I thought I’d got away without it, but this week I got handed a service order to use labelled “Creation Season”. So, in a break from the ongoing series, allow me rant a little.
I’m well aware that the Season of Creation has some pretty powerful voices behind it, not least that of Pope Francis, but …
I have no problem with dedicating some weeks around harvest as days or weeks of prayer and thanks for creation, I think that’s worth doing.
I have no problem with any summons to prayer or action from Christians and others to make a difference to our growing planetary emergency. The science seems irrefutable, and though some of those protesting the season of creation seem to me to be avoiding or denying the problem, I’m not among them.
But I do have a problem with trying to create a new liturgical season for it. It seems to me that it simple gets the idea of seasonal time wrong.
There are two cycles of seasonal time, one pivoting around Christmas, and one around Good Friday and Easter. These are the two key events of the Christian story of how God changes the world in Jesus Christ: by assuming created and fallen nature, and by transforming created and fallen nature to be fully alive with the life of God.
It has certainly been a distortion of that story that the church has sometimes overemphasised it as the redemption of individual human beings. Correct that distortion though, and the story itself is about the whole of the created order. In St Paul’s words:
“the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God.”Romans 8:21
The story of Christ is itself also and always a story about the redemption of creation, not the snatching out of the world of a few favoured souls.
- Advent encourages us to long in faith and hope for the world to be put right, to pray for individual, social and creation justice.
- Christmas promises us that the hope of creation is that God has joined Godself to the creation, and made it irrevocably a part of God’s life.
- Epiphany invites us to see the light that shone in the darkness of cosmic chaos also shines within the darkness of our disordering of God’s world.
- Lent invites us to discipline ourselves as those who acknowledge our frailty and complicity in the wrongness of the world, but live with trust in God’s promise to change it.
- Good Friday and Easter promise us that God embraces the world’s entropy in order to carry it into a robust and flourishing future.
- Ascension shows us that created life belongs in the life of God, and Pentecost shows us that the life of God belongs in the midst of creation.
That’s why we don’t need a season of creation. Every season is about the redemption of creation, and Christ’s story is creation’s story as well as humanity’s and God’s. When creation is squeezed into a single season, it gives people permission to go on telling the old, old story as if it were just about individual souls being made whole. It’s always been more than that. It’s always been about the redemption of creation, and living creatures singing their hymns to the thrice holy, because they have been drawn into the eternal presence of God.