Sermon for September 15, 2019

Season of Creation 1 – OCEAN

Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

Other Readings: Job 38:1-18; Ps 104:1-9, 24-26; Eph 1:3-10

It is a little strange to be doing this Season of Creation. I am usually so tied to the lectionary, which is where we usually get our readings from. I like staying tied to it because I think there is a gift in exploring so many different texts in a 3-year cycle. And having texts assigned means we’re sometimes doing texts that I wouldn’t have chosen myself, and that’s a good thing. I heard a colleague once describe the lectionary not as a circle that we repeat over and over again, but as a spiral, where each subsequent cycle draws us deeper and deeper in faith. I have found that to be true for myself. Doing this Season of Creation will take us a bit outside the lectionary box, and yet not at the same time. 

In this Season of Creation, there will be a theme to each week, which is also a bit strange. We don’t really have themes to our worship beyond the liturgical seasons where Advent prepares us for Christmas, Lent prepares us for Easter, Time After Epiphany is all about light and revelation, and so on. Some days might lend themselves to themes more than others, but there isn’t anything really structured. The themes in this Season of Creation are Ocean (today), Fauna, Storm, Creatures (St. Francis), and Cosmos. Each will have its own four readings (just like usual), and we’ll even get most of our gospel readings from Luke, which is where we’ve been hearing from in this Year C of the lectionary cycle.

Why are we doing this? I came across the Season of Creation last year, and Deacon Heidi has known about it for a long time;we both thought it was something worth doing! It’s a new development in the community of the church – not just Lutherans, but the global church, which means that we are connected to Christians around the world choosing to observe the Season of Creation. It was created around the year 2000 by people in Australia to provide an emphasis on God as creator, and to explore our relationship with the earth God made. 

As humans we tend to think we are the culmination of creation, and thereby the best. That’s quite an arrogant thing for us to imagine. There is so much mystery, and so much we don’t know. Hopefully this Season of Creation will remind us of that truth – to put us in our place in a way, kinda like God did to Job in today’s reading – to humble us, and to remember our responsibility to care for creation. I imagine there are varied opinions in this room about how we should do that, but as a denomination we adopted a social statement way back in 1993 called Caring for Creation that articulated our commitment for caring for this earth and striving to remain aware of our human impact upon it. Even that can look different for you and me, but our church at least has said that this work is important, not just for the sustainability of our planet, but for people whose livelihoods are built on the well-being of creation, too. 

As we reflect on our scriptures this morning, I’m going to go to Ephesians first, because it helps us tie creation to Christ. Some of us might tend to think of Jesus as only a man who was here for about 33 years, lived, died, rose again, and that’s it. But since Jesus as Christ is part of the godhead, that means he is eternal too. And as Christians we would say that it is only through Christ that the entire cosmos will ultimately be healed or saved or redeemed. Ephesians reminds us that Christ was there before the foundation of the world, and that all things will be gathered up in him, things in heaven and on earth. Christ becomes the unifier, uniting the cosmos in time, and in the love and creativity of God. 

We hear of the vast expanse of the cosmos and the wide variety of creation in Job and the Psalm today. On this Sunday where Ocean is our theme, we might especially look to the image of the sea in Job, bursting from the womb, just to be swaddled by the clouds and darkness, being bound by God with the shore – it shall go no further. The writer also tells of the springs of the sea and the recesses of the deep. 

This reminds me of a headline I heard last week. US adventurer Victor Vescovo has become the first human to visit the deepest points in every ocean. He had been a mountain climber, and when he found out that no human had been to the depths of four of our oceans, he thought that needed to change. And since he’s a millionaire, he could do that. But he didn’t do it just for fun. He said it was a great technical and personal challenge. And he also wanted to move us forward as a species, so he invested money to bring scientists along for the journey to learn more about our oceans and the species that live there. In the process of these dives, they discovered over 40 new species, and biological and water samples are being processed, “including a unique set of bottom-water samples retrieved at every one of the five deeps visited.” They also mapped the seafloor at each point, and that data will be “donated to the international project that seeks to chart the entire global ocean floor by 2030. Currently, less than 20% has been mapped to an acceptable resolution.”

I imagine these discoveries will, at least for those who experience them and hear about them, bring depth to scripture verses like Psalm 104:24-25: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.” It is humbling to wonder at the Psalmist who had no clue what he was writing about, especially when it came to the depths and species of the oceans. Now that we have come to discover some of these things, even being able to understand the tides and weather patterns, our sense of awe is increased. 

We might be more challenged to find an ocean or creation connection with Luke 5, since that narrative is so human-centered. The ocean, or at least water, does pop up at the mention of ‘the deep,’ but it’s not actually the ocean here. It’s just a freshwater lake that is called a Sea. Either way, the body of water seems like just a backdrop to what we typically think is the real story happening here: Jesus calling the first disciples. They will end up fishing for people and deepening their spiritual well-being. But the Gospel writers did not make a distinction between spiritual and material well-being like we do. “For them, Jesus’ ministry was not about an escape from this world but a transformation of it, a world in which all would experience both physical and spiritual wholeness.” (Hiebert) Somehow, the disciples are able to put into ‘the deep’, to embrace the mystery and vulnerability and fear, and seek after healing and wholeness – not just for them, but for the world, little did they know that day on the sea.

In this Season of Creation, we will continue to explore the mysteries of God and wonder at our small presence here. Sometimes life in creation seems a bit chaotic to us, but it is so much grandeur and complex than we can ever understand. We may feel humbled, like Job. And just like him, it’s not that God doesn’t care about us, we who are created in the image of God, but God delights in all of God’s creatures. As God’s people we are called to join the disciples in working for healing and wholeness through all of creation, united by Christ and powered by the Spirit. 

Christ, as the one who unites the cosmos, brings healing and redemption to all things. With today’s theme of Ocean, we can begin to wonder at the vast number of things that the word “all” includes, even the ocean itself, whose depths, though seen by one human, will remain a mystery to most of us, drawing us deeper into the mystery of God who, in the end, loves all things, forgives all things, and heals all things. We join the Psalmist in our wonder at creation as we embrace the mysteries of God together.

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