Sunday June 4, 2023
Did you know that tomorrow, June 5th is World Environment Day. Although this may not be the first thing on our minds right now, the environment definitely is. So I want to begin by sharing with you a message that was sent out for Earth Day by the Moderator of The United Church of Canada.
“Unless you organize or participate in protests, lately it feels like Earth Days pass without a lot of reflection. Thirty years ago, we thought of Earth Day in specific terms: save a species by protecting its habitat; repair the hole in the ozone by limiting aerosols; save forests by recycling paper. Joining environmental actions was often complicated, but, at least on the surface, there were simple, concrete actions we thought might have an impact.
But the climate emergency is not just a big problem; it’s the end of the world as we know it, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated recently when it released its AR6 Synthesis Report. While policies and laws addressing mitigation have expanded since the previous report, it’s likely that warming will exceed 1.5°C by 2030 because of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It will be harder to keep it below 2°C. So what?
The IPCC report notes it has “very high confidence” in these four statements.
It’s not just a complicated problem – it’s a complex, urgent one.
With complex problems, laws and governing systems don’t always work – they’re too one-size-fits-all. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be laws – but adaptability and flexibility in our solutions is needed for a climate in crisis. When we perceive complex problems as a threat – real and imagined – our brains seem to lose the ability to think creatively.
But what if the end of the world as we know it means we step outside the constraints of the world as we think we know it?
What if we didn’t have to choose between the economy and our environment?
What if we created carrots and sticks to motivate sectors, households and people to focused action, to move the needle on climate this decade?
What if we embrace the fact that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, and we all did what we could, even if it felt small? Decarbonizing our businesses. Committing to public transit. A staycation rather than international travel. Or choosing to take an international trip, but powering every-day life using renewables.
Most of all, we need to talk about what we want to see from each other. Not confrontationally, where we beat each other over the head about our shortcomings – we need to inspire each other.
The truth is – the climate emergency is death by a thousand papercuts. Responding to it reminds me of something someone told my family more than 20 years ago after my older brother died: Nothing helps, and everything helps.
While the current economic situation and rising inflation causes us to think seriously about our household and government budgets, we also need to think about our climate budgets. We need to empower our politicians and civil servants to create a carbon budget for Canada so we can meet our international commitments.
In 2022, The United Church of Canada committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2030. Yes, that’s the same year that the IPCC says that warming will exceed 1.5°C. Seven years.
Close enough to see tangible reductions, but also to make a plan and to act. We’re doing it by working with 260 congregations to make their buildings more energy-efficient; our goal is 500 communities by 2025. For the completed projects, savings in equivalent carbon are 628 metric tonnes of CO2, or the annual energy use of 147 homes.
We also committed to stronger advocacy for bold climate action with provincial and national governments, and we’re building on our 2015 divestment from fossil fuels by amplifying our investment and business actions.
Whether your motivation is social justice, faith, economic resiliency, or science – actions and choices now can make a difference for the future. Let’s end the world as we know it, and allow a new world of creative, innovative and accountable breakthroughs to turn the thermometer down. Are you in?”
— The Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne
My plan for this Sunday was to use a service suggested by the United Church for Environment Sunday, but in recognition of what is happening in our area, I have chosen to go a different way. But it seems to me that with all that is happening, the environment, and especially climate charge, are very much on our minds.
Acknowledging the Territory
Each week as we gather in worship, we stop to acknowledge the territory on which we gather. But how often do we really take a moment to think about what it means when we say that we acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. It is very easy for us to simply recite this acknowledgement without taking seriously the words we say. We are connected to the land and we need to remember that it is not ours, but God’s. So today, as we gather, let us acknowledge the importance of the land on which we gather and acknowledge our gratitude for those who have tended it before us, not just with our words, but with our hearts.
Lighting the Christ Candle
Lighting our Christ Candle today seems to take on a bit of a different significance. With everything that is happening in our province we are reminded that flames can be dangerous. But the flame of Christ offers us hope that, even when things are destroyed, new life can continue to emerge. Today, let’s let this flame remind us, not just of the burning passion of Christ, but of the hope of resurrection.
Call to Worship
We are one flock,
we are called to be one in community.
We have boldness before God
because we know we are loved and known
and so, in the same way, let us love each other, siblings and cousins.
not only in word or speech but in truth and action.
So, as we join together, as one flock, let us worship our one God.
Divine Love, as we gather here today, we are vividly aware of how fragile life can be. But we are also vividly aware that there is also great strength. We offer our deep gratitude for the strength we find in you and in one another in times of fear and uncertainty. We offer our thanks for glimpses of hope and for tiny miracles that we so often overlook or take for granted. Help us to truly appreciate your care for us and your blessings to us that we may share your care, your blessings and your love more freely with all those around us. Amen.
Sometimes we need to be reminded that our prayers are not simply words that we send off into the unknown. They of moments of connection between ourselves and the Divine Mystery that we call God. So be assured that your prayers do matter and that prayers are heard.
Let Us Sing The Earth and All Who Breathe VU#295
Two of the scriptures that were suggested in the material I had planned to use this week still seem very appropriate for today. They are the passage from the Gospel According to John that is commonly called the Good Shepherd passage and the much loved
and familiar words of the 23rd Psalm.
The first is being read from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, while the second, the 23rd Psalm will be read twice, once form the traditional King James Version and once from the Good News Translation.
John 10:11–18 Contemporary English Version
I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don’t own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. Hired workers run away because they don’t care about the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must also bring them together, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.
The Father loves me, because I give up my life, so I may receive it back again. No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do.
Psalm 23 From the New King James Version
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
And from the Good News Translation
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me. You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.
Request Hymn Blessed Assurance #337
Hope Beyond the Burning
This has not been an easy week in our province. How many of you here today have been displaced because of the fires? How many of you know someone who has had to leave their home? How many of you know someone who will have no home to return to?
For those of us who are safely watching all of this from a distance this is almost too much to comprehend. For those caught in the middle of it, it can all just seem unreal, like a bad dream that you just can’t seem to wake up from. But the truth is that it is very real and we struggle to come to terms with the reality.
One of the news clips that has stuck in my mind was a man who was being interviewed. He expressed his gratitude that his house was still standing, but at the same time struggled to understand why his neighbour’s house, right next door to him, was gone. There was nothing at all left except charred remains and ashes.
When such a thing happens, we cannot help but ask why. Why is one house spared while another is completely destroyed? Why does the wind keep changing and blowing the fire into new areas? We appreciate the rain we have had, but why so little and so late? And why do people not stop to think about the possible consequences of their actions when they start campfires or burn trash in conditions that are so obviously deadly serious?
We can’t help but ask the questions. It’s in our nature as human beings. The problem is that sometimes there are simply no answers and we have to learn how to deal with that. It can be incredibly frustrating.
But it is in these times of uncertainty, fear and frustration that we need to lean most profoundly on our faith. The beautiful words of the 23rd Psalm remind us that no matter how difficult the time we are going through might be, no matter how dark things may seem or how difficult the path we are walking is, we are not alone. “I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.”
We have to be very careful however, not to downplay the fear and sorrow of what is happening. Saying, “O don’t worry, God will look after you” is not very comforting to someone who has lost everything and has no idea what they are going to do. God is with us, yes, but that doesn’t mean that everything is going to be fine or that we will never feel fear, uncertainty or sorrow.
The words of the 23rd Psalm promise us that God will strengthen us, lead us, and protect us, but it never promises that we will not have to walk through that deep darkness. Those times of sorrow and struggle will happen. The promise is simply that we will not have to go through it alone.
Over and over again in the news reports coming out of the areas that have been most devastated, we are hearing stories of people helping each other. We hear about firefighters, both career and volunteers who are going way beyond expectations and working day and night, with little or no sleep.
We hear about volunteers rescuing pets and keeping them safe when people who have been evacuated and have no way of caring for them. We hear about people and communities opening homes, community centers, firehalls or other local buildings to offer people shelter, a meal and a safe place to stay. And we hear over and over people asking, “How can I help?”
“I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.” Despite all the devastation, there is still hope. And that hope often comes from those around us. It is often in others that we see God at work, present in our lives.
But there is one more line in the 23rd Psalm that I want to mention. It is the very last line. In the familiar King James it says, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. But in the Good News Translation, a less poetic but technically more accurate version, it says, I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.
I think that all too often when we recite the 23rd Psalm, we divide it into two distinct parts. Goodness and mercy will follow me all my life and when I die, I will dwell in God’s house forever. But the Good News Translation makes it clear that this is not the intent. [Y]our house will be my home as long as I live.
God’s goodness and mercy, or goodness and love, are with us at all times, but we need to remember that we also dwell with God at all times. It is not enough to simply call on God in times of fear or struggle. We need to remain connected with God, dwelling with and in God, at all times.
So what does it mean to dwell with God at all times? Well, I think it means to be aware of and open to the Divine presence in our lives, at all times. I think it means being willing to listen not just for the comfort and reassurance in times of need, but to also be willing to listen to the call, the challenge and the direction of the Divine, when we are not in crisis. It is about remaining connected with the Divine, both in the difficult times and in the good time, in the valleys, but also on the hilltops … at all times.
God is not just there when we are in crisis and need help. God is not some sort of insurance policy that will get us through tough time, but that we don’t have to think about at other times. God is also there when we are fine, and when others are in need. God is there, when others are in need, to challenge us to recognize that need and to do what we can to help. God is not just with us, God is with all people, sometimes even through us.
The Lord is my shepherd. But I need to follow that shepherd at all time, not just when I need something. I need to remain close to that shepherd at all time, so that help is already there not just for me, but through me, for others. And I also need to remember that I am not a flock of one. I need to remember that I am connected to others, to creation and to all that is happening around me. I need to remember that I am a part of it, and it is part of me.
It may not always be clear what my part is in any given situation, but if I remain connected with the Divine, if I remain connected to others through the Divine, and if I am willing to be open and to listen, then no matter what the situation there is always hope, not matter what. Amen
Let Us Sing Let My Spirit Always Sing MV#83
We Offer Our Gifts
We do have a lot to be grateful for, and so in gratitude and in the hope of what our gifts may be able to do, we offer what we have to God. Here at Beacon we do not pass the offering plates, but ask that if you wish to support this church financially, you place your gifts on the offering plates in the entry to the church either on your way in or on your way out. But, as always, we remember that our financial support is only one of the gifts that we have to offer God. We also offer our time, our talents, our commitment and our prayers. So as we bring forward some of these offerings, let us sing our offertory response.
Offertory Response VU#540
Grant us God, the grace of giving with a spirit large and free,
That ourselves and all our living we may offer faithfully.
© Daryl Nixon 1987. All rights reserved. Used with permission OneLicense #A7323756
We Offer Our Prayers
Minute for Local Mission
Prayers of the People
Our Prayers for the People today was written by the Aboriginal Ministries Circle of The United Church of Canada as a prayer for First Nations communities in northern Manitoba when they were being evacuated due to forest fires. I have chosen to use it today exactly as it was written, partly to remind us that, even as we face difficult times in our own area, we need to remember that there are many people across Canada and around the world, who are dealing with the same or other difficult situation.
Let us pray;
O Great Spirit, You reveal yourself to us in all of creation. You are known in still waters and you are known in raging fire. We pray now for those who, on this day
are endangered by forest fires, who are being evacuated — shaken from their homes and familiar lands, carried off to strange places and temporary shelter. May they know your constant Presence in moments of fear and uncertainty. May they receive hospitality from brothers, sisters, and cousins in faith. May they be welcomed as strangers, entertained as angels in disguise. Awaken in our hearts to respond to their suffering. And when it is time for them to return to their homes, we pray, may those homes be spared the destructive forces of fire. We pray, too,
for those who work to protect those homes. Keep them safe. O Holy Mystery,
You once guided your people by a pillar of fire at night to a new place and a new land. Like the power of fire to regenerate the forest, may our compassion be stirred from the hot ashes of anguish, sprouting green redemptive love by our prayers and actions. Let us live in respect with creation. Amen
Let Us Sing Come and Find the Quiet Center #374
We go out from here in hope, not because everything is great or because we have nothing to worry about, but because we know we don’t have to carry our worry and our fears alone. We go out from here knowing that wherever we go, in whatever situation we may find ourselves, we are not alone. God is with us, Christ’s example leads the way and the Spirit is and always will be, with us and within us, each step of our journey. We go with God.
Choral Blessing VU#169
Your name we bless, O Risen Lord, and sing today with one accord
The life laid down, the life restored: hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
© 1986 Hope Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Used by permission. OneLicense#A-723756