There’s a lot happening today, and a lot happened last week. What is God’s gospel/good news for today, for us, for this world, for all creation?
It’s the Season of Creation with its theme this year of, “Listening to the voice of creation.” As a Psalm/song in the Hebrew scriptures says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge … their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the Earth, and their words to the end of the world” (19:1-4). We are invited into this Season of Creation to listen and enter into “a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together.”
It's also the Sunday we recognize the Festival of Holy Cross. God’s transforming a cross of death for Jesus and the world and all creation into a cross of new life for Jesus and the world and all creation. And it’s the name of this Lutheran Church of the Cross of Christ that began 62 years ago at a crossroads of and for this neighbourhood and world and all creation that is beloved of Christ. And we celebrate the anniversary of the building addition and this worship space dedicated 15 years ago to grow and better serve the ministry of and with our neighbourhood, world, and all creation. And Sunday School begins again today, and other ministries of learning and service and social justice and reconciliation and inclusion and worship and community begin, or begin again, or continue, in this season, in this community of the cross, today and beyond.
There is a lot happening today to celebrate and for which we give thanks and renew our commitment to serve as we are able, in the love, hope, and life that the cross of Jesus holds for all, and to listen, and renew our relationship to the Creator and all creation in celebration, conversion and commitment together.
And a lot has happened in our world this week. We grieve with the James Smith Cree Nation and the village of Weldon for the 10 community members murdered, for the 18 more injured, and the deaths of the 2 community members who perpetrated this violence. We hold and grieve with this community reeling in pain and loss, acknowledging the trauma past and present that afflicts them as an Indigenous community and that is deeply connected to this tragedy in a colonial history and legacy of violence and loss. And we witness their strength and resilience, in gathering to light the fires of mourning, and to join in ceremonies of shared grief and drawing on the strength of the Creator for healing together. Nations and peoples of these lands and all creation grieve with them. And we pray that this journey of grief leads to healing and the transformation of all of us in justice, equity, and right relationships together on these lands.
And in parallel and stark contrast we grieve the death of a Queen, at 96 years, peacefully, having just performed her last duty of meeting with the new Prime Minister of Great Britain. A seventy-year reign of service and commitment to the tradition and duties of the crown and commonwealth. An exceptional woman leader of the world, who by many, many, accounts, served with grace, faith, thoughtfulness, wisdom, humility, compassion, stability, selflessness, and good humour. And we acknowledge the complexity and legacy of the Crown and its colonial past and present, especially in destructive relationships to Indigenous peoples on these lands and across the world. And in listening to the voices of many Indigenous leaders and people naming this tragedy and trauma, and complex relationship to the Crown and its late Queen and now new King. In all of this, the world grieves. Many millions of people across the world, grieve the death of her majesty Queen Elizabeth and honour and give thanks for her legacy of lifelong service.
Grieving is a lot of what is happening today, last week, and this season. Grieving the state of Creation, the earth and its warming climate, and those more vulnerable experiencing its effects now. Grieving, the continuing losses of a pandemic. Grieving, the many people, especially those who are poor, Indigenous, racialized, excluded, who bear crosses of suffering and violence, who work and wait and long for transformation of this world through acts of love and hope and justice and peace. Grieving, with the James Smith Cree Nation and community, in tragedy and death. Grieving, with the world, and a family, the death of Queen Elizabeth and the end of an era. Grieving, for Ukraine and other nations and peoples suffering under oppression and war. Grieving, Pakistan and a third of their country under water, and millions affected. Grieving, more personal losses and suffering for loved ones and for ourselves.
Grieving is a lot of our collective experience today, last week and in this season. Grieving is a lot of our individual experience today, last week and in this season.
What is God’s Gospel/good news as we grieve today?
The prophet Jeremiah grieves for a lost and sinful humanity that risks the return of creation to the primal chaos of its beginning. The Season of Creation calls us to “Listen to the voice of creation,” because as St. Augustine said, creation “is the divine page that you must listen to,” and as Luther said, “God has written [the gospel] not only in books, but in trees and other creatures.” And so with Jeremiah we hear in creation’s suffering God’s warning and God’s seeking. As humanity, will we continue to bring about loss and suffering for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable and all creation itself, or will we be “converted and committed” to the returning and healing and wellbeing of all God’s creation as God desires? As the Season of Creation Advisory Committee calls us to “lament the individuals, communities, species, and ecosystems who are lost, and those who are threatened by habitat loss and climate change,” we hear God’s call to radical conversion, like the conversion of Paul described in 1Timothy, “formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a person of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of God overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” The radical conversion of humanity, and particularly those of us who have power and privilege, to restore the shalom, the harmony and peace for all creation by God’s design. It is a radical conversion story of hope for all creation.
Jesus is challenged by religious leaders grumbling because, they say, “Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.” And Jesus tells three stories in response, two of which we hear today. They are simple stories of lost and found and an upside-down economy of worth and value. Leaving 99 sheep to seek and find and celebrate with the whole community one that was lost and is now found. And a woman with ten coins, losing one, and turning the house upside down until she finds it, and celebrates with her friends and neighbours the one lost coin that is now found. How much more, Jesus says, is there rejoicing in heaven at one sinner who repents, one conversion of heart and mind and life, like one of those tax collectors and sinners, like any one of those labeled and excluded in our time, written off as not worthy of Jesus’ or anyone’s welcome or sharing a meal with them. Like one of the religious leaders who pass that judgement. Or like me, or any one of us, or us collectively, one humanity, lost and found by God’s always seeking grace, converted, changed forever, for the sake of, the healing of, the rejoicing in the heavens, all angels and all creation, that no sibling, no one, nothing on earth or in heaven be dismissed as simply sinner, not worthy of a welcome, of eating together.
This is Jesus’ response to our often grumbling, quick to judge and write off and exclude selves and world, and the lost and vulnerable ones and all creation that suffer from and by this narrowness of heart and mind for which God and all creation grieves. Jesus offers a holy different way of loving openness, welcome and communal service for the feeding of all. And invites us in God’s always seeking, overflowing grace to live this radical conversion by the Spirit everyday! – for love of God and neighbour and all creation, everyday! – for joy, everyday!
And it is exactly this welcome, this eating with sinners, this feast of God’s always seeking, overflowing, radically converting, joy filled at one lost being found, grace that we enact, that we practise, that we return to, hold on to, are fed by, each grieving week, in the Holy Cross of Christ Jesus, at the crossroads, in water, words, bread and wine, with Christ Jesus, to convert us in heart and mind, to challenge and change us ecologically, economically, relationally, listening to creation, seeing and seeking those most vulnerable and exploited, and living the openness and welcome and feeding of all and joy at one lost being found that is the healing of the earth and all its creatures of God’s desiring. It is by God, true. And let it be true. In all our relations. Amen.