A season of creation
A Season of Creation Pastor Andy Willis
With a new school year beginning, children everywhere are being asked that perpetual September question: “And what did you do on your summer vacation?”
What about you? You may not have had two months off, but I hope the summer provided at least a little time for rest and rejuvenation—and for enjoying the outdoors.
When we gather for worship this September, you will find that we’re observing something called “The Season of Creation.” It’s something new for our congregation and for the church as a whole.
The Season of Creation was begun by the Uniting Church of Australia several years ago. The idea was simple enough: to set aside the four weeks leading up to the Feast of St. Francis (4 October) for worship, reflection, and action focused on the gift of creation. The Uniting Church developed an alternate set of biblical readings for these four Sundays each year, and now churches throughout the world are joining in, turning their attention to the wide web of creation of which we’re a part.
This year, our congregation is joining in, too. September 3 will be the First Sunday of Creation, or “Forest Sunday.” It’s followed by Sundays focused on land, wilderness, and water, before we arrive at St. Francis Day.
During Advent last year, a group from our congregation (and some members of St. John XXIII, the local English-speaking Roman Catholic parish) read Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato Si, “On Care for Our Common Home.” There’s so much wisdom in this text—if you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to get your hands on a copy. Here, I want to lift up just one small sentence from it:
“Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
We hear a lot about problems associated with the natural world today, and rightly so: climate change, severe weather, deforestation, depletion of resources, the environmental crisis. We must pay attention to the facts and to the immense damage done to the natural world by human use and misuse. Our faith and our common humanity demand that we learn and act responsibly.
Pope Francis would agree. But at the start of his book that is through and through a call to responsible action on behalf of the wellbeing of creation, he maintains that for Christians, creation is not, first and foremost, a problem; it is “a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
That’s at the heart of how I see the Season of Creation. It’s a time to recall the beauty and richness and complexity of God’s world and to lift our voices in praise. It’s a time to remember that when we go out for a hike, we are not just doing something good for our health; we are entering sacred space. We are communing with God’s creation.
Of course, we must pay attention to the threats facing our common home, and we must act. But that’s not where we begin; we begin with praise to God for this good earth. It’s that praise and gratitude that we need, deep in our spirits, to sustain us for responsible action and to help us live in ways that truly honor the world around us.
I hope you’ll join in worship this season as we give thanks for all creation and join together in praying and acting for its healing, and ours.