Sermon: "Creation Care and Environmentalism"
Creation Care and Environmentalism
Homily for July 28, 2019 by Chuck Berry
When Fr Larry asked me to give a homily, I said “surely, but it might be a little green.” I am an environmentalist. My mission is to help all parishes and missions in the Diocese bring Creation Care into the liturgy and teachings of the church. I started a Creation Care Network in the Diocese – you can view our activities on the Diocesan Website – and all of my advice to them came from practicing on you here at St Paul’s as chairperson of the Natural Cathedral Committee, which first met in 2002 when Rev. Marsha Hunter asked me to help with Rogation Day. (I didn’t know what it was!)
About the homily for today…. I was confident that I would quickly produce a green homily by turning to The Green Bible. The Green Bible has all passages that scholars think make reference to Creation Care printed in green letters. There are many, many, many!
But, I was shocked - - there were no green passages in today’s readings.
Now what was I going to do – I’m not a biblical scholar! So I looked over Fr Larry’s suggestions on what I might say. He suggested that I first review where we are in our Bible study.
This is the third week in a four-week series based on Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, a church beset with heresy. [The problem at Colossae isn’t clear, Paul’s warning to the Colossians to beware of “hollow and deceptive philosophy” indicates that a Greek or local philosophical sect was invading the Christian congregation to entice members away.]
In the first week we noted how Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will that they might lead lives worthy of their calling, bear good fruit, and grow further in the knowledge of God.
In the second week (last week) our homilist Carolann Klug read how Paul warned the Colossians about Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a religious idea at the time that there is an unknowable God who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings. There is no sin -- only ignorance . To achieve salvation one needs knowledge. The Gnostics advance through stages of secret knowledge and passwords.
Paul wrote that Jesus Christ is the source of true knowledge and wisdom, which cannot be found through Gnosticism.
In the passage for today, Paul stresses three necessary things: 1) the need to continue in Christian living, 2) the need to be wary of vain philosophies, and 3) the need to avoid excessive legalism and useless rites.
About Christian Living, Fr Larry says “As members of St. Paul’s, as those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ, we are to continue to live our lives rooted and built up in Christ Jesus; we need to attend to our faith such that we may abound in thanksgiving.“
About vain philosophies, Fr Larry (with his Doctorate in Philosophy) says “Jesus Christ has a greater place than any philosophy.” In Jesus Christ we know the truth as warm, caring, and personal, not as a set of cold, dispassionate, impersonal, objective propositions.
In the reading today, we heard this from Paul: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit.” This sentence struck a religious green note in me. “What was that green note,” you ask.
Warning flags go up for some people when they hear about a green, modern-day “ism” - “environmentalism,” which is a broad philosophy regarding concerns for the health of our environment. In secular society, some people reject environmentalism because they detect politics, government intervention, changing life style, and retarding human advancement.
Never the less, environmentalism has been a major force in our lives since the 1970’s when Congress, for the first time, declared a National Environmental Policy that encouraged harmony between man and his environment, and to promote efforts that prevent damage to the environment.
In church, we use the term Creation Care, not environmentalism, but there are similar reactions. Some people have the opinion that Religion should be about man’s relationship with neighbors and God, not the environment. [anthropocentric ethics vs ecocentric].
No other group of institutions can wield the particular moral authority of the religions. Can religions awaken, activate, raise ethical questions, and speak effectively about Creation Care?
Mary Evelyn Tucker in Worldly Wonder: Religious enter their Ecological Phase
That’s my position and both Pope Francis and the Episcopal House of Bishops agree with me.
Pope Francis agrees with me. He wrote a now famous encyclical letter titled “Laudato Si’ On Care for our Common Home.” He wrote about the following: what is happening to our common home, the gospel of Creation, scripture and teaching about the Creation, the human roots of the ecological crisis, the need for cultural transformation (integrative ecology) to protect the Earth, actions that humans can take, and personal conversion for social renewal. Each of these points is a chapter in his 184 page booklet.
Now I want to tell you about what the Episcopal House of Bishops wrote four years prior to Pope Francis’s book. Our Bishops don’t issue “Encyclical Letters,” they issue “Pastoral Teachings.” In 2011, they issued a Teaching about Creation Care and our stewardship responsibilities. They said about the same thing that the Pope said, but in only 18 paragraphs.
The first part was called the “confessional” where they discussed the suffering of the earth because of our waste and pollution.
The next part is called the “sacramental” where they connect Creation Care to biblical passages and recognize that God’s grace and plan for redemption encompasses all creation.
The next part is called “prophetic” as they examine ways we can live more sustainably.
The fourth part is called “holiness” because they say it is time to renew ancient practices of fasting, Sabbath-keeping, and mindfulness.
The last part is called “behavioral” where they list actions we can take to conserve the environment, and make a commitment to those actions.
The Church Publishing Company has published a booklet for Adult and Youth education titled “A Life of Grace for the whole world” A study course on the House of Bishop’s Pastoral Teaching on the Environment.” I have reprints of the pastoral teaching to handout today. I urge you to read it and reflect on it. How do these ideas match the three Episcopal cornerstones of faith, which are…
We educate ourselves about this subject because of Paul’s warning: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit.” I think that Creation Care is a moral obligation and a religious concern, not a vain philosophy or empty deceit.