Slide Day 3 – The third week of our look at Celtic Christianity, as guided by Philip Newell’s The Book of Creation. (pp. 33-47)..
The focus for day 3 is looking at how God is a generous God.
The Celts see this generosity displayed through a connection between the gift of creation and the gift of God’s grace.
Emerging with this chapter of Newell’s The book of Creation, are themes echoed on the approaching Earth Day as well as themes lifted up in the national movement for pay raises.
There are challenges as we would hope and expect.
What I love about being in a community of faith is that we don’t have to shy away from challenges, but instead can listen with our own ears and share from our own perspectives what we are hearing.
There is a three level movement in this sermon.
The first is our connection with Creation.
The second, considering how this connection with creation results in the way we treat one another.
And the third, how the gift of creation relates to the gift of grace.
Let’s see what moves in us...
First: Our connection with Creation.
As many of you know, Trasie and I spent 7 brown and cold springs in the high desert of New Mexico before moving back to our home of Georgia…,
it's so wonderful to be back in the south for Spring
Greening all around. plants bursting forth!
The colors on the flowering trees!
breathe in the freshness—as long as you don’t have allergies
[SLIDE TWO VIDEO: IN case our experience of this spring has been damped a bit by recent rain, I came across a brief time lapse video of Nature bursting into Spring…
check it out. ]
I absolutely love it.
Creation: God’s word spoken! as we see in Genesis.
What does it mean for us that God Spoke everything into being? Do we believe this?
“All things have come into being through the Word,” says the gospel of John.
The celts affirm all things at heart are a birth or embodiment of God’s word- Christ.
On day three seeds planted deep within the earth--fruit-bearing life hidden within…burst forth.
A clear sign of an abundance of growth and potential.
Born of God, “God saw all the life springing forth from the ground, and said,
It’s all good.’
Goodness is not just a characteristic…
goodness is the very source of life.
Goodness is the essence of life
Our lives and all of creation come from that which is good;
and therefore in essence are good as well.
Everything and every person in essence is good?
The Celtic tradition does not deny the reality of evil in the world--the reality of harm, suffering and dististoritions.
The tradition has come to define evil as essentially that which is destructive.
If all that came into being came from Goodness--
The purposes of evil is always towards non-being and meaninglessness.
Evil seeks to destroy.
We are reminded, Jesus did not say, destroy your enemy, rather, Love your enemy.
For when something has become bent on destruction, it has become false to itself.” (Newell, 1999, 37-38)
We know ways in which others may destroy life;
what are ways in which we destroy life?
In what ways do we destroy and are disconnected from nature?
Just as was observed last week, we are more and more protected from the wildness of God.
As more and more of society moves off the farm--
more and more places require shoes and shirt for service :).
We continue to limit our contact with the earth.
By acknowledging we have come to live more isolated from nature
and more isolated from one another,
Newell wonders, are we losing touch with the goodness that is within all of life?
A metaphor Newell wants to lift up as an example of how we have lost touch with this essential goodness and how we might potentially reconnect with it, is barefoot walking!
SLIDE: Barefoot walking? (This is the first level)
How many of us walked barefoot as children?
Yesterday at a playground, my girls begged to take their shoes off. We all took our shoes off in the sloggy wet and ran around.
What is the appeal for them I wondered as I scrubbed my feet last night?
How might barefoot walking help get in touch with the earth…
and get us in touch with our Creator?
Newell first points to when Moses encounters God in the burning bush.
God tells him to remove his sandals, for the place where he was standing was holy ground.
In the celtic tradition all ground is holy, because the goodness of God is within.
Many cultures continue, as adults, to take their shoes off-- in homes, in worship settings, and for sacred rituals.
Do we want to begin a practice of removing our shoes before walking into church?
I thought of suggesting we all do this, this morning… then I remembered how my wife’s feet smell when she removes her shoes...just kidding!
Maybe walking barefooted—feeling the earth with our feet—could be a symbolic way of reawakening us to the essential goodness within creation?
Giving us heightened awareness of the essential goodness of God all around us…
Just watch out for shards of glass!
we move to the second level:
Newell asks, If God has given abundantly at creation fruit bearing seeds, plenty for feeding all creatures…
Why has society come to exist where some feel more deserving of or entitled to this goodness and abundance of of God than others?
Slide: How do we treat?
While living in Mexico City, a dominant image is the reality of street children. They are pretty much wherever you turn when you go out--so much so at some point they actually become easy to overlook, even when they approach your vehicle dressed in costume.
This week, we may have seen the movement across our country for higher wages for low-wage workers.
This week, we may have seen the movement across our country for higher wages for low-wage workers.
This is a very complicated issue, and of course quite political.
According to the University of California Center for Labor Research and Education, more than half of combined state and federal spending on public assistance goes to working families. low wages paid by some of the most profitable businesses to ever exist are forcing working families to rely on more than $150 billion in public assistance...
One in about 2 of us, are living in or near poverty, according to some studies.
many of us are one accident, one illness, one tragic event away from poverty. (Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornell West, The Rich and the Rest of Us)
At the same time 1% of our country own 42 percent of the wealth. Are they more deserving of the abundant gifts of God than those who are not in that high wealth category?
We go back to 5th century Celtic father Pelagius to see what the origins are for the Celtic teachings on this matter.
He said, ‘the moon and stars are not more to serve one instead of another.’
Jesus said the sun shines on all... rain falls on all, not just some. (Mt 5:45 para)
The fruits borne forth from the earth are not for just some and not for others.
“Any inequality in the dispensation of these gifts is due not to God but to human injustice,” said Pelagius.
..a Trouble maker …
look how he makes trouble: as he reasons:
Does it seem just to you then:
--That one man should relax in the enjoyment of his wealth,
while another wastes away in poverty?
--That one man should be full to bursting-point with expensive and sumptuous banquets far in excess of nature’s habitual requirements, while another has not even enough cheap food to satisfy him?
-That one should possess a vast number of splendid houses adorned with costly marble statues in keeping with the instincts of his vanity and pride,
while another has not even a tiny hovel to call his own?
Pelagius taught that there are three types of people:
-Those who have enough,
-those who have not enough,
- and those who have more than enough.
“Let no man have more than he really needs.” He said,
“and everyone will have as much as they need,
since the few who are rich are the reason for the many who are poor.’
Another way this has been popularized:
SLIDE: “Live simply so that other may simply live.” - Ghandi
And of course the way Jesus addressed this issue...I was a stranger and you invited me in. I was hungry you fed me. i was naked you clothed me, I was in prison you visited me.
SLIDE: Back to Acts 4 passage
Our session meeting last Sunday began with a very touching devotional from Karen Fletcher.
She said she had randomly encountered during the week the passage from Acts 4.
As she read the passage to us, she began to cry…
She looked up at us and said, I don’t know why I’m crying right now…
But I think each of us knew why, as we were moved as well.
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold...and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
Perhaps we all struggle, as we should, with our own reality and what could be living as this biblical description of christian community...
At that same meeting, the session did vote to have us, as a congregation, take on the challenge to sponsor a room of the soon to be built Boys and Girls club.
It carries a $17000 price tag...Sticker shock anyone?
That is more than we had initially anticipated...but, softening the shock is that it can be paid over 5 years so it comes to a little less than $3000 per year.
And if we don’t pay it it won’t lower our credit scores!
But, how awesome for your elders to say, we can do this.
And to share with those in our community in this way.
Is the challenge of Pelagius to not be content with an irrationally distorted distribution of goods and resources too unreasonable?
Be careful, Pelagius who had this strong notion of a more egalitarian society than the one in which he lived, was excommunicated!
His excommunication had a lot to do with his notions about resource distribution,
and a lot to do with the third and final level we will go to on this look at Day 3..
Pelagius, by looking at day three, and the abundance of God’s good gifts from the earth for all...
developed the notion of a direct relationship between the gifts of nature and the gift of God’s grace.
What he called ”the good of nature and the good of grace.”
Both free gifts of God…
Pelagius put forth:
Just as no one is more deserving of the gifts of nature than anyone else, there is no one more deserving of the gift of grace than anyone else.
How does that sound?
Teaching no limits on God’s grace was in direct conflict with Augustine, who at the same time was teaching a doctrine of predestination that limited the grace of God, saying:
“Only some were chosen by God to receive the grace of salvation.
The rest of humanity was to be judged for its essentially sinful nature” (Newell, 42).
essentially sinful nature as opposed to Pelagius who said, essentially good nature. Quite a distinction.
Does the church continue to put limits on the goodness of God?
Does the church continue to address essentially sinful people?
Is grace a free gift for all?
Who is truly in and who is not?
Are the earth’s resources a free gift for all?
Who receives and who does not?
SLIDE: Generosity of God’s Giving
The Celtic tradition has consistently refused to place tight boundaries on the generosity of God’s giving, whether that be of grace or of nature.
that the very rising of the sun each morning is a gift of God,
given for the whole of creation,
no less than the gift of redemption,
given to restore creation to its essential well-being “ (42)
SLIDE: Day 3 Abundance of God
To claim both nature and grace are gifts of God given for all
is to offer a spirituality that engages deeply with the life of the world and that calls emphatically for a just distribution of the earth’s resources.” (Newell 1999, 45)
This is the spirituality I resonate with...
SLIDE: Eugenia Morse
I wonder how much as to do with this woman, my grandmother.
As a boy, I loved to walk through the woods with her and she with me,
as we walked I marveled at her ability to point to anything growing in the woods and identify it-
from common birds and trees, such as finches and dogwoods,
to the smallest of plants and bugs.
She would have me pause and listen when she heard certain calls.
She loved to stoop along the way of our walk and point out the smallest mushroom springing from the ground.
At her death, as was agreed with her husband my grandfather who preceded her in death,...the land upon which they had lived since 1942 was to be converted into a common greenspace, offered for all. They did not think the family should have sole possession of it...and the family agreed.
They called the gardens Woodlands.
A lifelong presbyterian, still, my grandmother
saw nature and grace as good gifts of God given for all.
This week, take the time if you choose, to walk barefoot, literally or metaphorically…
you may choose to meditate as suggested in the bulletin.
I pray we may rediscover the goodness of God’s gifts…
nature and grace.
Are these God’s free gifts for everyone?
On Earth Day, may we as a Christian community consider work which would honor and protect these gifts, with deep care…
and as wages are brought to our attention, let us consider what might be fair.
And may Color and Goodness burst forth from the earth and from our daily living.
An ancient Celtic prayer says, “Plenty of Food, plenty of drink, plenty of beds, and plenty of ale for the house and the table that are open to all.”