Here We Stand, For We Can Do No Other – a sermon for Reformation Sunday

Simcoe Landing

Run-off pond at Simcoe Landing

Listen to the sermon here

Watch the video that was shown in place of the traditional readings for Reformation: Thomas Berry and the Earth Community here

Gospel Text: John 8:31-36

Despite the fact that my parents named me Dawn, I have never been much of a morning person. Those who know me well would probably agree that I should have been called Dusk instead of Dawn. But Dawn I am and so from time to time, I actually venture out to explore this phenomenon for which I am named. Earlier this week, after a long sleepless night, of tossing and turning, wondering and worrying, I decided that as sleep was eluding me, I might as well give up and get up. The sun was about to rise and so out I went into the quiet world of our little subdivision. We moved into our subdivision nine years ago. The subdivision was built about six years before we moved in, so our little community is only about fifteen years old. Before the subdivision was built, the land was used by a farmer to grow corn. On the fringes of our subdivision, they are expanding further into the cornfields. The neighbourhood is expanding, growing, and changing. The demands of modern life are encroaching on a lifestyle that is disappearing from countrysides all over the planet. Modern subdivisions are built to a pretty standard plan. Before the streets and infrastructure can be developed, some pretty basic problems need to be addressed, not the least of which is water run-off. As near as I can tell, modern developers deal with the problem of drainage by establishing ponds which function as catchment basins for rainwater runoff. At the foot of our subdivision there are four such ponds around which the developers created footpaths so that we suburbanites can at our leisure have someplace to take a walk.

When we first moved in, the ponds weren’t exactly picturesque. Just open pits into which runoff had poured, surrounded by paths and building sites. In the beginning these ponds were more like scares on the landscape and failed to inspire us to wander past very often. Indeed, if we wanted to take a walk, Carol and I would often get in the car and drive to a nicer spot to walk. But over the past nine years something miraculous has happen and in our neck of the woods Mother Nature has healed the Earth’s wounds and those ponds have become a favorite place to walk. Where once there was just muck and the open wounds of the Earth, now there are well healed pathways, beautiful bushes, fruit filled trees, and a whole host of wildfowl. Nature has repaired what we humans came close to destroying.

So, as the sun was rising in the east, I couldn’t help thinking about the natural rhythms and blessings of this life. And because I had been kept awake by worrying about the content of this Reformation sermon, my mind began to think about the similarities between the relationship of nature to the pond which humans created where once there was no pond and the relationship between God and the church humans created where once there was no church. Continue reading

Living Into Abundant Life: a sermon on John 10:10

Sacred spaceToday was Picnic Sunday at Holy Cross and we were blessed to worship on the shores of Lake Simcoe at the Loretto Maryholme Retreat Centre. The Worship Bulletin which includes the readings is available here.   A written text of the sermon I intended to preach can be found here, or you can listen too the abbreviated  sermon that was preached to the accompaniment of not so gentle breezes is printed below

 “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!”

Abundant life.

Please take a moment to sink deeply in to this great abundance of which we are a part.

Wiggle your toes upon the surface of this magnificent planet of which we are apart.

Reach out and touch the astounding, intricate textures of the grass.

Let your eyes feast upon the immensity of the sky, the shimmering beauty of the lake.

Somebody please hug a tree!

On this day, in the midst of such profound beauty let us read the gospel that is found in the book of Creation.  It is just as Sir Francis Bacon insisted, some 500 years ago, true that:

“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.”

Lift up your hearts and listen as the cosmos declares in infinite and magnificent the Gospel the Christ:  “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!”

Abundance: the dictionary defines the word abundance as an adjective meaning “existing or available in large quantities: plentiful. Copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, bountiful, large, huge, great, bumper, prolific, teeming, plentiful, bounteous.

We stand in the midst of the abundance of Creation.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!”

Abundant life, abounding life, generous life, bountiful life, large life, huge life, great life, bumper life, liberal life, prolific life, teeming life, plentiful life, bounteous life. Look around and you will see the Earth living abundantly. Take a deep breath and you can actually taste the abundance of life, teeming life, bounteous life, plentiful life, abounding life. The life of the Earth is indeed abundant.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and live it abundantly!” Sadly, over and over again, generations upon generations of the followers of Jesus have failed to embrace the Gospel, which Jesus lived as he proclaimed the Good News of abundant life, by living fully, loving extravagantly and being all that he was created to be. For too long now the followers of Jesus have failed to embrace abundance as the core, the very essence of the gospel.  We have opted for a smaller, lesser, more confining, indeed, a more restricting narrative with which to proclaim the gospel. For most of the past 2000 years, the master narrative the followers of Jesus have chosen to tell has been the story of the fall of Adam and Eve and the need from redemption through the suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Humanity has been defined as fallen, broken, in bondage, sinful, less than, small, worthy of contempt. The followers of the One whose passion was the gift of abundant life, have opted for a story that portrays life as little more than a testing ground for some other life, some after-life, some place other than where we are now, a place to which we can escape the smallness of this life. But look around, taste and see that it is as our ancestors imagined our Creator declaring after each marvelous day in the Genesis of Creation, it is good, it is very good.

Human beings are in the words of Julian of Norwich, “not just made by God, we are made of God.”

We are in God and God is in us because we are made of God.

What’s more, this amazing Cosmos is not something separate or apart from us, we are in and of the Cosmos.

The Cosmos is in God and God is in the Cosmos.

This sacred communion of which we are a part is positively teeming with diversity.

There are no duplications, each precious part of the Cosmos is unique, each part intimately connected.

The sheer abundance of the Cosmos is beyond our comprehension and yet so very accessible if we but reach out and touch it, or open our eyes to see it, our open our arms to embrace it, or breathe deeply to draw life within it.

This gospel of abundance is so much bigger than the story we have chosen to tell.

Carefully studying the book that our Creator has written which we call the Universe, it is clear, in the words of Thomas Berry, that:

“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human.”

Embracing the abundant life that Jesus lived to proclaim, requires the faith to open ourselves to the splendor of the Cosmos of which we are an intricate part. The ongoing revelations provided by the Cosmos are clear for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Continue reading

Here We Stand, For We Can Do No Other – a sermon for Reformation Sunday

Simcoe Landing

Simcoe Landing

Listen to the sermon here

Watch the video that was shown in place of the traditional readings for Reformation: Thomas Berry and the Earth Community here

Gospel Text: John 8:31-36

A Prayer for Reformation

creationThe Spirit of Reformation has broken free from the institutional church and just as Ruah lives and breathes in, with, and through all of creation, She longs to find expression in us. In Thomas Berry the Spirit found wonderful expression. Through Berry’s words the Spirit calls us to a whole new Reformation.

“We are Living Through the Greatest Theological Shift Ever in Christian History” – Michael Morwood

“We are Living Through the Greatest Theological Shift Ever in Christian History. How Do We Bring the Freeing, Enheartening, Inspiring, Challenging Message of Jesus of Nazareth to this Age, to Our Times, and to Our Questions” Inspired by the life and work of Thomas Berry, Michael Morwood explores God’s role in the new story of cosmology. Morwood, an Australian theologian was silenced by Rome after the publication of his book “Tomorrow’s Catholic”.

Children Praying Morwood has an uncanny ability to re- imagine and articulate christianity in ways that speak to those of us who embrace all that we are learning from science about the origins and nature of the cosmos. See my early post on Morwood’s work on prayer here.  If you’re looking for a resource for children his book “Children Praying a New Story: A Resource for Parents, Grandparents and Teachers” is terrific! (copies are difficult to find, I got mine from Kindle) I’m currently reading Morwood’s latest book a fable entitled “Faith, Hope, and a Bird Called George: A Spiritual Fable” and I will post more about this soon.

In this video, recorded in April 2012 at Corpus Christi, Morwood speaks on “Thomas Berry, Eco-Spirituality and the Future of Christianity”

‘WE ARE ALL THE UNIVERSE BECOMING MORE AWARE OF ITSELF” Rev. Michael Dowd

Michael Dowd, a self-proclaimed Evolutionary Evangelist is committed to spreading the good news that evolution is humanity’s common creation story as he proclaims that science illuminates the evidence with which God is communicating to humans today.

Inspired by the work of Fr. Thomas Berry who portrayed the epic of evolution as a sacred story Dowd seeks to popularize Berry’s insistence that humanity is the universe becoming conscious of itself. 

Dowd’s work is especially intriguing to this particular 21st century pastor who connects to the cosmos from the perspective of panentheism (God is in everything and everything is in God). Evolutionary Christianity is an exciting way of using the explosions in scientific evidence to illuminate our religious quest to understand our place in the cosmos. 

I am indebted to a blog-follower from South Africa for linking me to this excellent video by New Hampshire Outlook that explores the work of the Rev. Michael Dowd. In addition to a fabulous interview this video provides an enticing overview of Evolutionary Christianity that will leave you wanting to learn more.  You can begin by visiting Evolutionary Christianity’s Blog. I’m anxiously waiting for my copy of Dowd’s “Thank God for Evolution” to explore more of Dowd’s insights.