**Service was held outside, along the bayfront**
Why are you here this morning? Why did you want to attend
worship at the beach?
Is the sanctuary normally cold to you? Do you live at W-C?
Are you hoping to spot some dolphins behind me? Does
nature remind you of God?
For me, I wanted to lead worship on the beach because it is a
visual, literal, in-your-face reminder of God’s Creation. We
didn’t make this (excluding the patio & bridge). It puts a lot
of my thoughts and worries in perspective. Worshipping at
the beach or on a mountaintop or (perhaps) in a desert,
reminds us of our spiritual connection to the earth, God’s
The choir isn’t here officially, but again, this is a moment
where I’m preaching to the choir a little bit. ;) So many of you
here show great concern for the earth’s care. We share a
vision of the world being God’s creation, entrusted to us to
care for it.
This past week, a great website was passed along to me. It is
a site that has preaching prompts based on the lectionary
readings, as related to creation care. The site is called
sustainable_preaching.org. On there, I loved their
explanation of the shift in recent history regarding our
spiritual outlook and relationship with the earth.
The writers point out that before Galileo, the earth was seen
as central to the universe, which worked well in creation
theology. “God created earth, it is the center of the universe.”
With Galileo’s discovery that the Earth moved around the
sun, they suggest that “science and religion began to develop
on different paths. The theology of creation was lost and the
church focused on the Christian story – on redemption and
salvation. As their understanding of the universe was
threatened so the Church moved away from a theology
embracing creation to a theology focussing on the Fall and
Redemption of humankind. The Christian world had moved
from a theology of wonder to a theology of plunder.”
I can see it, just in my lifetime, that there has been a push to
return to a theology of connecting the earth to God and to our
responsibility to hold it in wonder - not to plunder it.
Humanity goes through so many pendulum swings over
generations, and our relationship with the environment is no
We are certainly overdue for a return to the sacred connection
of spirituality and environmental care. One particular church
movement which is so intriguing to me is farm churches.
Outside of Durham, there’s a UCC congregation which
started a couple years ago called Common Life Church &
Farm. Part of their weekly worship is to tend their garden -
planting, weeding, sowing.
I admit that it is sometimes overwhelming to hear about the
ways our world is changing - not for the better. “World
Wildlife Fund in their Living Planet Report indicate that since
1970 there has been a devastating drop in the population of
creatures globally, 38% reduction in land animals, 81% of
freshwater creatures and a 36% drop in ocean populations.”
Hearing this can be paralyzing. And then I hear things like
the following quote from L.R. Knost (Christian author) “Do
not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things
can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with
intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly,
unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the
light that is you.”
The healing of this world will take time...and intention.
So, where does all this connect with today’s Scripture?
Anybody thinking that or have you already forgotten what we
read from 1 Timothy?
Our passage for today is all about grace. It is all about giving
hope that individuals can be transformed by grace. The
writer, presumably Paul (that’s a whole other story),
establishes his credibility as a transformed person by telling
his story of being a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of
violence. He’s writing to Timothy, a younger man, to
encourage him in the belief and trust of God’s transformative
Robert Wall remarks on Paul's sense of the power of God
actively at work in our lives to transform even the weakest of
us "Paul's idea of God's mercy is active: mercy is a verb of
God's activity..." (The Lectionary Commentary: The Gospels).
We talked last month about faith being a verb. I very much
appreciate this view of mercy as a verb, as well. It is not too
late for us to experience God’s active mercy - being
transformed from “persecutors of the Earth” to
Gus Speth, former US Environmental Advisor to U.S.
President Jimmy Carter said this “I used to think the top
environmental challenges were biodiversity loss, eco-system
collapse and climate change. I thought with 30 years of good
science we could address those problems. But I was wrong.
The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and
apathy. And to deal with those we need a spiritual and
cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to
Scientists may not know how to transform selfishness, greed,
and apathy, but our grace-giving God does. We read it in
today’s Scripture! If Paul can be transformed from a
persecutor of people to a cultivator of believes, surely we can
be transformed from persecutors of the earth to cultivators.
It takes intention and willingness, of course, but it can
God isn’t going to just magically heal the damage that we
have done to the earth. However, by staying connected with
God, we can heal from the greed that got us to where we are.
To help us connect spiritually, take a moment to close your
eyes/feel the wind/smell the salt water/ listen to the following
i thank You God for this most amazing day
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky
and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
SCRIPTURE: 1 Timothy 1:12-17