Every Bush Is Burning: Earth Sunday Sermon

earth-day-2013Four years ago, on the heels of Peter Rollins visit to our congregation, I preached this Earth Sunday sermon which flows out of Peter’s work. You can listen to Peter’s sermon which is the jumping off point for this Earth Day sermon here

Listen to the Earth Day sermon here

Worship Bulletin here

The readings are here

The video of the excerpt from Chief Seattle’s Response is below

Today, this planet celebrates Earth Day; a time to pause and celebrate the wonders of this planet and to consider the fate of this planet. The church has no day on its calendar to either celebrate the Earth or to pray for the survival of the Earth. Indeed, there are churches in Christendom that actively pray for the demise of the planet, so as to hasten the arrival of Christ.  We here at Holy Cross have been celebrating Earth Sunday since 2007. This week I went back over my sermons for the past six Earth Sundays and discovered that I usually point out some ecological disaster and encourage us all to take better care of the planet.  While there are plenty of ecological disasters that I could point to that’s not what I want to talk to you about today because let’s face it, I’d only be preaching to the choir. All of you know that the planet is in grave danger and that we all have a role to play in saving the planet. Today, I want to talk to you about something that lies at the very heart of our abuse not only of the planet but of one another. You see all week; I’ve been haunted by a line from Pete Rollins sermon last week.

Peter was talking about the gift that Christianity has to offer the world a gift that has the potential to move us beyond religion toward a more connected holistic way of being in the world. The line that has been haunting me all week came near the end of Peter’s sermon. It was almost a throwaway line and with Belfast Peter’s accent and the speed with which he speaks, I almost missed it. Peter said that all too often what we see in religion is our desire to have some sort of holy experience; a burning bush experience like Moses. We want to find this place where the Holy is and there always seems to be things getting in the way of our having this holy experience.

There are people getting in the way and structures getting in the way of this burning bush experience. Pete insisted that in the what he described as the Apostle Paul’s conversion of bedazzlement, in this incomprehensible blinding revelation that seems so incomprehensible, so transformative has the power to transform us so that we can see inside of ourselves and we can begin to see that every bush is burning. We can begin to see that the sacred are everywhere; that the persecuted ones are the place of our transformation and our conversion.

This idea that all bushes are burning coupled with Peter’s earlier comments about why Moses needed to take off his shoes; not because all of a sudden he was standing on holy ground but because all ground is holy; all ground is sacred, reminded me of the danger of religion to blind us to the sacredness of life and the holiness of creation.

Religions in and of themselves tend to move us towards a vision of reality that divides life up into categories of sacred and profane; spiritual and material, good and evil. But life is not like that. Our efforts to compartmentalize reality in to good and evil have caused us to judge the spiritual aspects of life as sacred and the material aspects of life as profane. The Earth being material has fallen into the category of the profane and subconsciously we have judged the Earth and placed it into the category of evil. The Earth is something we want to or need to overcome. The Earth must be subdued, conquered, controlled, manipulated, used, consumed, in this grand exercise as we life out what we have interpreted as the biblical injunction to exercise our dominion over the planet.

Sure we have moments when we allow ourselves to be open to the splendor of the earth. But all too often we describe those moments as “spiritual” and its not really the material nature of the earth that we celebrate in these moments but rather the spiritual experience that we are open to as a result of our communion with nature. During these experiences we often become more conscious of the presence of the Creator and so while we may have a fondness for the Earth, it is predicated on the Earth’s ability to put us in touch with the Divine. We set our sights on that grand and glorious day when we can shake off this mortal coil and escape the confines of this planet and be with God, our Father up there in the sky.

What I heard Peter saying last weekend is that Christianity offers us something much different than what the institution of the church has all too often fixated upon. This notion that life on this planet is something to be endured until we die, which is when the really good stuff happens.  As if life after death were all that Christianity has to offer. Over and over again in Peter’s work he makes it clear that life after death is not what Christianity is about. He reminds us that Christianity is about transformation here and now so that we can be more fully alive, here and now. In Christ we have the opportunity to move beyond the separation of the spiritual and the material, beyond the idea that life happens only after we have escape the material.

Peter points to the writings of Paul who sees Christ as this blinding revelation that allows us to look into ourselves and really see who and what we are, so that we can look out and see all of creation for who and what it is and begin to live here and now, to have life before we die.

So this week as I was looking about the contemptuous way in which we have treated the planet, I got to thinking about what this kind of transformation could mean for Earth. When we begin to see that Christ offers us freedom from the divisions that have compartmentalized so much of our thinking about life, it opens us to a sense of the sacred in all of life. When we see every bush as burning with the possibility of an encounter with the divine, when we see all ground as holy ground it changes how we live. Once we begin to see the material as sacred in and of itself, we begin to see individual lives as sacred. When we brake down the barriers that we have erected between the sacred and the profane, between spiritual and material, between good and evil, suddenly we are faced with the reality that in a single life we cannot separate these elements of our being. That blinding revelation of what lies at the very core of who we are causes us to see the world around us and the people around us with a new kind of vision.

It’s this new kind of vision that I want to focus upon over the course of the next few weeks. I want us to take a look at what it is that Jesus was saying to the religious people of his day, that made him so dangerous to the religious authorities. I want to look at the teachings of Jesus to see what we might learn in terms of his radical way of seeing the holy in the ordinary.

We’ll take a look at the writings of Paul to see what we can learn about Paul’s revelation. What was it that Paul began to see so clearly that he was willing to shake up the religious establishment that he was once a part of? What new insights did Paul have that our religious institutions have become blind too? How can we begin to be transformed by Jesus teachings, and Paul’s revelation so that we can begin to see life in ways that connect us more deeply with our God, with one another and indeed with our very selves? I want to shake loose some of the scales that have formed over our eyes so that we can begin to see more clearly what it is that Christ is offering us here today, in this place and this time.

But for today, I just want us to begin to imagine how much differently we might be able to live on this planet if we tossed aside the notion that existence is divided into the spiritual and the material, sacred and profane, good and evil. Imagine how we might treat the Earth if we believed like the people of the First Nations that all the Earth and her creatures are sacred. Might a sense of the sacredness of creation help us to move away from prioritizing our rights to consume, subdue, and conquer the Earth and her creatures? Recognizing the inherent sacredness of the material of the Earth, her body if you will, would be an important first step in motivating us beyond just taking off our shoes because we are standing on holy ground. Recognizing the creatures of the Earth as sacred is an important step toward helping us become better stewards of the animals with whom we share this planet. Recognizing the sacredness of every life, is the only way we can move away from the violence that seems so firmly planted in our psyches.  

Do me a favor. Slip off your shoes and leave them off for the rest of this service. Without our shoes we are a little vulnerable. In the sacred places of the First Nations, even the modern ones that they build today, they always leave a section of the floor open so that people can place their feet upon the ground and feel their connectedness to the earth. I know we can’t do that here, but perhaps without our shoes we might be vulnerable enough to begin to feel that life doesn’t end where we leave off.

We are all intimately connected to the planet and to one another and yes even to our God. Whether you can see it or not, every bust is burning and all ground is holy. Every creature is sacred, every human is also divine, for our God in addition to being the ground of our being also lives and breathes in with and through us. So, why don’t we shake the scales from our eyes and look at all the wonders that surround us and live. Live fully and deeply trusting that together we are more than the sum of our parts. Live fully and deeply trusting that in God we live and move and have our being, together with all the creatures in this world that God loves. We dear friends are richly blessed indeed. Our cups overflow! We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We have all that we need to live fully, love deeply and be all that we are created to be. So, wiggle your toes! And live, love and be! Can I get an Amen?


Wiggle your toes!

We are richly blessed!

Our cups overflow!

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

We have all that we need to live fully, love deeply and be all that we are created to be.

Remember that we live and move and have our being

In God

Who is our Lover, Love, and Beloved a sacred trinity

Who lives and moves and has being in with and through us. Amen.

1 thought on “Every Bush Is Burning: Earth Sunday Sermon

  1. Outstanding!!!!!!!!!! So appropriate for Earth Day 2017 and every everyday! Thank you Pastor Dawn Hutchings and Peter Rollins-Pastor Jon Fogleman

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