainable ecological living. We have a choice, to live to and for ourselves, or with Dietrich Bonhoeffer to refuse to receive grace superficially or cheaply: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.”
It is hard to imagine a better place to begin our Lenten journey together than in the wilderness. Matthew and Luke follow a common source (Q) elaborating on Mark’s terse description. The wilderness is a Spirit-directed place of encounter, where a particular God-human conversation is possible. The wilderness is an extra-ordinary life place, where survival requires special dedication, preparation and resilience. One becomes especially aware of our relationship with and dependence upon creation and our relationship with it when food and water are in short supply if not totally absent. We are physical beings, yet our relationship is with God, and God within creation. Richard Rohr cites St. Bonaventure “As a human being Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stones he shares existence, with plants he shares life, with animals he shares sensation, and with the angels he shares intelligence.”
SECTION TWO: SERMON OUTLINE
First, consider various wilderness settings relevant to your congregants.
In my home country of Canada these might include the Great Bear Rainforest on the British Columbia Coast
or Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland
What makes these areas special and appealing? What must visitors know prior to visiting these places? And how might we encounter and respond to danger and threat?
Consider how the Spirit guides Jesus, and us, into various wilderness settings as a matter of living a spiritual/ecological life
How might the traditional Lenten disciplines connect with your own wilderness experiences.
- self-examination, penitence, prayer,
- fasting, and almsgiving,
- reading and meditating on the word of God
In a wilderness context, how might the lifestyle question lead to a better appreciation of the creation itself and our part in it? Are there things we should stop doing? And things we should commence doing? Be as specific as possible.
- If we have surplus funds, how are these invested?
- How do we access and use power for daily living?
- Do we know where our food/bread comes from and why?
- Add your own observations and challenges. (Water; forests; land)
Write your own poetic/psalmic response to today’s gospel incorporating the idea of limits if appropriate.
Read Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things in conclusion
SECTION THREE: POSSIBLE ACTIONS
This Lent the Anglican Communion Environmental network encourages everyone to fast for the Earth, for our common home and for our brothers and sisters impacted by climate change. At the start of Lent, we invite you to make a pledge, to reduce your use of plastic, to change your eating habits, and to reduce your use of energy and fuel. This are actions we take in solidarity with our ‘kin’ impacted by climate change.
For an indigenous perspective on land visit: Sacred Teachings: Wisdom of the Land. This podcast (a web audio program) initiative is a joint project between Indigenous Ministries and Anglican Church of Canada Video. Stream all episodes of the series on Vimeo and other platforms. New episodes will be released every Monday for a period of 8 weeks.
Lambeth Conference: Letters for creation. Do you know someone under the age of 30 who might have something to say to Anglican Bishops from around the world about creation and climate care? The GREEN Anglicans network is seeking submissions from young Anglicans about their hopes and worries for the future of creation, with a selection of the messages to be included in an exhibition or shown at Lambeth Conference. Send along to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 2.
A new Canadian Bishop makes Climate Change Response key to his ministry
Right Reverend Dr. Robert Todd Townshend is hoping to bring an environmental focus and action on climate change to Anglican churches across its Southwestern Ontario diocese. After the ordination, Townshend reflected on the global climate change crisis and how faith can serve as a call to action, he said.“The environmental movement has revived the biblical idea of us as stewards of the Earth, which is in every major religion because God is the creator,” Townshend said. “I consider it an emergency,” he said of climate change. “If we call something a crisis for too long it is not considered urgent, but this is the most urgent thing.”
by The Very Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops BC, Canada