The Blessing Seed (Creation Justice)
A meditation based on Psalm 78:23-29
August 5, 2018
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista
Dr. Sharon R. Graff
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Today, we begin a 5-week sermon series to introduce you to a really important part of the United Church of Christ: Statements of Witness. Have you heard of them? Good! Statements of Witness are various ways for congregations to live out who they really are already to be public and open about their particular special witness in Gods world. And there are over a dozen Statements of Witness that can bolster a churchs identity within its larger community! You, for example, already carry 3 of these Statements as your public witness:
- You are Accessible to All, meaning that you have ramps and an elevator and accessible bathrooms and large print in worship and wheelchair areas in the sanctuary, so that a variety of special needs are met here on a regular basis. More importantly, you have an awareness of various special needs, and you are willing to be sensitive to meeting those needs, be they hearing, mobility, sight, etc. Good job!
- You also carry the Statement, Inter-Cultural, Multi-Racial. Look around this sanctuary! Check out Bradley Hall during any fellowship time, and youll see the beauty of Gods creative variety assembled! More than that, when it comes to making a Statement about multi-racial and inter-cultural matters, you do so with deep sensitivity and acute awareness of one another. After 15 or more years of practice, you wear this Statement of Witness like a comfortable piece of clothing, and when guests are here, they feel the closeness of this family of faith. Good job!
- A third Statement of Witness you wear well is God is Still Speaking. This Statement, unique to the UCC, assumes that the Bible isnt the complete and finished record of Gods work in the world. Rather, the God is Still Speaking initiative affirms that God is still at work in our lives, 20 centuries later, and that God is still speaking to us and through us. Ive watched you for these past 2-1/2 years. Ive lived with you here in this sacred place. Youve repeatedly shown me that you believeyou know!God is still speaking. Good job!
In addition to these three Statements of Witness, the UCC has several others. You can read about them onlineaddress is on your bulletin insert today. For the next few weeks, were going to learn together about a few of these Statements of Witness, starting today, with Creation Justice. This is summer a season for doing things a bit differently. To tell the stories of these various Statements of Witness, I thought storytelling itself would be a most helpful approach. So Ive selected 5 childrens stories, paired them with scriptures and am excited to teach and learn with you about these important UCC Statements of Witness over the next several weeks. Todays story, teaching us something about the necessity of Creation Justice, is called The Blessing Seed. I invite you to sit back, relax, and hear this familiar creation story in a new way.
The Blessing Seed: A Creation Story for the New Millennium
In the beginning, God sang everything alive. God sang the sky, the land and the seas. God sang the plants and trees. God sang the moon, the sun and the stars. God sang animals to live in the sea, in the sky and on the Earth. Then God, Mother and Father of All, sang of Man and Woman. God said to them, This Earth is your garden. The rocks, plants, trees and animals are your family. Go and explore your home. The Man and the Woman thanked God. They greeted every stone, plant, tree and animal. They learned what each living thing could do. The Man and the Woman found a tall tree in the middle of the garden. It had four paths leading away from it. What is this for? they asked God. God said, That is the Tree of Life. On it grows the fruit of knowledge. But it isnt ripe yet, so you mustnt eat it. The four paths are ways to explore this world. When the fruit is ripe you will be able to walk them all. The Man and the Woman sat together and watched the stars grow bright in the sky. Then the Woman said to God, Everyone in the garden has their special gift. The squirrel can jump, the snake can crawl, the bird can fly. What is our special gift? And God answered, In all the world, you and the Man are most like me. You have a special duty. You will care for everything on Earth. Your special gift is to learn and to care. How will we do that? asked the Man. Listen for the song that I sang at the beginning, said God. My song is in everything and it will help you to learn and to care. The Woman listened to the song of the Tree of Life. It sang a song of laughter, a song of tears, a song of beginning and a song of coming home. She said, Maybe I will understand our special gift if I eat the fruit? She picked the fruit and tasted it. It was sweet and bitter, soft and sharp. As she swallowed it, things began to change. She felt like a cloud looking down on the land far below. The birds, trees, animals and rocks felt far away. She shared the fruit with the Man. When he tasted it, he felt different and frightened. Why do the animals run away from us? he cried. God came that evening and said, You are frightened and upset. Have you eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life? The Man said, We did. And now the animals hide from us. We dont understand what is different. The Woman said, We ate because we wanted to discover our special gift. God smiled and said, I made mountains to last forever. I made flowers and trees for beauty. I made birds, fish and animals for their many gifts. But I made human beings for their longing to knowit is time for you to explore the four paths. Come! And God led them to the Tree of Life and showed them the paths. The four paths are called the path of wonder, the path of emptiness, the path of making, and the path of coming home. These four paths of life will help you to learn and to care. On the path of wonder, you will remember when you were sung from the Earth. When you see the moon and stars at night, or the sun sparkling on the water, when you hear birds singing in the trees, when you hear the song of creation, then the gift of caring will be born to you. On the path of emptiness, you will remember when you ate the fruit and felt different. When things go wrong, when no one understands you, when you lose the things you love, when you feel sad, lonely or frightened, then the gift of learning will be born to you. On the path of making, you will remember the song that is inside you. When you have good ideas, when you make something beautiful, when you tell stories and sing my song, then the gifts of learning and caring will start to grow. On the path of coming home, you will remember that you are part of everything. When you look after the Earth, when you defend the helpless, when you speak for those who have no voice, when you enjoy and respect my creation, then you will be most like me. Your learning and caring will shine out everywhere. You will be separate no more. Must we leave our home and all we love? cried the Man and the Woman. All places are your home. Everything I have made is your family, said God. Must we leave you? cried the Man and the Woman. I will always be with you on your journey, God promised. Will we really find the gift of learning and caring? asked the Man and the Woman. God said, Yes. You ate the fruit of the Tree of Life before it was ripe. But the seeds of learning and caring will grow inside you. And God blessed them both, saying, I will ripen your gift as you walk the paths of light. Your gift will be a blessing seed. It will leap from your hearts into the hearts of others. Go now and spread my blessing throughout the Earth. The Man and the Woman thanked God. They walked out into the wide world, taking the blessing seed in their hearts. The End.
But not really the end ! In Creation Justice churches, there is a commitment to care for the earth by recycling, not using Styrofoam, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, learning about climate change, using solar energy, melding together the truths of Bible and science, working and praying to save this beautiful Earth from destruction. And in Creation Justice churches, the work that God describes in this story goes on and on remembering that you are part of everything and living like it looking after the Earth defending the helpless speaking for those who have no voice enjoying and respecting Gods creation. These are the sacred choices that make us most like God. These are the sacred choices that foster our learning and caring. These are the sacred choices that cause us to be separate no more. And these, my brothers and sisters, are the choices that are available as you walk the path of the UCC Statement of Witness called Creation Justice.
This is a path uncovered by God in many places in scripture. Todays psalm passage is one of those. Its a beautiful collection of verses. God commands the skies to rain food on the hungry people; God causes winds to blow from east to west and south to north to bring the free food closer to the people. The passage ends with the inspiring scene described in these words, And the people ate and were well filled, for God gave them what they craved
Its inspiring, isnt it? A generous God providing for a hungry people.
Yet, the larger context is that, in this particular scene, God is really angry with the people. Once again, they have failed to follow Gods instructions. Once again, they have walked a path of dis-ease and dis-comfort. Once again, they have turned to their own ways and away from Gods heart. And God is divinely angry. Thats an important context for us, as we learn about Creation Justice. For in Creation Justice, God is THE model of caring. Even when God is angry, God feeds the hungry people. Even when they dont follow the rules, God feeds them. Even when they turn aside, God turns toward. This is who God is.
And this is who God has created us to be also. People who turn toward Earth. People who turn toward plants and animals and enjoy and respect Gods creation. People who do what we can to defend the helpless and speak for those who have no voice. No one of us has to do it all. But God has created each of us to do something to care for our Earth home. Maybe your caring action will be to speak the truth of science and climate change to your doubting neighbor. Maybe your caring action will be to walk more and drive less. Maybe your caring action will be to read a book that gives you ideas of how you can care for Earth more actively. No one of us can do it all, when it comes to caring for our Earth home. The challenges have always required cooperative people. So do your part, whatever that part may be. Even though you may be angry about the direction things are going now with the environment, even though your anger may tempt you to inertia, resist temptation! Follow the example of our God who loves through the anger and loves despite the anger and promises that, as we act for and with Earth, we too will be blessed.
Amen and Blessed Be
Childrens Circle with Communion
When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it.
The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support.
Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth.
Without the sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. It is there for all of us.
-Thich Nhat Hanh