From compost toilets to mountaintops

Anyone can sense the holy on a mountaintop,” says a friend of mine. “The Christian challenge is much more difficult, and that is to see God in wounded, vulnerable people; in victims; in groups of struggling humanity.” For the most part I, and the wider church, agree, which is why we spend most of the year focussing on Jesus Christ and the people he charged us to love, serve and live in solidarity with: those who are poor, sick, abused, marginalised, imprisoned, foreign, and scapegoated.

But that doesn’t preclude the mountaintop altogether, nor does it acknowledge the wider truth that Christ came not just to reconcile humanity to himself, but all things (Colosssians 1:19-20): and in Christ all things are connected. So month-in month-out, our liturgy acknowledges in one way or another the wider creation; and this Sunday, 1st September, we will also introduce the optional Season of Creation.

The liturgy for this season follows the usual pattern, but the elements draw from Biblical creation literature. We will celebrate the goodness of creation, the presence of God in the land, our own creation as people of earth, and our responsibility to protect and serve all things: flora, fauna, soil, sea and sky, as well as people. I said to somebody the other day, “The members of this church must have the highest proportion of compost toilets of any congregation in Australia!” – and so I hope this liturgy will sustain and encourage you as you work to bring about God’s renewed creation in ways big and small, whether through work or activism or home life or toilet design.

But I also hope it will do more. As I prepare for this season, I have again been struck by the animacy of all things as described in our Scriptures. For example, Psalm 98 sings, “The rivers clap, the forests dance, the hills erupt with joy!” During this season, then, I hope we can look beyond human presence in and human effects upon creation. Let us also think about how the landscape, the rivers and the trees are all already communicating with the Creator; let us also wonder how we might learn to listen to and join in with the song already being sung. For any true and lasting action must begin with deep listening: not just to people, but to the earth.

Therefore, over the next few weeks I will be suggesting a few methods of prayerfully listening to the landscape. Meanwhile, the Shalom group will be working through a series of Bible studies linked to the Sunday readings, with a view to some practical response. If you are not part of Shalom, but would like to read the studies, they are here (and we’re in Year C). Common Grace is also providing weekly reflections, including suggested actions, for the season; you can read past reflections and subscribe to new ones here.

On 20 September, the Global Strike for Climate is happening. Join me and so many others at the Warrnambool Civic Green between 12.30 and 1.30pm; details here. For all of us are facing an urgent test of our responsibility to God’s good creation and to Jesus’ beloved poor, who are most profoundly affected by the climate crisis: so on 20 September, let’s take our place with the people of this city, and urge our politicians to act.

Peace,
Alison

PS – On Sunday there was no written reflection; instead, we celebrated our birthday and re-formed the congregation for the year: that was sermon enough!

Emailed to Sanctuary 28 August 2019 © Sanctuary, 2019. Image credit: Timothy Chan on Unsplash.

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