The Life and Work of Our Church
Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar.
Our fall Bible Study is meeting on Wednesday morning at 10 am in the parlour. Everyone is invited to join us. You can join us on Zoom, or if you wish to join us in person, please contact Rev. Sharon so that we know how many people to plan for. Those gathering in person will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Due to health protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic, we will not be able to resume our Monday Morning Coffee gathering at this time.
Rev. Sharon is still looking for more baby pictures! These are not pictures of your grandchildren or your children. These are pictures of you when you were a baby. If you have a picture of yourself as a baby that you are willing to share, you can either scan it and send it to email@example.com or you can drop off the original pictures to the office. Original pictures will be scanned and then returned. Please make sure your name is on the back of the picture. If you have any questions call Sharon at 902-742-5051.
The Beacon Community Garden Council is looking for donations of spring bulbs for the central cross in the Community Garden. If you have tulip, daffodil, crocus, or hyacinth bulbs (including grape hyacinth) that you would be willing to donate please speak to any member of the Garden Council.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ Candle this morning, let us remember that its light is not to one space or one gathering. The light of Christ is with us everywhere. So as we light our candle this morning, let us remember that we have been called and challenged to not only recognize Christ’s light wherever it shines but to take that light out with us wherever we go.
Acknowledgment of Territory
Wherever we are in this wonderful province of Nova Scotia, we are reminded that we still gather on lands that are, by law, the unseeded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this. We also respectfully honour their traditions and spirituality along with the spirituality and traditions of the Métis people with whom we also share this land.
Call to Worship
Our Call to Worship today is adapted from material written by Katherine Hawker
The plant emerges from the earth, nourished and nourishing.
It grows without visible connection; roots hidden, promise unknown.
Strong to withstand storms, fragile when plucked too soon.
So it is that we grow… nourished by invisible connections to the Divine,
called to nourish that which is seen and that which is yet buried within.
In worship, we seek to nourish our invisible connection to the Divine
and to be nourished in return.
Our opening prayer this morning is a Hawaiian indigenous pray.
Let us pray;
Let us give thanks for the world around us.
Thanks for all the creatures, stones, and plants.
Let us learn their lessons and seek their truths,
So that their path might be ours, and we might live in harmony, a better life.
May the Earth continue to live. May the heavens above continue to live.
May the rains continue to dampen the land. May the wet forests continue to grow.
Then the flowers shall bloom and we people shall live again.
Theme Conversation/Current Events
Nature is Speaking – The Soil
The book of Leviticus lays out the rules and laws that the Israelite people adhered to during the time of the exodus, the 40 years that the people spent in the wilderness before arriving in the Promised Land. Our reading today gives instructions on how the people are to care for the land once they cross the Jordan and settle in the land God has promised. Reading from Leviticus 25:1-7
Psalm 24 reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”. But it also goes on to remind us that justice, righteousness, and purity of heart are required of those who would truly share the glory of God’s creation.
One of my favorite stories of Paul is the story of him walking through the city of Athens and finding an altar “To an Unknown God.” He tells the people that the God they worship as “Unknown” is the “God, who made the world and everything in it”. Reading from Acts 17:22-28
Jesus often taught people using parables. Many of those parables used images of land and of farming. Today we hear two of these parables. Reading from Mark 4:26-34
The Earth is the Lord’s
The Hebrew Scriptures are a tapestry of stories in which land features alternately as a promise and a gift. The first five books describe the covenantal relationship that unites God, the people of Israel, and the land. Our Bible begins with the gift of land in the Garden of Eden. It continues with promises of rich, abundant land, often for the landless.
But the gift of land does not come without conditions and responsibilities. The landless people of Israel receive a promise of security and belonging in a covenant with God, but they lose this conditional gift when they abuse the land, making it an object to be bought, sold, and accumulated.
The land belongs to God, and the people are called to rule the land with justice and mercy. The legal codes and Wisdom teachings appeal to the equitable distribution and redistribution of land and wealth. The prophets warn against mismanagement, injustice, and oppression, but the land is exploited, polluted, and defiled and the covenant that the people made with Yahweh is broken. As in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, people are punished for their sins and banished. Samaria fell to the Assyrians, Jerusalem to the Babylonians, and the people are cast out of their land.
Human beings have often misinterpreted the command to “subdue and have dominion over” the earth taking this as permission to use the earth in any way they see fit, without considering the consequences. But we have forgotten that we are also instructed to “till and care for” the land.
Psalm 24 reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s.” It has been given to us as a covenantal gift. The land is held in a covenant with God and is conditional on the right relations between God and people. The biblical story of the people of God is a story of the promise of land for the landless where no one may be deprived of their possession or use of the land, not even by a king.
Accordingly, the bible expresses strong moral condemnation of greed and of the abuses of the rich who force the poor and small farmers to give up their land. According to scripture, there is no unconditional right to private property. Everything belongs to God and is only held in the covenant by people. Therefore property rights must be exercised to the benefit of others, to satisfy human need and not human greed, in ways that are not destructive to the land.
In the biblical notion of Jubilee, we see God’s authority in social, economic, and ecological issues. It is specified that during a Jubilee year land and homes must be returned to their original owners, people can return freely to their families and properties, and that the land must be allowed to rest.
Jubilee pronounces judgment on the accumulation of property and land since these deny a large part of humanity their just portion of the fruits of the earth. The basic underlying intention is clear. God intended the earth and all it contains to be for all people so that all created things would be shared fairly by all. Justice should go hand in hand with ownership.
It is also significant that the Jubilee provisions include that the land also has ‘rights’. It must be left fallow in a Jubilee year. Not only does this contain an environmental component, but it promises that during a Jubilee year what is produced by the land will be available or the poor and for the wild animals and birds.
Jesus was also concerned with issues of land and rural justice. A Christian theology of the land starts with an awareness that Christ calls us to oneness with God and thus with all of creation. We are called to recognize the inter-relatedness of human beings to the soil, water, plants, and animals and to rediscover a reverence for the earth as God’s creation.
In doing so, we do not only look back to creation or to a past “golden age’. Christians look forward in hope and faith to a time where the dominant vision of all creation is that of Shalom – a comprehensive Shalom of well-being, peace, justice and, right relations. So as Christians, we are required to re-examine the ways in which we relate to the land and to each other. Without sustaining the life of earth, sustaining life on earth is impossible. If reconciliation is about right relations, then in Christ we see people reconciled not only with each other but also with God and with all of creation.
In this great land of Canada, we are blessed with abundant richness of natural resources. Industries based on these resources, including forestry, fishing, agriculture, mining, and energy have been important in our country’s development and history, and many areas of the country, including the area in which we live, still depend heavily on developing these natural resources.
So let’s look at agriculture. In Canada today 34% of our agricultural produce is grains and oilseeds, 24% is livestock, 12% is dairy, 9% is horticulture, and 8% in poultry and eggs. But the size of individual farms is very different today than it was a generation ago. In 1951 there were 432,480 cattle farms in Canada with an average of 17 animals each. In 2016 there were only 75,307 cattle farms but each one had an average of 166 animals. There were 427,317 chicken farms with 151 chickens each but now there are 23,910 farms with 6,086 chickens each. And although the overall amount of land being farmed has remained relatively stable, the number of individual farms is far less.
The problems associated with larger factory-style farms are numerous. Overuse of pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics can contaminate water sources. Huge amounts of water used in irrigation as well as water used to liquefy manure and rinse out large barns can decrease in groundwater levels. Increased Methane production and increased transportation requirements both contribute to global warming. Nutrients in the soil are depleted because the same crops are grown each year resulting in increased use of chemical fertilizers. And the demands for higher yields and quicker maturation lead to Genetically Modified crops which can cross-pollinate and damage non-GMO crops.
And what about mining? Although Canadian regulations and restrictions around the environmental impact of mining continue to improve this has not always been the case. Even today spills from tailing pond and abandoned mining operations continue to release deadly pollutants and chemicals into the land and water. Birds and animals continue to be at risk even when tailing ponds and runoff are contained. Open-pit mining often leaves the land scared and unusable.
Like mining, the forestry industry, including lumber, pulp and paper often use a chemical that is extremely hazardous to the environment and can cause land and water pollution. Clear cutting leaves huge areas where natural habitats are completely destroyed and even when these areas are replanted, the new ecosystem is very different from the original. Other manufacturing plants, including fish plants, can also cause increased pollution because of their use of various chemicals as well as their use of water.
We need these industries, but we also need to be aware of the risks and we need to be vigilant about ensuring that we do everything we can to preserve the land on which we depend. We need to remember that this land that feeds and sustains us is not ours to do with as we choose. We need to remember that “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”
And we cannot talk about the land and our relationship with it, without talking about how our attitude towards land has effected those who lived here before us. For Aboriginal people, the relationship with the land is not one of ownership as we understand it. It is explained by Ambelin Kwaymullina in this way, “For Aboriginal peoples, the country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live inland, water, sky. The country is filled with relations speaking a language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. The country is loved, needed, and cared for, and the country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. The country is family, culture, identity. The country is self.”
When Europeans arrived with their understanding of land as a commodity to be bought and sold, this concept was completely foreign to those living here at the time. Much of the land was “purchased” from the indigenous population through the signing of treaties. But all of the Maritimes, nearly all of British Columbia and a large portion of eastern Ontario and Quebec, which includes Ottawa by the way, sit on territories that are unseeded, territories that were never signed away by the Indigenous people who inhabited them before Europeans settled here. Today we recognize this each time we share our “Acknowledgement of Territory”.
But what would it mean for us if we truly understood land as our first nation’s peoples did when we first arrive? What would it mean if we understood our relationship to the land not as owners but as part of our family? What if we understood that the land we love, need, and care for also loved, needed, and cared for us? What if we saw land not only as family, culture, and identity but as part of the self?
How we treat the land affects more than how the land will treat us in the future. It affects the very relationship we have with the land. It affects the relationship we have with all of creation. And it affects the relationship we have with God.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” If we truly believe this, we need to live as if we do. Amen.
The Gift of Music O For A Thousand Trees ~ Norman Havel 1991
O for a thousand trees to sing
And join with us this day,
With ferns and frogs and butterflies;
A forest hymn of praise.
Come celebrate with all the land,
Let species rare begin,
With geese and owls and hummingbirds;
A choir of country kin.
O can you hear creation groan,
As earth cries out in pain?
Yet hope remains while people care
When Earth is born again.
Let every stream and river flow
In song toward the sea;
With whale, and seal and albatross
We thank God we are free!
O for a thousand trees to sing
And join with us this day,
With ferns and frogs and butterflies;
A forest hymn of praise.
Prayer of Blessing (Gifts and Prayer Jar)
Let us take a moment to remember all the gifts that have blessed and enriched our lives and to think about the ways that we can use those gifts to enrich the lives of others …
Let us pray;
We thank you, God, for the earth and for the bounty that it yields. We thank you for the rich share of this bounty that has been given to us. We ask your blessing on the portion of your bounty that we offer today, praying that what we give of our time, our talents, and our treasures will make a difference. Amen.
And now let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds, and our hearts … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of Gratitude and Concern
God of the universe, God of history and of hope, we thank you for your creation, for the profuse and varied wonders of the earth. We come to you in gratitude for all this world gives us: for air and water and abundance of food, for the gift of natural beauty which uplifts our hearts. We come to you in sorrow for all the damage done to the Earth, but also in gratitude for the time in which we live, for the time that is given to us to act for your world, and for all that we can still do to preserve it. God of creativity, help us to discern your movement in the world. Help us to feel the streams of your generous life flowing all around and through us and stir us with your animating, earthly passion for all of creation.
We ask for your blessing on all who raise their voices in defense of this world: all who work to protect those who are poor and oppressed, those who labour to save the array of life on this planet, and those who hold on tightly to hope for the Earth and for the flourishing of future generations. May we, too, have the courage to speak for your Earth, to act to protect this vulnerable world, and to struggle for a future beyond our own lives. Bless the Earth and bring it healing. Bless all who risk their comfort to protect this world. Bless us that we might be awakened and enlivened to do the work of our time … the work to which you call us. Amen.
The Gift of Music Now Thank We All Our God ~ Norman Havel 1991
Now thank we all our God in who this Earth rejoices,
For creatures great and small who now have lost their voices;
And species calling us before they disappear,
To love this fragile Earth that God would have us share.
O may this bounteous God in every tree be near us
To help us feel the pain of barren lands, so cheerless,
Where once like Eden fresh, wild birds in freedom flew
To celebrate a land, where life rose crystal new.
All praise and thanks to God for all that has been given.
Who kept alive on earth, this tribe of greedy humans.
Who sent to us the son who suffered earthly pain,
That death’s finality should never rule again.
O Spirit from the land rise up like sacred leaven
To free us from the ills polluting Earth and heaven;
Inspire us with the drive to be like healing rain,
Renewing life on Earth and praising God again.
So now go out from here to enjoy this amazing land of which you are a part and which is part of you. Go knowing that the One who created all that is and who continues to create, will be with you wherever you go and whatever you do. Go following the example of the Christ who leads the way. Go walking with the spirit, who walks with you and within you. So as you go out into this amazing land, go with God. Amen