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Sermon 9/15/19

**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 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

do that.”

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


ee cummings

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

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