Monday, September 9, 2013

Wisdom Celebrates: Creation 2

Psalm 1042 Creation
September 15, 2013
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

Some of you may be familiar with William Sonoma. It is an upper bracket kitchen supply store and catalogue. I love getting their catalogues, because I love to cook with good food, good tools and good recipes. That was what William Sonoma was about.  But now they have gotten into the Urban Agrarian Market. Supplies for urban farmers, like chicken coops. Beautiful chicken coops. For between $600-2000 you can purchase a beautiful, beautiful, chicken coop and run. Seriously. Did I mention they are beautiful?

I like the idea of keeping chickens. I like the idea of picking up fresh eggs from clean straw and serving them for breakfast. I like the idea… And a William Sonoma Chicken coop would be so beautiful in my back yard. But I’m not sure I’m ready, yet to become a town farmer. Because what doesn’t come with the chicken coop in the William’s Sonoma catalogue and what keeps me from becoming a chicken owner, is a pooper scooper for cleaning out the beautiful $2000 coop. Or an axe for the time when the chicken becomes too old to justify its feed any longer.

In the catalogue, it all looks very gentile and beautiful and dignified and clean. I suppose if you put a flock of chickens in a $2000 coop like this they would be nice enough to deliver eggs that don’t need to be washed??

But we all know that no matter how clean beautiful gentile the chicken coop, the eggs will still need to be washed. Because that is were eggs come from.

That is how it is with animals. They come with the good, the bad and the ugly. Which may be why humans haven’t always treated animals so well. If they don’t meet our needs or contribute some way to our well being, then they are not valuable.

I was with my grandchildren at Theresa Schieffelbein’s farm near Wykoff over Labor Day. I get most of the meat we eat from Theresa and Leslea’s farm: HealthyHeritage Meats. I took my grandkids to the farms so that they could begin to get some idea of where their meat comes from. Lillian started to get it and then backed away from the idea. I think she decided that beef comes from the calf she was petting in about the same way eggs come from a chicken.
While walking out to the pasture to see if we could find the cows Theresa raises semi-free range, Five year old, Lillian and Theresa were having a philosophical discussion about animals Theresa said, the cows should be right here. That’s where they were just a minute ago.. Somehow this concerned Lillian. Like the cows should be where they said they were going to be. So Lillian asked Theresa, “Do animals lie?” Theresa said, “No, animals don’t lie, only humans lie. Animals do what animals do,” she said, “it is always the truth.”

Animals might be messy, bothersome and a lot of work, but they are always honestly animals. When a dog defends their territory or a cat nips a child that is being too rough, the animal is doing what animals do honestly, and in that honesty we see God’s wisdom.
When cows wander to the better green grass instead of staying where we can see them, they are doing exactly what cows should do.
And I believe God rejoices in seeing the creation act honestly.

Because in Psalm 104 we see God as the one rejoicing over creation and all its wisdom.

In verse 31 of chapter 104: Let the Lord rejoice in all God has made! Let the Lord rejoice in all God has made!
Robert Capon, a theologian who passed away this week explained how God rejoices over creation in this way.

“Let me tell you why God made the world.

One afternoon, before anything was made, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit sat around in the unity of their Godhead discussing one of the Father's fixations. From all eternity, it seems, he had had this thing about being. He would keep thinking up all kinds of unnecessary things - new ways of being and new kinds of beings to be. And as they talked, God the Son suddenly said, "Really, this is absolutely great stuff Why don't 1 go out and mix us up a batch?" And God the Holy Spirit said, "Terrific! I'll help you." So they all pitched in, and after supper that night, the Son and the Holy Spirit put on this tremendous show of being for the Father. It was full of water and light and frogs; pine cones kept dropping all over the place, and crazy fish swam around in the wineglasses. There were mushrooms and mastodons, grapes and geese, tornadoes and tigers - and men and women everywhere to taste them, to juggle them, to join them, and to love them. And God the Father looked at the whole wild party and said, "Wonderful! just what I had in mind! Tov! Tov! Tov!" And all God the Son and God the Holy Spirit could think of to say was the same thing: "Tov! Tov! Tov!" So they shouted together "Tov meod!" and they laughed for ages and ages, saying things like how great it was for beings to be, and how clever of the Father to think of the idea, and how kind of the Son to go to all that trouble putting it together, and how considerate of the Spirit to spend so much time directing and choreographing And for ever and ever they told old jokes, and the Father and the son drank their wine in unitate Spiritus Sancti, and they all threw ripe olives and pickled mushrooms at each other per omnia saecula saeculorum, Amen.

Can you just feel God rejoicing in the earth and all its inhabitants? Just like you laugh when your animals do crazy, cute and animal-like things, can’t you imagine God laughing, too.

The calf that you have been bottle feeding who still moos at you looking for that bottle even though she has been weaned.
The dog that greets you at the door with his tail wagging.
The squirrel that does whatever it can to reach the birdseed.

Just as they make us laugh, so they give God joy.

And maybe that is what went wrong, we stopped celebrating with God.

That is what goes wrong, instead of celebrating creation as God celebrates creation, humans turn creation into things that can be used.
The dog gets pushed aside as a nuisance, the cow get kicked because it is annoying, the squirrel gets killed because it is stealing birdseed. The elephant has its tusks torn out because the money is more important than the joy and worth of the animal.

Fortunately, we have re-learned how to celebrate the worth of creatures. The eagle and bluebird are with us now because we recognized the world would be diminished without them. Humans are better now for what we have done in protecting the creation.

I am overjoyed when I can say to a visitor to my gardens: Look at the bluebird building a nest in the bluebird box. See the 5 eggs it has laid. Watch as it feeds its young. See how soft the little ones look.
15 years ago this would have been a rare occurrence. Now bluebirds nest in boxes right in Chatfield!

I believe that God rejoices in this comeback, just as much as I do.

And  I believe that as we celebrate the creatures that inhabit Earth with us, we sink our roots deeper into the ways divine Wisdom sustains and delights in creation.
As we see God’s delight in creation. We realize that each element of Earth is blessed by God and blesses another part of creation. And with God, Father Son and Holy Spirit we realize this is something to celebrate.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Season of Creation: God's Wisdom God's Seas

Job 38
September 1, 2013
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

In the month of September, we celebrate the Season of Creation.  We began last year with this new season, we have great paraments and banners that remind us that God’s creation is a gift of color and variety and diversity and and mystery.

We are not going to be pantheists who believe the tree is God or the flower is some kind of divine being; nor are we going to Disney-fy creation pretending that everything gets along and only the good guys win at the end of the day.
What we will do this season is remind ourselves that in the created we can see and experience the wisdom of God. Which isn’t always gentle.

As a matter of fact this Sunday we are led by our scripture passages to focus on the untamed and life giving, powerful and yet fragile oceans of the world.
The scriptures tell us that to the ancients the sea was a great mystery, a powerful force of nature that could destroy if not kept in its boundaries. The psalmist writes: Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great. We have experienced that as we have watched tsunamis destroy.

To the ancients the sea held danger, chaos, and wild beasts.  In Job 41 the great sea monster the Leviathan is described in great detail. I urge you to read the entire chapter of Job 41. Here are a few words from that chapter. The sea monster has an abdomen like jagged pottery shards; its sharp edges leave a trail in the mud. He causes the depths to churn like a boiling pot, None on earth can compare to him; he is made to be without fear. He is king over all proud beasts.

Even today the great beasts of the ocean are mysterious to us.
Just this month on NPR we heard of a beast of the sea, the whale shark (pictured). It's the biggest shark there is, 30 feet or more in length and weighing in at around 10 tons. Yet, it eats the smallest creatures in the ocean.
Plankton are the flotsam of tiny plants and shrimplike animals that float in the ocean. The whale shark just opens its mouth — about twice the size of a manhole cover — and sucks them in. It filters out the plankton much the way a baleen whale filter-feeds.

A scientist by the name of Robert Huetner is intrigued by whale sharks. "It's polka-dotted," he says, "and it lets people swim with it. When you go down and see them at these feed aggregation sites, it's a spectacle of nature. It's unlike anything else that you'll ever experience."

But what is really amazing about whale sharks, the biggest shark there is, is that we don’t know where they give birth to their babies. Even after putting tracking devices on them, the ocean is so big and they migrate so far out that we can’t find out exactly where they give birth.

To the ancients the sea was the gateway to the end of the world, to hades and deep darkness. “Have you gone to the sea’s sources, walked in the chamber of the deep? Have death’s gates been revealed to you?”

Even now, us moderns who have flown into space, created the submarine, put tracking devises on whale sharks. We know very little about the ocean. while the ocean covers 97% of the earth, we have only explored 5% of it! [1]

The sea was the great place of danger, monsters and mystery to the ancient people, to our ancestors, and it still is to us in the 21st century.

When we, along with Job consider the ocean, we realize that we are a little speck in the great vastness of the creation. Who are you Job? God asks, “Were you around when the world was created? When I set the seas in their boundaries? When the ocean began to be alive with sea creatures?”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of this, don’t we? We think that this is all there is to life. Life becomes routine and we become complacent.  We think we have a handle on life and that we know all that we need to know. We start to think our little world that we have created around us is the be all end all of the universe.

And then we hear about the whale shark. Or a new discovery somewhere in the ocean depths. Or we hear that the ocean might produce natural means of controlling some of our dangerous diseases like cancer, inflammatory disease or pain.[2]

During this season of creation we are going to sing a song every Sunday. I do this, not to bore you or because I couldn’t come us with a new song for the season. But because I want you to become so familiar with the song that you will start to sing it at other times. Just like when your favorite song comes on the radio. And you start to sing along and the words start speaking to you again and reminding you of that time when you had such a good time listening to the song. Just like that, I hope this song will help remind you of standing on the edge of an ocean or a great lake, looking out over the horizon, wondering what is down there? What is out there?
What great mysteries that I will never ever see lie below the surface of that vast area of water?
And in sensing our smallness against that great vastness, we remember:

God of wonders beyond our galaxy, you are holy, you are holy.
The universe declares your Majesty And you are holy, holy Lord of Heaven and Earth

Steve and I are reading a very powerful book: Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti by Ted Oswald.
A little girl’s story of living in the slums of Port-a-Prince is told from the time before the great earthquake to afterwards. It is a novel, but the story could be true.

The little girl is taken by her mentor to the edge of the ocean and asked what she sees. She replies: “Trash, rubbish, It’s everywhere. Floating in the water, sitting on the sand.”

The mentor persists: “Anything else?”

“No, that’s all there is”

“Then you don’t see it. Beauty is here, Li-bet-a, Look at the ocean expanding before your eyes. Feel the sand at your feet. The breeze cooling us. You must cling to the beautiful thing even when they are blemished and stained. For me, when I am made desperate by all that’s wrong in the world, all its evil, I retreat into beauty. I come here to pray often. I sit and talk to God and wait for him to answer.”

We hear the statistics all the time: the ocean is warming, the glaciers are melting, the sea is full of islands of trash. MPR reported yesterday that plastic pellets have been found in every one of the great lakes. They are microscopic and get through the waste treatment screens because they are so small. They come from bath scrubs, toothpaste, household cleaners. Now here what was interesting, these pellets absorb toxic chemicals. “So the floating plastic beads act like tiny, toxic sponges.” That’s bad, the scientist Lorena Rios-Mendoza says, because tiny fish mistake them for food and they can get into our water system.” [3]
We have used the oceans are our convenient trash can. It was so vast that we thought that all pollutants would be diluted and dispersed to safe levels. But in reality, they have not disappeared - and some toxic man-made chemicals have even become more concentrated as they have entered the food chain. The smallest creature eats the pollution and the chemical becomes more concentrated and then on up the food chain it goes.[4] It is reasonable to assume that humans as a part of the food chain who eat food provided by the sea are also affected. We know and have seen the signs along the rivers: be careful, women who are pregnant and children should not consume fish from these waters.

But we want to be careful, to not become cynical like little Li bet a. Seeing only the ugliness, the despair of pollution and global warming. Feeling hopeless and powerless. I do respond well to guilt trips. I’m not motivated to care about something because someone wants me to feel shamed and guilt-ridden about it. I am motivated to care about something because I can see and know that God cares about it. Or I can see and know that the wisdom of God compels me to be mindful and caring and motivated to make a change.

We want to be like Job and the Psalmist to be challenged by our God: who are you? Were there at the creation? Do you hold the power over the sea? Do you know how to control it boundaries?
We want to see the beauty, the mystery, yes even the monsters and the power of the oceans, lakes, river and streams that we experience.

We want to be awed by the wonder, the mystery and the power of our waters. So that we can see the beauty, the fragility, venerability, and the great wisdom that went in to creating these waters for our sustenance.
Then we can pray earnestly and truthfully: O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
And then we can work, earnestly and truthfully to protect with wisdom these manifold works of God. Not out of guilt but out of love for our God. Then we can work to stop messing up the beauty of God’s great gifts.