Saint Francis Day 2021 Sermon: “For God So Loved the Cosmos”

John 3: 16-21

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise to you Lord Christ.

Sermon, “For God So Loved the Cosmos”

            Everyone knows it…. “For God so loved,” can you say it? It’s likely one of the most famous verses from the Bible. We see it on sports signs, in pop culture, on bumper stickers and the list could just go on and on. It has become a very recognizable Scripture verse. It’s one I have preached on before, speaking to the love of God for everyone in the world. That’s a common understanding of this verse, but what if we looked at it from a different angle considering the vast expanse of the world and beyond?

In Greek, we would find the word cosmos for world and universe. Let me read it again, but using a different word for world.

“For God so loved the cosmos, that God gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the cosmos to condemn the cosmos, but in order that the cosmos might be saved through him.”

God so loved the cosmos, the universe, everyone and everything would be saved through Jesus. Notice what Jesus did not say in this passage. He didn’t say “For God so loved just pastors (he definitely didn’t say that one), or Methodists, or just Christians.” He didn’t even say “For God so loved human beings only.” No, Jesus said that God loved the world or in Greek, the cosmos, everything God has created, which we can include mother earth, plants, animals, trees, mountains, oceans, our earthly home. We read this throughout the Bible, especially in the Psalms: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” When Jesus says that God loves the world, the cosmos, he means all of creation, not just a part of it.

            This means that the salvific significance of Jesus is not limited to human beings, but is meant for all of creation. When I say salvific, I mean leading to salvation, redemption, saving us from evil and destruction, not only of ourselves, but of all of creation. What Jesus brings is the Kingdom, the Reign, the fullness of God to earth, showing us the light of God who desires the “shalom” or peace, wholeness, and goodness of all creation.

            For some reason, as people of faith, we tend to forget this call to care for our creation. Yet, the first commandment that God gives humanity in Genesis is to care for, tend to, and become co-creators, or co-laborers in creation. If Christians took this seriously, it would compel the church to be at the forefront of environmental stewardship. A part of our Christian, faithful calling is to care for our earthly home and all of it’s in habitants. God called it all good and so should we!

            Did you notice that in the abbreviated reading from Genesis 1? God created and God said it was what? Disappointing, boring, bad? Not at all. Good! God created everything and said it was good! God created humankind in God’s image, so we’re also created in that goodness. And God gave humanity the additional responsibility to care for all that God had created.

            Today, we begin our Season of the Saints with Francis of Assisi. He is a well-loved and remarkable figure in church history. One of the things that made him so radical was his spirit bringing together this holistic faith one that embraces the spirit, the body, and the earth; all of creation. Francis loved nature. He took long walks through the countryside taking the time to enjoy plants, animals, and trees. Francis felt that all of creation were part of God’s Kingdom. He wrote songs and preached to both birds and people and even calmed an angry wolf.  Francis is a wonderful example of someone who cared about all the people, animals, and plants that God created. 

            A few years agoPope Francis wrote a letter entitled Laudato Si, which means “Praise Be To You.” In it, he calls on “every person living on the planet” to care for our common home. He wrote, “Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically…He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”

            Following the tradition set forth by Francis, another person in church history, Saint Bonaventure, who was a theologian and philosopher, “developed a theological and spiritual vision that acknowledged all creation as emanating from the goodness of God, existing as a “footprint” of God, and leading us back to God if we are able to “read” nature properly. He spoke of creation as the first book that God wrote.”[1]

            Just a few months ago, Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew leader of the Orthodox Churches, released a joint statement for the first time calling everyone to pray for world leaders ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference happening in early November. The statement reads in part: ‘We call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’ They urge all people “to make meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the planet, working together and taking responsibility for how we use our resources.”

            It’s a large task, but it’s one we’re all called to; to be co-creators with God in this moment. Did you know that our church has responded to this call? We have solar panels on the roof of our education building. They were installed in 2016 with grant assistance from Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light. It’s a way for us to be better stewards of our resources and our earth. It’s one way we have responded collectively, but it’s important and essential for all of us, on this World Communion Sunday, to come together and respond as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, the same Jesus who desired the wholeness of all creation, and as common siblings of our earthly home, to take care of this beautiful creation all around us.

            God desires the saving of all creation, yes this includes you and me, but it also includes our animal friends, our beautiful forests and parks, our peaceful rivers and oceans, from hilltops to plains and everything in between in this amazing God created cosmos. God loves it all, God called it all good, and God cares for it all and so should we! For God so loved the cosmos!

Let’s pray:

God Creator of the Universe

God

Creator

Of the Universe

Of the earth and sea

Of the earth’s fruits and flowers

Of all humans, habitats and creatures

Help us to value and care for your world

In all its beauty and fragility

In trust for you

Creator

God.

Amen

                        By Helen Mason 2018 Women’s World Day of Prayer


[1] https://franciscanaction.org/issues/care-for-creation/

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