Creation: Rulers, Stewards, Co-carers

Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
 Genesis 1:28

The wow of creation

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory
.  Book of Common Prayer, Prayers of the People, Form IV

You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed
your trust; and we turned against one another.
   Eucharistic Prayer C

From our creation as humans, God called us into partnership in caring for every living creature.  The early language of ruler leaves some pondering that we humans consider ourselves better and more important than the rest of Creation.   Yet God is within all that is and lives, and we humans are made in the image and likeness of God.   More than “lording it over” the rest of creation we are meant to be stewards and partners in caring for all on planet Earth, all God has made.

As we note the changes in our weather patterns that have far-reaching effects on all life on the planet as we have known it, may we look deeper within and more broadly outside ourselves to see all the wonders of life on earth and the interconnection of all from fish to birds to fields and air to humans.  With respect for the dignity of all creation and for the life-abundance God began,  may we truly come to care for the earth and one another. 

We confess as in Eucharistic Prayer C that we betrayed God’s trust in us as rulers of Creation for we turned against God, creation and one another.  May we again turn toward God, Creation and neighbor that all may heal and live. 

Prayer for the Joy of Creation

O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works;
that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve
thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all
things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the Rhythms of the Day

at the dawn

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb.   Mark 16:2

During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of God walking in the Garden Genesis 3:23

Jesus had to go through Samaria…. It was about noonJohn 4:4-6

Tonight you will all fall away from me [Jesus].  Matthew 26:31

Our lives in God are located in the rhythms of the day from sunrise through the quiet of the deepest dark of night.    In our 24/7 world with most everything available most any time, we can easily lose the rhythms of the day.   Yet scripture recognizes the rhythms of the day.   

The women arriving at sunrise discovered Jesus’s Resurrection.  Note the time.  Wonderfully for the Navajo, early dawn is the most important part of the day when Father Sky and Mother Earth meet and together they produce all needed for life.  Sunrise is the perfect time to encounter new life in the Resurrection.  

“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,” goes the song, noting only the crazy or unobservant of local customs would make such a choice.   That Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well at noon is yet another sign of the turning the world’s values upside down in this story.   What a perfect time for a woman from a despised neighboring community to be the one to know Jesus is Messiah. 

Evening and night seem to be times of introspection.  In the evening God arrives in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit and recognize their own nakedness.  They seek to hide from God, but this is not possible.    It is night in Gethsemane when Jesus prays and wrestles with what is ahead, acknowledging at last:  not my will but Yours.

There is a reason Episcopalians pray a modified Benedictine Daily Office of morning, noonday, evening prayer and compline.   Perhaps the length of these prayers is hard to complete each day.   I invite each of us to try to keep a very simple rhythm of the hours by recognizing the four key times of day, stopping for a sentence prayer and a few breaths with God. 

Morning:  Praise God for All Creation

Noon:  Show me some new glimpse of Your Truth, God

Evening:  Search me out and know me (Psalm 139)

Night:   Prepare me to walk in your ways

With every blessing, 

Celebrate Creation – Come Into Right Relationship

As summer draws to a close, and we await autumn, let us take time the month of September to celebrate creation and to draw closer to God through the world around us.  The world created, God looked and noted it was very good, tov mod.  (Gen 1:31).  

Waters, plants, animals, humans and the heavens all interconnected were, are, and shall be very good.  

That said, we are not a stable, static system.   All creation lives, breathes, creates, and the action of each one affects the whole in small and large ways.  What we do, how we live matters greatly not only to those closest to us but to those very far away and to the non-human world.  We are meant to be resilient, not static.  We shall face difficulties and joys and choices.   When we tend toward integrity and beauty, those choices are in tune with God.  When we tend otherwise or strive to hold on to now and not change, the results lead to an earth out of sync and struggling.  

More and more we understand it is relationship and interconnection that makes the difference.   It is in knowing one another and the earth around us that we come to know and understand God.  Jesus tells us: I am the vine and you are the branches (John 15:5).   From this relationship we bear much fruit for God and one another.  

Quantum physics and other areas of science affirm the world around us is one of highly complex interrelationships so that it is not a matter of one gene does or what exists in a particular state at a particular moment, but how a “community” of genes works together that makes the difference.  In short, it is our relationship to one another and all creation which matters and to which we are called to pay attention in order to live.  

I shall focus on creation throughout the month.  I invite all of us in this week ahead to begin to take a look at the natural world we encounter each day.  Perhaps look at one space, whether on the Christ Church lawn and garden or one’s own, or a space one passes by frequently.  Pause and consider the beauty and integrity and how all the life in one space might work together.  

Bells to Awaken Us All to Our Full Story: 1619 Slaves Arrive

African Arrivals at Jamestown

This past Sunday, August 25, 2019, marked the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of people from Africa to be sold in slavery to colonists in the Tidewater area of Virginia.   These people arrived before the Mayflower and before the ancestors of the vast majority of Americans.   Forced migration from Africa for those to be sold as slaves is at the heart of our story as Americans.  Blessedly this year, that story is being told more widely than ever before. 

At 3 p.m. last Sunday the National Park Service asked that church and other bells ring out across the land.  Their website explained:

Bells are symbols of freedom. They are rung for joy, sorrow, alarm, and celebration…universal concepts in each of our lives. This symbolic gesture will enable Americans from all walks of life … to capture the spirit of healing and reconciliation while honoring the significance of 400 years of African American history and culture.

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry endorsed it; I discovered it too late that day and offer bells to ring in our hearts.  

I invite all of us

— to take time this year to reflect on the stories told by our ancestors about their arrival in the United States whether very recently or hundreds of years ago.   

— to hear more of the story of African Americans that stretches back 400 years

— to learn and recount the contributions to science, literature, music, and business African Americans brought and bring to the United States.

—  to consider that slaves literally built most of the Eastern and Southern parts of our country, including the White House, Georgetown and many other universities and Fr Jim’s and my own seminary:  Virginia Theological Seminary.

— to consider how quickly freed slaves rose in professions and politics sparking Jim Crow laws to slap them back down.

— to consider the GI Bill after World War II benefited whites greatly but most African Americans were shut out by housing restrictions and quotas or fully closed doors at our universities. 

Our daughter loves researching ancestry and discovered one of my mother’s relatives was there at the Jamestown Colony before 1619.  We do not know, but one of my husband’s relatives may have arrived on the boat from Africa at that colony, a year before other English Americans arrives at Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower.   How many ways our family ancestry may be interconnected.

Our stories and histories as Americans are intertwined and much more complex, rich, full, sad, joyful, and regrettably violent than we generally tell ourselves. 

May we have the courage to hear the stories, to speak the Truth in Love as St. Paul admonishes and to be open to recognizing our own full history as a nation, as Christians, and seek and serve Christ in all persons. 

With every blessing, 

Mother Elizabeth

Further reading for those interested:

St James: Lessons in the Way

Today we honor and celebrate St. James the Greater, St. James the Apostle, brother of John the Evangelist and one of the first called to the smaller circle of apostles around Jesus.  James is called the Greater to distinguish him from James, brother of Jesus and author of the Letter of James.

Often one considers a saint to somehow have been better than an ordinary human, but the twelve apostles often show us this is not the case.   James and his brother John argued which one would be first in Jesus’s kingdom, though both sought top spots.   In Matthew’s account their mother asks on their behalf; Mark has them asking Jesus directly themselves.   James and John loved Jesus and his Way, but they were hot-headed and wanted to call down fire on those who rejected Jesus.  For this, Jesus called them to task, reminding them any first of last was not his to give and, in any event, being first in the Way of Jesus is not easy.  

James was part of the circle of three close disciples invited to be witnesses of the Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the agony in the garden of Gethsemane.  James and John were among the first to follow Jesus, and this took conviction and courage.  Even as they argued and sought special honors for themselves, James and John gave up a calmer life as prosperous fishermen in order to be part of Jesus’s movement.   James then received the dubious distinction of being the first Apostle to die for Jesus.  Herod had him arrested and then beheaded (Acts 12:1-2).   

Stories of the early years of the Church recount disciples taking James’s body to

Compostela, Spain, which has been a shrine for pilgrims for centuries and remains very popular today.  The 500-mile pilgrim’s walk begins in France and continues across northern Spain.   It was popularized more recently in the film The Way and in the book God’s Hotel.  Pilgrims are known to have life-changing experiences on this route and to discover the truth within, forgiveness and an ability to grieve.

Among the Spaniards, James is one of the most popular saints. Walking the Camino is one of my life’s goals, and stay tuned should I decide we need a Christ Church pilgrimage – perhaps with some riding in a van as well as walking.

James had some very real human traits we would like to set aside, especially self-seeking and hotheadedness.   James remains a strong example for us as a person committed to Jesus and to learning and living the path to wholeness and truth. In the end he offered service over self-seeking and peace over hotheadedness.

Let us pray:

O gracious God, we remember before you today your

servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer

martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that

you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that

spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have

true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ

our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy

Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.