Nature Series: The Message of Creation
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; April 5, 2020
The liturgical calendar tells us that today is Palm Sunday—the beginning of Holy Week. Through the eyes of Luke, we see Jesus entering the city riding on a donkey. It seems such a paradox—the King of kings riding on a humble donkey instead of a mighty steed. No doubt Jesus’ simple procession into Jerusalem is anything but simple. Instead, his act lights a patriotic spark in the souls of the people who hear echoes of the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice, greatly O daughter, Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter, Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; humble and riding on a donkey…” The people yearn for a king—but not one like Jesus. They want a warrior king—but Jesus has other plans—bigger plans—holy plans.
When Jesus approaches the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude begins to praise God, singing and shouting for joy: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.” Some of the Pharisees are so upset by the uproar, they tell Jesus to make the people quieten down. Jesus responds, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
For Jesus, this day of joy carries bits of sorrow because he knows that the joyous crowd will soon become an angry mob. The cloaks and palms will become a crown of thorns. The donkey that bears Jesus into the city will become a cross that he, himself, will bear. And words of praise will be replaced with shouts of “Crucify him!”
As modern-day Christians, we are challenged to tell the old story of God’s love in new and inviting ways. If we take the challenge seriously—especially in times like these—we will welcome praise as our calling card. For, you see, praise is the cure for discouragement and depression and despair. Praise is the antidote for what ails us. And wonder of wonders, when all the earth glorifies God, we may join the celebration so that all people and every creature contributes its own distinct voice; and the seas and rivers, meadows and hills add their response, too.
Over the past six weeks we have tried to listen to what God—who created all that lives and moves and breathes—has to say to us through water, mountains, trees, birds, and animals. An ancient Celtic writing echoes the grandeur of our Creator God:
I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave on the ocean,
I am the murmur of leaves rustling,
I am the rays of the sun,
I am the beam of the moon and stars,
I am the power of trees growing,
I am the bud breaking into blossom,
I am the movement of the salmon swimming,
I am the courage of the wild boar fighting,
I am the speed of the stag running,
I am the strength of the ox pulling the plough,
I am the size of the mighty oak,
And I am the thoughts of all people,
Who praise my beauty and grace.[i]
In the Genesis account of creation, repeatedly, God creates, and repeatedly, God “sees that it is good.” Still to this day, God’s wonders and God’s presence rain down blessings. When we are greeted by the morning sun, it is God’s gift. When our heart is moved by the song of the mockingbird, our Creator has spoken. On a walk by the waterside, a soft breeze is like the breath of the Holy Spirit. The wonder of an approaching thunderstorm reminds us of God’s power. A bike ride along a path of fragrant honeysuckles, suggests the sweetness of Jesus. Yet, day after day, we are so busy looking down, so busy worrying about our little lives that the vastness of God sweeps right past us. Might it be that even during this dreadful pandemic, there is a blessing—a blessing of slowing down to allow ourselves and God’s creation a little time to heal?
The earth is God’s and we are stewards of it. It would behoove us to embrace the beauty of creation and to preserve it for those who come after us for as the Native American Proverb reminds us, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
Creation is the gift of our Creator, who is everywhere present, loving, and gracious. God loves us so much he enters the world and becomes one of us. Emmanuel, God-with-us, enters this week we call holy riding on a donkey. With all the courage he can muster, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem, knowing where it will end. Ultimately, in his dying and rising again, Christ assures us that one day, he will return to make all things new. But until then, we are given the responsibility and the privilege of caring for the earth. If we look around us, we know we could do better. We know there is something wrong when we are drowning in plastic, when water creatures are dying because of oil spills, when people struggle to breathe because of pollution. Perhaps it is time to take the following prayer of Miriam Therese Winter and make it our own:
Creator of the earth, and of all earth’s children, creator of soil and earth and sky and the tapestries of stars, we turn to you for guidance as we look on our mutilated planet, and pray it is not too late for us to rescue our wounded world. We have been so careless. We have failed to nurture the fragile life you entrusted to our keeping. We beg you for forgiveness and we ask you to begin again. Be with us in our commitment to Earth. Let all the Earth say: Amen.
While the task may seem overwhelming, one by one we can join hands around the globe and do our part so that when Christ returns in all his glory, he may find us faithful stewards of the world he came to save. Let it be so. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[i] The Black Book of Camarthan; quoted in Celtic Fire; edited by Robert Van de Weyer.
*Cover Art by Stushie Art, used by subscription