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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


11th February 2007

Fr David Shepherd

Second Sunday Before Lent (Sexagesima)

Managing the recycling bins has become one of the daily chores of modern life. It can be confusing working out what goes in which bin and which has to go out when. Itís made all the more confusing by the fact that every local authority does things differently as you discover when you go away on holiday. Get it wrong and you have to make an extra trip to the tip as I discovered after Christmas.

Itís all connected with the need to care for the environment and to do something about global warming. We are all invited to think about our energy use and our global footprint, car engine emissions, air miles &c. Even the Church has joined in with congregations being encouraged to explore ways of being green.

This is something of a new emphasis. The Western Church has tended to have a low view of creation as essentially fallen and in need of the redemption offered through the death of Jesus Christ. Although good stewardship is encouraged in the scriptures, all too often the world has been seen as something to be exploited and used for our own ends. Now this tendency is being corrected

After 2000 years the Church has come up with a feast to celebrate practically everything, patron saints for most aspects of life, feasts celebrating key points in the Christmas story. Despite this there has never been a feast celebrating God the creator. However the compilers of our new calendar have given this Second Sunday Before Lent a particular focus on creation. It is not quite a feast but we are encouraged to celebrate Godís work in Creation nonetheless.

You can see it in the collect Ė ĎAlmighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image.í You can see it in the choice of readings. We have the Genesis account of the creation of human beings. We have Psalm 65, a beautiful harvest hymn praising Godís work in creation, crowning the year with goodness. In Revelation St. John recounts his vision of the worship of heaven when the created order praises God, who created all things and by whose will all things exist and were created. In the Gospel we share the disciples amazement at Jesusí apparent authority over the winds and the waves in the miracle of the stilling of the storm.

Creation is set before us, to contemplate and to rejoice in. Here are four things for us to think about.

    1.
  1. The vastness, the complexity and the smallness of creation. We donít often give much to thought to how or why things are. We become wrapped up in our own patch. I remember hearing a talk by a scientist and a man of faith who invited us to think first about the vastness of the universe and the big bang and then to think of the smallness of the subatomic and of the sheer complexity and wonder of existence. We donít have to be fundamentalist creationists to see the hand of God at work in all this. 2.
  2. Human beings as Godís creation. Human beings are not alone. Rather Christianity sees human beings as being created in the image of God. That means we are like him, not the same as God, not identical with God but having his Spirit within us, giving us life. Jesus Christ is like God; he enables us to be like God too. That mystery at the heart of our faith should get us thinking too. 3.
  3. Rejoicing in human creativity. Created by God we to are meant to be creative. Human beings express this in all kinds of ways, in stewardship of the earth, in industry and commerce, in music and the arts, in the pursuit of knowledge, in the rearing of children. Each one of us will have creative gifts. We may give them full expression or they may lie dormant. We can ask God to help us in discovering and exercising our creative gifts. 4.
  4. Caring for creation as good stewards. A recent newspaper headline said Ďonly man can save the planet from global warmingí. Whilst we would wish to acknowledge the need for human beings to act that claim does seem rather anthropocentric and atheistic from a Christian point of view. Christianity teaches that salvation comes from God alone, nevertheless we are to be good stewards of the creation; something we are especially aware of in these days of global warming that does seem to be increasingly due to human activity.

Four biblical passages and four thoughts about creation; today may not be a feast but it is a day for celebrating Godís wonderful work in creation and our part in it, for repenting of our failure to be good stewards of the earth and for resolving by Godís grace to change to safeguard creation for future generations.

Amen

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