A Message from Rev. Tim Seery
Editors note: In honor of Rev. Tim's anniversary with us we are reprinting a copy of his first sermon for CCLJ.
Congregational Church of La Jolla
Rev. Tim Seery
October 15, 2017
Genesis 1: 1-6, 20-24
So here we are. At the beginning. We are at the beginning of my time among you and we are at the literal beginning of the Bible. You can’t go more to the beginning than Gen. 1, Verse 1. Now you might find it interesting that this might be the only sermon I preach to you that is a two part sermon - part 2 I will preach to you on my last Sunday with you. And yes, on that day we will return to Gen. 1, Verse 1. But you will have to bear though several years and many many Sundays until you find out why.
It worked out nicely that my first Sunday among you was our Blessing of the Animals Sunday. Because Genesis 1 is what I would have preached on for both occasions. Here we are at the beginning of it all. A powerful story, a mysterious story, an iconic depiction of creation, of new life. It is here we are first introduced to this powerful and loving God who calls all things into existence.
And ultimately what we are left with is an idyllic, beautiful, lush, world. The world as it was before human’s messed it up. This was pre climate change, at the time of Genesis 1 assault weapons, they didn't exist yet, nuclear weapons, they didn't exist either. In fact the concept of money hadn’t even developed yet. Genesis 1 is intended to convey purity in its most beautiful and peaceful form. It was fresh start. And if you’ve lived in the world for more than a week you know very well that where we are now is a long way from Eden. It is in Genesis 1 that God instills in human’s great power and responsibility. It is in Genesis 1 that God creates humankind in God’s image — with the deep and abundant capacity for justice, love, kindness, and goodness. But God also gives humans intellect, reason, choice, and free will. And with this we run into one of the great problems of human existence that as time goes on we will come back to over and over: the problem of evil. We humans, the same creatures capable of such goodness as light bearers in the world are also bestowed with the ability to choose darkness, to choose not the Christ-like path. We see this happen every day to various degrees. We saw this so painfully unfold two weeks ago in Las Vegas: a man created in God’s image, a child of God, a man who on the day he was born was a small, helpless little, innocent baby who brought joy to the woman who brought him into the world—chose the path of darkness, hate, and destruction. I don't know about you, but it is difficult for me now to render that image in my mind of the Las Vegas murderer as small infant — especially after the images we have seen of the utter heartbreak his adult self-caused. We as children of God can choose to wait in line 8 hours to donate blood to save lives or we can also choose to end them. So great is the power that we have and so powerful is the choice that we have been given.
So where does this leave us on a blessing of the animals Sunday?
In times of hardship and heartbreak it seems to be animals who give many of us comfort. However if we look closely they also have a great deal to teach us about our own faith.
In a world of judgment, animals are non-judgmental. In a world of hate, animals simply don’t hate. They don't build bombs, purchase weapons, or care about amassing great wealth. Perhaps the reason that we humans find so much comfort in animals is because they are reminders of that original paradise — relics of an Eden long gone. But while they remind us of better days — they also, I believe, challenge us to be better people — and to build a world of justice and kindness.
Your dog could care less if you gained 20 lbs. Your cat doesn’t judge you because you struggle with mental health. Your dog doesn't know if you are wealthy or poor - your hamster doesn't really care much about how popular you are. Your dog won’t leave you because they found someone better. Animals in our lives remind us of the world as it is, versus the way the world should be. This is a theme you will hear me come back to a lot in the future. But animals are little miracles because they offer us the space for nonjudgmental, unconditional companionship in a world that increasingly takes this away from us. Animals are a window into the purity and simplicity of God’s original creation. And in a world that moves farther and farther away from purity and simplicity animals seem like a refuge. This isn’t the sort of simplicity that comes from stupidity. Not at all. For we are dealing with some very wise creatures here. Some animals offer therapy and protection as guide dogs and service animals. Others help us humans clean up and rectify our human made messes — as bomb and drug detecting animals. If you think about it, our animal companions and all the animals of our blessed world are miracles in their own individual way.
About two years ago I spent a week camping in the Amazon rainforest in the heart of Brazil. It wasn’t exactly glamorous camping either — there were no tents, or really even that much food - we slept in hammocks and our guides brought one chicken as food for the day — any other food we had to learn to catch ourselves. But it was this experience that allowed me to fully appreciate God’s creation and whenever I return to the Creation story I am reminded of how alive that scripture becomes once you see the Amazon. There are not words in my vocabulary to adequately describe the majesty of Creation but it is a felling in your heart—one of gratitude, wonder, and amazement. But even in a place like the Amazon—as close as we might come to the Garden of Eden, there is always, I discovered, in the distance the faint buzz of chainsaws. An ever constant reminder of the power of our human species and our ability to choose what path we take. As I begin my time with you it is my prayer that you will come to this place week after week seeking to learn how to always walk the path of truth and light in a world where it is all too easy, and too common to choose otherwise. May God bless you and may God bless our time together.