Notes from the sermon by Paul Magnall on 4th June 2017 – Pentecost and Environment Sunday (there was a PowerPoint presentation as well)
Good morning. No apologies but “there now follows a party political broadcast on behalf of…”
I hope I don’t offend anyone, but if I do it is not intentional! I need to point out that there will be political content and you will probably guess my politics (see the colour of the slides!) but I am not here to tell you how to vote. What I will do is to encourage you to join the debates around the election and to make your voice heard by voting on Thursday.
This Sunday is Pentecost, it is the Sunday when we celebrate the working of God’s Holy Spirit and, in particular, when God poured out His Spirit onto His followers days after Jesus had ascended into Heaven.
This Sunday is also Environment Sunday when we celebrate God’s Creation and how we look after it.
Today I am going to combine the two!
There are many images of the Spirit of God, a white dove, a wind, tongues of fire but one of the earliest is as breath. The Hebrew word is Ruakh and has many interpretations, is it gentle breathing or a passionate snort? Or maybe both?
The Bible talks of God as Spirit right from the very beginning – “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2
We then see God breathing life into a man made from the dust of the ground.
So the image of the Spirit of God is there in creating and in bringing about life.
The Spirit of God also brings change and disruption. In a story harking back to breathing life into a man made from the dust of the ground, Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the dry bones in the middle of a valley and they all join together but are still lifeless. Ezekiel is then told to prophecy to the breath and God breathes life into the bones (Ezekiel 37)
And throughout the Old Testament the Spirit of God comes upon people inspiring them to do great, crazy, disruptive things in order to bring people back to God’s ways of justice and love.
In the New Testament we see Jesus, full of the Spirit of God, preaching, teaching, performing miracles which change and disrupt people’s lives, showing and challenging them to live in peace and harmony, to stand against the injustices of the time, to love one another even if they were the equivalent of Conservatives, or Liberals, or UKIP supporters, or Labour or Greens, even if they were oppressors or murderers.
And then, on the day of Pentecost, more change, more disruption. The Spirit of God falls on the followers of Jesus and they go out preaching and teaching about the Good News of God’s Kingdom – of love. And the disruption was so much that many people “devoted themselves …. To fellowship” and “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” What a huge disruption!
Second Reading: Mark 4:30-34
I think that the parable of the mustard seed is all about disruption. No one in their right mind would have planted mustard in their gardens in the days of Jesus, in fact it was seen like we see invasive species today, I believe they even had laws about planting it. Once planted it took over everything, like bindweed or goose grass but possibly even worse! So when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, was he saying that even a tiny little thing like a mustard seed could cause incredible disruption?
So, what about the Environment? It doesn’t seem to be getting any press these days! (Picture of Trump)
When God saw His finished Creation he didn’t just think it was good, He thought it was Very Good (Genesis 1:31), so much so that he took time off to relax and enjoy it!
But if I think about breath and creation now, what do I think of? I think of choking
– Choking on air pollution
– The seas choking on plastics and chemicals
– A world where animals are being choked out of existence
– A world where human beings are choking on the injustices that we impose on them.
Instead of a world where we have everything in common, where we have Fair Share (Permaculture ethic!), instead we have a world of greed and destruction:
– We make money out of armaments which exchange hands again and again and are used indiscriminately aroundthe world to kill and maim people and to destroy the environment that we depend on for life
– We extract as much out of the ground and air as we can with little or no thought of the consequences
– When we think we have got everything out of the ground we find other ways of getting stuff out of the ground, even if it is not economically viable! We seem fixated on Fracking!
– We continue to pollute the air that we breath even though we know that we don’t have to and that it makes us ill and it kills us
– We pollute our water with plastics and chemicals doing untold damage to the life in the sea that sustains us
– We continue to erode the very soil that we are dependent upon for growing our food
– And of course, there is climate change.
And we do most of these things, not through ignorance but through greed. It is done to make some of us rich but it makes the world a poorer and more unsafe place to be.
So, on this Pentecost Sunday, where do we see the work of the Spirit of God in all this? Where is His disrupting influence?
To find out we can stop and look and observe
– where Life is being enhanced and celebrated, where life is being breathed.
– And we can look at where there is disruption and change for the better.
– In Permaculture we have a principle about observing (which I have spoken about before) and we have a principle that we should “Use edges and value the marginal” – it is at the edges and boundaries that things happen, where it is most fertile for change. Even the Franciscans were aware of this – St Francis wanted us to live a life on the edge of the inside—not at the centre or the top, but not outside throwing rocks either. ( https://cac.org/at-home-in-the-world-2017-06-02/ )
So here are just a few of the places where I think the Spirit of God is at work, breathing new life and bringing about change and disruption for the better:
– David Attenborough, educating us about the wonders and the fragility of Nature and that we are part of Nature
– Children growing up and learning about nature
– Caroline Lucas and the Green Party, a smallish voice speaking out for the Common Good
– Green Peace, protesting against the damage that we do to the planet
– Protestors such as the Anti-Fracking groups who make us aware of the damage Fracking causes and the fact that we don’t need to do it.
– People growing their own food in ways that work with Nature rather than against it eg Agroforestry and Forest Gardens
– People helping to reclaim the deserts and marginal lands that we have abused
– The Permaculture movement
– Climate change talks and agreements
– Emanuel Macron and other politicians who stand up for the planet
– And there are loads more! So be encouraged!
So, what little things can we do that might be part of God’s ongoing work in creation, of building God’s Kingdom of love and justice, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share?
Every little thing helps. I’m going to suggest a few simple and relatively easy things that came off the top of my head
– A vote on Thursday (assuming that you are voting for the correct party!)
– Using a bar of soap instead of plastic bottles of liquid soap – this reduces packaging, waste, weight of material transported, and natural soaps will be even more environmentally friendly. I use soap made from goats milk!
– walking or cycling or using public transport instead of driving, or even car sharing
– growing some of your own food, even if it is just a few strawberries
Over to you – I challenge you to think of something, little or big, that you can commit to doing over the next year, write it down on a piece of paper and then come and put it on the balance at the front. Let’s see if we can tip the balance!
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– For natural soap bars I use http://itsbaaathtime.co.uk/ in particular I like the Chunky Baa
– Toothbrushes – if you google bamboo toothbrush you will find many suppliers. Look for one who supplies them with biodegradable bristles then you can throw the whole thing into the compost bin when you finish with it.
– Journey of a toothbrush video – https://youtu.be/Pd_C3YK3kI4
– Permaculture Principles