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Creation Conference: “The Liturgy that Cares for Creation” April 21, 2018 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
Creation Conference: “The Liturgy that Cares for Creation”
Genesis 9:8-16; Psalm 36:5-10; John 1:1-14 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Saturday, April 21, 2018
The Rev. Janet Campbell
Looking out the window
          into my back yard,
day by day
I watch my little world
          flowering into spring.
Yesterday morning,
window open
to the warming air,
I heard the notes of birdsong
and the shouts and laughter of children
arriving at school
          just across the road.
And on the breeze
came the heady fragrance
of lilac
and sudden memories
of the springs
of my own childhood
and my little hideaway
under the bowed branches
          of those heavy lavender blooms.

Looking out the window
on that sunny morning
across the green and
          and too quickly growing grass
                   dotted with dandelions,
I thought of the worms and insects
          and little burrowing animals
          going about their secret business,
as I was going about mine,
which at that particular moment
          was supposed to be writing a sermon.
But God’s achingly beautiful creation
was stirring again with life
          and I was lost in contemplation
                   of my little Eden.
my body reminded me
that it was past time for breakfast
and I put in my bowl
oats and wheat and barley
          from fertile,
          no doubt chemically-treated,
granola likely prepared and packaged
          in a fuel-burning,
                   air-and-water polluting factory . . .

raspberries from Mexico
          harvested by farm laborers,
                    under what conditions I wondered,
raspberries delectably arrayed
          in a non-recyclable plastic clamshell
                   which will remain uselessly
                             on this earth
                                      much longer than I will . . .
and I mixed them with yogurt
from cows living, I hoped,
          contented cow lives in a meadow –
                   but, I feared, more likely
                             confined to a production line
                                      of stalls in a barn.
Back down
          to earth I came,
God’s aching, wounded earth.
In the beginning,
God made a garden
and put us in it
to enjoy all that God had provided.

But we,
God’s appointed caretakers
          of this wondrous garden,  
have, instead,
careless takers,
Given everything we needed,
          still we wanted more.
We would get what we desired,
          heedless of the cost
          to ourselves and all creation,
                   heedless of the cost to God.
Starting with that damned apple!
Ever since,
God has been calling us
to return to right relationship
          with God and all the creation . . .

In our liturgy
our Eucharist,
we are surrounded by the gifts of God’s creation . . .
beautiful woods of various grains,
          rugged stone, clear and vibrantly-colored glass,
fragrant flowers, spicy incense,
          chrism, the aromatic golden-gleaming oil of baptism
light glinting on the water of the font,
          playing on the walls,
the wood and metal of organ
and piano
singing and leading us in song,
the texture and colors and drape of fabrics,
gleaming precious metals,
a cross,
silver chalice and paten,
holding for us the bread and wine
over which we pray,
          and in and through which
          Christ’s very life
                   is given us,
                   for us,
                             and for the creation,
trees become paper become
books and music and service leaflets
          that help us do this great action together . . .

and ourselves,
our beautiful living and breathing
          individual, wondrous,
wounded and wounding,
healed and healing selves,
knit together
body, heart, and mind,
the risen body
of the Word made flesh.
In our liturgy,
we enact who we are becoming . . .
a thankful people
          standing before God
          and with one another
in awe and humble gratitude
          for what has been
so freely, extravagantly given . . .
All creation is present here
in the presence of the One
who brought all creation
into being.
Our little Eden,
where we walk once more
with God.
Even when our liturgy
is not a specially prepared
          celebration of the creation
                    as this one is today,
the Eucharist is always
a celebration of the creation . . .
a sacrament of the creation,
an outward and visible sign
of God’s wondrous invisible weaving
of beauty and bounty into
          everything that is
and a poignant reminder
that this beauty and bounty
          is wounded . . .
the Paschal Candle
sums up the glory and pain
          of this precarious moment
                   for the Creation . . .

this brightly burning symbol
          of resurrection and new life
its flame “fed by the melting wax
which [God’s] servants the bees
have made for its substance . . .”
          as that wonderful part
          of the Exsultet proclaims . . .
God’s servants the bees
in imminent danger
          of vanishing from this earth
                   for ever.
Our celebration of the creation
is not complete
without lamentation
for how we have used it . . .
how we have put ourselves
          above it,
when we were meant to
          live with and within it,
a part, not the pinnacle,
of creation.

Just as the body of Christ
has many members,
and no member is more valuable
          than any other
so the Creation,
God’s Body,
has many members,
elephant, lilac bush, babbling brook,
air, wind, birds, sharks, snakes, dogs, cats,
crawlers under the earth,
majestic oak, granite cliff,
          rolling sea, coral reef, deep swimmers . . .
lions, tigers, rainforest, human beings, chickens, ladybugs . . .
          all of equal value and importance
                             to the whole.
God once made a covenant
with us,
never to destroy the creation . . .
It’s way past time
for us to
make a covenant with God . . .

“Will you cherish the wondrous works of God,
and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?”
asks the proposed addition
to the Episcopal Church’s
baptismal covenant.

The answer,
“I will, with God’s help.”
Pretty much
what God had in mind
in the beginning.
Cherish and protect . . .
and now, given the damage
we’ve caused . . .
work to restore,
with God’s help.

Today, in this conference
as we celebrate and give thanks
for God’s prodigal generosity
in Creation
for the gift of incarnate life,
the things of sight and sound
scent and taste
the things of touch,
the ways we come to know God,
the world,
one another,
ourselves . . .
and as we consider our part
in destroying and restoring
let us carry with us the question:
“Will you cherish the wondrous works of God,
and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?”
and let us say with firm intent:
“I will, with God’s help.”