theunfamiliarname

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.

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