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A Sermon from Sherborne
‘Creationtide’ all year
A sermon for Evensong preached in Sherborne Abbey on Sunday 6th October 2019 by the Reverend Lesley McCreadie, Team Vicar
For the last five weeks the Church of England has been keeping ‘Creationtide’ or the Season of Creation. It is the period in our liturgical calendar dedicated to God as the Creator and Sustainer of all life. We are also encouraged to be aware of one of the five marks of mission established by the Anglican Communion which says we should strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. For many of us this is also a time when we celebrate harvest, as our benefice church at Lillington did this morning, giving thanks for the food we have and also giving us an opportunity to think how we might take action to help those in need. Who among us has not been moved by the oratory of Greta Thunberg and by the actions of many of our young people as they seek to raise awareness about some of the most important issues of our time?
The church takes the whole eco movement seriously and for some time now churches have been able to sign up to an eco-award scheme. Our diocesan bishop Nicholas is of course the bishop designated by the Church of England to look after all things ecological so it was with great pleasure last November that he declared that Salisbury was now an Eco Diocese. Depending on how well you do as a church an award is given; bronze, silver and gold – Hilfield Friary has achieved the gold award. The church of St James in Longburton is actively working towards achieving the bronze award so for example, we have been able to change all our lighting to LED and we use a green producer of electricity. This period of Creationtide ends on the feast day of St Francis, which was on Friday. Francis of course is often considered to be the patron saint of all things ‘green’ or ecological.
Why should Christians be particularly concerned about the use of resources on planet earth? If we go back to the account of creation written for us in Genesis 1 we see that at the end of day six when humankind is created we were given the responsibility of stewardship. I have always understood stewardship as being a bit like being a gamekeeper. Good gamekeepers work hard to ensure a good habitat for the animals in their care so that they can flourish. Now I am not advocating the wholesale slaughter of animals that we know goes on; reading Danny Champion of the World taught me that was unacceptable, but a measured husbandry of the land is sound ecology. Our Old Testament reading this evening reminded us of the covenant God made with Noah and with all living creatures. In other words God was setting out a special relationship which Noah and the generations to follow should honour. God wants us to look after this land we call earth; it is our duty; it is not an option.
One of the aspects of Franciscan theology that attracts me is the desire to sit lightly on this earth we have inherited. We should not be a burden to the earth or to those who feed and clothe us. I am sure that many of us know the story of Francis being so clear that he wanted to give up all things and allow God to provide that he took off his clothes and stood naked in the market place until his bishop wrapped him in his cloak. This is a bit extreme, but at a time when we suffer from things called Clothes Mountains you can see where Francis is coming from. On the one hand we have clothes mountains- people have so many clothes that they throw them away on a regular basis- and on the other hand we have clothes banks for those who cannot find the money to clothe their children. And not just in big cities but here in Dorset.
Our New Testament reading this evening reminded us of the need to go the extra mile particularly with those we find it difficult to love or to forgive. Jesus reminds us in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount that we should be able to live in a non-threatening way with people and with the world. To love each other means that we need to be worried about those parts of the world where people live in fear of their homes being overwhelmed by the rising oceans; we need to take action so that predictions such as by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish do not come true.
This season of ‘Creationtide’ has given us all an opportunity to channel our thoughts, our actions and our prayers in a way that upholds our fragile planet, but we should not keep it in a box until next year but every day seek to do something to be the change the world needs.
Let me finish with a statement about Francis from the American Franciscan Richard Rohr: Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of ecology, animals, non-violence, and peace-making—because he understood that the entire circle of life has a Great Lover at the centre of it all. In Francis’ world, the sun, moon, animals, plants, and elements are all shown reverence and even personal subjectivity as “brother” and “sister.” He refused to exclude anything. He went to the edge, to the bottom; he kissed the leper, he loved the poor, he wore patches on the outside of his habit so everybody would know that’s what he was like on the inside. He didn’t hide from his shadow. He wasn’t an intellectual; he didn’t begin with universal philosophies and ideas and abstractions. For Francis, there was one world and it was all sacred.
May we seek ways to find the sacred in our relationship with each other and with the planet.