First Sunday of Creation Time: 2010

First Sunday of Creation Time

Service of Worship for September 12, 2010

by Rev. Wendy MacLean

Call to Worship

(Set the communion table when all are present. Make a “tablecloth” of newspaper. Either tape the pages together in advance so there is one large piece to spread across the table, or arrange pages layer on layer in a slow, deliberate action.

This is a silent drama. Our “altar” and gathering place is where we come face to face with news. “Do this in remembrance of me” reminds us that we are part of the community of the earth and all that it holds.

When the table is covered with newspaper, add plastic bottles filled with water. Use water bottles and pop bottles (green), and add other bottles as you choose. Add the symbols that are usually on the table: cross, Bible, Christ candle. The table will be crowded. Spend time trying to arrange the items in a way that puts the cross in the centre. These actions are all part of the drama. What is crowding out the gospel?)

Leader: Every day the news brings us stories of disaster: genocide, suicide, ecocide. Our ears become dull, and we stop listening with our hearts. These are not new stories. Our brother Jeremiah told the news to his people this way in the sixth century BCE.

Read: Jeremiah 4:23–26

Leader: What hurts one hurts all. We are one in the Spirit, one with the earth, one with all creation.

(Pour water from the bottles into the baptismal font. If you choose, pour enough to overflow while you quote 1 Timothy 1:13b:)

“I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

Every day, creation continues to evolve, transform, and change. Species are lost; new combinations bring new ways; new life is born. In our baptism, we die to old life and are re-created in a new spirit. We take up our call to be co-creators with Christ.

All: As followers of Christ we are part of a story that is good news, a story that proclaims life even in the face of death:

“All parts of creation…are related. All creation is good.” (from A Song of Faith)

Leader: To the news of the day we bring the hard call: Repent! What affects one affects the whole. Do not delay! Welcome each moment as eternity. Do not delay! Welcome each space as sacred. Do not delay! Call your friends and neighbours and say: We can make a difference. Take up God’s call to be co-creators with Christ.

All: Rejoice! Welcome each moment as eternity.
Rejoice! Welcome each space as sacred.
“All parts of creation...are related. All creation is good.”
(from A Song of Faith)

Opening Prayer

We are not alone.
Mountains and rivers are our grandfathers.
Wind and sky are our grandmothers.
Rain and snow are our children.
Great Spirit, Holy Mystery
Find us where we are
and draw us closer
in wonder and praise
to the miracle that joins us as one:
in your creating love, we rejoice.
AMEN

Hymn of Praise

“All Creatures of Our God and King” (Voices United 217)
“Each Blade of Grass” (More Voices 37)

Time with the Children

(Show the children an empty recycling bin. What do we put in here? What happens to the stuff we put out to be recycled?

Give some examples of ways plastic is recycled: polar fleece, plastic benches, lawn chairs.

Note: Rural congregations may not have a recycling program. You might instead use examples of transformation from nature.)

Some very creative people found ways of making something new out of our garbage. We call this change “transformation.”

The earth has always recycled. The leaves that fall gradually decompose to help make new soil. This is part of the wonder of God’s creation. Nothing goes to waste.

It may seem like a very small step to do the things you can to help take care of the earth. But every little action makes a difference. Even one child can change the world. YOU change the world by being in it.

Jesus told a story to teach us that he cares just as much about one small person, one small action, as he does about the whole world. He told a story about a shepherd who left his whole flock of sheep to go and find one small lamb who was lost.

Nothing is too small or too insignificant to be important to God. Everything you do makes a difference in the world. We are all part of the changing world. Let’s live with love and kindness, and be good friends to each other and our earth!

Invitation to the Prayer of Confession

(Visuals of disasters, earthquakes, pictures of global warming—melting icecaps, flooded islands, overcrowded cities, etc.

OR

Guided meditation, paraphrasing Jeremiah 4:23–26:)

Leader: I invite you to still yourself. Take a deep breath; feel the relief in your body when you drop your shoulders and breathe deeply, knowing you are breathing in the goodness of God.

Close your eyes, and let the images of the news come to you.

I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void. (Silence)
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking. (Silence)
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. (Silence)
I looked and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all the cities were laid in ruins. (Silence)

Prayer of Confession/Reconciliation

Great Spirit, hear our prayer:
We are small, we are few, we are without understanding.
We let our needs exhaust the energy of the earth.
We let our footprint disfigure the mountains.
We let our voices drown out the song of birds.
Forgive us our trespasses.
Bring us back into right relationship with the earth.
Renew in us a right spirit
in friendship with all creation.
Amen.

Assurance of Renewed Relationship

All parts of life are related.
The earth forgives by composting, transforming, and evolving.
In Christ we, too, are a new creation: forgiven, renewed, recycled, reborn.
Praise life and praise our Creator!
Amen.

(Take the bottles off the communion table and put them in a blue recycling box.)

Sermon Suggestions

The prophets teach that the disasters that decimate the earth and the people are the deliberate acts of God. This is a teaching method we find difficult to reconcile with our understanding of a compassionate Creator. Resist personifying God either as creating or destroying. Hold up the relationship: We are intricately connected. What hurts one, hurts all: “All parts of creation are related.”

Nothing is too small or too insignificant to be important to God. Everything you do makes a difference in the world. This is called the “butterfly effect” in the new science. (A butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico, and the cumulative effect changes life in our land.) The joy of one shepherd over finding a lost sheep causes joy in heaven. This resonates throughout the earth. What blesses one blesses all. The heart of Christ shared with one resonates in action to change the world.

This is a shift from the “more than/less than” lens that equates value with quantity. We are both the one and the ninety-nine. We are both the part and the whole. We are both lost and found. We are the one carried in the arms of Christ and at the same time part of the congregation of 99 faithful who are blessed in Christ’s rejoicing. We are all transformed by the experience of one being changed.

How does the earth experience this blessing? The changes that formed our cosmos were very small: cells divided, water drops accumulated, dust exploded. The earth bears witness to these small miracles. Photosynthesis, mitosis, and procreation transform the planet. What part do we play in this great drama? How does heaven rejoice as we are found?

The proclamation in the sermon is meant to lift up the grace of God, and the service now shifts from the doom of the earlier texts to rejoicing.

Hymn of Faith

“Touch the Earth Lightly” (VU 307)
“We Are All One People” (MV 141)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Supplication

Great Spirit, Holy Mystery
In this season of creation
We see life changing all around us.
Days are getting shorter
Nights are getting colder
The splendour of summer is giving way to autumn glory.
As summer greens turn to crimson and gold
May we too be turned to you in praise and thanks.
Holy One: the earth sings your praises
In each small creature and each cosmic wonder.
How great thou art!
But if our eyes are open
We cannot help but ache
With the brokenness of your people
And the abuse of the planet.
If our eyes are open
It is easy to lose heart.
When we do, great Shepherd, come find us
And draw us back to you.
Save us from fear and cynicism
That deceives us and takes away our energy.
Strengthen us to help heal your world.
Abundant One, bless us with the grace
That rejoices, as you do,
In small wonders and great love.
AMEN

Hymn of Departure

“Touch the Earth Lightly” (VU 307)
“Called by Earth and Sky” (MV 135)

Commissioning for Mission

Go now, into the new week.
Do not delay! Welcome each moment as eternity.
Do not delay! Welcome each space as sacred.
Do not delay! Go into the new week and be co-creators
With Christ, in Christ, and in the mystery of the Holy Spirit:
Rejoice!

Benediction

The Spirit sings a song of grace
Holy light shines in your face
Christ the Shepherd finds your heart
And sends you out to do your part.

Go knowing the precious love of God
Goes with you and
Makes you ready
To be a blessing
To all creation.
AMEN

Suggestions for Visual Display

Youtube.com video: Weather Report, featuring Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Bullfrog Films)

Brilliant visuals and very clear narrative about climate change provide an excellent correlation with the lection from Jeremiah. See www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/wrpt.html for more information.

Scripture: Luke 15:9

“She calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”

The text from the Gospel of Luke can draw our eyes to some of the leaders of our world who are calling us to repent.

Repentance means turning. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has brought the attention of the world to the Arctic and the damage to the circumpolar regions caused by climate change.

She is like the woman sweeping her house to find a lost coin.

She helps us realize we have lost the life that is dependent on the cold climate of the polar region.

Will there be great rejoicing when the lost is found?

YES! It starts now: We are called by name today to repent. Called by Christ, called by our sister Sheila, called by earth and sky.

Wendy MacLean is a poet and minister working with Montreal Presbytery as a staff person for Vision and Transformation. Her soul finds rest in the mountains and creeks of the Eastern Townships, where all reminds her to hold the earth “tenderly and fiercely!”

 

 

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