Monday, 29 June 2009

Sermon from 28 June 2009


It has been a momentous week, and I am not referring to the death of Michael Jackson - sad though that may be. And not even the bonus salary of the new head of RBS, although it does seem that altruism certainly does not exist in the higher echelons of banking management.

No, today I am referrering to the environmental legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament, announced by the UK Government and passed by the US House of Representatives, all within the space of one week. Legislation that is going to radically alter how we live. Legislation, that I believe, churches ~ schools ~ community organizations and communities themselves should begin to enact without delay.

This morning though, I want to move beyond the legislation and look for spiritual foundations for environmental care. We’ve just sung for the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the earth
for the beauty of the skies
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise

We’ve just sung these words and I wonder as we did, did we sing them with integrity? Did we sing them as if we actually believed the words and the sentiments, or were we just muttering the sounds and thinking either what a pretty tune or the music of this jars?

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Genesis 2]

And if your faith is traditional then this was an act of trust on the part of God. And if your faith is traditional then we are the inheritors of that trust. And if your faith is honest I think that you can only but conclude that we have squandered that inheritance - almost to the point of no return, but not quite yet. And that is why I believe that the churches must show the lead in welcoming, supporting and enacting the legislation and intention of the past week.

But there is another reason as well and that is where I want to go this morning. But for Church politics the Christian Church in Britain might have been radically different, and who knows, given the ability of Scots men and women to influence the developments of the past centuries, we might now be a completely different Church. I am of course referring to the marginalisation of the Celtic Church in the 7th Century at the Synod of Whitby and the subsequent rise of Catholicism and the hierarchical, religion focused, Church of Rome.

I believe that our attitudes to the environment need a spiritual foundation, as well as an ethical, practical and economic foundation. And I believe that that foundation is found in Celtic Christianity and Celtic Spirituality. And I want to remind you of the Celtic way to God. The way of our past. The way of our heritage.
But before I do, let me add another layer to what I am saying and this is from 21st Century Spirituality. Ken Wilber argues that human beings intrinsically possess 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspectives of the world, and that we possess those same perspectives in our experience of spirituality.

God is 1st person when we have direct experiences of God, mystical, I am moments. The times when we have felt touched by God. God is also 2nd person ~ the one to whom we talk. And God is 3rd person, the spirit of God in the great interconnected web of humanity. Wilber also argues that it is a human failing to focus on one perspective of God. That is our nature but our nature reduces our experiences of God. And so all three perspectives are important. Now I am saying this because if we think of Celtic Spirituality just in terms of looking after creation then important as that is, we miss the point ~ we miss the depth ~ we miss the potential.

So what is Celtic Spirituality, Celtic Christianity and why do I think it so important? What is the essence of Celtic Spirituality? Hilary Musgrave is an Irish Sister of Charity and she describes it as
• seeing the energy, the life and the flow of God’s love in all of creation
• seeing the potential of God in the earth, in the people,
• seeing God as all around, surrounding us and in us.

There is a focus on daily life in the prayers of Celtic Spirituality with these prayers rooted in the ordinary events of life ~ the everyday events that touch ordinary everyday people. There is a huge community focus in Celtic Spirituality. God was experienced in the community. And of course respect for the earth, humanity working in harmony with the earth.

Ray Simpson of the Northumbrian Community of Hilda and Aiden writes ….
'The essence of Celtic spirituality is a heart wide open to God in every person, in all the world. It is to do with crossing frontiers, not erecting barriers. It goes so deep that, without losing what is distinctive, it becomes universal.'

Closer to home Iain Bradley, from the University of St Andrew’s believes that Celtic Christianity does seem to speak with uncanny relevance to many of the concerns of our present age. It was environmentally friendly, embracing positive attitudes to nature and constantly celebrating the goodness of God’s creation. Like the religions of the Australian Aboriginees and the Native American Indians it takes us back to our roots and seems to speak with a primitive innocence and directness which has much appeal in our tired and cynical age.

Let me draw to a close by summarizing why I personally see the Celtic way to God as being so 21st century relevant.

Firstly, the focus on Community. We must maintain the sense of community in the congregation and in the parish. The sense of belonging that a sense of community can bring is a key building block for the next few decades of change.

Secondly, seeing the energy, the life and the flow of God’s love in all of creation, seeing the potential of God in the earth, in the people, If we see God in all of creation then we can only but want to nurture that Creation.

And of course thirdly, the sense of harmony with creation, its care and its stewardship.

If we can take, even these three reasons to heart then we will indeed turn the tide and honour the trust that God placed in us in the Garden of Eden. If we do not, then may God forgive us.

In God’s name

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Neither agreeing with nor disagreeing with any premise in the article, I do not understand why a minister of the Church of Scotland would imply a longing for Celtic Christianity whose tenet regarding original sin is vastly different on their side from that of most other Christian churches (Roman, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) on the other.

Jim MacGregor