Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Theme: Creation II - Humanity Sunday
Come to Scarboro as we worship together every Sunday at 10:30am. We will have the coffee on at 10, so come early and catch up with your community. There will be more time for coffee, tea and conversation after the service in the Memorial Hall. Come and enjoy our wonderful Scarboro Choir who are back in the service after their summer break!
The children have a new Worship Leader - welcome to Jennifer Spielman! This week is the official launch of a new year of children's programming. Come and see what it's all about.
After church there will be Prayers for the Earth in the Chapel.
Did you order an Orange Shirt? If you've paid your tab, swing by the office and pick up your order.
Rev. Lee Spice
It was a sparkling sunny Tuesday, a bit like this last Tuesday, when two passenger airliners crashed into two towers, one after the other. On that same Tuesday, another airliner crashed into the Pentagon, and another went down into a field in Pennsylvania.
Seventeen years ago, this past Tuesday, the world changed.
Suddenly, terrorist attacks were not only camouflaged guerrillas sniping from the jungles or bombs going off in the mailboxes of faraway lands. Suddenly, innocence and naïveté were lost, as the realization sank in that, even in affluent North America, people were not safe from other people.
The response was a classic: acting primarily out of fear, not even knowing the whole situation, a war was started. When the perpetrators were found to be of a different faith, ranks closed, lines were drawn, and whole groups of people were demonized.
Not humanity’s finest hour.
It is easy to become cynical these days.
Many people who are watching the situation to the south of us are having a sense of déja-vu – especially students of history and those who have a living memory of the events of the Second World War. What we once thought were extremist nationalist views are revealed as being more prevalent than we thought. The details of mass murders are getting hard to remember, because there are so many, and they are a mere fraction of the thousands of violent gun deaths that happen every year, much of it racialized.
And let’s not be tempted to only point fingers at the U.S. If we’re honest with ourselves, there are signs of unhealthy nationalism in Canada, too. That’s the kind that closes ranks, that points fingers at the other and says, “no fair, what about us?” Unhealthy nationalism hides behind the flag and claims the right to determine who is in and who is out.
The preacher Nadia Bolz Webber, in her video series called “Have a Little Faith,” opens one of them by saying, “Welcome to the apocalypse.” Now, you’re going to hear a lot more about the apocalypse when we encounter the wave of apocalyptic Biblical writings in the Season of Advent, but let me just say that many folks have the wrong idea about apocalyptic writing. It doesn’t necessarily mean end-of-the-world predictions and accounts of strange multi-headed creatures and portents in the sky.
The apocalypse means “unveiling” or “revealing,” and Bolz Webber reminds us that a whole lot of stuff is being revealed these days. The Me Too movement is revealing sexism and assault and harassment that has pretty much always been there – it’s just being revealed.
And as for the political situation in the U.S., former President Obama states that Trump is not the cause, but the symptom of something more insidious. Something more insidious, more prevalent, is being revealed, as the veneer of “everything is fine, everyone is fine” is pulled back.
Our world is not idyllic.
The picture that is painted in our sacred text sounds idyllic – at least at first. God creating humanity in God’s image. And they are in a beautiful garden.
Perhaps you noticed that this morning’s reading had parts of two different Creation stories from Genesis. Did you know there were two separate stories? The first has humans receiving God’s instructions to “have dominion” over the earth. I don’t believe that this was meant to give humanity full reign over everything…just that God is saying, “Hey, look at all that I’ve given you!” Taking the words “have dominion over” and misinterpreting it as “domination,” has, in fact, been disastrous for the world. It puts humanity in the driver’s seat, and then humanity, again, forgets to be humble.
The second Creation story from Genesis has humans placed into the garden – to take care of it. To till the soil and water it and love it.
The second story is about “looking after,” not “ruling over.”
Many years ago, Joni Mitchell wrote a song for her friends Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to sing about their experience at Woodstock. “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Oh, we are so far away from that garden.
In that idyllic tale, of course, reading further in the story you hear about humanity being expelled from the garden…a kind of “growing up,” I think. As humanity matured, it also discovered the secrets beneath its own veneer. Along with love, jealousy; along with joy, despair; along with gratitude, resentment; and along with all of that, fear.
Fear. If you peel back the veneer of “everything is fine,” you’ll find fear. I’m almost sure of it. Fear is what makes people close ranks. Fear is what causes the mistrust of the Other. Fear is what causes people to point fingers at the other and say, “it’s not fair.”
Fear is what happens when humanity pretends to be God, and suddenly discovers that humanity is very poorly equipped to run an entire planet.
I wonder, though.
I wonder whether we are being called to remember that we’re here to look after…not rule over our world.
In our Gospel reading, we hear, once again, an overarching theme in Jesus’ ministry – the last will be first, and the first, last. This is a call to servanthood, not domination.
It’s a call to partnership with God, and not to humanity’s playing God.
It’s a call to stewardship, and not own-everything-ship.
If we were to peel back our current situation, we would find a picture of powerful humans trying to run everything, trying to juggle everything, trying to control everything…and the threats – real or perceived – just seem to keep coming and coming. Somehow, it seems that power breeds paranoia.
We can’t sustain this world on fear. We can’t sustain this world by ourselves.
Perhaps what we can realize is that, it’s true – we’re never going to get back to that idyllic garden. In reality, there never has been a time when humanity hasn’t had to struggle. But what we could realize is that we have been given a garden – a beautiful planet to care for – to till the soil and water and look after, and to love. To practice stewardship, and not domination.
What does this all mean? It means having the eyes of stewardship and gratitude as opposed to the eyes of “me first.” In the next while, and every few years, the opportunity to place people in public office comes along – the opportunity exists to choose persons who exhibit stewardship above dominion. In the next while, and along every step, opportunities and choices present themselves for how each person makes purchases, runs their business, runs their life: stewardship and gratitude, or me-first?
In a post-911 world, life can seem really complicated. It can be overwhelming. In these apocalyptic times, the veneers are being peeled back at an alarming rate. And sometimes, the first reaction can be fear.
But we are not alone. We live in God’s world. Our garden. God’s delight.
This weekend, Ron and I had the opportunity to walk up to Bertha Lake, in Waterton National Park. The area has been burned, and threatened to be burned again. We walked through stands of burned trees, and, all around, this is what we saw.
[slide of fireweed growing in burned out forest]
It was like God, through all of Creation, was saying, “Fear not.”