Author Archives: All Hallows Leeds

Creation Liturgy

The following video is made using part of the liturgy that we use at All Hallows during Creation Season.

In the Beginning

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke, and created the heavens and the earth; light and darkness, day and night; land and sea; sun, moon and stars.

And God saw that it was good.

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke, and plants grew: trees and shrubs, flowers and fruit. And God saw that it was good.

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke again, and the seas filled with fish, birds flew in the sky, and animals of all kinds roamed the earth.

And God saw that it was good.

Voice 1: In the beginning, God created.

Voice 2: God spoke, and created human beings, men, women and children, created in the image of God, given the world to care for.

God saw everything that God had made, and indeed it was very good.


But we have forgotten to care for the world.

In our mindlessness we are ravaging the earth, poisoning the air, polluting the water.

We are destroying our fellow creatures and ourselves.

God our maker, so move us by the wonder of creation

that we repent and care more deeply.

So move us to grieve the loss of life

that we learn to cherish and protect your world.

(Music used by permission: “O Radiant Dawn” by James MacMillan sung by the St Peter’s Singers on their album One Equal Music)

Vacancy – Treasurer

All Hallows is seeking a new volunteer Treasurer from January 2019 – are you the person to help us?

All Hallows church is a Christian community in inner-city Leeds, nationally recognised for its inter-faith and inclusion work. With our neighbours, we work for justice, reconciliation and to inspire hope. We share our life and building with all sorts of people and actively seek to bridge divides and build community connections through encounter and collaboration. As we continue to grow, in both congregation numbers and community engagement, we are aware we need a Treasurer who can support the exciting work of the church throughout the week.

Our Treasurer will be asked to give a few hours per week (flexibly and often remotely) to undertake day-to-day book-keeping (paying invoices, entering transactions, approving expenses, thanking new donors). You will be involved in setting budgets, monitoring activity against these and attending PCC meetings. You will also manage the Gift Aid reclaim. We use ExpensePlus as our finance software which is very user-friendly. Charity finance experience (e.g. fund management) is important, but training and support will be provided.

Please have a look at our church website in order to appreciate and understand the diversity of the church and the community it serves. You will be vital in helping to ensure this work continues and develops.

For more information please contact Lydia: / 0113 242 2205 and respond by 18 October.


Sermon by the Revd Dr Angela Birkin 15th September 2019

Notes from the sermon by the Revd Dr Angela Birkin 15th September 2019

Exodus 3: 1-15
Luke 3: 15-17

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

When I first heard that I would be preaching this morning on the theme of ‘fire’ as part of a sermon series following on from sermons on the themes of earth and air or wind, I have to admit that my first thoughts involved the song Boogie Wonderland, one of the great disco songs of the late 70s by the group Earth Wind and Fire. Thankfully my thoughts moved on, but I do defy anyone not to dance when that particular song comes on the radio.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘fire’?

Do you think of beautiful dancing flames, the delicious smells of a barbeque, warmth on a cold evening?

Or do you think of how humans have harnessed fire to cook food, bake pots and bricks, work metal, produce steam power, electricity and the internal combustion engine?

Or do you think of the destruction and terror and pain and loss of life that fire can cause when it is uncontrolled, or used as a weapon?

Maybe all these thoughts pass through your mind because fire can be comforting and useful whilst also being terrifying and hard to control.

Perhaps it is not too surprising that the writers of the books of the Bible use fire as one of the descriptions of, one of the metaphors for, God,

e.g. in the Old Testament:

Exodus 24:17 ‘The appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain.’

Deuteronomy 4:24 ‘For the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.’

And in the New Testament

Hebrews 12:29 ‘our God is a consuming fire.’

Fire is also written of as a weapon of God’s righteous judgment:

Isaiah 66:15-16 ‘For the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to pay back his anger in fury, and his rebuke in flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD execute judgment.’

And fire is a common biblical symbol of God’s presence:

Exodus again, 14:24 ‘At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army.’

So far, so terrifying and not very comfortable, but we should take notice and consider how this challenges us and our view of God.

Is our picture of God too comfortable, too tame, too small?

Do we play down the strength of the anger of God at injustice, cruelty, greed, and the desecration of creation?

Do we know that when we try to manipulate God, ‘if you do this for me God then I will do that for you’ we are playing with fire?

What does it mean to someone who has suffered greatly in this life at the hands of others to know that ‘by fire will the Lord execute judgment’?

Bearing all this in mind let’s look at our reading from Exodus. Moses is looking after his father-in-law’s sheep, and at Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, he comes upon a burning bush.

This is not an unusual sight in a hot, dry climate, think of the moorland fires which break out during spells of dry weather here, and the wildfires which have occurred in Europe, the Americas and Australia. But something makes Moses turn aside to taka a closer look. The bush was blazing but was not consumed. The energy producing light and heat was not due to combustion using fuel and oxygen, but due to the presence of God.

God has come to talk with Moses because God has heard the cries of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt and has a plan to save them, a plan involving Moses.

In the ever-burning shrub God comes down to Moses’ size, meeting Moses where he is, but at the same time the inextinguishable flame is the sign of God’s awesome and powerful holiness. ‘Take off your sandals Moses’ says God, ‘for this is holy ground. I am going to send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt. I will be with you’.

The fiery holiness of God; attractive ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up’ said Moses, and dangerous ‘Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God’, frightening and yet comforting, untamed but reassuring, ‘I will be with you’ God said to Moses. Fearful and wonderful.

In our passage from Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist says that the one who is coming, Jesus, ‘will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’, and at Pentecost when all the believers were together in one place, ‘divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2.3-4

Fearfully and wonderfully, the Holy Spirit of God came to the believers where they were, frightening no doubt but also comforting, in John’s Gospel chapter 14 the Holy Spirit is called the advocate, the comforter or the helper.

Untamed – the believers started to speak in other languages and were accused of being drunk at 9 o’clock in the morning- but reassuring for it was just as the risen Jesus had promised before his ascension, and they knew that the risen Christ was with them.

‘I will be with you’ God said to Moses from the fiery bush.

‘I am with you always, to the end of the age,’ said Jesus to his disciples. Matt. 28:20

God had a plan involving Moses, came and met with him and equipped him.

God in Jesus Christ had a plan for his disciples, came and met with them and equipped them.

God in Jesus Christ has a plan for us, comes and meets us where we are, whoever we are, no exceptions, and equips us fearfully and wonderfully. And God’s plan always involves salvation, mercy and justice: freeing those who are enslaved by poverty, war, famine, abuse, and violence.

But we need to be observant like Moses. We need to look for God’s presence in people and all creation, and if we notice beauty and strangeness and holiness we need to be prepared to turn aside to take a closer look. If we don’t we may well miss an encounter with the divine.

Poets say things so well in few words:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning from ‘Aurora Leigh’,

‘Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.’

R.S Thomas, priest and poet: ‘The Bright Field’

‘I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.’

God in Jesus Christ equips us to serve God’s kingdom of love and mercy and justice with Godself, the Holy Spirit so that everywhere we walk is holy ground, is burning with the inextinguishable fire, the unquenchable fire,  of God who is love.

Words of Woody Guthrie:

‘That spot is holy holy ground
That place you stand, it’s holy ground
This place you tread, it’s holy ground
God made this place his holy ground.

Take off your shoes and pray
The ground you walk, it’s holy ground
Every spot on earth I traipse around
Every spot I walk, it’s holy ground.’


This Week 16th – 22nd September

Mon 16 Sep 11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 17 Sep @7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Wed 18 Sep @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thu 19 Sep 11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 20 Sep 11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 20 Sep @11:30am Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Fri 20 September @11am Leeds Global Strike 4 Climate Justice,  Millennium Square, LS1
Sat 21 Sep 11am-5pm Leeds Urban Harvest apple pressing in the back yard at All Hallows
Sat 21 Sep @ 11am-1pm ‘Saints and Sultans’ interfaith fellowship and refreshments at Shah Jalal Mosque, 27 Ellers Rd, LS8 4JH
Sun 22 Sep World Car Free Day – see if you can manage the day without your car, or if you need to use it share it!
Sun 22 Sep @10.30am
Sunday morning worship – Part 4 of our Creation Season series – Water

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sunday 15th September 2019 – Creation 3

During Creation Season we are reflecting on the four classical elements of nature – earth, air, fire and water. This Sunday the Rev. Angela Birkin will be leading our thoughts on fire using the readings Exodus 3:1-15 and Luke 3:15-17.


Sermon by Graeme Hay 8th September 2019

Notes from the sermon by Graeme Hay 8th September 2019

Creation Season part 2:Air

Psalm 139:13-16
John 20:19-22

Creation: Fearfully and wonderfully made Air and Breathe

Today is the second in our four-part series on Creation: Fearfully and wonderfully made and I am considering Air, or more particularly Breathe. We’ll look briefly at what and why we need air and breath but I want us then to consider God’s breath and Spirit and how or if we need that.

What is Air? I can’t see it, touch or feel it, but I know it’s all around me and without Air I would die. Technically it is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide and about 0.03% other gases. Air’s value to us is that we need to breathe it in order to live. When we breathe our diaphragm lowers, our chest cavity expands and our lungs take in air: but our bodies only really need the oxygen which is absorbed into our blood, and carbon dioxide is expelled when we breathe out. Breathing is a reflex action which our bodies perform naturally and without us having to think about or tell our brain to do. But we can override the system and actively manage our breathing.

For example let us all (who can or would like to take part) see who can hold their breath the longest: i.e. who has the biggest breathe! When I say so I’d like you to stand then take a deep breath and hold it for as long as possible: when you can’t hold your breath any longer please sit down (i.e. don’t collapse) and the last person standing, literally will have the biggest breathe.

Now let’s have a go at slowing our breath to reduce our breathing rate. This time we’ll take a big breath and exhale it as slowly as possible: it may help to gently whistle as you exhale or to imagine you have an eyelash on the end of your finger and you’re trying to blow it off.

Now another aspect of Air is Wind. You cannot actually see ‘Wind’ but you can certainly see its effect and outcome. When I was preparing this talk the sun was shining and I thought it would be lovely to sit on my balcony and enjoy the sun’s warmth. But it was windy and as soon as I sat down my papers and books where blowing around out of my control and I had to go back inside. More dramatically did you see the pictures of the effect of hurricane Dorian on the Bahamas this week?

The Bible sometimes uses the image that God’s Spirit is like breath or wind in order to help us understand some aspects of what God is like, how God works, who God is.

“Ruach” is the Hebrew word the Jewish Bible uses for ‘wind’ or ‘breath’. It is not just the actual physical thing but more significantly the POWER encountered in the breath or wind: this power is seen as motion and action or the ability to set other things into action. “Ruach” is used to describe the power of God’s action in the world: so the power of God in creation in Genesis as ‘God moved over the face of the waters’; or the power of God at specific times such as in Luke when the angel Gabriel visited Mary ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you’.

In the biblical account of creation ( which I believe is meant to give spiritual meaning and not be a literal record) in Genesis 2v7 we read “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”.  God the Creator is our source and the sustaining power of our world and lives.

I was able to be present when each of my parents at different times in hospitals took their last breath and died. On each occasion their medical care was superb, but their bodies were worn out and I was alongside them as their physical strength failed, their breathing slowed, then stopped. Their physical bodies were still and their souls were at rest.  

I was also privileged to be at the births of both my children: when the babies emerged into the world and took their first gasping breaths and amazingly their bodies started moving and each of their fabulous lives truly started.

The idea of God breathing creation into being is recorded more poetically in Psalm 33v6 “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of God’s mouth.”  The psalm continues to suggest our rightful response to God’s power, verse 8 “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the people of the world revere God.”

In the more philosophical narrative of Job , when Job has been beset by horrendous calamities, in reply to his friend Zophar’s explanation of why these events occurred, Job himself is able to offer an understanding Job 12v10 “In God’s hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all humankind.” Whether in good times or bad times God gives us breath and we can see our lives as ‘being in God’s hand’ not necessarily to prevent harm happening but surely to be with us in our difficulties and offering support and comfort.

We are given a different image of God breathing life into worn, dried-out bones in Ezekiel’s prophecy of the valley of dry bones. In the prophecy Ezekiel was shown a valley which was covered with dry lifeless bones and asked if the bones could be made to live. Ezekiel 37v5-6 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says ( to the dried-out bones): I will make breath enter you and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

We are given a reason why God has created us, his amazing people, called to follow the way of Jesus, in Isaiah’s prophecy and the well-known passage about the Suffering Servant, which we take to be a foretelling of the life and ministry of Jesus. Isaiah42v1 “Here is my servant whom I uphold, I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations….He will not shout or cry out…A bruised reed he will not break…He will not falter or be discouraged til he establish justice on earth.” Isaiah42v5-6 continues “This is what God the LORD says-God who created the heavens who gives breathe to its people… I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness: I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those that sit in darkness.”  Notice that in these few verses we see reference to God the Spirit being both a presence (upon the Servant) and an enabling force (upon the people).

So what is different about breathing air (which everyone does) and receiving God’s breath or Spirit? Is this something I can do? Is it reserved only for ‘special people’? Is it real and for now?

In John’s gospel Nicodemus, a religious man who knew the ancient Hebrew texts and was following God’s rules, came to Jesus questioning the new things God was doing through Jesus and what this new kingdom Jesus was showing was about. In reply Jesus said John3v8-16 (parts) “The Spirit gives birth to spirit…You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit…For God so loved the world that God gave the one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God doesn’t force people to receive his Spirit we need to choose to open our lives and let God work in our lives so that by the breath of God’s Spirit we grow in God’s grace.

This leads us nicely to today’s gospel reading. We are right at the point of Jesus resurrection, the stunned disciples, still in fear of their lives, are cowering in an upper room and the risen Jesus is with them . Overjoyed with his presence Jesus shares his peace with them and then empowers them with the gift of God’s Holy Spirit; John20v21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. With that Jesus breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” God offers us a new, special presence to help us live more loving caring lives as we follow the example of Jesus life; to grow in God’s peace and share our experience with others.

What is Air? I can’t see it, touch or feel it, but I know it’s all around me and without Air I would die. Now another aspect of Air is Wind. You cannot actually see ‘Wind’ but you can certainly see its effect and outcome. So it is with God’s Spirit or breath. We can’t see it, we can’t usually feel it physically, but wow as a Christian do I need God’s Spirit or presence with me to help me to live as I’d like to.

AS Jesus promised to his disciples in that upper room after his resurrection, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit, and we need the Holy Spirit to empower us to live loving, caring lives and to share the Good News of God’s continuing presence that is still with us today with others around us.

Not just so we here at church can be blessed, but so that others near us and around us can be blessed too. Remember the promise from Isaiah’s prophecy? “… I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness: I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those that sit in darkness.”

As we receive God’s Holy Spirit we should expect to develop and demonstrate some of God’s good qualities in our lives. In the Bible some of those qualities are described as “fruits of the Spirit”. Do you remember Heston’s challenge to Kid’s Church last week? Can anyone tell me some or all of those fruits? Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Wow would I like more of those qualities in my life!

So we’ve had a whirlwind tour through the Bible and looked at various images describing God’s action in creating and empowering by the Spirit’s breath: in Genesis breathing new life into being; in Job giving breath and holding us in his hand; in Ezekiel breathing and giving new life to old dried-out bones; in Isaiah Spirit anointing and empowering; and in John’s gospel Spirit giving us new life to receive a spiritual birth and the resurrection Spirit breathing life into us to share Jesus Good News  with others.

We probably spend most of our days (and nearly all of our nights) not being aware or controlling our breathing. It’s regular, natural and normal. But there are times (maybe under pressure or stress) when we are very aware of our breath and the air we need. Eg as we’re gasping for breath after we’ve walked upstairs, or run for a bus: or when we’re anxious and tell ourselves “BREATHE”.

If you’re like me you probably spend most of your time unaware of God beside us in our daily lives, alongside us in the nitty gritty of daily routine. But we might remember to send up an arrow prayer for help when a friend asks, or when we face a difficult situation. When we take time to read God’s word, the Bible, and when we come to church to share in communion and fellowship with others we soak in God’s presenceand breathe more deeply of the Spirit among us.

As I close we are going to spend a short time together with an opportunity to actively manage our breathing and invite God, by the Holy Spirit to be among us and enable us to rest in God’s presence and receive again from the Holy Spirit. We’ll be quiet in prayer as I will simply ask God to grace us with his presence.

Let us pray. As we pray allow God by the Spirit to come and grace us with gifts of the Spirit.

Holy Spirit breathe LOVE on us, take away dislike and scorn.

Holy Spirit breathe JOY on us, take away despair and sorrow.

Holy Spirit breathe PEACE on us, take away conflict and strife.

Holy Spirit breathe PATIENCE on us, take away irritation and exasperation.

Holy Spirit breath GOODNESS on us, take away badness and corruption.

Holy Spirit breathe KINDNESS on us, take away cruelty and cold-heartedness.

Holy Spirit breathe FAITHFULNESS on us, take away deceit and hypocrisy.

Holy Spirit breathe GENTLENESS on us, take away harshness and anger.

Holy Spirit breathe SELF-CONTROL on us, take away thoughtlessness and rashness.

Holy Spirit as we rest in your presence grace us with your gifts.

Pause for time to rest and receive from Holy Spirit.



This Week 9th – 15th September

Mon 9 Sep 11am-3pmRainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 10 Sep @7:30-9pm Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Wed 11 Sep @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Wed 11 Sep @7:30pm Licensing of Rev Hannah Lievesley as the new vicar of St Chad’s, Far Headingley
Thu 12 Sep 11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 13 Sep 11am-3pm Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Fri 13 Sep @11:30am Bible Study at church (0113 2297546 for further info)
Sun 15 Sep @10.30am Sunday morning worship – Part 3 of our Creation Season series – Fire
Sun 15 September @ 4pm Green plans for Headingley and Leeds: Q & A with local MP and councillors (at St Michael’s, Headingley)

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Sunday 8th September 2019 – Creation 2

This Sunday will be the second Sunday in Creation and we will be thinking about Air in our series on Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Graeme Hay will be leading our thoughts.

The Canticle of Creation (by Saint Francis of Assisi)

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.
Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
– you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.

Starting the week

It’s easy to feel despairing with all these crazy political goings-on going on. So here’s a little reminder about our Great Big God who is LOVE. and just in case Love doesn’t sound like a match for Mr Johnson….

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer,
no disease that enough love will not heal,
no door that enough love will not open;
no gulf that enough love will not bridge;
no wall that enough love will not throw down;
no sin that enough love will not redeem.
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble,
how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake.
A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.
If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world.

(Emmet Fox)

God invites us to spend our lives ‘putting love where love is not’ (St John of the Cross) – and right now there is MUCH love needed in this land.

So pray for the UK in love. And ‘put love’ in as many little and large ways as you possibly can. which includes being ready to protest and registered to vote!

Sermon by Toby Parsons 1st September 2019

Notes from the sermon by Toby Parsons 1st September 2019

Creation Season (Earth)

Psalm 139:13-16
Luke 8:22-25

Can I invite you to close your eyes, and to start forming a picture in your mind of somewhere on this earth that you find beautiful?
It might be the rugged coast of Northumberland, with long windswept beaches and an endless sea.
It might be a gentle piece of nature much nearer to home – a corner of your garden, or an open park, where you can sit and just be.
Or it might be right within the bustle of Leeds itself – or a panorama of skyscrapers in a megacity; beauty in busy-ness.
You may or may not have been there; perhaps you’ve only seen pictures.
And as you hold that image in your mind, try to see some of the detail – maybe the birds and insects that move along that windswept coast, or the ornate decoration on one of the buildings in the background. [brief pause]
If you can just hold that image in the back of your mind, we’ll return to it in a few minutes.

So, this is the start of Creation Season at All Hallows. Over the next month we’ll particularly celebrate God as Creator – the fountain of life, to use the words from the start of our Creation Season liturgy. Over four weeks, we’ll focus in turn on earth, air, water and fire as the themes for our sermons.
So today, we’re thinking about the earth – although apologies in advance for straying a little from that theme! But the earth… the incredible place God has created for us, and to which we are so fundamentally connected. One of the Hebrew words for ground or earth which is used in the book of Gensis is Adamah. The link to Adam as one of the first humans in the creation story reinforces that connection between humankind, Adam, and the earth, Adamah. We originated from the earth, and in a physical sense we’ll return to it – “dust to dust, ashes to ashes”, as we hear at funeral services.

We heard a version of the first chapter of Genesis at the start of our service today, and many will know the biblical creation story very well. Whilst most Christians today are comfortable with not taking it literally, there are many points we could draw out. We could look at the fact that God created humans last, not first. Or we could focus on the example of resting and reviewing work well done, as God did multiple times. But for now, I just wonder why it took seven days?
God didn’t rest at the end of each day because of tiredness. There wasn’t that Friday-feeling of “thank goodness it’s all over for another week”, or an exhausted flomp on the sofa. God wasn’t tired.
And it’s not that God couldn’t have summoned everything into being in one go. Creation could indeed have been described in the bible as a big bang: an explosion of God’s creative power.
Amazing. Immediate.
But instead we have a six stage journey – seven, if you include the day of rest. And perhaps we should take from that a suggestion, a reminder, that creation isn’t a single event that happens and finishes.
Later on in our service today, we’ll be invited to join in saying the affirmation of faith(1) together. The opening line of the version we use during Creation Season is “We believe that God creates all things, renews all things, and holds all things in love”. At other times of the year, our liturgy uses the phrase “We believe in God, who has created and is creating”. It’s an on-going process, not a one-off event.
As individuals, we‘ve been created – individually and specially, not accidentally. Just as the earth is the sum of so many different parts, we are each a unique combination of our skills, our personalities, our experiences. If we call to mind again that image of somewhere in the world we find beautiful, it will surely have many parts to it. Even if it’s a mighty river, it’s perhaps got a
backdrop of clear blue sky, or lush vegetation on the banks. And that’s before we get to the subtle detail – the swirling eddies, the shadows, the reflection of the sun. Whatever our image, it will be made complete by many different things, and removing one of them – even the supposed least; even the most painful, if we think now of the experiences that form us – will diminish the whole.
And so, we are individually made; our completeness being in our complexity. And to hear again the opening words of the affirmation of faith, “We believe that God creates all things, renews all things, and holds all things in love”.
If creation is a journey, a process that doesn’t stop; if we believe that God does indeed renew all things; then we haven’t just been created, but we – and the whole of humankind – are continually being re-created, renewed.
Let’s go back again to the image in our minds – the place that you find beautiful. Maybe close your eyes again, if that’s helpful. And now try to picture it if we gradually turned back time: a day; a year; a decade; a century; or right back to Jesus’s time. Depending on your image, it might be very obviously different when you get to the Victorian era, the middle ages, the time of Christ. Certainly any stamp of human activity will have changed. But it may initially feel much the same – hills or coastline would still be there. They would change, however – beaches vary with both the daily tide and the effect of the currents over the years; even rivers change their course… if my vague memories of secondary school geography are correct, a river’s course meanders in curves, which can then separate to form distinct ox-bow lakes. This leads to a part of the river that had been a swirling churning current becoming a still, calm lake. And then later in time, it perhaps rejoins the main river.
Some of the changes we see in our world are accelerated at the moment by human actions, through climate change and the abuse of our environment. Some changes will naturally happen anyhow. Whatever the cause, creation is an on-going process.
So what does that mean for each of us?

I wonder if, for most people, life is a mixture of regular, routine, repeated experiences, and the specific events that stand out much more. We might have that combination of nerves, excitement and refreshed interest when we start a new school, begin a different job, or commit to a new relationship. We don’t know at that point exactly how those steps will shape our lives in the future, although we may have a plan as to how we see things developing. But we can’t be sure what will happen, even if we do know that these are moments of creation, of new opportunity.
Some of these events won’t be positive. There are times when our individual world will be turned upside down; when an unwanted intrusion of grief, anger or hurt punctures our routine of life. Sometimes that will be in ways everyone else can see; at other times it may be much more hidden. Sometimes we’ll wonder why this should have happened to us; at other times we might devalue the pain we feel because of all the headlines of suffering we see in the world.
These events, and the potentially long and slow journey of healing that follows the most painful ones, are important moments in our very own creation story; our journey of renewal.
So where does that journey lead? If we turn back to the bible – and resist the temptation for our fingers to flick to Genesis at the mention of creation! – we can see in the gospels how Jesus himself embodied those concepts of creation and renewal.
We can read the practical accounts (which, unusually, are found in all four gospels) of Jesus creating meals for thousands from a few loaves and fishes. We can see in many emotionally charged verses that he created excitement and fervour in the crowds. Conversely we read of Jesus calming the storm in Luke 8 – creating physical stillness and removing the disciples’ fear. And Jesus created peace around many who were troubled – think of John 8, verse 9, when Jesus is left alone with the woman caught in adultery, after her accusers have withdrawn one by one following
Jesus’s challenge to throw the first stone. John may not have said it, but you can imagine the stillness, the relief, but also the remaining pain, with Jesus waiting quietly for the woman to digest what’s just happened.
Jesus creates, in so many different ways. But even he is also renewed by God throughout his earthly life. He comes to his active ministry over time; he gradually teaches his disciples; he struggles in the garden of Gethsemane with the knowledge of his coming death (Mark 14, from verse 32). And then comes the cross, the moment when it might all have stopped; the ultimate test of destruction versus the on-going power of creation.

There are many fantastic Easter hymns, resurrection hymns, that abound with joy and promise, and I love that rejoicing on Easter Sunday. But some of the words can feel so triumphalist, so certain of victory, that they don’t always match our life experiences throughout the year.
But the middle lines of Thine Be The Glory say “Lo! Jesus meets us, Risen from the tomb; Lovingly He greets us, Scatters fear and gloom”. Again, we have the present tense – meets us, greets us, scatters fear… not once, I’d suggest, but many times throughout our lives, as part of that process of creation, re-creation, renewal. And the meeting doesn’t have to be at those massive moments, but in the routine times too – Jesus rises to greet us each and every day. And whilst the now scattered gloom probably does reform at another point in our life, Jesus will again offer to meet us there, creating and renewing.
Our affirmation of faith today starts “We believe that God creates all things, renews all things, and holds all things in love”. It concludes “We believe that with Jesus Christ we too will rise and take our place in a new creation, reconciled, restored, and renewed”. There may be a long and often painful journey before we reach that final statement, but each step – whether big or small; whether forwards, backwards or sideways; however painful – is part of our own creation story, which God writes with us, in love.

1 Affirmation of faith in Creation Season
We believe that God creates all things, renews all things, and holds all things in love. We believe Earth is a sacred place filled with God’s presence, a home for all its creatures to share. We believe that God became a man of Earth, Jesus Christ, who lived and breathed among us, suffered and died on a cross, for all human beings and for all creation, and rose again to fill all things. We believe the Spirit renews life in the world, groans together with every suffering creature, and waits with us for the whole universe to be reborn. We believe that with Jesus Christ we too will rise and take our place in a new creation, reconciled, restored, and renewed.