Sermon at St Mary’s Church Hadlow – 2nd Sunday before Lent by Rev Christopher Miles
God’ Creation – 20th February 2022
Readings: Revelation 4 – The throne in heaven Luke 8 vv 22 – 25 – Jesus stills the storm
1. Introduction. I was pleased to read in our Gospel today that there is lightning in heave. Perhaps there is even a place in heaven for a lightning protection consultant! The readings set for today cover various aspects of creation. The first reading from Genesis 2, which we did not have, as we have only two readings, and I considered was more familiar than Revelation 4, gives the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The second reading, Revelation chapter 4 gives us a visionary picture of the worship in heaven, populated by animal like beings as well as people, giving us an indication of many aspects of our earthly creation being represented in heaven. Thirdly, our gospel today, from Luke chapter 8, shows Jesus in tune with and control of the natural order. It is appropriate therefore to consider today something of our responsibility for the natural world.
2. God’s creation. The first thing I want to say, quite clearly, is that we live in God’s creation. The natural world was designed and brought into being by God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Personally, I do not see any conflict between an evolutionary theory starting with a big bang or some other initial act of creation and a Biblical view of Creation. There is a saying in Jesus’ teaching which I believe is strong indication that the days of creation in Genesis 1 should not be taken as literal periods of 24 hours. In John’s gospel chapter 5, on one of the many occasions when Jesus is taken to task by the Pharisees for his actions, often of healing, on the Sabbath Day, he says, “My Father is at work to this very day and I too am working”. The implication is that in the seventh day or period of creation, following six very active periods, God has been gently developing and keeping the created order going. The seventh day, even looked at from a limited historical perspective, had to his hearers occupied thousands of years, and therefore there is no reason why in our more scientifically developed world we should not regard the seventh day and each of the other days of creation extending over millions or billions of years.
3. Jesus. I said a moment ago that the natural world was brought into being by all three persons of the Trinity. Was Jesus really there at the time of the big bang? Yes!
The opening chapter in John’s Gospel, in the passage sometimes known as the Christmas Gospel, John makes this quite clear when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made and without him was not anything made that was made.” Thus, Jesus was able to be active in the stilling of the storm, as we heard in today’s gospel.
4. Our situation. We live in a world of many faiths and philosophies. People always have done, but with modern forms of communications we are very aware of what people are thinking and doing around the world. With significant immigration into the United Kingdom in the past 70 years or so we are very directly aware of Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as Jews who have been a part of our population for centuries. We have also a significant proportion of people who have no religious faith but who have strong philosophical beliefs, whether of equality of races, the treatment of women or the need to reduce human impact on the environment of our planet earth. These religions and philosophical beliefs nearly all have a concern for the natural order. I just give two examples.
Firstly, from the 19th Century in the Testament of Chief Seathl, after whom the city of Seattle on the W coast of the USA is named. He writes,
“One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover – our God is the same God. You may think you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for red man and the white. The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The white too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.”
Secondly a brief look at the Koran:
There is a chapter headed, ‘The Creator’ and then in a subsequent chapter, headed ‘Adoration’ it is written,
“It was Allah who in six days created the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them and then ascended his throne.” and
“He governs the creation from heaven to earth. And in the end, it will ascend to him in one day, a day whose space is a thousand years by your reckoning.”
In a few minutes, after the end of this sermon, we will join together in the creed, beginning with the words, the words,
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth and of all that is, seen and unseen.”
It is good that the Church, including individuals and small groups of Christians are making efforts to combat climate change. The need to combat climate change, to care for the natural world in such a way that we reduce our impact on it and maintain the planet as a habitable place to live, for our children, grandchildren and succeeding generations, until the visible return of Jesus to wind up the present world order.
5. Practical action. Our responses as individuals and households will vary enormously, according to available finance and many other factors. It might be such a simple thing as installing a water butt to collect rainwater to use in watering plants or washing the car. If you own the house you live in, then it might be improving the standard of insulation of your house. It might be that you could make a small change in your diet, by eating less meat and more vegetables bearing in mind the greater land usage required for rearing animals for meat, than that required for edible plants. Re-cycling of plastics and other materials is important. There are myriad ways in which we can reduce our waste and our impact on the planet.
Anglican churches are being encouraged to aim for a zero-carbon state of their buildings. I have little idea how this is to be achieved bearing in mind the large capital costs involved in changing forms of heating, the installation of photovoltaic arrays and the difficulty of improving the insulation of an ancient building. I was visiting Lympne Church shortly before Christmas. Having completed the work I went to do, I sat having my lunch on a cold misty December day, midweek, in the comparative warmth of the Church, heated by a ground-based heat pump system having two deep boreholes in the churchyard.
6. The glory of heaven. It is good that we have had the reading from Revelation Chapter 4. It would be easy otherwise to be depressed by the possible effects of climate change. Revelation as a whole, lifts our eyes from the pain and suffering of life here on earth to the glory of heaven. Probably many of you have had the experience of a flight in which you took off on a rainy day with a completely overcast sky, all is dull and wet on the ground and in the early part of the flight, until as you climb away from the airfield or airport, suddenly the aircraft breaks through the uppermost layer of cloud into dazzling bright sunlight. That experience is akin to the book of Revelation in which we, with the Apostle John, are lifted up into the glory of heaven. In the case of the aircraft, you may see small circular rainbows in the cloud below you as the rays of the sun are refracted in the raindrops at the top of the cloud. The rainbow is a reminder of the Great Flood at the time of Noah when God in the Ark saved both, people and other living beings and afterwards, with the rainbow, gave the rainbow as a sign that He wishes, as the Psalmist says, “To save both man and beast” (Ps 36 v 6). So, in heaven we have in John’s vision, a rainbow encircling the throne of God. A reminder of God’s plan of salvation of the whole created order.
7. Conclusion. In conclusion, let us do what we can to reduce our impact on our planet, so as to minimise climate change, working in harmony with God, living in the sure hope of the glory to be.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it has been since the beginning, is now and will be for ever, Amen