Sermon at greenbelt communion 2015

Sermon at Greenbelt Communion 2015 – Br Sam SSF


With whom are you related? What are your connections? Look around you to those amongst whom you are sitting here. Maybe you are with members of your church, or your family, or your friends. Perhaps those you are sitting with are complete strangers whom you will never see again, or maybe they are people you meet each year at Greenbelt. Greenbelt is like that, isn’t it?

We are all related, connected to each other in some way, not necessarily by blood, but by common interest, common concern, common faith; by culture, or just by being fellow members of the human race. Look wider outside this tent, to this bright field and beyond. Look at the trees around us, the birds above us, the grass on which we are sat, the earth beneath our feet. Here also are our ‘relations’, connections which we may not so readily recognise, but nevertheless creatures with whom we share a genetic code, creatures who are made up, like us, of star dust. To all these we belong in an intricate web of connectedness, a network of relationships flowing from an infinitely generous, abundant and compassionate God – who is relationship itself.

This is the worldview of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation; this is what Jesus Christ shares with us and comes to restore, and this is the vision which Francis of Assisi lived and rejoiced in: ‘He called every creature, no matter how small by the name of brother or sister because he saw that they came from the same source’. This is what Francis gave thanks and praise to God for. This is what his Canticle of the Creatures is about.

Underlying the ecological crises of our time, from human induced climate change, to the rapid extinction of species which we are just beginning to experience, to the destruction of the rainforest, to the degradation of human life, is one fundamental crisis – the loss of a sense or an awareness of relatedness, a forgetfulness that we are intimately and intricately connected to each other and to the world around us. We have forgotten that everything in this world ‘belongs’, has a place, is related. This is not romantic fantasy, it is scientific fact. In a culture in which our main focus is on consumption and accumulation we have come to see this planet as ‘a giant warehouse of stuff, there for our convenience, to be plundered, possessed, exploited and discarded at will, rather than as a community of creatures sharing a common home in relation to the mystery of God’.

In his encyclical letter published earlier this year entitled ‘Laudato si’ – ‘Praise be to you’ – after the opening words of St Francis’ great Canticle, a letter addressed not just to Christians, but to people of all faiths and of none, Pope Francis appeals for a rediscovery of this radical relatedness which lies at the heart of the universe. He calls us to remember that the life of this planet, with everyone and everything on it, hangs together; that we and every creature belong, that our lives are interconnected; and that as all come from the same overflowing, abundant Source, so the true end and goal of all things is to be found in worship and praise. Pope Francis calls us to an integral ecology which is social, economic, environmental and spiritual.

It’s this Kingdom-shaped, integrated ecology which many who live in communities like ours at Hilfield and at Pilsdon are seeking to live out and to share – as brothers and sisters with each other and with the wounded stranger who comes to be with us – as brothers and sisters with the land on which we are set, with the plants and animals and with the food and energy which they provide for us – and as brothers and sisters held together within the mysterious presence of God, a relationship renewed in a pattern of daily prayer and worship. This is our bright field, our common home – a network of relationships revealing both the mercy and the glory of God – an ecology by which the world is created, redeemed and upheld.

For both our communities bread is an important symbol. We bake it ourselves. We know where the flour comes from and the types of grain: wheat, rye, spelt, einkorn. We know the name of the miller. We recognise the different loaves of each member of the community – some are flatter and more dense than others! Bread is our staple food; we share it at our common table, and we bring it to the altar to be taken, blessed, broken and shared as the Body of Christ – in order that the life of Christ, the life of relationship may be renewed in us.

I have brought a Hilfield loaf with me for this Communion service. There’s not enough for everyone to share, but it will do for those of us up here. The person who baked it, with careful attention, is called Mike; he sends it to us at Greenbelt with love. His wife, Barbara, is seriously ill in hospital and he asks for our prayers for her today. May this ‘fruit of the earth and work of human hands’ become for us the Bread of Life – which connects us with each other, with every creature on this planet, and with the loving, self-giving Source and Goal of all.