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Fauna and Flora Sunday

Fear and worry are at an all-time high in America. Polls show that majorities of Americans worry about being a victim of a terrorist attack and crime. Even though overall crime rates are down, the sense of disorder is relentless. Mass shootings are commonplace. Violent protests are routine. Global warming is accepted. Politicians on all sides have tapped into these worries and used them to sway our vote. These societal fears are in addition to the day-to-day fears of life. We wonder: Am I “hitting the mark” at work? Am I failing as a parent? Will my body make it to retirement? Have I made the right investments? Am I even happy? We worry. We’re anxious. We’re afraid…

Season of Creation-Fauna and Flora

Wicker Park Lutheran Church

Rev. Jason S. Glombicki

September 4th, 2016

Fear and worry are at an all-time high in America. Polls show that majorities of Americans worry about being a victim of a terrorist attack and crime. Even though overall crime rates are down, the sense of disorder is relentless. Mass shootings are commonplace. Violent protests are routine. Global warming is accepted. Politicians on all sides have tapped into these worries and used them to sway our vote.[1] These societal fears are in addition to the day-to-day fears of life. We wonder: Am I “hitting the mark” at work? Am I failing as a parent? Will my body make it to retirement? Have I made the right investments? Am I even happy? We worry. We’re anxious. We’re afraid.

In today’s gospel, Jesus responded to this fear and worry. Jesus began by saying, “do not worry about your life.” (Luke 12:22) We might think, “Well, Jesus, that’s easier said than done! Come on, now.” The disciples probably thought that too. Then Jesus says, “consider” – consider the ravens and consider the lilies. Consider.  The word translated here from Greek as “consider” also means: “to perceive or discern distinctly or clearly; to understand, observe.” In the midst of our worry, how often do we stop to consider? Do we ever stop to observe and understand something so seemingly unrelated such as lilies and ravens? In the midst of our fear do we take a step back and look larger? Often I don’t. When I’m caught up in the cycle of worry I have my blinders on. I’m focused on the one particular thing. Yet, here Jesus says, “consider” – consider the flora and fauna. With this movement, Jesus is emphasizing an important principle. Here we are reminded of the ways that creation can be self-decentering.

        Often we view creation as self-serving or as something that we can use for our own gain. We look at a forest as raw material and riches. We see cattle as a hamburgers and hides. Animals are slaughtered for their tusks, their shells, or for sport.  We view animals and plants as a means to another end, but rarely view them as something intrinsically valuable. It doesn’t take but a stroll down a grocery store aisle or a visit to a department store to see the truth of this addiction.

          Today’s readings, however, open our minds to consider something new. Jesus reminds us of God’s provisions and care for all things. It’s challenging to find ways to live in harmony and to learn from creation. So too in our reading from Job we’re pushed to embrace a theology of creation. As Leah Schade put it, a theology where “animals are not just passive receptors of God’s grace,” but where they actively do God’s work with their very existence.[2]

Yet, humankind often fails to recognize this intrinsic value of animals and plants on Earth. Thomas Berry notes that the role of the Church is to help humanity establish ourselves in a “single integral community including all component members of planet Earth.” This necessitates that humans come to see our role in the universe as completely dependent on Earth’s flora and fauna. It calls us to recognize a value of creation that does not depend on human needs and wants. Instead we first accept a more limited role in our interactions. Then we work to create continuity between the human and non-human in every aspect of life – in our activities, institutions, and operating principles. In this, Berry sees hope for the planet and hope for human survival.

This merged boundary between plants and animals sounds like complete foolishness to the world. To consider all plants and animals as valuable, to embrace an animal-ethics-activism, and to value our inter-connectivity with all of creation is absurd. Yet, this is what Paul is referring to in First Corinthians. He implores that “there be no divisions among you.” He pleads for a unity in mind and purpose. He reminds us that the cross appears as foolishness to the world.

You see, the wisdom of the world is not the wisdom of God. To be together as one people, to be gathered as all of creation, and to recognize the value of all things is foolish to the world.  The world’s wisdom draws divisions. The wisdom of the world values the rich and cast down the poor; the world lifts up success at all costs and laughs at compassion; the world’s wisdom prioritizes humanity’s desires to the detriment of Earth. Yet, consider the lilies; consider the ravens. Do not be fearful. Be foolish. Embrace God’s wisdom of love and unity. For God’s wisdom lifts up the poor and sends the rich away empty; the wisdom of God values compassion and challenges unbridled “success;” God’s wisdom holds all creation as complementary and treasured.

Do not fear. Consider foolishness. These are the action items for our reflection this week. First, we embrace Jesus’ words “do not fear.” With that we remove our blinders, we tone down our anxiety, we remember God’s gift of love, and we open ourselves to something new.

Then, we consider. We educate ourselves. In this space we’ve tried to help you begin this journey today. Behind me is a tapestry entitled, “Red Trees.” In the words of the artist, “this piece conveys a sense of loss, the dynamic relationship between humans and the natural world, and the hope born of persistence.” These red squares of cloth were placed over abandoned tree stumps after a patch of land was clear-cut. The sun bleached these cloths for a year before the artist collected them. Then she took these impressions of the trees and created a reminder of the vulnerability and value of all living things.

Today we also gather to remember the endangered species across the globe – some familiar and some unknown. We learn of them through the candles lit in the back. These candles remind us of the light of Christ in all living things. The candles remind us of our baptism, like Sawyer’s today. The candles call us to follow Christ’s example to be that foolish light of hope in the world.

Then today we are sent into the world. We go to respond to what we’ve learned and to grow in faith and love. Maybe your response will look like taking an intentional meat Sabbath each week. On that Sabbath perhaps you’ll pause to give thanks and to acknowledge the many lives given for your food. You might also find new ways to use your money by purchasing 100% recycled paper to prevent deforestation. Or at the Farmer’s Market you might purchase local produce or animals that were cared for with compassion.

So there it is – friends, there’s a lot to fear in this world. Worry runs wild. Yet, do not fear – consider the lilies; consider the ravens. You are loved. Open your eyes to something bigger. Find ways to foolishly live out the gospel of the cross. Live into God’s wisdom – the wisdom of unity and love. Then go into the world and respond by letting you light shine. Amen.

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/donald-trump-and-the-politics-of-fear/498116/

[2] http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/the-second-sunday-in-the-season-of-creation-in-year-c