May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and Our Redeemer. Amen.
Today I find two different threads or themes in the scriptures. First, God is creator, and we are to enjoy and appreciate God’s creation. Second, Jesus teaches us that the model of leadership in our lives is “servant leadership.” If you want to be a leader, then you must be servant of all. In so many ways, those two themes: enjoy God’s creation and participate in it and be servant-leader relate directly to Jesus’ message of the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.
Let’s start with the Old Testament reading from Job. Job has been struggling with real human suffering. He has lost his land, his animals, and his own family. He has been suffering, and his friends are not really helping him by asking him how have you been sinning Job that God would be punishing you this harshly for your sins? Sometimes friends mean well, but they don’t know exactly what to say as you are going through a hard time. Their words are not particularly comforting to Job nor pleasing to God. In Job 38 God says beginning in verse 2: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I Iaid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”
In scriptures like these, we realize that we are not God. We realize that an infinite and eternal creator created this universe, not us. And, we need to enjoy it. There is a modern theology from the 20th century known as “Process Theology.” The concept of process theology is that God’s creative being did not end with Genesis One and Two in a one-time creation of the earth. The concept instead is that God, by God’s own nature, is a creative eternal being who constantly creates—“behold, I make all things knew.” This weekend my wife and I drove around town as well as went driving to area lakes. We just beheld the beauty of a Kansas fall season. The leaves are not yet turning into their bright fall colors, but the air is cooler. Fall is in the air, and in the next few weeks, we anticipate the emergence of rich fall colorful trees and grasses. God’s sunrises and sunsets are new every morning. God wants us to enjoy, appreciate, and protect this beautiful God-made earth.
Although we aren’t including the Psalm reading in our liturgy until next weekend, Psalm 104 was the reading for today, and it is one of my favorites. At verse 25, the psalmist says: “Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.” That scripture reading ended at verse 25, but my favorite verse is 26: “There go the ships, and the Leviathan (the great whale) that you formed to sport in it.” How many folks in here have ever gone whale watching? What do these great whales do out there in the ocean? Oftentimes, they will travel in small pods with other whales and just jump or breach out of the water and make huge splashes just for the fun of it. I think God looks from above every day, and simply watches the whales play in a very big backyard. I think God also wants to watch us play, be happy, be joyful, and delight in simply living. But too often I know for myself, I’m too serious, thinking about the world’s problems and how hard I’m working to make ends meet. Let us all take some good deep breaths during this fall. Take some long walks and appreciate the unique beauty of God’s creation.
The other part of Process Theology is that God, the author of creation, also has invited us to be “co-creators.” God and His Son Jesus Christ want to bring about the kingdom of God ON EARTH as in heaven. We have a part in that new creation. We are asked to be the body of Christ, the hands and feet of God to help bring about the kingdom of God on earth. We help “co-create” that kingdom on earth today. Our bishop and our diocese are bringing something new to our diocese, which is for us to be nurturers of God’s creation. I personally may not be much of a gardener, but I can sure enjoy the natural beauty of a tall grass prairie in the Flint Hills and participate in efforts to preserve and protect those lands. I also do that with whales. Call me a nerd or a geek, but I actually provide donations to save the whales. There is a way to adopt a wild whale and help protect its habitat. Since 1982 Vicky and I have adopted 7 humpback whales off the east coast and 2 orca whales off Seattle, WA. And, if anyone ever asks what is Deacon Roper’s favorite book of all time as an English teacher? The answer is Moby-Dick. A professor, Dr. Elizabeth Schultz from KU, inspired me to not only love that book, but to become a high school and college English teacher. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate for the harpooning and killing whales. I urge others to help protect whales from extinction.
Jesus also call us to love and serve each other. For Jesus, I believe, that the word “love” is deeply submerged and understood to go hand- in hand with service to each other. Jesus’ washed his disciples feet on the night of the Last Supper to make servant-leadership clearly understood as the appropriate model for ministry. In today’s gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” How do we serve lovingly? If someone asked me that question, I might ask them back about what you do daily. Responses will vary. Some may tell me about their job or if they are currently in school or they may be retired. Then, I would quote a line from Soren Kierkegaard’s book The Works of Love. When Jesus says, “Love Your Neighbor as yourself,” Kierkegaard asks, “Who is your neighbor?” Kierkegaard answers his own question by saying, “Your neighbor is the next person you meet.” How can you and I today, next week, or in the upcoming holiday season, and all of next year, order our life’s priority that we will lovingly serve the next person I meet? Let us pray.
Dear God, we thank you for your marvelous creation. May all of us
be Your hands and feet in creating Your kingdom on earth, functioning as the full body of Christ here at St. James. May we give in love and serve with love the next person we meet all the days of our lives. Amen.
The Rev. Jeff Roper
October 17, 2021
St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS