Harvest & Creation with St Francis & Sir David Attenborough

Sermon for Parish Harvest
October 4, 2020

Psalm 148:7-14
Galatians 6:14-18
Matthew 11:25-30

We are not unawares that the seasons are changing! I am still somewhat resistant to socks and coats but have turned the heating on. This change of season tells us that it is the time for the harvest; time to pause and give thanks for God’s provision and goodness to us. I am under no illusion that many people will find it difficult to give thanks this year. More jobs are at risk, the food banks are busier than ever, times remain uncertain and the rules are changing.

Yet – God is bigger and beyond our circumstances. Jesus addresses God in the Matthew reading by saying, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.’ Let us try to start today with that big view of God.

Over the last few years, there has been a growing movement in the church to celebrate ‘Creationtide’ or a ‘Season of Creation’ over the Sundays in September, culminating on Harvest Sunday. We are encouraged to not only give thanks for the harvest but also to consider the environment, creation, the current crisis and how we play a part in damaging God’s creation but also how we can work to fix it.

No one is exempt. We might not want to take responsibility, but we cannot deny that our actions of everyday life have an impact on the environment. If you woke up this morning in a warm house, had a cup of coffee or tea with milk & sugar and some breakfast food, washed and put on clothes – you have made an impact on the environment.

I was struck this past week as I watched Sir David Attenborough being interviewed on BBC Breakfast. He was asked by Louise Minchin, ‘if there’s one choice to make today, what choice would you like people to make?’ He paused for a moment, and then said, ‘don’t waste. Don’t waste anything. Don’t waste electricity. Don’t waste food. Don’t waste power, just treat the natural world as though it is precious, which it is. And don’t squander the bits that we have control of.’

I think he is absolutely right! We should do as much as we can to reduce our waste. It may mean living beyond our convenience, which, if we are honest, we do not like to do! It means new ways of doing things, paying more attention to what we buy, how it was made and what to do about the waste.

I don’t want to flog or guilt anyone this morning, I am very aware of the considerable stress and pressure many people are under currently. This needs to be balanced with the urgency to be more aware and better education on our impact on our planet. Notice I didn’t say ‘the planet’ – it is our planet.

How as Christians can we do this?

The answer is reasonably straightforward: Root it in the Gospel. By this I mean worship the Creator and then the created! Many people will say that they don’t need church, they experience God in creation, in a sunset or on a mountain top, at the beach. I take the position that unless your life is orientated towards God in the first place, you will not meet him in rainbows and flower petals. This is worshipping the created and not the Creator.

I admire David Attenborough; I think that the work he does is magnificent. He has captured the attention of millions of people around the world like few else have on issues of the environment. He is a great man of science but not of faith as a professed agnostic. We should follow the science and yet we need to go further and worship the Creator.

If we love Him first – then we will love his creation, the creation he gave us to look after, care for right from the beginning. In Genesis 2, Adam was given responsibility for working and caring for Eden and the naming of the animals. So huge was this job that he needed a suitable helper and God created Eve.

The responsibility to care for God’s creation has not changed since then. It may have fallen out of fashion, we may have forgotten about it or dropped it as a priority, but God certainly has not. We are part of the created order and need to renew our commitment and reclaim our responsibility for it. It is not just about our practices and habits but about our attitudes.

I have been surprised and inspired by the conviction of many young people over their concern for the environment. I may not fully agree with the way they protest in some cases but their dedication to the cause is unwavering.

As Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 11:25, ‘I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’ Maybe it is the voice of the children that we are to listen to. They are the ones who must care for creation long after we are gone.

Today is also the Feast of St Francis which would have been celebrated at St Francis this morning. St Francis lived about 900 years ago and a quick Wikipedia search indicates that he lived a very interesting life in Italy. Although he is the Patron Saint of Ecology and animals, he did a great number of other things: had some big issues with his father, bucked all family expectations, founded the Franciscan order of friars and then an order for sisters with St Clare of Assisi, he travelled extensively, was blessed with the stigmata of the nails marks of Christ on his own hands, and he even tried to negotiate peace during the Crusades (unsuccessfully).

All through his life and ministry, St Francis had a deep love for creation as he saw God in it. He wrote Canticle of the Sun, which praises and thanks God for Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Water and Fire, all of which he saw as praising God. St Francis invited all animals, plants, natural elements to give thanks and praise to God. This is no tree hugging stuff!

Francis provided a bigger vision of the creation we are all part of, he reminds us that God is very much at the heart of creation and all creation worships him. In 1982, Pope John Paul II said that love and care of creation by St Francis was a challenge to contemporary Catholics to “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”

In and through Jesus, we are a new creation as Paul tells us. We are made in God’s image and part of his created order. We have a responsibility as part of that order, to listen to the voice of the children, to worship the Creator, not to waste creation for our convenience but to love and care for Creation. Creation is a great gift of God, it is precious. Let us treat it better than we do.

Consider the Lilies…

2nd Sunday Before Lent
Genesis 1:1-2:3
Romans 8:18-25
Matthew 6:25-34


Consider the Lilies of the Field (or Don’t Wee Before the Water Comes)

I wonder if any of you here this morning are worriers? I am not a natural worrier – if I am going to worry about something, it tends to be after the event has passed.

How many of you worry about things that don’t ever happen? I think a lot of people tend to worry about things that won’t ever happen! Couldn’t possibly happen! But it might – so worry about it!

This lovely piece of scripture is part of the wider Sermon on the Mount. It is clear that worry was of great concern to people 2000 years ago as it is today. It is likely that we worry about similar things too, Jesus is speaking to the practical needs of food, drink, clothing and housing. Very real issues to an impoverished crowd. Very real issues to many people today.  

Jesus is trying to give his listeners some perspective on their worries, give them a bigger picture of life. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? We are of value to God – more than the birds are and he looks after them. Can you add any hours to your life by worrying?

Believing in our great value to God frees us from much worry. I’m not sure many things compare to the challenge of ceasing to worry. Maybe one reason why it is hard to stop worrying is because we have so many prime opportunities to practice it! Yet we will never overcome worry by eliminating reasons to worry.

One of my Grandmothers was of German descent and she had a saying that loosely and more politely translated from low-German to English was: ‘don’t wee before the water comes.’ What she meant is that we are not to get anxious before there is something to get anxious about.

Jesus would tell us that when these situations arise, and they will, we are to go to him. Jesus sums up the futility of worry in verses 25 & 26 – we can’t add a minute to our life by worrying. Simply put, worry is useless. Even when we seem to worry about ‘important things’; even when we worry in the name of love it will accomplish absolutely nothing. When will we learn to turn our worry effort into prayer?

It would be irresponsible of me to ignore the Genesis reading this morning! Whatever we make of the Genesis account of creation, we are given a view of God that is huge, the creator of everything who made something out of nothing, brought order to chaos, called things into being and they were. God saw that everything he did was good. The big things like the wind and water, light and darkness, sea and sky right down to the seeds to birds to the things that creep along the ground. God took his time to do all these things.

This is a God of the details who created and provides for us.   

The story of Genesis is the origin story of humankind and gives us a place to root our identities. We come from a good God who created a good world and a beloved humanity. (Debie Thomas – June 15,2014: The Best of All Beginnings). Before there was evil, there was goodness. 

Seven times in the creation story we are told we come from a God who sees. God steps back from his work and he looks, he notices each tiny piece. We also come from a God who creates new things. On each of the six days in creation, God made something new. He still does now, today! We wake up every day and there are new things in the world. The snowdrops and daffodils, the tiny buds on the trees. Nothings goes unnoticed. God’s mercies are new every morning!

God is also big enough to take on our worries, our cares. Cast your cares on him.   

As Christians we need to continually learn and re-learn to trust in the providence of God. Jesus uses the birds of the air and the lilies of the field as an example. Birds and lilies can’t provide for themselves – birds neither sow nor reap we are old. Lilies can’t toil nor spin but are beautifully made. We are of more value to God than these.

Finally, we come from a God who rests. We live in a busy, chaotic world. What are we busy doing exactly? We are commanded to stop and rest. God did so can we! The Sabbath is the only thing that is holy in the creation story – it is the only day that God blessed.

When we are tempted to wee before the water comes, we are reminded again this morning to look towards God, not the world, and to trust in his goodness and seek his righteousness. We cannot do this through worry but by spending time with the Father who loves us and feeds and clothes us with all we need.

We come from the best of beginnings, from a glorious Creator with a loving heart who is ready to give us rest and take care of our anxieties.