God’s Earth ~ Our Home Worship Service May 29, 2011 Welcome Call to Worship One: O Lord, you have given us the gift of land. All: May we ever protect and preserve it. One: O Lord, you have given us the gift of water. All: May we keep it pure and fresh. One: O Lord, you have given us the gift of plants and trees. All: May we ever use and protect them justly. One: O Lord, you have given us the gift of birds and animals. All: May we preserve and enjoy them. One: O Lord, you have given us care of the earth. All: O Lord, we accept the care of these gifts as our sacred stewardship. Amen Mel West – Book of Worship – Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches Hymn: Morning Has Broken VU 409 Each Blade of Grass MV 37 Opening Prayer God of the Universe, look down upon us this day, in love, and with mercy. You created this amazing world that we live in. You moulded it and shaped it into a beautiful work of art, and we are blessed to enjoy it. You created all growing things, the trees and the flowers to delight our eyes and the grain, the fruit, and the vegetables to nourish us. And, you, Almighty God, created not only the world, but space for us to explore and to challenge our sense of adventure, How wonderful you are! Amen Margaret Wood – Tinity U.C., Kirkland Lake, Ontario and Swastika U.C., Swastika, Ontario Prayer of Confession Creator God, breathing your own life into our being. You gave us the gift of life. You placed us on this earth with the minerals and waters, flowers and fruits, living creatures of grace and beauty. You gave us the care of the earth. Today you call us: “Where are you; what have you done?” Silent prayer for creation. Assurance of Pardon God whispers to us, in the rustling trees, in the gentle rain and in the song of a bird “Protector of creation, I love you.” Sharing with the Children: God’s Gift To Us 2 Children’s Hymn This Is God’s Wondrous World VU 296 Lord, Your Hands Have Formed MV 181 Prayer for Illumination God just as we open our eyes and hearts to your wondrous world may we also drinking in all that you have to tell us in your Holy Word. Amen Scripture Readings Genesis 1: 26-31 Psalm 148 VU 870 or 871 Luke 12: 13-21 Sermon: God’s Earth ~ Our Home Hymn: Touch the Earth Lightly VU 307 Called by Earth and Sky MV 135 A New Creed VU 918 Minute For Mission Time To Give Back To God With Our Offering Offering Response: For the Gift of Creation VU 538 For the gift of creation, the gift of your love, and the gift of the Spirit by which we live, we thank you and give you the fruit of our hands. May your grace be proclaimed by the gifts that we give. Prayer of Dedication God we are always amazed at your generosity towards us. The air we breathe, the sunshine that warms are bodies and the earth that supplies our food. Bless these gifts that we have brought this morning so that part of it may be turned into food and water, life and love shared with others through the Mission and Service Fund and the ministries supported by this church. In Jesus’ name, we celebrate your presence as we participate in your mission. Amen Pastoral Prayer (In the United Church of Canada this is Rural Life Sunday. In support of farmers everywhere please pray the following prayer.) Creator God, who has gifted us with soil and air and water, who has offered the gift of plants and animals into our stewardship, we pray this day for the farmers of the world. We pray for those who till the soil and plant the grain, for those who tend plants in greenhouses and gardens, for those who feed and care for cattle and chickens, goats and ducks, for those who milk and shovel and plow and gather. We pray for those on family farms and those on commercial farms, for those who seek to feed their families with one horse and one animal, for those who have herds of animals and large machinery for those who watch their land dry up and those who are flooded out, for those who study the sky for rain or hail, sun or snow, and watch the prairies for fire, for those who are workers on farms with no land of their own to till, and for those who offer their love and passion for caring for the land and the beasts. With every bite, with every sip, with every taste, may we offer our gratitude to you, O God, for the farmers of this world, who, through blood, sweat, and tears, 3 supply food for our tables and nourishment for our bodies. May we join them as good stewards of the soi, air and water, of the plants and animals and of the earth which is our home. Amen Susan Lukey, High River U.C., High River, Alberta Hymn: All Praise to You (Stewards of Earth) VU 297 Mother Earth, Our Mother Birthing MV 39 Commissioning and Blessing Blessed are the heavens; For they declare the power of creation. Blessed is the earth, our beloved home; For she is a planet of plenitude. Blessed are the waters thereon; For they give rise to living things. Blessed is the land; For it is the source of life abundant. Blessed is the air we breathe; For it fires us to life and love. Blessed are the beasts of the field; For they are glorious to behold. Blessed are the birds of the air; For they carve a graceful arc in the sky. Blessed are the mountains and the seas and the valleys; For their variety makes rich our habitat. Blessed are the fields of grain, the orchards of fruit; For they give sustenance, asking nothing in return. Blessed are the dwellers on earth; For they shall cherish the privilege of living upon it. Blessed are they who protect the earth and all her creatures, and the plants of the field, and the trees of the forest; For their reward shall be harmony with the web of existence. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; For the earth and her people are one. Now may God who has given us the world and all that is in it, give us the grace to live in it this week as humble servants, alert to all life’s possibilities and attuned to the heavenly kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN 4 God’s Earth ~ Our Home The Bible begins with a gift from God. The precious gift of creation! The forest that blankets the landscape, the clear water that flows from the mountains and so much more. All of these things God could have kept to himself but he chose to share it with us. All that he asked in return for this valuable gift is that we care for it as much as he does. To walk together lightly upon God’s earth. Genesis spells it out for us. God has given us a privileged place among creation to be faithful stewards over the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves on the earth. Faithful stewards. . . What does it mean to be a faithful steward of God's creation? Good question. The United Methodist Church, Greensboro, North Carolina, used a slogan for their creation program that sums it all up. “God has the whole world in His hands but He’s counting on us to take care of it.” Genesis tells us that God has given us task of protecting creation by sustaining it, conserving it, and protecting it. In our task of looking after creation we can receive guidance from the Bible the greatest manual for the outdoors ever written. The great visionary encounters in the Bible seldom took place in the temples, but instead they took place in sheep pastures, in the deserts, on the mountains and on the sea. God lives in the heart of all creation. The Bible teaches us that we can learn much from nature if we will but listen. The hymn “This Is God’s Wondrous World” tells us to listen to all nature. When Rev. Babcock the writer of “This Is God’s Wondrous World” lived in Lockport, New York he took frequent walks along the Niagara Escarpment to enjoy the overlook's panoramic vista of upstate New York scenery and Lake Ontario telling his wife he was "going out to see the Father's world.”Rev. Babcock actually wrote “This Is My Father’s World” as a poem, and never got to hear his famous hymn sung. This hymn has helped shape the creation spirituality of many people. Have we always shown reverence toward nature? Or acted as if the world is ours and not what it really is, a precious gift from God. Sadly, we are now beginning to see the consequences of those kinds of choices. Some people have chosen the "good" life of unbridled consumption in a way that has highly destructive consequences for the earth. And in choosing this so-called "good life," they have chosen an illusion. God does not want us to be like the greedy farmer in the reading from Luke, who filled his barns to overflowing and wanted to keep all of it for himself. We are not to take from the earth and the waters what we want and not replace it. It is God’s earth, he created it! The world was created for everyone’s use, not just for a few greedy people and companies who think it is here for their exclusive use to strip bare. With God’s handiwork all around us, how can we forget how much he loves us by creating all this for us? The concern of many of us for the safety of creation is not new. It has been the concern of some throughout the centuries. This is what St. Basil the Great had to say about it back in the late 300’s. “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator. …One blade of grass or one speck of dust is enough to occupy your entire mind in beholding the art with which it has been made. … The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. …We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of pain. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life.” St. Francis of Assisi was born in the 12th Century, the son of a very wealthy merchant family in Italy. In his youth, he was known for his extravagant, bawdy, consumptive lifestyle. But as he 5 entered his 20s he began to hear callings from God that would change his life. The callings came as he witnessed true poverty and disease and in a time of prayer, he heard a voice say, “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” Francis took this message very literally at first and gave up all he had to repair churches that lay in ruins. He wed himself to “Lady Poverty” in order to remain focused on his ministry to God’s house here on earth. Gradually, Francis saw that this household consisted not only of dilapidated church buildings, but also included the poor, the creatures of the earth, the afflicted, everyone and everything. God’s household included all of creation, and the most vulnerable parts of creation especially revealed, to Francis, the beautiful face of Christ. Francis truly had nothing, but he realized that he shared a home with the moon, sun, stars, water, fire, flowers, children, elders, and birds. Francis believed that this home rested in the hollow of God’s hand. And to all who shared this home. Today our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption a way of life that it is the only way to find satisfaction in life. Even with inroads that have been made towards recycling we still seem to consume and then discard at an alarming rate. We read and see on TV stories every day of our irresponsible regard for God’s creation. We know too well that air, water, soil are polluted, the destruction of the Northern Boreal Forests and other Canadian forests, prairies and rivers, to such an extent that plants and animals and fish are becoming extinct. Thirty mammals, birds, reptiles and fish that used to live in Canada no longer do. More are endangered like the Sea Otter, Spotted Owl and Grey Fox. We know all to well that something is out of kilter. Yet, for years we have treated this planet as if its resources were inexhaustible and its future unlimited. This destruction of God's creation cannot go on. There is no way you can be faithful to the scripture and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit without becoming involved in the efforts to rescue the environment. One of the primary reasons for our efforts to preserve God’s creation should lie in the growing awareness that those who are most prone to suffer the consequences of environmental irresponsibility are the poor. Irresponsible stewardship of God’s creation and our greedy exploitation of natural resources have wrought unbelievable suffering to people in third world countries. Let us take wisdom from the Great Spirit Prayer by Big Thunder – a late 19th century Algonquin Give us hearts to understand; never to take from creation’s beauty more than we give; never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed; never to deny giving our hands for the building of earth’s beauty; never to take from her what we cannot use. Give us hearts to understand that to destroy earth’s music is to create confusion; that to wreak her appearance is to blind us to beauty; that as we care for her she will care for us. We have forgotten who we are. We have sought only our own security. We have exploited simply for our own ends. We have distorted our knowledge. We have abused our power. Great Spirit, whose dry lands thirst, help us to find the way to refresh your lands. Great Spirit, whose waters are choked with debris and pollution, help us to find the way to cleanse your waters. Great Spirit, whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse, help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork. Great Spirit, whose creatures are being destroyed, help us to find a way to replenish them. Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost in selfishness and corruption, help us to find the way to restore our humanity. Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to the world, hear me; I need your strength and wisdom. May I walk in beauty. Amen 6 We live in a time when, I believe, it is so crucial to remember that we believe in a God who nurtures all that lives, moves, and has being. Caring for nature is spelled out for us in the United Church of Canada’s message of faith which is our new Creed. As a church environmental concerns lie at the very heart of the church’s mission in the world. How concretely we put our love into action in thanking and praising God for the beauty of creation is an essential part of our ongoing faith journey. We need to work towards a balance to allow all parts of creation to flourish. Lyndon B. Johnson when he was President of the United States stated “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through using it. Let us pray Lord, we thank you for this opportunity to reflect on your creation, your covenant with all living things, and our obligation to be good stewards of the gifts you have provided. Help us to understand that each of us has an important role in Caring for Creation, by the choices we make and by the actions we take. Give us the wisdom to choose thoughtfully, and to act with care, in accordance with your will, and your love of God’s Earth, our home. Amen 7 God’s Gift To Us Children’s Stewardship Story – Caring for Creation Props: A Gift box A Globe or a picture of a Globe Let’s talk about gifts. We all like to receive gifts. It is so exciting to wonder what is in the gift bag or gift box. Sometimes we are hoping that it is that wonderful new toy or pet that we have been asking for. When we receive a gift a lot of times our parents or someone else will ask us to promise to take care of it. We always say Yes! Yes! Yes! We will look after our new toy or pet. When we say this, we really mean it. Then as the weeks go by we sometimes forget the promise we made. We leave our new bike outside in the rain. Someone else ends up walking and feeding the dog. Do you know that God has given all of us a wonderful gift. Can anyone guess what it is? It’s the world and all that’s in it. What an amazing gift. What do you like best about the world (animals, flowers, water, birds, butterflies etc?) All God wants from us is for us to promise one thing. God wants us to take care very good care of the world. Sometimes we are not very good about looking after our Gift from God. What are some of the things we do that don’t take care of the world (litter, waste water, pollute the rivers, don’t recycle etc?) When we think about how big the world is it may feel like there is nothing that you or I can do. It seems like God’s gift is just too big! There are lots of things that we can do. We will talk about a few Reusable containers for your lunch at school Reusable water bottles Turn off a light when you leave a room. Put on a sweater instead of asking to put up the heat Take your bike or walk instead of asking for a ride Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or wash your hands Recycle cans, bottles, and paper Recycle your toys or clothes to thrift stores Don’t litter on the ground or in the river If everyone does these things we talked about, we will have a good start to looking after this world of ours. Our Gift from God! Next time you are outside take a prayer walk. Look closely at all that is around you and thank God for all that you see in nature. Let us Pray: Dear God, thank you for our wonderful world and everything in it. We are sorry that we sometimes to forget to look after creation. We will really try from now on. Amen 8 Minute For Mission Food is precious. It is especially precious for low income families. Often these families’ small budgets don’t stretch to adding meat, fruits and vegetables to their grocery shopping list. Many families have to choose between paying the rent, clothing their children, or paying for utilities, which leaves them with precious little left over for food. Vegetables and fruit in their diets is often only a wished for thing. Families are increasingly turning to their local food banks, charities and congregations to helps make ends meet. It is imperative that we do more to nourish the low income families that live in the Montreal and Ottawa Conference area. One of our Mission and Service partners “The House of Lazarus” in Seaway Valley Presbytery has seen a 15% rise in Food Bank assistance in the last year. Two out of three people they serve at the food bank are children. Let this year be the year that you make a commitment to provide fresh, nutritious fruit and vegetables to members of our community who are experiencing hunger – many for the first time. God wants us to ease the burden of others. Why is the need so critical? An alarming rise in health related illnesses such as obesity and diabetes coupled with an increase in the number of people who now rely on food assistance from our Mission and Service partners means the time to act is now. This is what a few of Montreal and Ottawa Conference Mission and Service partners are doing to improve the health outcomes of their clients. Saint Columba House in Montreal presbytery plants vegetables by using the container gardening method. They have also installed a composting system to process over 2,000 pounds of kitchen refuse annually. Montreal City Mission is also composting to be able to use the table scraps to feed their community garden. The House of Lazarus is once again asking their local gardeners to consider growing a row for their food bank. If you have a large garden to plant in or live in apartment or condo and do container gardening it all helps to” fill bellies.” A seed is important because it holds within it the possibility of growth; one seed planted and cared for can bring about the miracle of feeding others. A little like the Mission and Service Fund. When we look at all the things that we would like to do to help the people of this world it seems like we will never be able to help enough. But with God’s grace your one gift to Mission and Service is joined by another, multiplied and shared, sending hope around the world.