Given by The Right Reverend George Browning Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, and Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network
Today we celebrate the Eucharist in the context of the theme Safeguarding Creation: the bishop and the Environment.
In the dialogue following the healing of the man born blind, the Pharisees confront the man saying they are followers of Moses, but he is a follower of this man – Jesus, whom they claim has no pedigree.
Followers of Moses were not simply followers of the law, but disciples of the narrative the law was instituted to protect: the narrative of creation and flood, the call of Abraham and the Patriarchs, the great slavery and its miraculous end, the providence of the wilderness and the stewardship they were to exercise when entering the Promised Land. This is the narrative of Moses as read in the Pentateuch; narrative that begins with Adam (humankind) created out of the Adamah (earth) and concludes in Deuteronomy with injunctions to care for and protect the land, for in so doing they will protect its bounty, bounty large enough for the poor to be fed alongside the stranger in the gate.
The man born blind began fleetingly to worship the one who claimed to fulfil the Law of Moses and indeed to precede him: “Before Abraham was- I am”, and, “all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made”.
As we know, John uses sight as a metaphor for inner knowledge or seeing. The man born blind did not simply regain his external sight but began to “see” with new eyes, as we are constantly challenged to do. In relation to the environment the challenge is profound, for it is a dimension to which many of us have not given much focus, and yet, as we respond to the challenge we find ourselves being called back to our roots, this is indeed core business. The ancient Old Testament title for a prophet was “Seer”, one who sees what others have not. We are called to be “Seers, both to our faith communities and to the wider world.
We are beginning to understand that this fifth mark of Mission is integrally connected to the other four. Unless the environment is safeguarded, unjust structures become even more entrenched – the fourth mark of mission. As injustice becomes entrenched greater becomes the imperative to care for those in need – the third mark of mission. On the other hand, as the environmental challenge is addressed, it is increasingly becoming a lever which changes the hearts of men and women, bringing them to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ – the first mark of mission. As folk begin to understand Gospel values give meaning to life in all its fullness, more folk are open to being discipled – the second mark of mission.
It is essential that the bishop lead. The challenge is unlikely to be taken seriously in the Diocese or Province, unless strong leadership is exercised by both word and deed. I do hope that in your return home you will initiate an environmental call to action, based on the faith we all proclaim.
May God in Jesus grace us for a task that is grounded in scripture, expressed though our worship and is the life transforming challenge of our time.