Sermon 5 Safeguard the Planet 23rd Feb 2014

Sermon for the Second Sunday before Lent, 23rd February 2014

The Fifth Mark of Mission – Safeguard the plant, God’s created world

(Job 38:1–21 and Colossians 1:15-20)

Welcome to the last of our series of sermons on the five Marks of Mission.

You might think we’ve almost completed the journey – by the end of this sermon you may think we are just beginning!

As Christians, we are called to:

  1. Proclaim the Good News of the Gospel  -to tell
  2. Encourage and baptise new believers- to teach
  3. Love and serve those in need - to tend
  4. Seek peace and stand up for those who are treated unfairly to –transform
  5. Safeguard the planet, God’s created world. To Treasure

Treasure is the watchword for the fifth Mark of Mission, which in full is to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.  

This is the ‘green’ mark of mission. It starts with the message of Harvest and Rogation that through nature God has given us everything we need for life here on Earth.

Our readings this morning, again the ones set for the day and not specially chosen, both emphatically make the point that this is God’s earth.

Job is struggling with accepting the wisdom of God and so God reminds him of who is who, asking with some irony:

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
   Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
   Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
   or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?

‘Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?

You get the picture…

God is the creator the world and we are merely creatures who inhabit it

It is God’s earth – not ours

But the picture is a little more subtle as we heard in our second reading from Colossians.  The letter to the Colossians talks about Jesus in cosmic terms saying

in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The writer could not be clearer.

  • Jesus was in on creation
  • Jesus was there when the earth was formed
  • Jesus is the one who hold all creation together

Now if you are finding this a little mind blowing – fasten your seat-belts for the next bit….

Jesus, of course, did not stay with his creator Father, he came to be with us. That is what the Christmas and Epiphany seasons have just reminded us.

And while he was here he chose disciples who would go on to establish his church.

The church as St Paul reminds us is

  • Jesus’ continuing presence
  • Jesus’ continuing body
  • Jesus’ continuing creative force

here on earth

In other words we now represent the creator of the universe

I’ll say it again:  we - you and me – now - by divine permission - represent the creator of the universe

And this is why we of all the people on God’s earth should take a lead with the 5th Mark of Mission

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.  

So what does this mean?

  • It means recognising and owning up to the fact that the earth has issues
  • It means working to look after what God has created
  • It means taking action as individuals and politically to do what we can to sustain and renew the life of the earth

The earth has issues:

Its population has more than doubled in my lifetime and more than tripled in some of yours. This puts huge pressure on its resources.

We have powered our economies by burning fossil fuels and are eroding the ozone layer in the Northern hemisphere by 5% a decade. This means the sun now warms the earth more than before

We now have

  • polar ice-caps melting at around 20,000 sq miles per year
  • sea levels rising - around 8” in the last 150 years
  • sea temperatures rising  - by one degree farenheit in the last century.

To my mind it is perverse to deny these measurable scientific facts.   Jesus said that we shall know the truth and the truth will set us free.  If we deny the truth there will be

  • no basis for action
  • no effort to sustain or renew
  • no freedom – not even for those who think they have something to gain from climate change denial

They need to learn the lesson of Job.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
   Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

What does remain to be seen is how soon the extreme weather of my short time in Stow - which already includes a record coldest month and record wettest month – is repeated.

Have we just been unlucky, or are extremes to become the new norm?  Whatever the answer – and I know where my money would be – we need to be working to look after what God has created.

We need to be taking action as individuals and politically to do what we can to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Taking action politically takes a bit of thinking about. The heart of my political action for the last 20 year has been to vote for the planet. 

There will not be a lot of point in tax-breaks, better services or limiting access to our shores if we don’t look after our planet. It has been heartening to see, ever since the Green Party polled 15% in a European Election, that all of the main parties are taking the issue on board.

Taking action as individuals is perhaps the easier – especially this year - as all of us in the South West are invited by our bishops to make a carbon fast during Lent.  There are booklets at the back of church we can use throughout Lent which are designed to help us all to reduce our energy we use and the size of our carbon footprint.

So without prejudice to whether you also fast from coffee, alcohol or chocolates, let’s all look seriously at making a carbon fast.

If we reduce the use of carbon based fuels on which we all depend, we will all be taking small steps towards a more sustainable world. As we engage with the issues, we may find ourselves in a different relationship with God, with Creation and with one another.

We may only change the world a little in 40 days, but we could change ourselves a lot.

Jesus was in at the creation of the universe and we are now his body here on earth.  We have a lead to take on his behalf.   As we say at the heart of each Communion service;

We are the body of Christ by the one Spirit we were baptised into one body. Let us pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life

Those words capture so much of the five marks of mission. Perhaps as often as we say them we can be encouraged to

1.  Proclaim the Good News of the Gospel  - to tell

2.  Encourage and baptise new believers- to teach

3.  Love and serve those in need - to tend

4.  Seek peace and stand up for those who are treated unfairly - to transform

5.  Safeguard the planet, God’s created world - to treasure

Amen