The Life and Work of Our Church
Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar.
The Salvation Army is now taking appointments for families seeking help at Christmas through the Christmas Hamper program. If you know of someone who could use a helping hand at Christmas this year, please make sure they submit their name to Kathy at the Salvation Army. The last day for appointments will be Thursday, November 26th.
How well do you know the people you worship with? Would you recognize them in a picture? What if that picture was of them as a baby? Posted on the bulletin board by the courtyard entry are 20 baby pictures. For a cost of $5, you can purchase an official ballot to register your guesses of who’s who. The person getting the most correct will receive a box of two dozen handmade truffles. The second prize is one dozen handmade truffles. The names of those who submitted photos are posted to make it a bit easier. In the unlikely chance that anyone gets all 20 correct, they will receive five dozen handmade truffles! You can purchase entry forms from Rev. Sharon in two ways. You can either receive a printed copy of the form or you can provide your email and receive both the pictures and the entry form by email. The contest closes on November 20th. Winners will be announced on November 22nd.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ Candle this morning we are reminded that the light of Christ is not limited to this building. As we light our candle this morning, we are reminded that we have been called and challenged to not only recognize Christ’s light wherever it shines but to take that light 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
(Adapted from What Is Creation Saying to Us? Depend on Me! © 2012 The United Church of Canada)
Inside a tree, spirit speaks. Through bark and seed, through creatures and breath.
A thousand songs in the forest, whispering, “We are one”. Inside a river, spirit sings. Through stone and fish, through motion and thirst. A thousand sounds beat in the ocean, whispering, “We are one”. Inside the very atmosphere that surrounds us, Spirit soars. Through wings and winds, through gentle night skies and fierce winter storms. A thousand dreams circle the sky, whispering, “We are one”.
Inside us are seed, breath, thirst, storm, and brilliance. How can we not nurture that which is simply us in different forms? How can we hear creation above the din of our lives whispering, “We are one”? We come to worship the Great Spirit, the Divine Creator, inseparable from all, inseparable from us. We come to worship the one who reminds us, “We are one”.
Let us pray;
God, you created the world with your dream of what it could be. You dreamed of people and plants, animals and land, air and water, all living in the right relationship to you and to each other. Today we offer to you our dream for a world which is not threatened by a changing climate which hurts our atmosphere, which wounds the poorest and most vulnerable, which leaves this wonderful planet in poor shape for future generations. Help us to listen to your voice, your dream, and your creation. Help us to recognize that we are part of that creation and help us to become part of that dream. Amen
(Adapted from materials by the Catholic Coalition for Climate Change)
Theme Conversation/Current Events
Nature is Speaking – Sky
Although we don’t often think of climate change as being a topic we might find in the bible, the following passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah almost sent a shiver down my spine when I read it. Isaiah 24:4-13, 18-20
The Psalm readings that I have been using for the past few months have all been taken from the Good News Translation of the Bible, but today I am using the version that appears in our Voices United hymn book. I have chosen to do this because Voices United combines Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 in a way that seems to reflect today’s theme much better than any of the individual Psalms. For me, this reading reminds us that we all share the responsibility for what is happening to our earth and that all of us, regardless of how hard we might try not to, are contributing to climate change. When you listen to these words, think of the poor and abuse, not only as people but as all of creation.
Of all the topics in this Creation Time series, the topic of Climate Change was the most difficult to find scriptures for, despite the scriptures that were suggested in the resource material. The passage you are about to hear from the letter to the Romans talks about the suffering of creation, but also holds out the hope that creation will “one day be set free from its slavery to decay” and will enjoy equal status to “the children of God.” It also reminds us that hope is not about what we know, but what we dream of as being possible. Romans 8:18-25
Our Gospel reading, which is the one that was suggested in the resource material, may seem like a very odd choice. It is Mark’s retelling of the story of the resurrection. Perhaps the connection between to two is that the possibility of believing in a solution to climate change and the possibility of believing in the resurrection can both be very frightening because of both demands that if we truly believe in the possibility, we must take action on that belief.
American environmentalist, Bill McKibbon is quoted as saying:
“I’ve mostly given up being either optimistic or pessimistic. Our odds of success are not incredibly good, but I wake up every day saying “What can I do to change the odds a little?” And it’s not impossible, the task that we have ahead. We’re not going to stop global warming, but slowing it to the point that we can cope with it remains within the realms of possibility. “Fun” is not quite the right word, but there is something deeply satisfying about trying. It’s the biggest challenge that humans have ever got to take part in. It’s exciting to be part of that. To be doing something that crucial is a great honour.”
Climate change is now making us realize that we are in danger of destroying the very foundations of God’s creation. We have to see that we must care for God’s creation and that God commanded us to do so. The problem has been that until recently many people refused to recognize or admit that we were damaging the world’s ecosystem through our modern industrial lifestyle. Despite the fact that it is now clear that we are in an extremely critical situation, some people still refuse to believe it.
This planet is the only home we have. Life on this planet is a miracle in itself in part, or possible only, because of the thin layer of atmosphere that surrounds the earth. It contains just the right mixture of gases to maintain a life-supporting temperature. If there was more oxygen or more carbon dioxide, life as we know it would not be possible.
But we are disrupting this balance. Coal and oil combustion releases carbon dioxide which had been trapped in the earth for millions of years. When we burn fossil fuels we are using resources from the past, and in doing so we are threatening the future. Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than they have been at any time in the last 650,000 years.
We have to reduce our production of CO2 dramatically. This does not mean that we have to abandon our way of life or return to a pre-industrial existence. It does mean that we have to generate energy in ways that do not damage the atmosphere. We will have to live in harmony with the laws of the universe. This will require using renewable energy sources. The sun produces 6000 times more energy than we need at any given time. And the sun is not the only source of renewable energy. Natural sources of energy such as solar, wind, tidal, wave, and hydro are all being harnessed today.
As Christians, we are not only obligated to respond to God’s mandate to care for God’s creation, but we must also be willing to put what we say we believe into action by being willing to live more simply so that others – of this and future generations – may simply live.
We can do this by seeking to live in harmony not only with God’s creation but with one another. The economic injustices of our present-day world are destroying any prospect of a sustainable world in the future. There will be no peace until there is a more equitable sharing of and caring for our natural resources. Climate Justice is a deeply moral issue. The exploitation of fossil fuels produces vast wealth and power, but it is driving us to destruction.
And carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas that humans are releasing into the atmosphere. Methane, a natural by-product of decomposition is a far more active greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Although it is much less abundant in the atmosphere, massive landfills and huge factory farms, especially cattle farms and rice cultivation, are now releasing methane into the atmosphere at record levels.
Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas produced by soil cultivation practices is also increasing, mainly because of the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion including that of farm equipment, nitric acid production, and the burning of organic materials. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are synthetic compounds entirely of industrial origin and are now largely regulated in the developed world because of their proven destructive effect on the ozone layer.
Our atmosphere is a fine balance that we humans are at risk of upsetting or even destroying. Did you realize that 78% of the air you breathe is nitrogen, 21% is oxygen with the remainder made up of water vapor, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, helium, argon, neon, and a few other gasses? But if there was only 4% more oxygen in our atmosphere, paper, wood and other flammable materials would spontaneously burst into flame. And if there was no carbon dioxide at all, our planet would be a frozen wasteland.
As atmospheric greenhouse gases continue to increase, so does the temperature of our earth. But the effects of global warming are not distributed uniformly around the world. It is often the poorest countries that are hit hardest. And the effects of global warming are not necessarily things we would think of as being associated with global warming.
Everyone seems to understand that as oceans warm, polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise which can threaten low lying cities, coastal developments, and farmlands. But warming oceans are also changing the ocean currents causing weather patterns to shift, resulting in both heat waves and cold spells, increased flooding, and increased droughts, as well as more frequent and more severe storms including hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons.
Increasing average temperatures also means that malaria, dengue fever, Lyme disease, and many other diseases carried by insects and parasites are spreading further and faster than ever before. Food shortages and crop failures are increasing as rainfall becomes unpredictable, sometimes not enough, and sometimes too much. Safe and reliable sources of water either dry up due to drought or become contaminated because of flooding. Wars are already being waged over access to water and this will likely increase. And because of rapidly changing climates, many indigenous plants and animals around the world are being threatened.
The Bible tells us that God created all things and that God’s creation, the natural environment, and its ecosystems, are very good. Humans are not separate from but are a part of this creation. And while all things are created by God and belong to God, God has entrusted the care of creation to us.
The relationship between humans and the rest of creation is therefore one of interdependence and stewardship. We are creatures shaped by the same processes and dependent upon the same systems as all other parts of creation. Yet as God’s stewards, we bear an ethical responsibility for the care of the Earth and the welfare of all living things.
As we gather in worship we offer our gratitude and praise for God’s creative power, for God’s mercy and grace, for God’s love and justice, all of which are evident in creation. We are filled with awe and wonder when we think about the beauty and diversity of creation. We are sustained, satisfied, and renewed by all that creation provides. We are amazed by what science reveals of the structure, systems, and interconnection of creation. And we are awed by the miracle of life that continues to unfold day by day.
But we also acknowledge that we humans have often denied our interdependence with that creation and have failed to live up to our responsibility for its stewardship and care. One major result of this is the global environmental degradation and climate change that we now face. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that humans have caused a large part of the global warming that is occurring today. Climate change is one of the most significant threats to not only our natural world but also to our economic and social life.
I have mentioned several times that the material on which this series of services have been based was produced by the Anglican Church of South Africa in 2008. One startling and perhaps frightening comment in the material provided for today says this. “Unless we start meaningful reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, global warming could become unstoppable.” 2015… we are already way past that and many scientists today believe that we have already reached that point of no return. Some believe that there is nothing that we can do at this point and that our world will eventually be unable to support life.
But we are a people of the resurrection. We are a people of hope. We are a people who believe that things the world tells us are impossible, can sometimes actually happen. But faith alone is not enough. The author of James puts it this way, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions … it is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone. So then, just as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without actions is also dead.”
It is not enough for us to lament the past and to acknowledge the damage that we have done. It is not enough to pray that God will fix everything and save our world. If we truly believe that there is hope for our world and if we truly believe that we are called to be stewards of this world, then we must act.
I want to end as I began with that quote from American environmentalist, Bill McKibbon. “I’ve mostly given up being either optimistic or pessimistic. Our odds of success are not incredibly good, but I wake up every day saying “What can I do to change the odds a little? And it’s not impossible, the task that we have ahead. We’re not going to stop global warming, but slowing it to the point that we can cope with it remains within the realms of possibility. “Fun” is not quite the right word, but there is something deeply satisfying about trying. It’s exciting to be part of that. To be doing something that crucial is a great honour.”
I would add to what McKibbon says, that it is also a great responsibility, a great calling, a great challenge, and a great blessing offered us by our great and wondrous creator with whom even the impossible can sometimes happen.
The Gift of Music Hear the Earth Mourning ~ Norman Habel 2000
Hear the earth mourning deep in pollution,
Hear the earth mourning, death in her lungs:
“How I keep longing for that first morning,
When all creation broke forth in song.”
Hear the trees falling deep in the forest,
Hear the trees calling, tortured by chain:
“Where are the songbirds, thousands of voices,
Rising in one symphonic refrain?”
Hear the blood crying, crying for justice;
Hear the blood crying, deep in the ground:
“Massacres, murders, species forgotten
Where is the healing? Where is it found?”
Hear the land wailing, deep in the darkness,
Hear the land wailing, crying in pain:
“Where are my children, torn from their homelands?
Children, my children, come home again!”
Hear the man crying, crucified, dying;
Hear the man crying, gasping for breath:
“I’ll share your suffering! I’ll share your bleeding!
I’ll bring you healing, even in death!”
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;
Divine One, we do not always appreciate the gifts we are given. We do not always use them wisely. We ask your blessing today on the gifts we give. May they be used wisely and lovingly for the good of those who are part of all your beautiful creation. 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
I want to share with you a prayer written by Brian Day of Salt Spring Island BC.
God of creation, we come to you in praise for the marvels and wonders of this world, for its magnificent creatures, it’s intricate systems, for all that has emerged through the great, long history of creation. And we come to you in lament for the destruction of the world, for the thinning of its plants and animals, for the heating and poisoning of its land and waters and air. We come to you suspended between creation and destruction, holding at once to praise and lament. May we share your joy and your grief in this world. May we recognize and listen to the prophets of our day, and may we turn our hands toward the work that is given to this generation. Open our hearts to the time in which we live. May we have the courage to face our despair, our sense of helplessness, our wish to turn away from all that we would rather not notice. Open our hearts to sorrow and hope, to all that love and creation calls us to take part in. Stir us to act like your presence in the world, to be faithful to this Earth and to all our relations, to live in accord with you, with your creation, and with your great and unquenchable thirst for life. Blessed be. Amen.
The Gift of Music Song of Sky ~ Norman Havel 1999
Lord of suns and stars exploding
Galaxies and swirling skies,
Where you chose to show your glory
Took the heavens by surprise.
Lord of solar winds and wisdom,
Superstars that blow our mind,
Choosing such a fragile planet
Hardly seems a grand design.
On this piece of stardust swirling,
On this spinning dot in space,
Life itself was born like music,
When you showed your hidden face.
What an honour to be chosen,
Silent planet blue and green,
Filled with glory, grace, and gardens,
Where the breath of God is seen.
What is even more amazing
We have poisoned Earth-like fools.
Help us change our way of living,
Love the Earth and love her rules.
Help us stem the tide of traders
Leaving Earth an empty store;
Join us now, Creator Spirit,
Come renew your Earth once more.
So now go out from here into all the wonder of the Creation of which you are apart. But do not go in fear and desperation. Go in hope, trusting that where there is God, there is always hope. Go in love, knowing that because you are loved you can freely love others. Go in joy, believing that you were created to live joyfully as part of creation. Go in faith, determined to do your part to make a difference in this world, and determined to live in the hope, love, and joy of your Divine Creator. Go with God.