The Sermon by Revd Dr Rachel Mash : The Choir of all Creation

Service via Zoom, 9.00

We again have a short service via Zoom today, starting at 9.00am, and you are invited to join from 8.50 using the following link information to join

Meeting ID: 346 565 3658 Passcode: P8a

The order of service is below.  Thanks to Siyabonga Mkhize for hosting.

Sermon on YouTube

We welcome our preacher, Revd Dr Rachel Mash, an Anglican priest from Cape Town, who heads up Green Anglicans in Southern Africa and works closely with Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who chairs the Anglican Communion Environment Network.

Service outline

Opening Hymn: All Things Bright and Beautiful

Reading: Job 38:4-14 Read by Aya Mpama

The Sermon by Revd Dr Rachel Mash : The Choir of all Creation

‘20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1 : 20-25

Wonderful Biodiversity

As we celebrate the first Sunday of the Season of Creation, let us start with the  story of Creation. When we read these verses from Genesis 1 it is as if we are entering into a national Geographic or Blue Planet video – the water is teeming with living creatures, fish and octopuses,  leaping dolphins and whales . And above us the   great flocks of birds flying across the vault of the sky.  The earth teeming with animals, both wild animals and livestock. And God saw that it was good. Right through this story of creation we read that God saw that it was good, very good, very good indeed.

And yet sadly, these National Geographic images are generally of places far from human kind – the remote patches of rain forest where only a few indigenous tribes live, or the wild  savanna of the Serengeti  where wildebeest still run, or the Antarctic where vast flocks of Emperor penguins huddle together to keep their eggs warm in the freezing cold wind.

The damage done to God’s creation in areas where humans live in numbers in astonishing

According to the WWF “living planet report”  we have suffered a loss of  biodiversity decline of 60% since 1970. In the last fifty years. Two thirds of God’s wonderful species destroyed? Some of them forever?

The situation in South Africa is very bleak – although we only hold a tiny 2 percent of the worlds entire  land surface area – we are home to one in ten of the worlds plant species, and 7 percent of all  reptile, bird and mammal species and a whopping 15% of marine species.

But we have failed to  care for this gift of teeming seas and wonderful and often unique plants. 8 out of 10 river systems are threatened, filled with acid from mines, plastic pollution,  factories’ toxic effluent, and illegal dumping.

If the writer of Psalm 23 were to visit South Africa he  would be hard pressed to find green pastures or quiet waters to refresh his soul next to.

Two thirds of marine areas –  are endangered and half of our wetlands have already been destroyed.

Oh yes it is sad you may say but we have seriously bigger issues to do deal with what about GBV, what about crime what about poverty and homelessness?

The sad thing is that all  are inter-related – if we do not care for Mother Earth then Mother Earth cannot care for us.

A healthy web of life gives so much to us! When fishing stocks crash, how many livelihoods are lost? What happens when those fishermen stay at home with no income – what is the impact on GBV in those communities?

When climate change leads to drought or crops are swept away by flooding, the instant effect is a rise in food prices. The poorest of our society spend half their income on food, whereas the richest may spend only a tiny portion on buying groceries. What happens to the young women who are starting out in new jobs in the cities when the family back home in the rural area says  our crops failed, you must please send more money  we are hungry. How at risk is she of giving in the demands of a sugar daddy who will take care of her financial challenges?

Healthy eco-systems stop  the soil from eroding, and stop floods from rushing through informal settlements, causing havoc and devastation as homes are swept away in their paths.

In Psalm 148 we have a beautiful image of creation praising God with us

Psalm 148 7-10

Praise the Lord from the earth,

you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,

stormy winds that do his bidding,

9 you mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and all cedars,

10 wild animals and all cattle,

small creatures and flying birds,

11 kings of the earth and all nations,

you princes and all rulers on earth,

12 young men and women,

old men and children.

Here at St Pauls you have a great love for music, let us imagine ourselves within this choir of voices, the whales are singing with us, the lightning crashes to glorify God, the wild animals roar, the small creatures are squeaking and the birds are tweeting. The great rulers sing in a mighty bass together with the young girls soprano, We all bring our praise to God together.

But the voices are gradually being silenced, the rich harmony of song and joy is dying out, leaving a gray and dusty world of concrete and plastic.  I remember seeing research conducted in a  rainforest where they had recorded the sound over a period of years and they could measure the reduction in the sounds and voices of creatures that could be heard.

What have we done? Senzenina?

Today is provincial youth day and as the older generation we must start by confessing to the younger generations that we have destroyed their inheritance. There is a harsh reality.  God placed this  beautiful blue planet into our hands to care for, and in the words of Pope Francis, “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”.

The harsh words of the prophet Jeremiah are very apt in Chapter 2 v 7.  “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.”

2020 has hit us with a vengeance as the world has been battered by the corona virus.  A virus which jumped from bat to pangolin in a distant dirty food market in China where sick living animals were in close quarters with raw meat. And yet we have had many warnings – we know that viruses can jump from species to species. Theories are that HIV jumped from monkeys in central Africa from SIV simian  Immuno Virus as people butchered  them and got cut in the process, we have had swine flu, avian flu, mad cow disease.  All of these occur because we do not treasure and protect the eco-systems.

Wild animals are brought into unnatural contact with humans and domesticated animals are threatened in inhumane conditions.  Will the next great plague emerge in a chicken factory farm where chicken stand in their filth and are bumped with antibiotics? What is to stop those viruses jumping to human workers?

This Season of Creation we are called into a new relationship with creation. We have often had a misunderstanding of creation, visualising it as  three levels, God at the top then humans , then the rest of the creation.,  We are part of creation ,we did not get a separate day to be created by God we were created on the same day as the other animals. We have a special role as keepers of the earth, but we are not separate from the web of life.

But just as we lament what the older generation has done , we can celebrate that young people are rising up to take action. I am proud of what young people are doing in this province , people like Mandisa Gumada who I must say was a green Anglican even before Green Anglicans began! Inspiring others to get involved in clean ups, growing vegetables refusing plastic.

In Mauritius where we recently saw that terrible oil spill, it was when dead dolphins started to appear on the shore that young people flooded the streets asking for change. We celebrate the Fridays for future movement and I am excited to tell you that Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate (leader from Uganda) are the guest speakers at the Tutu Annual lecture on the 7th of October as he hands the baton on to young activists.

On the 1st of sep we had an international  prayer for the world day of Creation led by 18 young people of different denominations and countries around the world – from Beirut to Indonesia, Singapore to Venezuala and I was very proud of the input from Green Anglicans not just from our province but from GA Kenya where the movement is flourishing and growing.  It is fitting that the Season of Creation is also youth month in our Province. Let us commit ourselves to encourage and support young people.

Amplify their voices, support their campaigns, whether with transport or snacks or food.  Help to connect young people with nature by organising hikes . help the Sunday school children to fall in love with nature again.

Let the young people dream dreams and see visions of a renewed and healed planet.

References

Prayers by Darkie Gumada

Let us pray

We pray in thanksgiving for Mother Earth in whom all life is rooted, Brother Sun whose energy radiates life, Sister Water who nurtures and revives us, and co-creatures with whom we live, and for whom we are called to till and keep this garden.

Enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.  You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.  Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.  Fill us with peace,  that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.  Creative Spirit,

enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of the Earth, so precious in your eyes.  Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.  Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and of the Earth.  Creative Spirit,

enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

Teach us to discover the worth of every thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognise that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards you infinite light.  Creative Spirit,

enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, hear our cries of compassion, and heal our world and all creatures.  Inspire our hearts with a holy imagination, to rise, freed from the demands to produce and consume, to imagine a just, sustainable way of living, where all have enough, and all may be restored.

enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

During this Season of Creation grant us courage to observe a Sabbath for our planet.  Strengthen us with the faith to trust in your providence.  Inspire us with the creativity to share what we have been given.  Teach us to be satisfied with enough.  And as we proclaim a Jubilee for the Earth, send your Holy Spirit to renew the face of the ground.

enlighten our hearts and remain with your world.

We thank you for being with us each day.  Encourage us we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.  Creative Spirit,

enlighten our hearts and remain with your world. Amen

[adapted from “A Prayer for the Earth”, Pope Francis, Laudato Si, in Season of Creation]

Final Hymn: “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky”

During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account:   Account Name: St Paul’s Church      Account Number: 50854628623     Bank: First National Bank (FNB)     Branch Code: 221426