CDSP Creation Eucharist
April 30, 2012
Inscription of the Monument of the Church of the East at Xian Part 2 verses 1-8
Song of Creation EOW I, II, III & Dox
Matthew 13: 1-8, 18-23 (Parable of the sower + explanation passage)
We all know this parable of the sower. Sometimes, we use it to talk about the hard work of nurturing formation in our gardens of faith or of struggling to weed out the hateful and harmful heresies in our church.
We might talk about the need to nurture the fertile soil of hearts and minds so that whatever messages and ideas are planted are able to flourish,
or even, we could mean a literal placement of shade on our physical properties to provide a needed respite for the day laborers who gather in our parking lots on Monday morning.
We talk about the need to deepen our hearts so that God’s word may take root. We use this parable of Jesus, this teaching about teaching and about message, to great effect in the church, I believe. And we have a popular understanding of seeds as ideas that I suspect comes more from this parable than from any agrarian nostalgia.
But anyone who has done actual gardening –and again anyone who has done ministry for any length of time- we know that at some level, we have no control over the seeds. We can do what we can.
We can intentionally plant ideas and seed our communities with kernels of the Good News of God’s great love for all creation. We can put our carrot and bean and tomato seeds in the meet and right places. We can clear our gardens –and communities- of the rocks, boulders and obstacles that bar growth, both in soil and in God.
But the growth is not ours. It is Gods. And we need not fear.
Our passage from the Church of the East this morning tells us that God gave to the First People “the original nature of goodness and appointed them as the guardians of all creation.” The guardians of ALL creation.
We plant. We tend. We water. We weed and harvest. But regardless of our metaphor, or our literal application, the hope, the goal of all this seed talk, of all this work, is that fruit is born of these seeds, that good works or transformed lives or a renewal of relationship is the outcome.
And it is this tending, this nurturing, this gardening that is the work we are called to do.
God provides us with all we need. With sun and energy and love and light that infuse growth, evolution and transformation. God provides us with sacred waters that feed our souls and literally sprout our seeds.
I grew up on the Mississippi River, in Memphis. For those of us who are attuned to Memphis, we can stand anywhere in the city and point to the river. My husband notes out how very odd this is, because the Mighty Mississippi is not a visible landmark from anywhere but the tallest buildings downtown.
I can still now, even after not living there for ten years, close my eyes anywhere while in Memphis and accurately point to the Mississippi River. It is a huge presence, both in the life of the city and region and in my own life.
After my father passed away, sitting on the banks of this mighty river was one of the few places I could find peace. As the sun set over eastern Arkansas, and the millions of gallons of water flowed by me, I felt as if the Mississippi could wash away my pain and grief, as if I could add my heartache to the sufferings of so many others, over time and along its path. As if everything could live where the river goes.
Tertullian wrote that the earth’s waters were first made holy when the Spirit of God rested upon them, a holy thing carried upon a holy thing.
And water is sacred throughout scripture, from this Ruach moving over the primordial waters through to the river of the water of life that runs through the Book of Revelation. And of course, for thousands of years, the portion of the planet from which our Holy Scriptures come has long been an arid climate. And so water is even more precious in a biblical context, and when it is shown in great abundance, that carries its own messages. Water was and is now essential to all growth, to all life.
And so the image from Ezekiel of abundant water flowing from the Temple, pouring from the Temple gates and joining in a river so deep and wide it cannot be crossed is a sacred image. This river refreshes and restores all waters it runs through on its way to the sea and fish are plentiful. This river feeds banks of fruit trees, trees with fruit and leaves renown for their healing properties. This holy water consecrates.
Our Eucharistic prayer that we will pray this morning, crafted especially for this Creation Eucharist, will remind us again of how water flows throughout our holy stories. And how the Incarnate Christ is known to us in and through Creation.
We human beings are made up mostly of water and water covers most of our planet. And so for those who call rivers the arteries of the body of the world, the health of our rivers -and of our oceans- is crucial.
But for those of us who are people of faith, who are seeking to know and to deepen our relationship with Creation with a faith-based lens, we know that water is so much more than a bellwether of our thriving or a means of commerce and transport. It is even more than an essential element for Christian Baptism.
Water is a symbol of Spirit, of life-force, and of possibility. In our climate here, on the western edge of a huge and abundant land mass, we stand at the edge of massive water. Here in the Bay Area, we have it all. Water from springs, water from mountain run off and ice melt, water from the oceans and bays and inlets, water from precipitation and large reservoirs. But even here, there is great tending work for us to be doing.
I am no climatologist but I believe in the five micro-climates of the Bay Area. I’ve seen charts and maps but I have also experienced some effects of these highly differentiated micro-climates. In one day, I’ll wear no sleeves in the Berkeley sun, throw on my poncho in Oakland rain and button up to lean into cold wet wind in SF. But these micro-climates co-exist in a terrible balance. And the effects of climate change can already be seen, felt and charted in this delicate region of ours. There is work to be done.
CDSP’s Community Council and Greening Council began some of this guardian and service, this nurturing and tending work this spring through a relationship with Five Creeks of Berkeley, a local volunteer organization dedicated to restoring the primary water-ways of the East Bay. We got dirty and stomped around in the water and restored native plants, we had fun and we served and we witnessed. We were a small group but the seed was planted, right? We as a community, we as a church and all of us as individuals must nurture this sacramental relationship with water.
Indeed, I firmly believe that a transformation of our understanding of water will become a foundational part of our seed work, of our call to tend and nurture.
Of our living into a calling as the guardians and stewards of Creation and to plant this awareness itself.
I read an article in the NY Times yesterday about surprising changes happening in abandoned rural grain silos. Silos, which have been empty for years, are becoming nurseries for trees. In a part of the country too wind swept to be able to sustain forest growth, trees are growing in these silos. Seeds, which naturally travel through the air in search of fertile ground, find shelter in the silos. The high walls of the silos protect the trees. And water, as it tends to do, winds its way to the trees’ roots, feeding, refreshing, sustaining.
Theologian Nancy Blakley writes that “The power of the resurrection is the power to plant seeds of transformation.”
And so in this time of plentiful paved parking lots and suburban deforestation, trees are also growing in ways and in places they’ve never before thrived.
Those seeds are finding fertile soil in the strangest of places.
Because that is the nature of God, of the Divine, to seek out abundant life.
And so this is the invitation of God: Come and see that it is good. Drink deeply and do not thirst.