Homily for April 22,2018 Earth Day and The Good Shepherd – Deacon Anne Anchor
May these words and thoughts that I share as a deacon of your church be true to your word gracious God
From 1 John we hear…. 3:18 ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’
And from the writer of the gospel of John we hear …10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.’
Linking these readings with an acknowledgement of Earth Day and the call to do what is right as stewards of God’s creation for me is quite easy to see. I acknowledge that there are many issues on my mind this morning as I recognize Earth Day. What I am thinking about is how simple it should be to do what God wants of us in taking care of all we have received. Then I realize that once we incorporate our wants of our way of life, our want for more becomes a driving force and our part in caring for God’s creation can become out of balance. As ones that look to Jesus as an example of how we are to live our lives in the fulfillment of the ‘dream of God’ we are to look to him as one who made a difference in the world.
Our most recent reading in EfM (Education for Ministry) has been a book by Verna Dozier titled ‘The Dream of God: A Call to Return’ In this book Dozier says
‘I define ministry as service in response to the dream of God, the restoration of the good creation that God brought into being at the beginning’ she further says…‘the dream of God is that all creation will live together in peace and harmony and fulfillment. All parts of creation. And the dream of God is that the good creation that God created … that it was good … be restored.’
I see the writer of John’s gospel offering the good shepherd as the one who fulfills the dream of God, who makes a difference in the world. I see the hired hand as the one who, by his actions, has rejected the dream of God. Another way of looking at this is to understand the word vocation. Vocation has its roots in the word vocatio, which means call. We are called by God to live a life as ‘Little children, who love; not in word or speech but in truth and action.’ Our day-to-day ministry should be our vocation, and we should do this as the Good Shepherd not as the hired hand. The hired hand is working in a profession and cares for what benefits are received by this work, caring not about those whom he serves.
On this Earth Day our responsibility to creation challenges our vocation as we also hear that we are to care for the least of these. When I was much younger I began to develop an understanding of my responsibility to creation. I still remember one day when I was about 8 years old walking down the sidewalk to the house of my friend. I remember that as I walked I saw many ants going about their daily tasks. Scurrying to and fro, always busy. As I sang to myself the song I had learned at Artaban … the ants go marching one by one … I came to realize that there was more to these tiny creatures than just being annoying insects that needed to be stomped on. I began to see them as part of the whole cycle of creation. In my mind, as a little child, I thought…. why should we, who are bigger than the ants take advantage of our size and stomp on them. Then a picture began to shape in my mind of a big foot coming down from the skies and stomping on me. From then on I became uncomfortable with killing any creature of God. Although I must admit in adulthood as the spring ants enter our house or bite me when I am in the garden that I am not quite so generous in my love for all of God’s creation. I have now started a practise based on First Nations spirituality of giving thanks for the gift of life to a plant or insect that I have pulled up or killed.
I think my story and the dilemma it creates is a micro-story of the dilemma we hold in today’s world with our attitude to the earth. Daily we hear more about areas of the world that are being bombed this is not only killing people but it is putting many holes in the ground, and I wonder for how long will this earth stay together. I wonder, as I hear stories of finds of resources that will be extracted from the earth, how much further this will erode away the foundation of the earth. I wonder what the effects of modernization on many parts of the environment from pollution to harvesting limited resources, will be. I wonder as I hear the stories of the islands of plastic floating in our oceans, for how much longer this can go on.
These thoughts cause me to wonder about what is happening right now down the Inlet from us. We hear of the potential of larger freighters coming into this limited space. The possibility of environmental damage, not only from oil spillage but also from the presence of foreign tankers in our waters which carry different sea life than is native to this coast that could eventually put our delicate Inlet eco-marine system out of balance. Trying to decide where I stand on this issue is a real struggle for me and possibly for many of you.
My husband asked me recently where I stood on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. This is what I said to him …
“I am conflicted and torn between the two sides. I really believe that there is much more involved than we will ever understand about the effects of shipping any type of resource around the world. But and this to me is a big but, until I, as a consumer of these products, in particular petroleum products, change my life style and stop using these products in my life how can I stand up and protest. I believe I need to do more than walk with our First Nations brothers and sisters, I need to take the action of reducing my consumption of any products that are shipped.
I do not believe that what is happening with the Kinder Morgan pipeline is beneficial for creation. I believe it is a disaster waiting to happen. But I must ask myself what changes I am willing to make…”
As I watched the news report of The Rev. Emilie Smith of St. Barnabas New Westminster being taken off the property by the RCMP she said these words…. ‘I know it is complicated, I know people need to work, I know people need to drive to get around. It’s time for all of us to do it in a different way’
So I wonder am I prepared to lead my life in a different for the better of the whole, am I prepared to change my life, let alone lay down my life for God’s dream or am I a hired hand who abandons the sheep to the wolf.
I have much more hope in our youngest generation than I have had in the past. I see the programs they are incorporating into the school system. I see the children being taught in such a way that they may make the difference that is a needed step towards healing an ailing planet.
In the passage from the writer of John’s gospel we see Jesus as the one who sets the example of how we are to care about creation and how we are to be a people to fulfill the dream of God.
This is our challenge today. In a world where so much seems out of control and imbalanced, we need to look to ourselves and our actions that impact all of creation and see how we can be better stewards of God’s good creation.
I wonder, will this Earth Day will be a time when we examine our contributions to these many issues and ask ourselves what part we can play ‘in truth and action.’ The good shepherd does more, the good shepherd takes words and turns them into action. I do wonder, will I ever be able to be the good shepherd or will I spend the rest of my life a hired hand?
My friends, on this Earth Day and on every day to come may we be instruments of the dream of God heeding the words of the writer of First John…. 3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
May 09, 2018
April 03, 2018