The Revd Ben Lillie, Environment Officer for the Diocese of Truro, led our Morning Praise service on Sunday 4th July. Set out below is the transcript of Ben`s fascinating sermon.
Good morning, my name is Ben, and I’m the Environment Officer for our diocese of Truro - thank you for inviting me to be with you today.
I live up in the northern tip of our Diocese, in an amazing community called Widemouth Bay. I am a husband, a father and a committed cold water surfer. I love Jesus and the Ocean playground, and as such I’m also part of Christian Surfers.
The role of Diocese Environment Officer or DEO is a hugely strategic thing, after all DEO is only 1 letter removed from CEO, which is affectively the Bishop!
And so I hope...with good behaviour... to progress my career to the very top!...maybe not!
I am of course joking!
But I can tell you that developing, encouraging, growing our Christian response to Gods very good creation, to cutting carbon and to speaking up, is no joke at all, and its right at the top of our CEO’s...our Bishops agenda.
Now, I am not some hardcore green environmental campaigner...I’m just a fairly normal bloke...you can judge that for yourself as I continue.
If we get to the point where you have either fallen asleep or got up and walked out - I’ll know what you think!
But before you do that I want to share some things I know to be true in my own life and that I hope and pray you know to be true in your life.
Firstly, I am unswervingly, unendingly, unfalteringly loved and accepted by Jesus - I know this to be true, And I hope you do too!
Secondly, I...often swervingly, mostly disjointedly, and regularly falteringly - try to love Jesus, but I mess up! I am human, I am frail, I mess up and so by Gods grace, I have to revert to statement 1 on a daily basis...that I am, we are - unswervingly, unendingly, unfalteringly loved and accepted by Jesus.</span>
The 3rd thing I know is that my heart leaps for Gods incredible creation. I am stirred by the beauty of our land, our skies and seas, I am especially stirred and passionate about our wild Cornwall, our famously rugged coastline and the often disheartening state of our seas. As a surfer, I worship within the waves and I am deeply distressed by the waste dump our oceans are being turned into.
And so within these 3 understandings, we find these things at work in us;
The Trinity of love - Father, Son and Spirit...unswerving, unending.
The daily process of working out our faith in a gracious God...however faltering that might be.
And the incredible beauty and blessing of the creation that surrounds us. And I believe these foundational truths are drawn together in our response to creation care...how we live in, interact with, respond to, and sometimes ignore... Gods extra ordinary gift of creation - of which we are the pivotal expression. Creation care in a very deep sense, is after all self care....
That’s not selfish care...or even shellfish care - that’s what they’re doing in Padstow! But self care, in the sense that we who are created by the loving father God are utterly intertwined with all of creation - whom God is also father to. How is it then, that so often, we take the environment around us, for granted. I very briefly want to share a couple of things with you today...
Together we are going to de-bunk a myth, as we seek encouragement from Gods word and world. And Together we are going to challenge ourselves and our church to cherish creation, cut carbon and speak up. 1st lets debunk the myth of our apparent separation from the rest of creation. And I want to draw you to our passage from Genesis 2 today, taking into account the creation story and what it reveals of the character of God.
In Genesis 2 vs 7 - “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
From the dust of the ground...breathed into him the breath of life..
You see....this is the same breath...
The same breath....that spoke light into being - day and night
The same breath....that set waters above and waters below - sky and sea
The same breath.... that separated land from sea - earth and oceans
The same breath.... that flung sun, moon and stars into space
The same breath.... that birthed the birds of the air and the creatures of the sea
The same breath.... that fathered all the animals of the land
The same breath.... that declared the sabbath rest...it is good to rest!
That same breath, was breathed into our nostrils as we were gathered from the same dust of all creation.
We live as though we ‘humanity’ are one thing and ‘creation’ is another. But we are one and the same, we come from the one and the same creator father, we share the one and the same breath.
There’s a phrase we use...’and in the same breath...’ in our understanding it has a negative context, it is normally used to suggest that someone is exhibiting double standards. You say one thing, but do another. And yet when we take this phrase and use it as a lens through which to better understand our relationship with God the father of all creation...it reminds us of Gods created order…the same breath!
This truth is further underlined by our short New Testament reading from John 1.
We might recognise this passage as one for the Christmas readings but right in the middle is this statement…
John 1 vs 3 ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’
We are all made by God, all made in actual relationship with creation, all made with the same breath!
Why does creation care matter to God?
Because we...his creation matter to God.
Because He...Creator God, bought us, and all creation to life with the same breath.
We matter to God as children matter to good and faithful parent’s.
We are not separate from creation, nor are we lords over it, although we have behaved that way!
We are centrally, intimately, part of it, relations if you will, siblings even. In Gods order of things we are sister and brother to all created things.
The answer is also the same when we ask ‘why should Creation Care matter to us?’
Because it matters to God.
And the aim of our lives of discipleship, is to reflect the person and character of God in all we do and say and through how we behave.
So how can we respond?
What can we do to reverse the tide of damage being inflicted on our family of all creation?
After this service I will be available to talk with and help guide anyone who wants to make creation care a priority in their life....given what we have just been sharing, I look forward to seeing all of you!
But here are some immediate actions that any one of us can take...
As a Diocese we are developing a range of excellent resources and tools to help each of us get started on this journey.
Throughout G7 we launched a number of resources and videos that will form a diocesan Creation care Toolkit. This will be released in September.
As we approach COP26, there will be opportunities to learn more about this essential climate meeting and to pray.
You can start in a personal way with small steps, like joining with the Climate Vision 10 pledges to cut carbon. These are the gift of my predecessor Luci Isaacson. It’s made up of simple, approachable things, many of which you might already do... like buy local-in-season produce, or switch your energy supply to renewable energies.
As a church, you could calculate your carbon footprint and start to take action in reducing it. Submitting this data in your annual returns enables the whole Church of England to better understand the national picture.
As a church, North Petherwin has enjoyed great success through the Green Church Kernow award scheme, the next steps will be to invest in the A Rocha Eco Church scheme, which the diocese is formally adopting. As a PCC you can establish an environmental policy and keep it at the top of the PCC agenda.
I recognise that in this setting you may have already done many or all of these things and more…and I really do thank you for your commitment to Creation Care. As a church community you are pioneers and leaders in all things Creation Care - have you considered mentoring another parish church and enabling them to become a greener community? As a Diocese we are praying to unearth Creation Care Champions in each of our 213 parish churches. Maybe that`s you?
As your DEO I am here to support you and help direct you to available resources that make the continual journey toward an environmentally harmonious life possible.
The earth is the Lord`s and everything in it...Through him all things were made, all breathed into life by the same breath of God. As the pinnacle of Gods good creation, we humans, are called to be wise and faithful stewards, and we must act! We must Cherish Creation, Cut Carbon & Speak Up and today we remember that we are brothers and sisters with all of Gods good creation.
From the same dust, from the same breath. And we are - unswervingly, unendingly, unfalteringly loved and accepted by the Trinity of love, Father, Son and Spirit
Let us Pray…..Creator God, Father God, help us to better understand our intricate relationship with all of creation and in so doing better understand our relationship with you. We thank and praise you for the extraordinary gift of this - your world, our home. Help us be wise and faithful stewards as we strive for a re-flourishing of your very good creation.