This Week's Sermon
April 22, 2018 1 John 3:11-24 Rev. Micol Cottrell
Growing up I had some pretty amazing playgrounds. I’m not talking about the ones made of wood, metal, and plastic, although there was some great play equipment around. My playground growing up was nature. I remember running around the large parks in London Ontario with the weeping willows, rivers, and the burs that our poodle got into every now and then which was a mess to clean up. I remember playing on the rolling rocks of Richie Point outside of Port aux Choix Newfoundland, finding sea urchin shells and small fish in the tide pools, collecting ancient fossils, and watching our Cairn Terriers dart underneath the gnarled bush like Tuckamore trees only to emerge with wagging tails in another location having navigated the great maze of branches and roots. I remember G-T snow racing down the large hills in Muskoka, staring out over fiery maples in the fall, and swimming in the lakes in the summer. I remember biking along the Grand River for hours between Cambridge and Paris. These are the playgrounds that I remember most from my life. This time spent playing in these beautiful and awe inspiring places left a great love of creation within me. Every now and then, as life gets busy, I need to remind myself to go outside and play, to reconnect and fall in love again with God the Creator and to the sacred creation of which I am a part of.
As Disciples of Christ live love. That’s the message from the First Letter of John that we have heard today. Scholars believe that the First Letter of John comes from an elder in the same community that formed the Gospel According to John. Like most of the letters of the New Testament the letter is in response to conflict in a community. This community has felt a division as people are fighting over whether Jesus’ humanity was important or not. The community is fracturing. The letter speaks to this conflict, it speaks to Jesus identity, it speaks to sin and forgiveness, and to the ways we are connected to God through Christ. It also speaks of love as the way followers of Christ are to live. “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Today is Earth Sunday. It is a day to look around and to remember our place in God’s great blessing of Creation. We are part of creation, a rich and meaningful part, the Bible says. We are part of the creation that Genesis declares led to God’s singing “It is good”. We are deeply connected to this creation. Each breath we take is God’s blessing shared through the trees. Each bite of food we take is God’s blessing shared through the plants, animals, minerals, and so much more that fill our lives. We are a rich part of creation, a creating people who add beauty and wonder to this life through art, building, adapting, and enriching.
We are also a burden on this creation. We are capable of forcing our dominion over all things. We are not always a blessing. We pollute filling seas with plastic and other garbage that can’t be broken down. We take more than we need scaring land, destroying animals, corrupting fields and forests. We neglect creation at times forgetting that we are a part of the rich beauty of God’s great blessing. We neglect that the power we have in creation also leads to great responsibility and our neglect has caused climate change, endangerment, and extinction.
The First Letter of John doesn’t speak to the care of creation. The concern is the care of Christians for other Christians in their community. In its message of love, however, is God’s holy message to take the love we are to live and extend it to all of God’s beloved creation. As people of faith, the First Letter of John declares we are to live in love. It’s not optional; it’s who we are called to be through Christ. This love is the love Jesus showed even in the face of death and suffering, a love that would not back down, a love that dared to dream of a world renewed.
To cherish, to care for, and to be in profound and holy relationship we must love. Love is holy, love is from God, love transforms lives. Today on Earth Sunday we are invited to fall in love again with God the Creator and God’s great creation because when we fall in love with creation once again we cannot help but to honour and care for it.
The great hymnist John Bell said at a retreat at Five Oaks many years ago that we are eavesdropping whenever we hear the birds in song in the morning because they are worshiping God in their song. He reminds us that creation is continuously praising the Creator and we are blessed whenever we witness these holy moments.
The medieval monk St. Francis of Assisi called pieces of creation kindred. Everything from a caterpillar to the sun and moon, water and fire were brothers and sisters to him. He didn’t care that people called him crazy as he laughed and sang in the streets, as he wandered off to preach to birds and when he responded with a love song about the beauty of nature that met him all along his travels when people asked him important religious questions like how what happened on his trip to see the pope in Rome.
Medieval scholar, professor, priest, and monk Meister Eckhart wrote: “Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest of creatures- even a caterpillar – I would prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.”
St. Catherine of Sienna, a Christian nun, wrote about God encountered in all creation and concluded “What then is not a sanctuary? Where then can I not kneel and pray at a shrine made holy by God’s presence?”
These are not people who lower their faith or their reverence for Scripture or spiritual practices. They were so profoundly in love with God and felt so connected in Christ, that they are deeply and madly in love. They encounter God in all things and love all of God’s creation. God’s love overflowing in all things leads them to see all creation as sacred and worthy of reverence, respect, and care.
Today on Earth Sunday we are invited to fall in love again, a love lived in truth and action not just in words. We are invited to fall in love with our self, one another, all people; to fall in love with the trees, the rocks, and the fields; to stare with dreamy eyes at the stars, the moon, the cosmos; to fall head over heels in love with our kindred in creation that we too feel God’s presence in all things; to love with such a passionate fierce and fearless love that we are deeply moved to stand in solidarity with all creation as we live with greater care, respect, and reverence for the sacred blessing we share.
So friends, today, on Earth Sunday, let us fall in love again. Let us look around this sanctuary and encounter God’s rich presence in those who sit around us. Let us go out of these doors into the great sanctuary and take a deep and precious breath giving thanks to God and to God’s good creation for the air we breathe. Let us feel the earth under our feet, the air on our skin, listen to the birds in worship, and feel connected to all our kindred. Let us love in truth and action for we are part of the sacred story God is writing through all creation. Amen. Let it be so.