April 18 – Worship Service – Earth Day

Apr 11 – Worship Service – Holy Humour Sunday
April 13, 2021
Apr 25 – Worship Service – Easter 4
April 25, 2021

April 18 – Worship Service – Earth Day

Rev Lohnes                                     

Sunday April 18, 2021 – Earth Day

Acknowledging the 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 unceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people.  We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this.  We also respectfully honour the traditions and spirituality of all our indigenous brothers and sisters throughout this great land.

Time of Quiet Centering

This morning, as we prepare to worship together, rather than a moment of quiet centering, I would like us to take a moment of silence to remember the 22 people killed one year ago and to silently offer our support and care to the families and to all those effect by this horrific event.

Lighting the Christ Candle

As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to taking that light with us and sharing it with everyone we meet.

Words of Introduction

Today is the closest Sunday to Earth Day.  Earth Day is a day, like many days, that holds both wonder and sorrow.  Since it was first established on April 22, 1970, the environmental movement has grown in this country and environmental awareness permeates our society.

Yet at the same time, the environmental problems we face have grown at an alarming rate.  The Climate Crisis, which in 1970 was referred to simply as Climate Change, has had huge and very serious impacts on our Earth.  Global Warming and environmental degradation have grown with the world’s economy and population.

Yet at the same time there are promising signs too.  Alongside the problems, people have begun working for solutions.  In the process, we are discovering that working towards environmental justice also means working towards economic and social justice as well.

Today, in this time of worship, we hold our hope and our pain together, as we gather to honour our Earth and to recognize how deeply our relationship with our Earth and our work for environmental justice are intertwined with all of our spirituality.

Call to Worship:

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live in it.

We are not alone, we live in God’s World. 

It is God who has created this beautiful planet on which we live.

We are called to celebrate God’s presence.

We share this life with all of creation, with the heavens and the earth, with the air, the water, and the land, with trees and grasses, with fish, birds and animals, with creatures of every form.

We are called to live with respect in Creation.

We also share this world with people of every race, creed, colour and religion.  They are our brothers and sisters, children of God and of Mother Earth.

We are called to love and serve others.

God has provided us with a world of plenty where there is enough for all.

We are called to seek justice.

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live in it.

Let us worship our Creator God.

Opening Prayer

Our opening prayer today is slightly different.  It is titled Beatitudes for Earth Sunday and was written by Richard S. Gilbert.  We will read it responsively.

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 gave 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 and the orchards of fruit, for they give sustenance, asking nothing in return.
Blessed are the dwellers on earth, when they cherish the privilege of living upon it.

Blessed are they who protect the earth and all her creatures, from the plants of the field to the trees of the forest, for their reward shall be harmony with the web of existence.
Rejoice, and be glad, for the earth and her people are one.  Amen.

 Gift of Music              Called by Earth and Sky                MV#135

Scripture Readings

Genesis 2:4-9, 15                               

Many people don’t realize that there are 2 completely different stories of creation in the book of Genesis.  What you are about to hear is a part of the second story, found in Genesis 2.  It is read today from the “Easy to Read” Version of the Bible.

Psalm 8

Psalm 8 reminds us of the amazing wonder of all that God has created and asks the question, “why would such a powerful God care so much about us?”

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews is a very short passage, but it reminds us that it is because of our faith, that we recognize that we are part of all that God has created.

Luke 12:15-21

In the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus warns about the danger of hording the blessings of creation for our own selfish use.

Special Music:            Somebody Greater Than You and I                (David)

Restore Our Earth

The very first Earth Day was held on April 22nd 1970 in the United States when 20 million Americans, at the time 10% of the entire total population of the United States, took to streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts.  There were massive coast-to-coast rallies in colleges and universities, and in cities, towns, and communities across the country.  Groups that had been fighting individually against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife united on Earth Day around shared common values.

It is interesting to note there approximately 200 people also gathered in Queen’s Park in Toronto that same day to hold an all-night candle-light vigil to draw attention to the Earth Day movement and what was happening in the US.

Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world.  There are over 190 countries that take part each year and more than a billion people worldwide mark Earth Day as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.

 Growing out of that first Earth Day in 2007, EARTHDAY. ORG is an online network that connects and organizes activities, not only for Earth Day but for environmental awareness and action throughout the year.  This year the theme that has been chosen for Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth.

The overall theme of Restore Our Earth is broken down into what EARTHDAY.ORG calls, the Five Pillars.  Each of these Pillars deals with a concrete idea or action that helps to work towards restoration of our planet as well as inviting individual involvement and action.

 The first Pillar is The Canopy Project.  It works to improve our shared environment through the planting trees around the world.  This is an ongoing project and, since 2010, EARTHDAY.ORG™ has planted tens of millions of trees through The Canopy Project, working with global partners worldwide to reforest areas in dire need of rehabilitation, including areas where climate change and environmental degradation have created some of the world’s most at-risk communities.  A well The Canopy Project works to replace trees lost in the wake of environmental disasters.

The average tree can absorb approximately 20 kg of CO2 each year.  That may not sound like a lot when you consider that the average person produces a kg of CO2 every single day by simply breathing, and that doesn’t take into account CO2 produced by our manufacturing, transportation and agricultural practices.  But planting even one tree does make a difference.

 The second Pillar of restoration is Foodprints for the Future.  A Foodprint measures the environmental impacts associated with the growing, producing, transporting, and storing the foods we eat.  It takes into consideration the natural resources used to produce the food, the pollution that may be a by-product of production or of processing and the pollution and greenhouse gases produced by transportation and shipping.

Did you realize that the foodprint a banana, grown in the tropics and shipped to Yarmouth, is more than triple that of an apple grown locally?   Did you know that beef and lamb, even if produced locally, are among the highest carbon foods because of the production of methane?  Fresh vegetables and fruits that are produced locally have the lowest carbon impact, but frozen, canned or processed vegetables can be as high as meats.

While we should all be working to reduce our foodprints, there are many factors, including access, affordability, health and culture that help shape our decisions about what we eat.  There is not one prescribed diet for everyone.  But when we are aware of how our food choices effect our world, it can help us make better decisions.

The third pillar is called The Great Global Clean-up.  This Thursday, April 22nd is Earth Day and across our country and around our world, people will be making an intentional commitment to pick up garbage on the streets, in their neighbourhoods, along highways and anywhere else they might find it.  Here in Yarmouth the town is asking people to consider registering to pick up garbage at specific locations, either as an individual or as a group.

The fourth Pillar that supports this year’s theme of Restore Our Earth is Climate and Environmental Literacy.  Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day started an environmental revolution.  Yet there are still many people who either do not believe that the climate change crisis is real, or who do not understand the many fragile connections between our environment and our life on this planet.

EARTHDAY.ORG believes that it us now time to igniting an educational revolution. A formal campaign to promote Climate and Environmental Literacy was launched in the Summer 2020.  It seeks to ensure that every school in the world has compulsory, assessed and approved climate and environmental education programs with a strong civic engagement component.

 Such climate and environmental literacy programs, in combination with civic responsibility education,  has the potential to create jobs, build a green consumer market and allow citizens to engage with their governments in a meaningful way to find achievable solutions to the climate change crisis.

Here in our own area the Yarmouth Environmental Think Take YETT has drafted a letter to the Minister of Education and has distributed copies of that letter throughout the province, asking various organizations to support it.  The letter says, in part, “Seeing that Climate Change has turned into a Climate Emergency, we appeal to you to make “Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective a required course to graduate from high school in Nova Scotia.”

Like EARTHDAY.ORG, YETT believes that the only way forward for our planet is through a deeper understanding of and civic commitment to, the care of our environment and of this planet that we call home.

The last pillar of the Restore our Earth theme for 2021 is the Global Earth Challenge.  Beginning in April of 2020, the Global Earth Challenge began engaging millions of ordinary people in ecological research by asking them to help collect data for new and ongoing citizen science projects.

Global Earth Challenge™ is working to become the world’s largest coordinated citizen science campaign.  By developing a new mobile for data collection, and a platform for the distribution of such data, Global Earth Challenge empowers people around the world to monitor threats to environmental and human health in their own communities. After sharing data, people can understand more clearly the treats in their own neighbourhoods and take action to drive policy change.  A new open data platform will make it easier for researchers around the world to find and access high-quality information, and to use citizen science data for international policy assessments.

Now I know that this is a lot of information and I’m sure by now at least some of you, if not all of you, are rolling your eyes and thinking, “I came here to worship, not to listen to a lecture about the environment.  After all, if Earth Day is a secular observance, why do we devote our entire worship service today to the environment?

 Well, believe it or not, the United Church has been working on ecological issues for more than 40 years.  In 1995, 26 years ago, this commitment was confirmed when a line was added to the “New Creed” which is used by most United Churches.  That line calls us to “live with respect in creation”.

How can we respect creation if we do not also commit ourselves to care for it?  How can we live with creation if we do not understand the impact that our life style and ways of living have on creation?

From the story of creation all the way through to the book of Revelation, our Bible reminds us over and over that all of creation, ourselves included, are part of one intricately woven web of life.  We cannot assume that we have free reign to do whatever we want without consequences.  We must respect all that has been created and as part of that respect we are called to care for all life on our Earth.

The book of Genesis tells us that, “God put the man in the Garden of Eden to work the soil and take care of the garden.”

This is still what God calls us to do today, to care for this wonderful garden home with which we have been bless.  So, on Thursday of this week, I encourage everyone to offer a special prayer of thanks for the beauty of creation and to perhaps spend some time thinking about what you can do to live out our collective commitment to “live with respect in creation” and to help tend and care for your own small corner of God’s garden.  Amen

Gift of Music              For the Beauty of the Earth                    #226

We Offer Our Gifts

God calls and we respond.  One of the ways in which we respond is through the gifts that we offer.  Those gifts may be the offering that we place on the offering plates at the back of the church, they may be offerings we make through Par or through online donations, they may be donations we give to others beyond the walls of this church.  They may also be the offerings of our time, our abilities and our commitment.  But whatever it is that we offer God this day, let us asks God’s blessing upon it.

Let us pray;

Loving God, we are surrounded by the beauty of creation. We are supported by the abundance of creation. We gratefully receive your gifts of love and life–gifts which fill our lives with joy and satisfaction. In thankful response to your generosity, we place before you the offering we bring today, the abundance that you have given us to share with others.  Receive these and all our offerings, as signs of our love and gratitude.  Amen.

We Offer Our Prayers

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 the People 

Our Prayers of the People today was written by Vern Barnet and it is written in the Spirit of Indigenous traditions.  Let us pray:

Infinite Spirit, sometimes called Grandfather, Grandmother — Father Sky, Earth Mother, Creator:

We gather to praise your creation, to honor the swimmers and crawlers, the four-leggeds and the winged ones; we give thanks for the beauty and glory of creation and open our hearts to new ways to understand our place in the universe—not the center or focus, but a humble and balanced place, where every step we take becomes a prayer, where every word we say makes harmony with the vast, vibrating cosmos, and where we know we are singing the song of life.

We pray to know more deeply that we are in the Garden where every plant and animal and speck of dust is a living prayer.  Without our brothers and sisters of the plant and animal and mineral kingdoms, the human family would end.  So we want to bless them, as they bless us.  We pray for humility— not to humble ourselves before earthly rulers or authorities, but before the ants and trees—for if we cannot be in true relation to the ant, we shall be outcasts of the garden.  Let us cast the pollution from our eyes so we can see the glory and live with thanksgiving.

Great Spirit, let us remember it is not how we talk but how we walk.  When we say we love animals, let us protect them.  When we say we that we love the plants, let us honor them by living lightly on the earth.  When we say we love the minerals, let us use them only in necessity, and remember their rightful places.  Wondrous trees, breathing life into the atmosphere: your gifts of fire and shelter, fruit, and sailing are precious to us.  And in many ways, you offer us leaves of knowledge.  May the vision of mutual interrelatedness, cosmic interdependence, the seamless process of generations, not end in cough-filled skies blotting the sun, but rather may clear air, healthy forests, wholesome water, expansive prairie, and pungent earth, nourish paths for all creatures through mountain and valley, through the salt sea, and through a protective atmosphere, as we rejoice in the inhabitants.  Hear us and empower to live by what we believe.  With thanks for the surprise and mystery of it all, we pray in the name of the Creator, the Processes and Presences, and all our relations.  Amen.

 Gift of Music              This Is God’s Wondrous World             #296

Sending Forth

As we go out from this sacred space, into the sacred space all around us, may we celebrate our Earth and our shared creation,
May we recognize our connections to all that is in and on our Earth,
May we truly and deeply value the inherent worth of all that is part of creation.
In this awesome interconnected web of existence, may we commit ourselves to a new way, and may we hold our commitments and each other gently yet firmly.
Blessed be.  Amen.

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