Planning Worship from March into May

The Season of Lent

During Lent, we recognize our complicity in and captivity to sin, not only against God but against all our neighbors.  Individually and corporately, we confess our harm and neglect against humans and all of creation. We grieve losses to God’s good Earth and reflect on the sacrifices we must make to stop our sins against creation even as we seek to hear, with new ears, the voice of every suffering creature.

Ash Wednesday
Among the traditional prayers of confession on Ash Wednesday is, "Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you.  Have mercy on us, O God.  Our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, we confess to you.  Have mercy on us, O God."
We are smudged with ashes, burned from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration.  It is a mark not only of individual mortality, but also of death and decay, compost and renewal.  In prairie restoration and after volcanoes, we see how new life springs from the ashes.

Prayers of the Day
Dennis Ormseth has written a resource on Praying with Creation and has developed a prayer of the day to go with the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Lent in Year A.  Here is a page with those prayers.

Lenten Devotions and Actions
Care for Our Common Home During Lent EcoSpirituality Resources offers a devotional guide and reflection resources paired with Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si.  Click here to find the materials.

Carbon Fasting for Lent
The United Church of Christ in Massachusetts sponsors an annual ecumenical carbon fast for Lent. Receive daily e-mail with message and a action to reduce carbon output for yourself and your congregation. Click here to read the invitation on their page.

The Grace of Earth This study series from Australian Roman Catholics focused on practices of "God Revealing, God Inspiring, God Challenging." reflects on God’s gift of creation and Earth as mother of life. The year A resource examines six aspects of Earth’s life support systems: atmosphere, oceans, fresh water, land, plant life, and animal life. 
(Their year B study packet is on The Grace of Forests. Click here for the pdf.)

"Creation Waits with Eager Longing!" Lenten Study by Kim Winchell  A journey of Reflection, Remembrance, Rediscovery, Repentance, Reconciliation, and Re-commitment on our way to becoming more faithful stewards of God’s creation. This study is intended for Ash Wednesday and the six weeks of Lent. Please reproduce with appropriate credit given to Kim Winchell, the creator of the series.
 

Holy Week, the Three Days, and the Season of Easter

With Christ, from death arises a new beginning.  We celebrate the resurrection of human life and envision the restoration/regeneration of the entire cosmos as a new creation.

It wouldn't be Palm Sunday without waving our leafy green branches.  As you are placing an order, rather than stripping a habitat bare, you might consider ordering from EcoPalms, which is both sustainable and fair trade.  The University of Minnesota Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) is working together with the Rainforest Alliance TREES program and Smartwood to certify palms harvested from the forests of Mexico and Guatemala for sale to Christian congregations in the United States and Europe.  Place orders by March 18 at www.ecopalms.org.

For Good Friday, your rough-hewn cross might be constructed from the trunks of the season's Christmas trees.

Here is a link to a Good Friday eco-reflection/sermon by two middle school youth in a service of Seven Last Words.  With Jesus' "I thirst," they incorporated ecological reflection on the need for clean water.

Ben Stewart, in his book A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth's Ecology, writes:  "Certainly something much larger than springtime happens at Easter.  In the resurrection of Christ, by the power of God, love conquers hate, gentleness overcomes violence, sin is washed away by mercy, life vanquishes the power of death.  And yet, Jesus, who had rested in the earth on the Sabbath, rises to life, according to the Gospel of John, in a garden in the springtime.  Jesus had earlier imaged his death as a seed falling into the earth, bearing much fruit.  Some early Christians even faithfully imagined Jesus' body resting in the tomb on the Sabbath as his presiding over a cosmic Sabbath of the whole earth, with the entire earth laying in sabbath rest, until, as in a new creation, Christ arose on Sunday, the day of creation, calling the entire creation back to abundant life."  (page 49)
 
The service of the "Greening of the Cross" is a special liturgy designed for a post-Easter celebration or a celebration of spring--to mark the new life that arises from Jesus' death on the cross. Worshipers are given greens or flowers to bring and place on a large wooden cross. The cross can be standing upright with mesh around it to hold the greenery. Or it can be placed on the ground and worshipers can lay the greens and/or flowers on top of it.

Prayers of the Day
Wanda Copeland has written prayers of the day to go with the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Easter in Year A.  Here is a page with those prayers.


Other Special Days

Earth Day, April 22
Observe Earth Week and Earth Sunday with special liturgies and preaching. Consider the Greening of the Cross service above under Easter for links or visit our Earth Day Sunday page under Occasional Services.

Days of Planting, often around April 25
Arbor Day, Tree Planting: Prepare for spring planting of trees in commemoration or for beauty or for shade next to buildings to provide lower energy costs are all ways to lower our corbon footprint. Click on this link for a sample service for the blessing of a tree. Plant trees at church or member homes as part of the service. See a tree planning service.
Rogation Day: Sunday around April 25. Blessings for the fertility of the church garden, farms and gardens of members, and bounty in the land to feed the poor. See Rogation Day sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor. 
 
Mothers' Day 
On the second Sunday of May, celebrate "Mother Earth Day" with special prayers and blessings.