Pentecost 18, Proper 22 October 8, 2017
Church of the Good Shepherd, Silver City, NM Rev. Paul Moore
The Gift of Creation
LINK TO THE PDF VERSION It’s good for copying
(two minutes for Klayton Bearup)
I had a member of a Church once whose family were migrant workers when she was a child. She told of an uncle who could blow away the rain. She firmly believed that her uncle, upon seeing a raincloud approaching when they had to work outside, would blow hard and move his hands and the raincloud would go somewhere else. Now, whether you believe her or not (and I am likely to, to speak frankly,) she reflects something that we all SHOULD believe. Her way of understanding the world said that we are all connected. What happens in one place affects another.
John Donne wrote this back in 1624 as part of his 17th Meditations on Emergent Occasions,
No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;
any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
All through the month of October we will be talking about various aspects of stewardship. Today we talk about stewardship of creation. Stewardship of Creation, in fact all stewardship, begins with the understanding that we are all interconnected.
All but one of the lessons today are all about vineyards. In the first lesson, the prophet sings a song about a vineyard that is unfaithful because it doesn’t yield good grapes. It is an allegory of Israel. Israel has been unfaithful, and therefore she has been taken away into exile, back into slavery, back into the condition from which God liberated them in Egypt more than 1000 years before. Our past and our present are connected.
The psalm sings a similar song, except this time God is called upon to right the wrong. The Vineyard is Israel again, but now she is besieged by enemies all around, and the psalmist prays that God will have mercy on her and come and rescue her for his name’s sake. Our lives and our faith are connected.
In the Gospel lesson Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard. This time it is not the owner (God) nor the vineyard (Israel,) but the leaders of Israel who ruin the situation. They get it in their stupid little heads that they can take possession of what is not theirs if they just commit the right murder. From what I have learned, there was nothing in the legal code at the time to justify such a ludicrous idea—it only makes sense if you imagine that the vineyard, the landowner and the workers are NOT interconnected.
Even the Epistle lesson, though it doesn’t mention a vineyard, shows Paul setting the example of what would be called good vines, good ownership and good stewardship. An example assumes that someone is watching, and that in watching things will change.
Seeing one another, being in relationship is a form of influence—in fact, it’s the most powerful influence we have with other people. We are connected.
The Epistle doesn’t use the vineyard metaphor, but the very use of such a metaphor reveals something else about the way people thought back in the Old Testament. Using a metaphor borrowed from the earth was natural for a people who assumed a kind of connection between the earth and our souls. Indeed, we’ve forgotten what the ancient Israelites knew very well. The health of the land, the quality of leadership, and peoples’ relationships, are all interconnected and interdependent. Like a spider web that you can’t help but move if you pull on any one thread, care of ourselves is one and the same with care of others. To imagine otherwise is to be an unfaithful vineyard, a forgetful owner or and a corrupt worker.
The “Butterfly Effect” used by Edward Lorenz in 1972 to describe global climate and weather patterns was well known among the ancient Hebrews on a much more cosmic scale. ALL of the earth is interconnected, not just wind and water. All of US are interconnected. Living life is to live in community with everything else that lives—in the broadest sense of the term. To do something is to affect others. To not do something is to affect others. In the end, it all comes home to roost. What goes around comes around. It’s best to DO what is good for what IS. In other words, life is stewardship. This is part of the life of our parish.
Yesterday we blessed pets in Penny Park. It’s a community event. We began this shortly after I came to this church. We spearhead it for the whole community. We try to get other clergy and agencies that deal with pets and animals involved. This is as it should be. We do this together. We’re all interconnected.
We do this on the first Saturday after October 4th, St. Francis’ Day. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals, especially our pets. His hymn to brother sun, sister moon, expresses the universal fraternity of all living things that lay at the heart of his spirituality. We celebrate our stewardship of creation. We are connected.
Outside of this day we reuse, reduce and recycle as much as we can. We use washable plates and dishes at our meals together. We minimize Styrofoam and other non-biodegradable plastics. We keep the office thermostat as close to outside temperatures as allows for productive work. If I had my druthers we would put solar panels on the roof and generate our own electricity—all because we are connected.
But there is another side to this that bears working out. The Body of Christ is an exercise in stewardship. We take care of one another. We don’t just feel strongly about one another and love to be in family around the table. When there is a need we try to meet it.
When people are lonely we visit and call. When people are hungry we take them food, especially if they have tall teenage boys in the household! When people need to go somewhere we try to provide a ride. When people need help we offer help. When the community as a whole needs something we let people know, because somehow, I am confident that we can and will rise to the challenge. We try to DO what is good for what IS.
This applies to our community at large, but even more poignantly so to the needs of the Church. Taking care of our Church family is part of our stewardship of creation. These needs are often of the kind that we can anticipate what they might be. This is the month when we ask people to think about their financial contributions to the Church for the coming year. This is part of stewardship of creation. If you value the community we have, if you love this little piece of the body of Christ, if you think we’re doing good Gospel-things in the world, then think also of what your share in taking care of our family, and what your share in our ministries ought to be.
This year we are toiling under a deficit. We are pinching the penny until Lincoln yells, as the Scots say, but it isn’t quite enough. We are interconnected—what affects one affects us all. The deficit is a community concern for this year, and we’re going to need the help of all of us to get through the coming year as well. We’re all interconnected, what affects one affects us all.
The challenge for us is to DO what is good for what IS.