Minister's Sermon - Friday 28th September 2018
Rev Sue Keegan von Allmen
Rev Sue Keegan von AllmenFriday 28th September 2018

Genesis 8.15-22

Matthew 13:31-32

God said to Noah: “As long as the world exists, there will be a time for planting and a time for harvest. There will always be cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

This summer and early autumn has been a time when I have often wondered whether God really reckoned with what human beings could do to the earth. What began by looking like a wonderful hot summer, resulted in farmers using the animal foods they’d kept for the winter during the summer, a smaller wheat harvest all over Europe, and the promise of increasing prices for food and vegetables. The harvest being gathered in this year is smaller. And on Wednesday, I heard that the weather has affected the harvest of conquers. The ones grown on British trees this year, are too small and too brittle for the conquer championships, and they’ll have to import some from Germany! And it’s not just the harvest. Thankfully, the number of hurricanes expected this year, is fewer than normal. But as in previous years, they’re becoming more and more destructive, and causing greater flooding. The same is true of typhoons in East Asia.

The destruction caused by hurricanes and typhoons, always hits the weakest and most vulnerable, the hardest. While the US recovered very quickly from the hurricanes that devastated the region last year. Whole islands in the Caribbean are still struggling to replace their infrastructure and many of those who left have not been able to return. The same is true in the typhoon that hit the Philippines and Hong Kong earlier this month. The Philippines will be left with the scars long after Hong Kong has forgotten about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I read that the melting of arctic ice as a result of warmer seas, is now at a tipping point. The sea level continues to increase as is the pace that coral reefs are dying. We’ve known for many years, that these are the results of climate change, caused by the use of fossil fuels since the Industrial revolution. Blue Planet 2 – shown on the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough last year - highlighted well-known issues. But it caught the nation’s imagination. Everyone was talking about and the government and shops have found themselves trying to catch up. Last week, the Coop announced that it will stop using single use plastic bags altogether. Yet much damage has been done and it would take tens of years to reverse if we wanted to – ‘though the signs of us finding ways of agreeing to do that are not hopeful.

Why am I saying all this when we’re supposed to be celebrating harvest? Well, we all know that the way we’re living now, is changing the harvests of the future. We’re radically affecting the future for our children, our children’s children and for all future generations. So much so, that I believe God’s promise to Noah, is under threat. God said. “As long as the world exists, there will be a time for planting and a time for harvest. There will always be cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” But we’re increasingly aware that the human race is undermining this promise. There’s another version of the ancient story of the flood which speaks of the flood waters being God’s tears. That was God saw sin destroying the world, God wept and wept, and the flood was the result. [Personally, I find the God that weeps truer to the God who died on the cross, than the story if an angry God who killed every-one. But that’s for another time.] I wonder whether the idea of God weeping, rings true for you, as you watch the effects of climate change on the earth and on those who have the least resources to affect any change? In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul talks about the earth “groaning in travail,” or “in labour pains.” Pope Francis picks up this image in his encyclical letter about the environment. He reflects on the cry of the earth. “Sister earth,” he says, “along with all the abandoned of our world, [cries] out pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.”

So, what might it mean for us, to take another course? What might it mean to be God’s instruments on this planet? What might it mean to work with God, so that what God desired when God created it, might come to fruition? For me, there are three things, we might do. The first, is to take a conscious look at how we use the world’s resources, and find ways of saving them. Whether that’s energy, plastics, batteries and so on. This church’s use of solar panels offers us an excellent example. That might not be possible for all of us, but we can all do something about our use of plastics, and other resources. The second thing I wanted to suggest is – grow something – even if it’s mustard and cress. Growing things connects us to the earth, to the soil, and reminds us that everything doesn’t depend on us – but on God. Our task is to tend a plant and to care for it. But the water, the soil, the air, the heat that’s required for it to grow, comes from God. And that keeps us humble. The final thing is to keep on celebrating harvest, even when it seems to make less and less sense. To carry on celebrating so that we remember God’s promise. “As long as the world exists, there will be a time for planting and a time for harvest. There will always be cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Amen.

Sue Keegan von Allmen