Eco Matters(1)

     Two Sermons preached by the Revd Anita Hart on the subject of the  
     eco-congregation

Sermon 1


On 3 March 2014, the Revd Anita Hart preached a sermon on the Eco-Congregation and the morning service was followed by a presentation in the Worship area on the churchís aim to be an Eco Congregation and a bring & share lunch. The following is an edited version of that sermon.

Eco Matters - The Earth is the Lords

 

Psalm 8

Genesis 1

Luke 10: 25-28

 

 

ĎEarthís crammed with fire and every common bush afire with God.

But only he who sees takes off his shoes

The rest sit round it and pick blackberries

 

I do not often quote poetry in my sermons but I am going to do that this morning. In fact you may have heard these lines from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

 

The moment that we are in awe of God our creator there comes about a change in us, we no longer take what we have for granted.

 

Few of us are involved in the sowing and the picking of our food or with the care of animals that also provide food for us. Most of us need to shop for our food going to a local shop, a supermarket or a market stall. We are looking for value for money, healthy options and bargains. We have become removed from the natural world. I heard of a mother who did not want her daughter to go on a farm visit because she believed it would not be good for her to know that meat comes from animals.

 

Before ministry, marriage and motherhood, I trained as a teacher. I chose to teach five and six year olds and loved it. Small children are open to so many possibilities. One of the Religious Education attainment targets for that age, when I was teaching, was to allow them to develop their sense of awe and wonder. If you have ever walked with a small child, especially if you are in a hurry, you will  know the frustration as they stop to look at a tiny insect or to see the ripples on a puddle. They are captivated by the world in which they live.

 

The moment we become too sophisticated to see the world like that we have lost something precious. We will no longer see the world as Godís, as his gift to us, but we will see it as ours to use for ourselves.

 

We read Psalm 8 together and you will have noticed that the writer of the psalm gives us a clear picture that this is Godís world,but that God has given human beings the intellect and the spirituality, the sensitivity and the sheer muscle to work with God. We are stewards of Godís world and it is only when we acknowledge this that we can have peace of mind and be at peace with our actions.

 

We are part of Godís creation and he gave us the precious gift of life and the precious gift of free will. God gave us choice as to how we live our lives and how we respond to his creation. We are not his puppets, and he took a risk in giving us that freedom.

 

Each day we are faced with many choices as to how to live our lives, but how often do we stop to think about the effects that our choices have on other people or on Godís world. Sometimes we make choices with the best of intentions and then later regret them.

 

A Cornish farmer took on a neighbouring tenancy some forty years ago, on a farm that was infested with ragwort. Ragwort is a weed which poses a risk to livestock. 

The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food had powers to make him get rid of that particular weed and the farmer was advised to use a certain weed killer.  So he used the recommended weed killer and it worked and destroyed all the ragwort, but it had also killed an abundant crop of clover that the farmer knew to be nutritious for his dairy cattle. Years later the clover returned and he gave thanks to God, but the ragwort also returned and he chose to spend time pulling it up and burning it rather than to destroy that precious clover again. The choices for farmers are just as complex as the choices that we need to make when we go shopping.

 

We need to remember that if we want to eat lettuces out of season, then they may flown here from other parts of the world or that precious energy is used to bring them to our table. Is it a good use of the resources of Godís world? If we buy cheap food from overseas then that food may not have been produced to the same high standards that legislation in this country demands of British farmers.

Brazilian chicken imported and tested showed that antibiotics were used to promote quick growth. I donít have time to unpack the ethical or any other issues in that.

 

The harsh fact is that if we choose to buy the cheaper imported products the farmers in this country will continue to go out of business. But alongside that, is how can we know whether food has been grown ethically if it has come from far away, even if we are prepared to forget the thousands of miles that our food has travelled to get to us. I know that there is a school of thought that believes that food miles are not the only issue because producers can use vast amounts of energy even before the product has left the farm.

 

These are complicated issues but, whether we are farmers, gardeners or consumers of the food that is produced, we will not always make the right choices.  However we do need to think about the choices that we make, not just in terms of whatís best for us, but by being aware of the needs of other people and of the world.

 

It is our attitude to God and to his world that makes a difference. You may say to me that we are victims of marketing. People are employed to entice us to buy the product that they want to sell us.

BIGIF (Buy one get one free) is great for us, good for the shops who lure us in with offers like that, but is it so good for the farmer who has been paid 50% of what he expected to receive so that the supermarket can offer us an attractive offer?  Farmers, who had grown a field of cauliflower, were told that they were too yellow and that the supermarket would not buy them. They were perfectly good cauliflower but the margins of acceptability for a supermarket can be very narrow.

 

There is a picture of the planet earth that was taken from space. It has been made into a poster and given a caption that encourages us to refer to the manufacturerís instructions before use.

 

This is not our world: we are stewards that have been appointed by God and entrusted with its care. Alistair McGrath in his paper, The Doctrine of Creation says, ďThe important point to appreciate is that bearing Godís image in not primarily about entitlement and privilege, it is about accountability and stewardshipĒ

 

We have a responsibility to God, and a responsibility to other people.

The way that we live, shop and eat affects other people. The choices we make donít just affect our own pocket and well-being, those choices affect other people. We are in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight and buying fairly traded food is just one thing that we can do.

 

Thirty years ago, in the early days of Traidcraft, I became a Traidcraft rep. It was hard graft trying to persuade people to buy the tea and the instant coffee, which did not taste good. The taste has improved out of all recognition and now we can buy fairly traded foods in supermarkets.

 

This year the Fairtrade Foundation is launching a campaign to give all banana growers a fair price for their produce. Many of us have been buying Fairtrade bananas for years, but supermarket price wars mean that there are still banana producers who are not receiving adequate recompense for their produce. The Fairtrade Foundation want to make all bananas produced Fairtrade bananas. Do we think that this is beyond us?

 

We must never lose sight of the fact that our efforts, no matter how small they may seem, can make a difference and that over and above all of that we have a Christian responsibility to God and to our neighbours wherever they are.

 

If we put God first in our lives, he brings about a change in us. As we turn to him we have stopped just long enough to take off our shoes and recognise his creative power, as we look in awe and wonder at his creation. In those moments we are at one with our creator, more aware of his creative power in the world, in others and in ourselves.

 


Sermon 2


The Lord's Supper and Transformation Sermon:  Revd Anita Hart

 

Luke 22 : 7-23

Psalm 104

 

In 1991, the World Council of ChurchesAssembly appealed to the churches to make public commitments and undertake commonaction on the threats to life in the areas of justice, peace and integrity of creation as part of the essence of what it means to be the church.

Some 23 years later the message is still offered to all who will listen through the work of many organisations including Arocha and eco-congregations. As most of you will                    know we are attempting to become an eco-congregation and today our communion collection will go towards our efforts to do just that. This is not about gaining an award plaque to put on the wall of the Church, but is about trying to change our way of living in the world as we attempt to live in an environmentally friendly way and in a way that takes note of the people of the world and their needs. Because this is not just for our sake, or indeed for those who come after us, but can be an expression of our search for justice and peace for all people as well.

Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation are not three separate subjects, but they are linked together and cannot exist in isolation, because this subject encompasses Godís creation and the life of humanity. Over the years people have been challenged to take action and we have all heard about subjects such as Climate Change, Recycling, and Clean water.These are just some of the topics that we can engage with if we have the time and the inclination, to tackle aspects of this big topic Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.

If we look for a moment at Clean water, which is something that we take for granted. Clean water is not just for those who have the power and wealth, but is a basic gift of God. For this reason we may want to challenge those who divert clean water from those who are most in need, to irrigating cash crops which are sent to the rich west for our consumption. We cannot live in isolation from the rest of the world, we are connected to those who live in other continents and other countries in the world, for there is enough for all in Godís creation. If we take more than we need, then there are others in the world who will not get enough. I cannot believe that God wants the world to be like that, but, He gave us free choice and in exercising that choice we have become complicit in a world which is full of inequality.

We live in a world that is far from perfect and that is why Jesus came to save the world. He revealed in his life, his death and his resurrection that although human beings are not perfect that God reaches out to us, became one of us and revealed to us his saving love. So how will we respond to this saving love?

You might say to me that you canít help what you do not know about in this world and in any case what can we do to change things.Well the first thing that I want to suggest is that we do our best to become  better informed about these issues. To that end I have acquired a couple of books that may help us in our quest for information. The first is the 11th edition of the Good Shopping Guide, in which you can find information about some of our High Street stores and how they do business, as well as the way that finance institutions invest. The second is a book called ĎAs Long as the Earth Enduresí with edited talks from a conference on The Bible Creation and the Environment. These will be available for you to borrow if you wish. There are lots of other books out there and there are other ways in which we can become better informed.

In the Autumn we are launching Study Group material so that all our fellowship groups will have the opportunity to engage with this big subject.

 As part of our attempt to become an eco-congregation some of our worship will cover topics that will help us to become better informed, but we cannot do any of this in our own strength for we need Godís help to be the people that He wants us to be.

I wonder how many of us need the help of our doctor to keep us healthy.  Perhaps, like me, you have learned through experience that it is best to try and do as our doctor suggests or we end up being worse off than we might have been had we not taken his or her advice.

We might like to think that we can keep going as Christians without coming to church every Sunday, but we need to continually turn to God so that we can be fed and nurtured in our faith, so we can live our lives as followers of Christ.

A couple of weeks ago I went on an Icon Writing Retreat to Alton Abbey in Hampshire. One of the monks made an interesting comment about food in that he believed it to be a form of recycling. He saw it as the conversion of food into energy. But Dom Anselmís comment had set a train of thought in my mind that saw in his idea of eating food being a way of recycling as a way that we might understand what we do when we gather together for a celebration of the Lordís Supper.

Now before I go any further I want to say that I would not use the word 'recycle' in this context of Communion but I would prefer to use the word 'transform'.

If we take a close look at the passage that was read from Lukeís gospel the first thing I want to mention is that although Jesus involves his disciples in the preparation for that meal he has already prepared for this. Jesus has made the arrangements for this meal, all that the disciples have to do is to make the final preparations. The disciples have to trust Jesus and to follow his instructions.

When we gather together for the Sacrament of Holy Communion there is something that is needed from us for this to become a sacrament. Each of us needs to have faith and to bring that faith to this time of worship if this sacrament is to bring about the transformation in us that God wants.

In this passage Jesus is the central character but I think we also need to note that included among those who share this meal is Judas, and before the end of the meal Jesus has acknowledged that he knows what Judas will do. The one who would betray him was not excluded from this special meal. In the Methodist Church we do not expect people to have been through any sort of ceremony or tuition before they can come to the Lordís Table because  All are welcome at this table.  John Wesley understood this service to be a converting ordinance. In other words in coming to the table and receiving, we can be changed, we can be transformed in mind, in heart and in the way we live through our engagement with the body and blood of Christ. Perhaps the greatest challenge to us is that we all come to this meal as sinful human beings in need of Godís forgiveness. So we all come in need of forgiveness and transformation.

It is this transformation that makes us more like the people that God has created us to be. For when we allow God to transform us, our attitudes to others and the way that we live our lives shows evidence of the grace of God active in our lives.

The grace that we are offered at this table is Godís gift to us. We cannot earn Godís love for He loves each of us just as we are, but we can allow God to rule in our lives and live our lives pursuing Justice, Peace and the integrity of Creation.

When you come to the table today, come to receive whatever challenge or comfort that God may offer to you this day and as you go from this table understand that you have met with the risen Christ and that he will be with you in all that you are and do.

 

 




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