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Bugs on Windscreens

Sermon given at St Margaret's Rottingdean

Can you remember when you were young and you went for a drive on a summers day or especially in the evening …..when you got to the petrol station you had to do two things….first fill up the car with petrol  - second you had to wash the windscreen as there would be so many poor squashed bugs on there. 

When was the last time you needed to do this? We may not miss the bugs and this task but I promise you the birds that lived on them do.

In the last 50 years we have lost over 30% of our song birds  - that's 30 million house sparrows, 20 million starlings, four million skylarks, two million blackbirds and one million chaffinches.

I feel at times overwhelmed by what is going on and what is probably going to happen…...sometimes I just want everything to be ok...I just want to live my life as if it doesn't have consequences…..sometimes I keep my eyes shut because I’m tired of trying to make a  difference against a tidal wave of energy, attitudes and actions at a global level that are saying the opposite.

How do you feel when you think about  climate change, care of creation - perhaps those protestors that are supergluing themselves to things?

My love for creation has been running through my entire life and worked for many years in nature conservation but overtime…..I became weary and lacked energy...I became been worn down by the lack of urgency in the world.  I carried on doing somethings but I really had stopped fully doing my bit. Fulfilling that part of my vocation.

As soon as I started my training as a priest however I experienced a massive resurgence of vocational calling and I am pleased it has stayed with me. 

One of the joys of my ministerial training was the revelation of the most profound and transformative theology of creation held in the bible. Little talked about for centuries but once you come to know it this amazing teaching sings out with power from start to finish. It's a radical call for healing and justice and I believe it is a fundamental part of the Good News. 

Let’s just touch on a few parts….and I'm grateful to the Rev Margaret Bullitt  - Jonas for her writing on this.

As Christians I believe for too long we have thought that humanity had ‘dominion’ over creation, free to lord it over the world as we thought best, with precious little concern for  the consequences. 

Looking at scripture we can see that at the start of Genesis we are told God loved the world into being, pronounced it “very good” (Gen. 1:31), and entrusted it to our care. We are given dominion to steward the land as God wants us to. 

So the first question is - what might that look like?  Well Jesus came to us to show what God is like. 

So looking at the Gospels it’s clear the answer to this question is that God’s stewardship looks like love, service, care and sacrifice. 

The second question  - is that how we are caring for the earth?

All the way through the Old Testament we are told the earth does not belong to us, but to God (Ps. 24:1). We are reminded time and time again by Moses and through the law that we are here to serve the Lord of life, care for his land and those in need …not ourselves. Faith - care for creation and care for those in need go hand in hand. 

In Luke’s Gospel Chapter 4 Jesus states in what is often referred to as his ‘magna carta’ that he is fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy…. He is here to bring good news to the poor…breaking chains of bondage, giving sight to the blind…. And to ‘proclaim the year of the Lord's favour’….which is….to provide rest and healing for the land. 

Jesus therefore repeats the OT teaching that faith - care for creation and care for those in need go hand in hand. All are central to our faith. 

There’s more….the New Testament teaches us that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ affected and redeemed not only human beings but also the whole of Creation. 

In John’s Gospel we are told that Christ is the Word through whom all things were made. And in Colossians we are told that ‘he is before all things, and in him all things hold together …..For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross’.

These texts and many others invite us to really get to grips with the Gospel...its not all about me...or us…...the texts are saying that all of creation participates in the saving grace of Jesus. 

Our shared work to create a more just and habitable world - and to live more gently on Earth - is how we share in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls the “supreme work” of Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to God, to one another, and to God’s whole Creation.

Jesus’s second great commandment was to love our neighbours. But are we doing this? 

The rising seas, droughts, and extreme storms created and made worse by climate change are already harming our neighbours, especially those that already have the least.

Our “neighbours” I believe include our future generations - our children and grandchildren, the future of humanity who are depending on us to leave them a habitable world.

Going back to the Old Testament after the flood God forged an “everlasting covenant” not only with human beings but also with “every living creature” (Gen. 9:8-17) and they, too as St Francis reminded us, are our “neighbours” he called them our brothers and sisters... and said we are called to care for, love and protect them as well. 

Pope Francis picks up this idea in his excellent letter on the subject and he says: “St Francis reminds us that our common home is like a sister…this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.’ 

I hope these reflections have been helpful in some way.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all but I believe little things, done together, can lead to significant change. 

At St Wulfran’s Working towards becoming an EcoChurch is about doing something in the place we all love, to ensure our small patch of beauty and retreat remains beautiful and life-enhancing for our community -  making changes so that our friends and families and neighbours can live and grow up in a healthy environment with clean air to breathe, water to drink and sustainable food supplies.

It’s also about a human response to the rest of creation – our fellow humans, for sure, but also the diversity of species of plants and animals that never cease to cause us to wonder at creation and worship the Creator. 

I encourage you to explore becoming an Eco Church for these reasons. 

In a few minutes, we will be invited to pray the most familiar Christian prayer of all – when Jesus asks us to pray that God’s will ‘be done on earth as it is in heaven’. Canon Simon Butler reminds us that this is a call to prayer, and a call to worshipful action. It is a call to envisage the world to come – God’s kingdom rule beginning to take place here through Christ -  not just in our churches, not just in our human societies, but on earth – and throughout the creation.


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