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Creation’s Groans: Holy & Human Response

Easter 4, Common Lectionary Year A
Romans 8:18-22; Jeremiah 12:10-13

©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

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“All creation groans,
in eager longing for the Children of God
to come into their own,
to come to their senses,
to be who God created us to be
within the community of creation.”

We know what those groans are, don’t we?
I’ve piled it on a bit thick,
with texts that reach back two, nearly three millennia,
and one from 1982,
and other contemporaries
punctuating our prayers and songs today,
all pointing to the disastrous, destructive ways
in which we humans as a species,
and we who choose to be counted
among God’s people in particular,
keep getting it wrong;
this call from God to “take care of the earth,
to be responsible for its wellbeing,
to act like a gardener, working alongside the earth
so that it flourishes for the good of all.”

It’s not particularly encouraging is it,
to know that this is not merely a new phenomenon–
although the impact of homo technicus on the planet
over the last two and a half centuries
is proving to be exponentially detrimental
to the wellbeing of the planet?[1]

These powerful texts, Jeremiah to Michael Jackson
use the pull-no-punches language of lament
to cry out that earth herself (not just humanity)
has paid the price for our idolatrous fixation
with might, power, money,
with ownership, not stewardship,
with rights, not responsibility,
with self, not community
with parasitic pleasure, not sustainability.
And with alarming clarity, in these past few days,
we see some of our species,
so fervid in their faith in “the economy”
that they are prepared to offer human sacrifice
on the altar of mammon!

If the Creator can lament the destruction of the land
by pre-industrial empires like Assyria, Babylon, Rome,
and God’s own people Judah and Israel,
what must God be crying now?

Have I dug myself in too deep?
Are we hopeless?
Are we really as Michael Moore would have us believe,
a not- so-smart primate,
doomed to destroy our only home,
and thus ourselves, in the name of profit?

No. Categorically No.
That’s where these texts school us.
From flood, to exodus, to exile,
to the rise and fall of empires,
to the crucifixion of one and too many who have proclaimed God’s better Way,
for earth and for us, we’ve messed up,
and we’ll mess up again.
But these texts also sing through lament,
that we are “the children of God”,
with the God-given capacity to “come to our senses.”
Back in February when I began work on these texts
for this season,
I thought this virus-thing on the other side of the world was “not my problem.”
I thought we only had one, climate, crisis on our hands.
Now we’re in the grip of two global catastrophes.
Both of them reminding me, surprisingly,
of Paul’s utter confidence in God’s Bigger Vision
of a symbiotic salvation;
Earth, in labour pains for us to come to our senses.
We and the Earth, creatures together,
our destinies bound up in one another,
and all held within a Dream of God
in which flourishing is our future.

Just beyond our Paul text, he writes of hope,
hope that is founded on past fact
and which builds up to future faith.
Hope which is the antidote to despair.

Despair looks at the past, and says
“See, we screw up all the time, it’s hopeless.”

Hope looks at the past, and says,
“See, we came to our senses before,
we can do it again, there’s hope.”

Just yesterday I saw this video from PBS News Hour.[2]
Author Kelly Corrigan epitomizes this hope,
grounded in the past history of humans
acting out of their right minds and true hearts.
She says, whenever something in front of her seems
impossible, too daunting, she plays a mental exercise,
telling herself the story from the future,
as if it’s happened and she ‘nailed it’, got it right.
This is what she does in this video,
a three minute imagining of the Pandemic of 2020,
and how we as a human species, nailed it.
Got it right.
Came our senses.

I wonder what story we could tell
we children of God,
of these two global crises;
the Covid19 crisis and the climate crisis,
and how came together,
and came to our senses
and got it right?

It might go something like this:
We made soups and stews for elderly neighbours,[3]
picked up groceries, and chalked the sidewalks
to tell our neighbours ça va bien aller.
We banned domestic ownership of military assault rifles
as an evil not necessary in a civilian population.
We played music and clapped for healthcare workers.
We paid janitors and delivery truck drivers,
and grocery stockers and check out workers,
and teachers and daycare workers,
and farm labourers,
and scientists and teachers
and wildlife protection officers,
a wage that valued their true essential service.
In fact, basic income justice became a reality not a pipe dream.

Work from home made work more humane.
And speaking of home, everyone, every creature
was granted the right to have one and keep one.
And the endangered list grew shorter,
as ecosystems were given space to recover.

Talibé begging children were fed hot meals
by les marraines (Godmothers),
counted for the first time as worthy of a child’s life.[4]

Young people striking for climate change
were joined by the rest of us.
So they were able to go back to school
and learn to become scientists and doctors
launching a new generation
of world-positive scientific discoveries.

We stopped driving and flying for no reason,
and we could hear the birds singing,
the bees in the forsythia,
neither harmed anymore by wanton use of pesticides.
Jelly fish swam through the Venice lagoon,
Britain’s coastal seas turned blue,
coral began to revive in the Great Barrier Reef.

Sustainable agriculture and aquaculture
became the gold-standard, not the organic alternative.
The Earth became seismologically
more at peace with herself,
as we slowed down.
And as our idled vehicles pumped less nitrogen dioxide into the air,
Earth breathed, her lungs-the trees- breathing more freely.[5]

And we did too.
We spent time, not money, on each other.
We breathed, and laughed, and loved,
and talked to neighbours, and held front walk music jams,
and watched the sun set orange and gold
over a world at peace with itself and with us,
and said to the moon as she rose on the horizon,

“We are the children of a healing, loving God.
We came to our senses.
We can heal and love the earth, and ourselves.”

Once upon a time, our time, may this be so.
Amen.

[1] Galvin, 2003. The human species intertwined with advancing technologies.

[2] https://www.pbssocal.org/programs/pbs-newshour/long-road-ahead-1588201391/?fbclid=IwAR0Azlv26bE9YvHVCiP6i_zOdQ7a6A_cOLwmPgDMyRSdgvJkLG__41jPOm4

[3] Some of the ideas in the following paragraph come from Kelly Corrigan, others refer to recent news articles of planetary healing as a result of CoVid pandemic lockdown measures.  Others are still in the realm of a hoped-for future.

[4] http://www.mdgsl.com/actualites/avr2020dinertalibes.html?fbclid=IwAR3lTBbF0p988OjgXAU1AS8FuiWuPKCDCY0WRI06Ezw274vJo6VtIleqBJk

[5] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-earth-pollution-noise/609316/

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