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.
You can also sign the e-petition for Palestinian children’s rights today at https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2667 (petition closes to signatures Nov. 3rd)
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.
Acknowledgement 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 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 and Métis brothers and sisters throughout this great land.
Call to Worship
Each leaf, each petal, each grain, each blade of grass, dances in joy to its Creator.
Each hill, each valley, each plain, each mountain, lake, river, and sea reflect the awesome wonder of its Creator. Each fish, each insect, each bird, and each animal sings its praises to its Creator. We are a part of this creation. And yet the hand of greed has patented and plundered earth’s splendour. We have taken and not shared creation’s gifts. We have lived as owners of the earth, not guests or stewards. Today we gather to renew our commitment to live in the right relations with all that has been created. Today we gather to worship the One who created and who continues to create. (Adapted from a prayer written by Linda Jones/CAFOD.)
Let us pray;
Divine Source of Creation, we thank you for all that you have made; for the joy and glimpses of you we find in nature’s beauty, for the variety of all you have provided. Yet we know that we have been careless with the creation you so lovingly crafted, and deaf to its songs of praise. We have taken to satisfy our selfish desires, rather than our need and have been indifferent to the consequences. As a result, your world’s song of praise has been silenced because of our greed and carelessness, the world is hurting, and many of your most vulnerable children are suffering as a result. Teach us to tread more lightly and use more wisely the abundance your creation provides. Remind us to value the needs of others, and of creation, above our own desires. Challenge us where we need to change our lifestyles and inspire us when we need to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. Change us and use us for the restoration and the protection of your creation. Amen.
Theme Conversation/Current Events
Nature is Speaking – Mountains
So if last week’s theme of climate change was the most difficult to choose scriptures for, today’s theme of Need not Greed was probably the easiest. I agreed completely with all but one of the suggestions offered and chose to change only the Psalm reading.
Our first reading from the book of Exodus tells the story of how God provided manna in the desert, providing enough for all and warning the people not to gather more than they needed. But of course, not everyone listened. So here is that story as it is told in Exodus 16:13-21
The Psalm reading that I have chosen for today picks up on the story we just heard from Exodus. It reminds the people again of all that God provides, but it also reminds us of how often we are not satisfied with what we have and demand more. Reading selected verses from Psalm 78.
Our reading from 2nd Corinthians reminds us that God has provided us not only with what we need but with much more. It also reminds us that sometimes God provides what other people need through the excess of what we have if we are willing to share it. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Perhaps one of the strongest warnings against greed comes from the Gospel According to Luke in the parable that we commonly know as the parable of the Rich Fool. Reading Luke 12:13-21
Need Not Greed
Aristotle once wrote that there were two basic economic systems, the need system, and the greed system. He warned that it would be disastrous if we followed the greed system. That would lead to inequalities that would result in unrest and conflict. I can’t help but wonder what Aristotle would say today?
The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with God’s call for righteousness, justice, and equality, particularly economic justice. The prophets strongly condemned those who exploited their workers, failing to pay them their wages, those who cheated people with the weights they used when measuring out bread, and those who moved fence posts to cheat their neighbors out of the land. The prophets called for fairness so that all might live together in peace.
We believe that God provides for our need but not for our greed. When God led the Israelite people out of captivity in Egypt and fed them with manna in the desert, the people were commanded to gather only as much as each person needed. But when it was measured out, those who had gathered more had nothing left over and those who had gathered less had no shortage. Each one was found to have exactly what they needed. And if they tried to hoard some of what they had, saving in in case they needed it later, they discovered that by morning it had gone rancid and was full of maggots.
And this is not the only biblical example of a warning against greed. Over and over the Hebrew Scriptures warn us against coveting the possession of another. The tenth commandment states it clearly, “Thou shalt not covet”.
Yet our current economic system encourages us to break the tenth commandment. We are encouraged to ‘covet’ our neighbor’s car, house, computer, clothing, food choices, or new flat-screen TV. We are encouraged to buy more and more “stuff” and to make sure we have the “latest” model of everything. Our entire economic system is based on constant growth, which requires more and more products which, in turn, can only be supported by more and more consumption. It is a system based on encouraging greed.
And we are now paying the price for breaking the tenth commandment. We have greater poverty in the world than ever before at a time when we also have the greatest wealth we have ever had. We have the greatest economic injustice, insecurity, and unrest ever, at a time when we could be in a position to provide for the needs of all.
Some people have benefited immensely from this system and have become hugely wealthy, but the price has been increasing economic injustice. While the rich get richer both the poor and the environment suffer as a result. And now nature is striking back because of our ruthless, selfish, and greedy exploitation of nature and natural resources. But why is this happening?
Well, greed is definitely the main reason. We continue to exploit the natural resources of this world. We seem to have little regard for the future or for the sustainability of renewable resources. Clean air and water, and healthy soil provide the essentials of what we need for life, but we are exploiting this to a dangerous level.
We cannot continue to pollute our air and water with the excuse that cleaning our emissions would reduce our profits. We cannot continue to destroy our topsoil through exploitative farming and mining practices. We cannot continue to clear cut the very forests that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. We have to start looking after our life support systems, even if it costs us more.
One of the other reasons these things are happening is that the poorest people in our world have been forced to exploit their natural resources beyond sustainable capacity simply to survive. Many poor farmers have been left with no options but to plow on inappropriate mountainsides where the loss of topsoil is unavoidable because other, more appropriate land has been purchased by those who can afford it. Some are forced to cut down and destroy entire forests simply to find enough land to provide food for their families. Some end up using unsustainable fishing practices that destroy fish stocks because pollution or commercial fishing has already reduced stocks to vulnerable levels or because other supplemental sources of income are no longer available to them.
The poverty that causes these difficult choices for some, does not need to exist. If we took the biblical call to economic justice seriously we could change things. Did you know that the poorest countries in the world now owe more than 2.4 trillion dollars to wealthy countries, mostly through the World Bank? Many people seem to think that the World Bank is a sort of charity organization that provides money to poor countries in need. This is not the case.
Created in 1944, the World Bank was originally intended to focus on financing the post-World War II reconstruction of Europe. According to its charter, the World Bank was created “to assist in the reconstruction and development of territories of member nations by facilitating the investment of capital for productive purposes” and “to promote the long-range balanced growth of international trade.”
Europe, however, showed very little interest in mortgaging the future of its economy to foreign bankers, so the World Bank set about marketing its loans to Third World bureaucrats and economists claiming that export-led economic growth fuelled by foreign borrowing and investment would lead to development. This basic principle remains a cornerstone of World Bank policy.
Unfortunately, the loans were used to finance infrastructure projects and imports far beyond the country’s export earnings or ability to pay. Soon countries found themselves borrowing money just to pay the interest and principal of the original loans. It didn’t take long for the cost of debt service to exceed repayment capacity by such a wide margin that there was a threat of a global financial collapse.
So the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund began making adjustments to outstanding loans pressuring countries to increase the export of natural resources, to become more import-dependent, and to increase foreign ownership in order to focus on debt repayment. And yet, at the same time, they continued to offer huge loans to countries already in severe debt.
The results have been disastrous. In 1980, the total external debt of all developing countries was $609 billion. In 2001, after 20 years of structural adjustment, the total debt is now $2.4 trillion. In 2001, sub-Saharan Africa paid $3.6 billion more in debt service than it received in new long-term loans and credits. These statistics are almost 20 years old and despite some well-publicized debt-forgiveness, the situation continues to escalate.
In recent years, the World Bank has provided hundreds of billions of dollars in low-interest loans to subsidize the efforts of global corporations to establish control over the natural resources and markets of assisted countries. Often World Bank-financed roads, power plants, and electrical grids are built primarily to serve the global corporations rather than to serve the local populations, financially benefiting those same global corporations. An additional consequence of all this is that the World Bank has become one of the major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions through fossil fuel projects in countries where there are few environmental restrictions.
And we need to remember that economic inequalities exist not only between nations but also within our own nation. In 2009 the poorest 20% of the population of Canada earned approximately 7% of the total national income. The richest 20% earned almost 40%. That means that the income gap between the poorest and the richest 20% of the population in 2009 was close to $120,000 per year. And if you break the numbers down to the top and bottom 5% or even 1% the numbers are even worse. These statistics are 11 years old, and gap has only continued to grow over the past 11 years.
The world cannot continue with the present level of inequality, economic injustice, and environmental destruction. The fact, that the world’s richest 10% now control more than 85% of the world’s wealth is not only shameful but is unsustainable and cannot lead to peace. Some CEOs earn ten thousand times more than the workers they employ. Somehow we have to bring about greater economic justice, not only between nations but within our own nation as well. We need to begin to recognize on a global scale, that people and their natural environment are more important than profits. The monetary value of our natural systems may be worth billions of dollars, yet if we take for granted clean water, air and soil without protecting our fragile ecological system, we risk losing much more than money.
If we learn to share the abundance of God’s creation equitably, we can begin to lessen our human temptation to covet. God’s plan is that we may all have abundant life; life in all its fullness. We all have enormous potential to live abundantly, but no one can fulfill their potential without the essentials of nutritious food, safe and secure housing, clothing, and education. If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or if you have no clean drinking water, no sanitation, or no access to health care or education you will struggle to reach your God-given potential.
We will not find happiness of fulfillment in life through the excessive ownership of material possessions. True fulfillment and happiness will only come when our relationship with God and with one another become more important than wealth. Only then can we begin to build a more equitable society in which all people may know God’s gift of life in all its abundance.
The Gift of Music Song of Earth ~ Norman Habel 1999
Hail the Earth that first appeared. Alleluia!
When a word from God was heard. Alleluia!
Let the Earth arise and be. Alleluia!
Filled with living mystery. Alleluia!
Hail the rainbow flying high. Alleluia!
Spun by God across the sky. Alleluia!
Giving Earth a solemn word. Alleluia!
Never to unleash a flood. Alleluia!
Hail the planet blue and green. Alleluia!
Where the face of God is seen. Alleluia!
Glory filling all the earth. Alleluia!
Celebrating every birth. Alleluia!
Hail our bodies made of clay. Alleluia!
Given breath to praise and pray. Alleluia!
Clay God honoured by Christ’s birth. Alleluia!
In a human life on Earth. Alleluia!
Hail the groans of Earth in pain. Alleluia!
From the weight of human sin. Alleluia!
Longing for the Christ who died. Alleluia!
All creation to revive. Alleluia!
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;
God you have given us so much more than we need and we recognize this with deep gratitude. We know that sometimes we are not far less generous in our giving, but today we ask that you bless what we do offer, knowing that it is offered with our love and our gratitude. 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
Wondrous Creator, as we stop today to think about the difference between what we truly need and what we simply want we ask you to help us in our efforts to hear and answer your call for justice. Help us to use the world’s resources we need with love, humility, and thoughtfulness, without guilt, without fear and without waste. Help us to live together in harmony with the plants and animals that share this planet with us, being careful not to harm them or their habitats. Help us to respect the life in our lakes, rivers, and oceans, using them with care and being mindful in our efforts not to pollute them. Help us to learn to live within our means rather than always striving for more. Help us to mindful of what we throw away, by reducing our waste and continuing to reuse and recycle all that we can. Help us to commit ourselves to find new opportunities to not only live in ways that do not damage our Earth but to begin to repair the damage that has already been done. As we strive to live more carefully and respectfully, we ask your guidance that we may do everything we can to leave this world in a state that all future generations will be able to enjoy, ensuring that it is filled with resources and abundant life and that it is kept healthy and clean.
But even as we pray for wisdom in how we live our lives, we also offer our prayers for those whose choices may be more difficult. We pray for those whose poverty has limited their ability to make wise and careful choices about their care for the earth. We pray for those whose lives are most seriously affected by current environmental realities but whose choices are often most limited. We pray for those who refuse to believe there is a problem or who refuse to accept the responsibility we all share for the care of this planet. Divine One, unite us and guide us in the care of your creation, of which we are all apart. Amen.
The Gift of Music We Cannot Own the Sunlit Sky MV#143
We cannot own the sunlit sky, the moon, the wildflowers growing,
For we are part of all that is within life’s river flowing.
With open hands receive and share the gifts of God’s creation,
That all may have abundant life in every earthly nation.
When bodies shiver in the night and weary, wait for the morning,
When children have no bread but tears and war horns sound their warning,
God calls humanity to wake, to join in common labour,
That all may have abundant life in oneness with their neighbour.
God calls humanity to join as partners in creating
A future free from want or fear, life’s goodness celebrating,
That new world beckons from afar invites our shared endeavour,
That all may have abundant life and peace endure forever.
I want to send you out today with a Franciscan Blessing.
May you be blessed with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May you be blessed with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May you be blessed with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war so that you can reach out your hand to comfort them
and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice, kindness and hope to all of God’s creation.