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Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Homily for Evensong, Ordinary Sunday 5C

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Texts:  Genesis 1:1-2:3;  Ps. 147:1-6;  Matthew 6:25-34

Relatively late in life, I’ve discovered camping.
Actually, more like recovered:
I’ve got over the childhood trauma of the “great flood”:
when after days of rain, suddenly a small river ran through our tent;
the smell of canvas, constantly wet, the struggling with guy-ropes
and a big box-like edifice that took hours, it seemed to young impatience, to put up.
All those remembrances, real and manufactured,
have been redeemed by this summer’s nights under the stars,
on lakesides and riverbanks, sometimes under siege from sandflies,
but suddenly and stunningly aware of the wonder of the landscape,
the sounds and smells and sunlight that surround us.

Under the soft glow of galactic nebulae, under the bright light of a full moon,
it is difficult not to be awed, astounded at the beauty of creation.
Our readings this evening are woven around this beauty.
The very first words of Scripture are of God being
and God creating, calling forth from nothingness all that is.

One of the books I took camping with me was a rejoinder
to the common misapprehension that science and God are mutually exclusive.
Mathematician John Lennox’s book God’s Undertaker,
drawing on scientists and philosophers of substance,
explores both the staggeringly improbable maths behind random Universal
anything since the beginning of time, let alone life on earth,
and that biggest of big questions: “why and whence is anything?”
Where does the cause and energy
that underpins the existence of the Universe come from?
A certain current unexamined and slightly smug atheism
waves away these fundamental questions.
A rather more militant atheism, from the likes of Professor Richard Dawkins
seeks to wage war on religion,
not seeming to realise that to say “no God” is itself a profoundly religious statement:
fundamentalists can be found in every quarter.

But back to Genesis,
and the question of what we do with this foundational text,
the account of Creation and human origins.

I heard a radio interview recently
with a scientist who – at least at the outset – professed no faith.
Dr Andrew Parker investigated dispassionately the detail and order
of the various stages of being and life described in Genesis,
and was startled at the confluence of the writings of a pre-scientific nomadic people
and modern understandings of the development of life on earth.

But the reality is, Genesis is not a scientific treatise.
First and foremost
Genesis is an account of dependence, relationship and interconnection.
It is, in the anthropological sense, myth:
a narrative woven around the reality, the experience and truth of a people
and that of their encounter with God.
We need not be Creationists to treasure and find meaning in this telling.

The age of the earth or the evolution of our kind –
that we might be the product of 13 billion years of intention
rather than six and a half thousand –
should hardly make us approach the created world with less awe.
And it certainly does nothing to undermine the Church’s firm conviction
that God is, and that God’s Word called forth all that is,
and that God’s will, God’s Spirit, sustains the same.

T.S. Eliot in his Song of the Women reminds us:
… all things exist only as seen by thee,
only as known by thee, all things exist
Only in thy light,
and thy glory is declared even in that which denies thee;
the darkness declares the glory of light.
Those who deny thee could not deny, if thou didst not exist;
and their denial is never complete, for if it were so, they would not exist.
They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living…
Therefore we, whom thou hast made to be conscious of thee,
must consciously praise thee, in thought and in word and in deed.

We live in an age of ecological consciousness.
We are, God willing, awaking once more to the need to be creation-conscious,
to recognise our part and impact on the earth.
Our dependence on it, our need to care for it.
This interdependence is woven throughout the Genesis story.
A truth for us to recover.

Yet Jesus tonight reminds us not to be so caught up in concern,
so awash with angst and worry, that we miss the daily wonder of our existence.
God does not create and walk away.
God does not wind up some universal watch and step aside.
God calls humanity, us, to be co-creative stewards.
God would have us use our gifts to tend the garden of God’s good earth,
but would in that have us know how blessed are we,
co-workers in the delight of God the Creator.
How we might trust God’s enduring presence with us,
rather than worry ourselves into impotence and fear.
We need to feel, in essence, the imprint Genesis stamps upon us,
made, it says, “in the image of God”.

Julian of Norwich, writing in the 13th Century, dreamed words of hope
we, profoundly aware of the precariousness of ecology and existence, might ponder:
And [God] showed me more, a little thing, the size of a hazelnut,
on the palm of my hand, round like a ball.
I looked at it thoughtfully and wondered, ‘What is this?’
And the answer came, ‘It is all that is made.’
I marvelled that it continued to exist and did not suddenly disintegrate;
it was so small.
And again my mind supplied the answer,
‘It exists, both now and forever, because God loves it.’

We live in an age where science sees, minutely,
glimpses some of the very stuff of Creation,
without always inferring in this awe and wonder the reality of a Creator;
without recognising a God, let alone a God who chooses to be born
and to become fully present in the Universe:
You might remember that St John’s great unfolding of the Incarnation –
“In the beginning was the Word”,
a very deliberate commentary on the first verses of Genesis –
talks in the Greek about God in Christ Jesus literally tenting, camping among us.
Helping us rediscover something joyous, awesome, redemptive
and fundamental to our identity as imaging Godself.
Calling us to take courage and hope from that,
in our being in God’s world, this Creation God declares “good”,
which God has not given up on, whatever prophets of doom might say.
God wills that it exists, and God loves it.
That doesn’t let us off the hook, but shapes our way of being in the world.
We are invited tonight to find that truth again,
that we are children of the Living God,
called to know our Creator whose likeness we bear,
and to share in the mystery of the creative.
Knowing that God remains with us in Creation,
not keeping us from the consequence of our actions, ecological or otherwise,
but inviting us into redemptive relationship.

I ask you to pray with me:
We give you thanks, most gracious God,
for the beauty of earth and sky and sea;
for the richness of mountains, plains and rivers;
for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers.
We praise you for these good gifts,
and pray that we may hold them well as your stewards.
Grant that we may continue to grow
in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation,
to the honour and glory of your name, now and for ever.  Amen.

A Hymn for the Summer

In Hymns on February 4, 2010 at 12:45 am

Tune: Hawea Rising

Creation sings a canticle of praise;
With dawn erupts a symphony to greet the sun’s first rays;
And creatures both celestial and here on God’s good earth
Re-sound the glory of the Word that called us into birth.

Cicadas set the gentle trees abuzz,
Who whisper in the wind of God who is and all God does;
While birds awake the world with songs of beauty, and proclaim
Faint echoes in their music of the Name behind all names.

The water flashes silver in delight,
A bow of colour arcs from heav’n to earth, just out of sight.
The cattle on the hillside bellow, trumpeting the King,
And I in humble fashion join this psalm of every thing.

Homily for Candlemas 2005

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 12:44 am

Preached at All Saints’, Dunedin

This morning we commemorate Candlemas,
the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

The hopes and dreams of the old,
the prophetic figures of Simeon and Anna,
are met in the Christchild,
as his parents come to do what was customary under the Torah, the Law.
What any Jewish family might do.

Mary and Joseph come to offer the least gift under the Law,
meaning they were of humble means…
a couple of birds.

Today, too, we bless candles.
The “light to lighten the gentiles” is greeted in the Temple,
and we light candles to acknowledge that light.

The light of the Epiphany star,
the light that shines on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The act we commemorate today,
the offering of a sacrifice was called, under Jewish Law,
a Holocaust.

It can hardly have escaped your attention that this week .
marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation, the discovery,
of the Nazi deathcamp at Auschwitz in Poland.

A light cast by memory and the media
onto one if not the
most extraordinarily dark passages in human history.
Today let us hear the haunting words that Simeon also speaks to Mary,
“a sword will pierce your own soul too”,
as we remember the darkness that enveloped a Jewish mother and her son
on the hill of Calvary.

As people of the resurrection,
people called to bear light into dark places,
let us remember and pray,
60 years after Auschwitz, for the living and the dead.

And as we ask in disbelief, “where was God at Auschwitz?”
The reality and the metaphor of God incarnate
tells us God was in the gas chambers,
in the hellish dormitories,
in the hungry fields.
God was suffering with God’s children,
suffering beyond belief.

Paul writes,
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood,
Christ himself likewise shared the same things, …

only …because he himself was tested by what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.

To hold light in dark places is our calling.
Let the burning of this candle
stand as a remembrance for those who have died,
a commitment to justice for the present
and a hope for the future
as a child today is presented in the temple
and the old greet that which is still becoming.
The music you are hearing was written by a Polish composer,
a setting of a prayer by a young Polish woman
inscribed on the wall of a Gestapo cell.

A prayer offered through Mary,
whose own suffering at the foot of the cross
this woman understands.

The Jewish prayer of the Dead, the Kaddish

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which God has created according to God’s will.
May God establish God’s kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.

May God’s great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honoured,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One,
blessed be God, beyond all the blessings and hymns,
praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

God who creates peace in God’s celestial heights,
may God create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.
Amen.