(Don’t) Show Me the Money: A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Creation

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There is often in a favorite movie a quote wherein one knows the movie just by hearing that quote. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” or “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” The Godfather “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The Wizard of Oz “May the Force be with you.” Star Wars “Show me the money.” Jerry McGuire “You can’t handle the truth.” A Few Good Men Christians are called upon to handle the truth as given to us in The Bible.

Movies can also be misquoted. In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader does not say, “Luke, I am your father.” He actually says, “No, I am your father.” In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gecko does not simply say, “Greed is good.” It is actually much longer, “The point is ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.”

People have favorite passages from The Bible, but The Bible can be misquoted. For example what St. Paul says in the epistle reading this morning in 1 Timothy is one of my favorite passages, but it is often misquoted. This reading is one of the great reality checks that we can have. It starts off with the observation, “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” We are told to be content with food and clothing and not to fall into the temptation of pursuing wealth, for simply the sake of pursuing wealth with the love of money as a golden idol in one’s heart as this course of action will result in temptation, ruin and destruction.

Here is the misquote. People often say that “Money is the root of all evil.” And that saying comes from the Bible. But, what is actually said. St. Paul said “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Pursuing riches can lead people to wander away from the faith. This can mean that wealth becomes a golden idol in people’s hearts. We should be acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

On the same token was St. Paul or Jesus opposed to engaging in enterprise making money or being lazy having everything handed to us? In this Season of Creation, the message is that we need to use the resources which have been given to us more effectively. We need, as Jesus tells us in this morning’s Gospel, to strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. St. Paul was not opposed to work and making a profit. His profession was as a tentmaker and he did support himself on his missionary journey. He would acquire material, and through his labor make the tent, and sell it for a profit so that he could live and travel to do the Lord’s work. Consider also what is written in Acts 14:14-15

A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.” So she persuaded us.

The important phrase here is that Lydia is a seller of purple dye, the color worn by higher parts of society. She had an exclusive clientele. She was a successful business person. She was wealthy. Faithful people like Paul and Lydia can be faithful to the Lord while plying their trade, but there are responsibilities, such as producing a good product, being fair to one’s workforce (that is to say respecting the dignity of every human being), charging a fair price, and now we would add, being environmentally conscious, either using less resources because resources are finite and/or getting more from the resources that we are using to maximize output while minimizing input. And, if we do that we will not follow a golden idol in our hearts loving money as opposed to loving God.

The reading from Deuteronomy tells us when we have our material possessions of food, houses, money, and producing more to exalt oneself, but remember the Lord who has given us the power to create this wealth and confirm the covenant of the Lord in your heart. Be fruitful and multiply. Own your possessions and don’t have your possessions own you. Plan but don’t worry excessively as the worrying won’t add to your life or what you are called to do.

In this Season of Creation, we are reminded that we are stewards of the earth. By respecting the environment and avoid putting golden idols in our hearts, we can live out our baptismal vows and be those faithful stewards of creation in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Alex Faseruk is Non-Stipendiary Associate Priest at St. Mark’s and Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Business at Memorial University.

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In the Beginning Was The Bang: A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Creation (Genesis 2: 4-7, 15-24)

Hubble Goes High Def to Revisit the Iconic 'Pillars of Creation'

We are surrounded by stories in our daily lives. We share personal stories everyday on social media. We read stories in the news. Marketers craft stories to get us to buy their wares. We live in the midst of grand stories like capitalism and democracy. The church and any religious communities are founded and sustained on stories.

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, our world, and the way things should be naturally change over time. Our understanding now is not what it was when we were children. Failure to come up with new stories or the ability to hear our stories in new ways can cause a crisis: an identity crisis, a crisis of faith, a crisis of how we live together in this world.

Something like this was happening to the Hebrew people, the Israelites. Even though they are God’s covenant people they find themselves in exile in a foreign land, cut off from their holy land, unable to worship in their holy temple in Jerusalem. Who are they now? Where is God? How do they make sense of this new reality?

It was in this period that they began telling new stories and re-telling old stories in new ways. They began compiling these stories in books. These books would become Torah, the teaching or the guidance.

One of the stories they told was of creation, and they told it in many ways – in poetry like in the psalms; in folk tales like in Job; and in Genesis, their story of origins. They were influenced by the stories around them. These stories told of violent, bloody beginnings, but their story and their God was different. They told a story of a God who brought all things into being with creativity and flare, like an artist. Another story, which we read today, told of a God who was close to the creation, intimate even. This story told of a God who had dirty hands from creating, like a gardener. This God walked and talked with the creation. This story gave humans a special place in this garden creation – to care and look after it. Humans bear the breath of God, the spirit. The human comes from the creation and is set apart to care for the creation.

Their story becomes our story, but over time this story takes on new meaning. We retell the story with us at the center. We forget our place in the garden, even forgetting that the creation is a garden. Instead of taking care we take advantage. The garden is just a resource, something for us to use. We see ourselves as separate from creation, above it even. We see creation as fixed and static. This creation becomes something evil, corrupted, something to escape.

Pretty soon we find ourselves in a crisis, in sick world, a broken polluted garden. The stories that we told ourselves seem out of touch, they don’t make sense anymore. We know that there is more to creation, more to us. We need a new story. We need to reimagine the story we have been telling ourselves.

How do we retell our story of origin?

We know more about our world then our ancestors did. Science has taught us a lot. Science is good with the how of creation and we need to include that in our story. But there is still the why of our story: why are we here? Why are things the way they are?

How do we bring those two stories – science and theology – together? It might go something like this …

In the beginning there was a bang, an explosion. This holy explosion sets in motion an ever expanding creation called life. Matter forms into stars, stars form into galaxies, more exploding stars give birth to planets like earth and their moons. And the material from those stars, celestial DNA, come together in the life forms that we know here on earth.

Over billions of years this creation gets more and more complex, more and more intricate. Until finally we emerge from creation, creation itself now conscious of its existence. The remnants of long dead stars brought to life once again. We are a mix of matter, light and spirit. We are able to reason, to create, to love.

We Christians also believe that God, the energy, the force, the presence behind all of this, moves into this creation – lives in it as a human being, like a seed planted in a garden, giving life to produce life. It’s the story of creation spilling over into recreation.

We tell this story over and over again. In fact, we act out this story in the Eucharist and in baptism – the seed of new creation planted in us, taking root and bearing fruit. Nourished at the table and through water and light, we remind ourselves of who we are, where we came from, who we belong to.

We are connected to the divine.

We are connected to each other, every one of us in this room and outside of it.

We are connected to creation. In fact, we are creation.

That leaves us with important questions that we have to struggle with:

What is our responsibility to God and each other? And in this season of creation we narrow our focus on the question, What is our responsibility to creation?

What is our responsibility as human beings and as Christians to this planet, our island home? Are we only concerned with some other place to some other time? Do we abdicate our responsibility onto God and shrug our shoulders and say it’s all in God’s hands? Or as God entrusted us with the care of this world, inviting us into the cosmically divine plan of healing, salvation and renewal?

May we struggle with these questions as we journey through the season of creation. May we do this in the name of God who is the creator, redeemer and sustainer of the universe. +

Rev. Robert Cooke is the Rector of St. Mark’s.

The above picture from NASA is called the Pillars of Creation. It is a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of interstellar gas some 6,500–7,000 light years from Earth. They are so named because the gas and dust are in the process of creating new stars, while also being eroded by the light from nearby stars that have recently formed.

 

Creation – A Sublime Gift and Legacy

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This year St. Mark’s will be joining with other parts of the Church in observing the Season of Creation, which runs from the first Sunday in September through the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4).  This is to emphasize Creation Care as an integral aspect of the Christian faith; indeed, it’s part of our baptismal covenant.  Therefore, for the next five Sundays, we will step aside from the regular Sunday lectionary and use readings appropriate to the Season of Creation. This post on creation care from Father Mark was published in the September issue of Anglican Life. 

As Anglicans, it’s our practice to renew our baptismal covenant on a regular basis. In this covenant we not only profess what we believe about God, we also make specific promises about how we’re going to live out what we believe. With this in mind, I’d like to take a closer look at how we live out one of those baptismal promises in particular.

Twenty-eight years ago the Anglican Communion adopted the fifth of the ‘Five Marks of Mission’ – to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. In 2013, the Anglican Church of Canada incorporated this mark in our baptismal covenant by adding a ninth question of inquiry: Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth? Consequently, for the past five years, every time we’ve renewed our baptismal covenant we’ve acknowledged care for creation as an integral aspect of the Christian faith.

It should be noted that the Anglican Communion is not alone in seeing creation care as a matter of faith. In his 2015 encyclical, Laudito Si’ – On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis lovingly refers to our planet as “our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us”. He then goes on to lament that our…

…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.

On the World Day of Prayer for Creation in 2017, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew jointly stated that the “earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility” and that “[o]ur human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.” They go on to point out that the reality of human history, “reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscure our calling as God’s co-operators.” In other words, care for creation is an integral part of our calling as Christians. Indeed, neglecting to do so is to sin against our Creator, be it “by what we have done” or “by what we have left undone.”

So, just how intentional are we in honouring the last of our baptismal promises? Do we strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation? Do we strive to respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth? I would point out that “to strive” is to devote serious effort, indeed to struggle, to achieve or attain something. It is not a passive activity. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us know that we need to do better – much better – if we’re going to faithfully live out our baptismal promise to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. In future columns I’ll offer some thoughts on how we might go about that.

Father Mark Nichols is the Associate Priest at St. Mark’s.