As we begin this Season of Creation[i], we join the Church worldwide to pray and act in caring for all of creation. The 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recognized climate change as “an all-encompassing social crisis and moral emergency that impacts and interconnects every aspect of pastoral concern including health, poverty, employment, racism, social justice, and family life and that can only be addressed by a Great Work involving every sector of society, including the Church.”[ii]
The earth is groaning, heating, burning, flooding, and dying. You have and read the stories. This week Pakistan cries out, one-third of the country underwater from flooding. The cost is great for the earth. To be a disciple costs everything, Jesus says. Give up all your possessions. Hate father and mother, wife and children, even life itself. Following Jesus reorients all our relationships, all that we have. It is not easy or ordinary. It is to carry a cross, to suffer with the One who suffered for us.
Everything is a gift. We tend to possess, to cling, to hold, horde or grasp, claiming as our own. As humans we tend toward entitlement, and God invites us into blessing. Despite all the good we receive and give in family, we tend to distance, exclude or oppress others. To follow Jesus means relating differently. Respect the dignity of every human being as a child of God. Keep changing and learning to live that out such that all may live, all may eat, all may have shelter, all may have water unlike as in Mississippi where Jackson does not have running water while surrounding cities do. We are mutually related. We have a kinship with all the peoples of the world and a kinship with all of creation: oceans, sky, soil, rock, tree, plant, animal. By our actions, we have failed to “rightly claim our kinship with all [God’s] creatures.”[iii]
Each year the Season of Creation has a theme. For 2022, it is: “Listen to the voice of creation.” The Psalmist says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. One day tells its tell to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another. Although they have no words or language and their voices are not heard, their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world.”[iv]
Listen. What is the message from creation that surrounds us? What is God saying through the soil, sprouts, springs, and sparrows? What is God saying through poor and neglected places and peoples? We are invited to listen.
I suggest spending more time outside this month touching, lingering, listening. Lie on the ground. Notice what is parched, satiated or swamped. Watch clouds drift by or what the wind blows. Hug a tree for a good while. Touch a plant. Put your hands in the soil. Get into water. Pay attention. What do all these created things have to say? What do we hear God speak through these with whom we share kinship? Linger with an open heart.
Listen to the voice of creation. What do you hear? Beauty. Wonder. Sorrow. Suffering. Connection. And what do you say to God? As humans relating together, we often express: Thank you. I’m sorry. You’re wonderful! Would you please …? How may I help? I’m concerned about … and I love you. God invites us to pray in all these human ways.
We call these forms of prayer: thanksgiving, confession, praise, petition, oblation (How may I help?), intercession (I’m concerned about), and adoration (I love you). They’re often in tandem or interwoven, not necessarily separate.
In this Season of Creation, this week we are especially invited to pray. First listen and also speak. Pray as you normally do and remember the whole range. We’re concerned about those devasted by floods in Pakistan. Thank you for this food and those who grew it. We’re sorry for “walking heavily on your earth.”[v] Stop destruction. Help us change. How may I help? What do I need to die to or let go of? As I watch the sun rise and set, I love you and I sense your love for me.
I find it easier to at least look and far more to be outside both to listen and speak. Try going outside. Lie on the ground. Hug a tree for a minute. Watch the wind. Listen. Give thanks. Confess. Listen. Intercede. Adore.
There is another important form of prayer: lament. About half of the psalms are laments. Lament is a cry of pain, a cry for help, and a cry of trust: Lament is stark and boldly real about pain and suffering, and it assumes being heard. This hurts! Help! I trust you will. As in Psalm 13: “How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long? and “I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”
As we listen to the voice of creation, be bold about pain and suffering, that which you hear or see in others and experience personally. We hurt and suffer in hearing species go extinct, as tides rise, and forests burn. Help us, O God! We trust you hear us, for you are good.
Our first lesson reminds us we have a choice to live or to die. Choose life. Let go of possessive privilege, presumption, entitlement, and even goods like family. Remember our kinship with all creation, a mutuality of relationship. Like our “loving God who hears every living thing,”[vi] listen to land, animals, plants, sky, and all the peoples of the world, especially the suffering. Let us pray for all of them.
Lord, help us. We are hurting, and we trust that you are good. Amen.
[ii] Quoted in Season of Creation: An Ecumenical Celebration a resource from Dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts from which we used an Opening Acclamation, Prayers of the People, Confession of Sin, and Prayer After Communion.
[iii] From the Confession of Sin used today from above resource.
[iv] Psalm 19:1-4
[v] Also from the Confession of Sin
[vi] From Prayers of the People
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