Season of Creation, Year B Looking Back

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September, 2018 was dominated by 5 Sundays in the Season of Creation, Year B

The Season began September 1 and continued through St. Francis’ saint day, Oct. 4

This is a look back on some of the takeaways:

1. The Season of Creation as with last year focuses on God the Creator. God Creates the world God’s sustains the earth, promotes renewal for the entire creation, gives us the ability to take action where needed in the world.

2. The final creation was not at the beginning of Genesis and left as it was. The world is in constant creation. As the sermon said in Week 4, “creation is also on a journey, constantly in a process of being made new.” Week 1 illustrated the premise that God is always working toward a new creation right here, on this earth. This new creation is marked by peace and by joy.  We recognized a new baby on Week 4 – Everett Lincoln James Huffman, born Sept 12th to Felicia and Andrew Huffman which we honored by more new life on the altar – a flower arrangement

3. As the Pope has said many times, “We are the guardians of Creation” and “everything is connected.” We must be the stewards of our earth and be on guard for its exploitation. We find a variety of emotions – fear, weariness, and discouragement over the magnitude of the work to do which hard to uproot. And yet, God does not grow weary, and when we wait on God, God renews our strength. As Isaiah speaks to a people in exile, God will not abandon them. However as the week 5 sermon stated ““Creation, in all its magnificence and in its enrapturing beauty and unfathomable power, is our constant reminder that God is the one who never grows faint or weary.

Dr. William P. Brown of Columbia Theological seminary wrote the following about creation care. “The fundamental mandate for creation care comes from Genesis 2:15, where God places Adam in the garden to “till it and keep it…” Human “dominion” as intended in Genesis is best practiced in care for creation, in stewardship, which according to Genesis Noah fulfills best by implementing God’s first endangered species act.”

4. When we choose to live in God’s new creation, we grow, and contribute to the good of the world around us, loving one another. We need to deal with each other. From Week 1, James provides a brief guide to healthy communication – listen well, speak carefully, and share you anger in ways that join not separate. “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

5. The Season of creation is about images and symbols to depict creation and our roles through scripture, sermon and song.

Week 1’s sermon pictured us as the soil in Mark’s Sower. When we let God work in our lives, we get to be like fruit trees, and produce fruit, the fruit of good works. “We, the listeners, are the soil. And so depending on the sort of soil we have chosen to become, that seed, God’s Word, may well die before it ever germinates in us, or it may struggle along, and then die from neglect. Or some stronger plant may choke out the new growth. God is waiting for permission to be our full time gardener, to help us tend our gardens, so that we can be doers of the word and not hearers only, and so that our gardens can become welcoming places of abundance and plenty, joy and peace.

Week 2 sermon’s subject was visible miracles through transformations. The story of the transformation of water into wine, Jesus first miracle at Cana. In Week 2 readings  water is part of transformation of life (Isaiah), the promise of salvation and everlasting life. In Isaiah it becomes the metaphor for salvation and healing where eyes will be opened, the lame shall walk

It can be associated with cleansing or generosity (as in the Gospel). The Gospel foreshadows when on the third day Jesus shall be resurrected. In this case it is a wedding at Cana where Jesus performs his first miracle changing water into wine.

The replacement of water to wine symbolizes Jesus’ transformation of the old order of ritual purification and of the Torah, which water symbolized, into the new order of purification through the cross, through the blood (1 John 1:7) and through new teaching.

The sermon focused on miracles. The sermon considered  the subject of miracles , particularly those around us waiting to be discovered – the penicillin mold which is critical in medicine and the cocklebur’s hooks which led to the discovery of Velcro. In all of these it takes actions of us – we have to be participants

“Miracles aren’t just stories that are tucked into the pages of scripture—they are happening all around us, all the time. And the more we are aware of this fact, the more God can pull us in as willing and joyful participants in God’s ongoing miracle working on this earth.”

It considered people like Mary from the Wedding Feast in Cana who were ready to act. “Rachel Carson is a good example of a modern-day Mary. “Back in the 1960’s, Carson wrote a book, Silent Spring, in which she documented how destructive the indiscriminate use of synthetic pesticides was on the environment. Until her book came out, the American public had been largely unaware of the wide scale destruction taking place around them, in which many people unwittingly participated.”

Week 3 was about waiting on the Lord and used the image of the seed and us as God’s precious crop. And it was the beginning of the pledge campaign “So here are some helpful adjectives to describe who we are to be as we wait for the coming of the Lord. Thankful. Patient. Strong of heart. Persistent. Faithful.

“These adjectives also apply to us as a church. For the next few weeks we are giving some attention to stewardship—as we ask ourselves how we want to use our time, our talents and our money for the work of the church in the world, specifically through this church, St Peter’s.

“We must remember that God, who will judge us in the end, is unfailingly compassionate and merciful.

“We must remember that God cares deeply about the very people and parts of creation that we tend to misuse, overlook, or forget, and God expects us to change that behavior.We must remember that we are the seeds that God has planted on this earth. We are God’s precious crop.

Week 4  brought in the healing of Creation, casting out the old for the new and using the image of the monarch butterfly.  

In God’s time, all creation will be gloriously healed and completed. Time extends beyond the present. Living in trust and in hope that God’s time will bring the raising up of things cast down, the old will being made new, and all of creation being brought to perfection, frees us to live in harmoniously in right relationship with God, with one another and with creation itself. The lectionary calls this the plan of salvation.”

The week featured the  famous reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (“For Everything there is a season”) , 14 pairs of contrasting activities as examples of how life is comprised of various seasons. In this list, we see many contrasts in the basic rhythms of life. We all have times of happiness, times of sorrow, times of toil and perseverance, and times of rest. The truth that underlies all of these statements is that God is in control: He’s the author of life, He directs the seasons, He establishes kingdoms and destroys powers, and everything that occurs happens in His time. Through every event and season of life you can enjoy peace because God is in control. We need to rely on His wisdom, His timing, and His goodness.

The sermon considered longing. “Part of being human is that we long for and hope for what is yet to be. “In every season, somewhere deep within, the seed of longing for the next season begins to stir, and then to grow, and we become restless with the waiting.

“And ironically, what we long for is rooted in what we have already known. The butterfly longs for what its family has already known, that one fir tree.

“We long for the new creation when all is made whole, complete, contained, safe. All of us, no matter how our lives have gone, came from the life giving safety of our mother’s wombs. And somewhere deep down inside, it is to that safety and security that we all long to return…”

“But when we lost our way, so did the rest of creation. But although we have lost our way, we have never lost our longing, and neither has creation.

“And in that longing for the new creation lies our hope, and the hope of the whole creation.

“Creation is also on a journey, constantly in a process of being made new.

“As our collect puts it, “Things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“The first job God gave to us human beings at the beginning of our story was to till and to tend the earth. So as we make our own journeys to our resting place in God, God expects us to care for our earthy, earthly home because we are journeying along with it to the final new creation for which we all long. ”

“But hopefully, the work that people have begun to stop the destruction of the fir trees, and the intentional planting of gardens with flowers and plants that the monarchs need for food on their journeys home will in the end help to preserve this miraculous piece of God’s creation.

“This is our season of waiting.  “In birth and death, springtime and harvest, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, we are waiting on God.

“And while we wait, we undertake our journeys within this world, hoping for the day when we will reach that place that the generations before us have reached—the presence of God, our Garden of Eden.”

“But as we journey, we must remember and rejoice in the fact that God has granted us the miraculous privilege of a sojourn in the midst of God’s intricate, magnificent creation. “For everything there is a season.

“So may we rejoice as the seasons turn, one to another, and as the days that seem long turn into the years that fly by.

“And may we remember that we too are traveling through the beauties of this earth toward our own true home, Jesus. “

Dave and Gibby brought tomatoes this week from their farm for distribution to the congregation, another example of creation made new over the summer.

Week 5 used the image of the mandala during Christian education as well as the garden from the Revelation reading to complete the Season of Creation

The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” and refers to the sense of wholeness created by both circular forms. Karen  Richardson brought a table full of constructors from nature – shells, sharks’ teeth, plants, etc. that the participants could use in constructing mandalas.  The season stressed that God provided objects to aid in the further realization of creation, fashioned by individuals.  They are built from the inside and recognizing the expansion of creation.  And they realize nothing is permanent since they are made and destroyed in the same sitting.

The reading from Revelation describe  The Garden of Eden, our first home, is at the center of the ending.

Genesis began with a garden and ends with one in Revelation. There is a sense in the Season of a round trip. From the sermon – “Jesus is still, even now, going ahead of us into Galilee, back to the beginning where his ministry began. Isaiah reminds us that God asks us to return to the beginning in order to travel toward the completion that God has in store—the new heaven and the new earth.

“How fitting that on the last Sunday of the Season of Creation, scripture reminds us to return to the beginning as we grow toward the end of the story, which in scripture we find in the book of Revelation– a vision of where we will find God and Jesus at the end of time, when all is completed and fulfilled.

“A new heaven and a new earth, God dwelling among us.  God wiping every tear from our eyes, death and mourning and crying gone forever, for the hard and painful parts of our journeys will have drawn to a close.

“But even at the end of the story, God is still going back to the beginning. “See, I am making all things new.”

“In the beginning, God created the Garden of Eden.  And at the end, the new Jerusalem, a city, is where we find God.  But the center of the city holds the garden, our beginning, the living water flowing from the  throne, and the trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations line the banks of that crystal life giving stream.

“The Garden of Eden, our first home, is at the center of the ending.

“So here at the end of the Season of Creation, I encourage you to go out, by going back, seeking Jesus in Galilee, out in the world where he has gone before us—where there is hurt, need, destruction, war, blood spilled, death—Jesus has been there before us, and expects us to follow, and to do what we can to be his healing presence as we pass on our journeys through the valleys of the shadow of death. As we seek Jesus and travel back to Galilee and toward the heavenly city that is our ending and our beginning, we will suffer as Jesus did, and Jesus will be present in that suffering, because Jesus never leaves us to travel alone.”

During the season  we highlighted 5 areas of the environment – water, earth, food, climate change and energy that have been endangered over a generation. Overall there are important steps that have been taken and are continuing into the future.

Grading the environmental quality of the Rappahannock River (water), controlling sand and gravel operations in Caroline County (earth), expanding feeding ministries at the same time focusing on waste (food), reviewing the global increase of temperature and effect(climate) and seeing the growth of renewable energy sources (energy) were all a part of the study.

Here is the entire study with a summary below:

Water

With water, we have seen areas of extreme drought in Europe this summer and yet the east coast seems overflowing with water. There have been more erratic periods of rain. Warmer air can hold a higher water content, which makes rainfall patterns more extreme. Bangladesh has a severe water crisis – Of the 160 million people, 4 million lack safe water and 85 million lack improved sanitation.

The higher temperatures are playing out in bodies of water. Oceans are vital ‘carbon sinks’, meaning that they absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, preventing it from reaching the upper atmosphere. Increased water temperatures and higher carbon dioxide concentrations than normal, which make oceans more acidic, are already having an impact on oceans.

In our local area the role played by local partners, the Friends of the Rappahannock cannot be underestimated in focusing need of keeping the river clean and pristine. They have provided report cards of the river’s quality, including our area around Portobago. This was a 14 month project that ended in mid-year, 2018. The study broke concerns and problems into four different topics: stream ecology, human health, land use and community engagement. Each gets its own letter grade in the report in these four areas. Portobago Bay came out with a “B” overall above the Middle Rappahannock grade as a whole at “C”:

We celebrate the river, the example of God’s creation through the annual event in September, Gospel on the River.

Earth

There are numerous threats to the land and that which depends on it:

1.  Deforestation and wildfires. 2. Excessive farming ruining the soil. 3. Biodiversity. 4. Wildlife conservation. 5. Locally – Sand and Gravel mining

From the Port Royal community plan

“The impact of future growth on the natural environment has become an issue of increasing interest and importance in the Port Royal Community.  The effects of population growth and economic development on the natural environment include; clearing of trees, loss of plant and wildlife habitats, loss of valuable wetlands and aquatic habitat, ground water contamination, degradation of surface water in streams and the river, disruption of natural drainage systems, air pollution, increased amounts of runoff, solid waste, and degradation of scenic natural views.

“Environmental deterioration need not be an inevitable consequence of population growth.  The development of new homes, businesses, industries, schools, and roads necessary to accommodate future population growth can occur without unduly threatening the natural environment of the Port Royal Community.  Using the proper methods and techniques, new development can be designed and built in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Sand and gravel mining has become a threat  to the earth in the local area Over 10 years from 2003 to 2014, four sand and gravel operations were approved that involved 1200+ acres.

The mines brought jobs to the county but a concern that mining would disrupt the rural character of the area since much of the land was protected by rural preservation.

Mining threatens  fisheries, water supply and creates land loss

Food.

The Village Harvest is a way for us to love our neighbors as ourselves, as Jesus asked us, his followers, to do.   Feeding was part  of the use of our good gifts which we have been doing on the 3rd Wednesday of each month for almost four years.

Through September, 2018, we have served on average 122 people a month which is lower than the same period last year – 147 but over 111 in 2016.  However, foods provided average- higher at 1,50 pounds per month compared to 1,283 for the same period in 2017 and 1,027 in 2016. The value per shopper is just under $80 in September

The local paper, Free Lance-Star wrote about food issues during the summer in the local area

“About 31,000 residents of Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford consistently lack enough food to maintain a healthy, active life. They’re considered food insecure by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“That means there are more local people who have trouble putting food on the table than the entire population of Fredericksburg. They are teachers and service workers, first responders and retail employees—and many of them work several jobs, which often means they make too much for government assistance.

A separate national study published in the last week in August, 2018 by the Urban Institute of 7,600 adults reported “Despite a strong economy, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one of their basic needs last year, including paying for food, health care, housing or utilities…Food insecurity was the most common challenge: More than 23 percent of households struggled to feed their family at some point during the year.”

There are also issues of waste. Up to 40 percent of the United States’ food supply goes to the landfill, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, resulting in a loss of $161 billion worth of product in 2010. This translates to about $1,500 per year worth of groceries that the average U.S. family simply throws away, not to mention what gets trashed on farms, at supermarkets and in other areas. The food deteriorates to methane gas, a harmful substance.

Conditions have improved over time due to the presence of better food distribution and greater understanding of the problem. In America  food insecurity was 12.3% in 2016 (average meal $3.00). Virginia in 2015 was at 10.6% (average meal $3.07). America’s figure was higher in 2015 at 13.4% though the average meal was also slightly lower at $2.94. Virginia was also higher in 2015 at 11.2%, (average meal $3.03 ).

The Village Harvest serves Caroline, Essex in particular with some clients from King George and Westmoreland.

As noted above, conditions have improved overall as shown here among the local counties, the least in Caroline County and the greatest in Westmoreland:

County20152016Change
Caroline12.212.1-0.1
Essex15.715.2-0.5
King George9.28.5-0.7
Westmoreland12.611.2-1.4

Climate

For the past 150 years, the Earth has been warming:

  • Since the industrial revolution, global average temperature has increased by 1°C(2°F). In many areas, climate change is already disrupting people’s lives. It is estimated that climate change has contributed to an average of 150,000 more deaths from disease per year since the 1970s, with over half of those happening in Asia.
  • Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.
  • 2016 was the hottest year on the historical record and the third consecutive record-breaking year. Of the 17 hottest years ever recorded, 16 have now occurred since 2000.
  • The warming is not evenly distributed. Some areas have warmed much more. Parts of the Arctic have warmed by 2° – 3°C (3.6°-5.4°F) just since the 1950s.
  • Present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward 4°C (7.2 °F)warming within this century

Energy

Specialists indicate that the fossil fuel combustion represents the greatest contributing factor to the emission of greenhouse gases, high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the 20th century, specialists indicate that the global average temperature increased with 1 degree Fahrenheit.  Hence, the planet overheats, affecting humans, plants, and animals at the same time.

This has contributed to melting glaciers and a sea rise, imperiling animals and plants, leading ot extinction.

Renewable energy comes from natural resources that can be replenished during an average human lifetime and includes the following types of power:  Solar, Wind, Hydro,  Geothermal, and Biomass

Renewable energy sources are beneficial because they have a very limited negative environmental impact when compared to fossil fuels. They can also reduce the worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

A 2018 report recently published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), predicts the cost of renewable energy will experience a noticeable drop by 2020, putting it on par with, or cheaper than, fossil fuels.

BNEF reports that wind and solar will be cheaper than coal in most places in the world by 2023

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