The Life and Work of Our Church
Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar. Please also remember all those effected by the disastrous wildfires in the western US and those killed in the gold mine disaster in Congo on Friday.
We will begin our fall Bible Study on Wednesday, September 16th, at 10 am. This will be a Zoom Bible Study. For those who are unable to connect via Zoom, a small group will be able to gather in person. Those gathering in person will be required to wear masks. If you would like to take part but are unable to connect with Zoom, please speak to Rev. Sharon
Due to health protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic, we will not be able to resume our Monday Morning Coffee gathering at this time.
As one of our new fundraising activities for the fall, Rev. Sharon looking for your 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.
Please remember that when you enter the church you need to go directly to your seat. We need to insure that people do not gather in the entrance in order to ensure we adhere to social distancing protocols.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ Candle this morning, let us remember that its light is not limited 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 the 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
We worship the God who inhabits our world and indwells our lives.
We need not look up to find God, we need only to look all around us, within ourselves, beyond ourselves, and into the eyes of others.
We need not listen for a distant thunder to hear God.
We need only listen to the music of life, to the laughter of children, to the questions of the curious, and to the rhythm of a heartbeat.
We need not lock ourselves away in a holy shire to experience God.
We need only open ourselves to the everyday experiences of the divine within the ordinary.
So on this day let us come to worship the God who inhabits every part of creation and who dwells in every aspect of life.
Let us pray; Divine Creation, out of the overflowing of your love you created all things with rich variety and great beauty and entrusted us with the responsibility for them. Remind us that we have a responsibility to value all that you have given into our care. Remind us that we must strive to sustain creation’s rich blessings for all time and for all people, for we are a part of your wondrous creation. Amen
Theme Conversation/Current Events
Nature is Speaking – Mother Nature
Our first Scripture reading this morning is a very short passage taken from the book of Job. In it, Job reaffirms his belief that all things are created by God and have a relationship with God. Job 12:7-10
Our second reading is a Psalm of absolute praise and adoration, calling on all of creation to “Praise the Lord”. Psalm 148
In the first letter of Timothy, we read a passage that was written to answer the question of what foods were acceptable to eat and what foods were not. It contains the beautiful words, “Everything that God has created is good; nothing is to be rejected”. 1 Timothy 4:1-5
Our Gospel reading is a very familiar passage from Matthew that talks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Matthew 6:25-33
“We who recognize that all good things come for the Divine Creator have taken too long to acknowledge that the living out of our beliefs concerns most deeply the care and nurture of all living things and the environment on which we depend.” These words were written by former Archbishop of Cape Town South Africa, Desmond Tutu. Let me read that again…
In 2010 The United Church of Canada introduced Creation Time as part of The Season of Pentecost. It traditionally runs from Labour Day to Thanksgiving and includes 5 or 6 Sundays depending on the year. This year we are going to be exploring Creation Time throughout the remained of The Season of Pentecost, leading up to the beginning of Advent. The resource that I am using is titled Season of Creation and was produced in South Africa in 2008. Although I have changed some of the material to reflect our reality in Canada and to some extent specifically in Nova Scotia, much of the material comes directly from the Anglican Church of South Africa.
Today we are looking at biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to ‘living things and the environment on which they depend’. Many people wonder why biodiversity is so important. Do we really need to worry about the Chimney Swift, Wood turtle, or the Sable Island Sweat Bee when there are huge social issues all around us? We face homelessness, hunger, lack of education, ongoing health issues, crime and violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual exploitation, all of which are often directly related to poverty. How can we even think about ‘the environment’ when we face all this?
But the reality is that ‘the environment’ is everything that surrounds us and provides our life-support system. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil in which we grow our food. But it is also the homes, cities, and towns in which we live, the places we work, the stores we shop in, and the places we play.
But what does all this have to do with worship? The first story of creation found in the opening chapter of Genesis is presented in a form suggesting an act of worship. The story reveals that on successive days God created yet more wonders and each day ends with the refrain, “And God saw that it was good”.
That refrain in Genesis reminds us that all of creation has value in God’s eyes. There is a danger that our care of the planet may become nothing more than self-interest. We may stop strip mining because the runoff poisons our water systems or we may stop clear-cutting tropical forests because we worry about global warming. But this is a “what’s in it for us?” attitude. The refrain from Genesis reminds us that God values the whole of creation not for its usefulness to humanity but for its own intrinsic value.
And the second story of creation gives another perspective on the relationship that humanity is called to have with nature. That story opens with a garden into which Adam is placed after having been formed from the dust of the earth and having been given life by the breath of the Spirit. He is then commanded to till and care for the soil. In the garden story there is a sense of God calling us to tend and care for, till and cultivate a living and loving relationship with the earth from which we came.
We are not separate from creation, but an inter-connected part of it. God created a world with an amazing number and variety of living organisms, millions of plants, animals, and micro-organisms. This wonderful variety of life, known as biodiversity, is God’s gift to us, both to enjoy and to care for.
Life is a miracle. It is a miracle that, on this one planet in this one universe that is our home, there is just the right mix of gases to allow the correct atmosphere in which life as we know it, can flourish. But life is sustained through a web of interdependence. All living things interact with the rest to maintain a balance. Humans are reducing and destroying these intricate and delicate balance. As we bring about the loss of biodiversity, we threaten the web of life and consequently, the sustainability of future life on this planet.
The loss of biodiversity is like dismantling a brick wall. You can remove some bricks, but if too many are removed, the wall collapses. It is said that if all the bees on earth were to die, we humans could survive for only 3 or 4 years.
This present generation is the last generation with the capacity to introduce the changes required in order to avert environmental disaster. We are already more than halfway through this ‘last generation’ and many people believe it is already too late. This is not something that can wait. It is critical that we take the care of creation seriously, right now.
So what are we talking about when we talk of biodiversity in our own culture here in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia right now?
Did you know that there are more than 2000 different plant species in Nova Scotia? There are more than 90 species of mammals, 815 species of insects, 175 different kinds of birds that breed in Nova Scotia, and another 62 species that regularly pass through on their migration routes. There are 38 species of freshwater fish in our lakes and rivers and at least 300 saltwater species found in Nova Scotia’s coastal waters. And this doesn’t include all the lobster, scallops, crabs, shrimp, clams, mussels, oysters, and other crustaceans nor does it include the various species of whales that can be seen in the waters surrounding our province.
Yet in Nova Scotia alone there are 17 species listed as vulnerable, 13 listed as threatened, and 33 that are listed as endangered and this does not include the North Atlantic Right Whale which is one of the most critically endangered populations of large whales in the world.
And there are connections to our own part of the province. The Atlantic Whitefish which was only discovered as a distinct species in 1967 is listed as endangered. It is found only in the Tusket and Petite Riviere watersheds and there is now some evidence that there may already have disappeared from the Tusket River system.
God’s creation is under threat. For hundreds of years human activities have changed ecosystems, but with modern demands of agriculture development, urban development, industrial development, and mining, the pace, and extent of change has reached critical levels. More and more habitats around the world are being destroyed.
Waste, litter, sewerage, and industrial pollution choke our waterways, coastlines, landscapes and atmosphere. The diversion of water sources to service large farms or industries cause water levels in other areas to drop changing and even destroying habitats. Alien plant and animal species introduced from other parts of the world threaten local species because they have few natural enemies.
Poverty and hunger are a stark reality for many people today, but the reality is that if we do not care for our environment, none of us can survive. Sustainable food production today, which depends on the wise management of available fertile land and water is threatened, often by large scale industrial agriculture. It is also threatened by increasing drought and flood conditions caused by global warming.
It is critical that we develop a holistic and respectful relationship between ourselves and our natural life support system, God’s gift of creation. And despite what many people seem to believe, this call to care for creation is nothing new.
St. Thomas Aquinas who lived from 1225 to 1274 wrote these words. “Because the Divine could not express itself in any single being. The Divine created the great multiplicity of beings so that the perfection lacking one would be supplied by the other. Thus the whole universe participates in and manifests the Divine more than any single being whatever.”
And Marin Luther, who lived from 1483 to 1546 wrote, “God writes the Gospel, not in the bible alone, but also on trees and in flowers and clouds and stars.”
Our world, this wonderful gift of creation, with all its variation and biodiversity is not only a Divine gift, it is also a Divine responsibility and it is, in and of itself, part of the Divine. If we believe this, we must act.
And so I close with the same words we began with, the words of former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu. “We who recognize that all good things come for the Divine Creator have taken too long to acknowledge that the living out of our beliefs concerns most deeply the care and nurture of all living things and the environment on which we depend.” Amen.
The Gift of Music Mother Earth, Our Mother Birthing ~ Norman Havel 1999
Mother Earth, our mother birthing
Every creature from the ground.
Jesus too was flesh and breathing,
Kin to all that’s green and brown.
Celebrate with all creation;
God has joined the web of life.
Sister Air, our sister lifting
Every creature born with wind;
Jesus shared the breath of forests,
Breath that make our spirits sing.
Celebrate with all creation;
God has joined the web of life.
Brother Water, brother pulsing
Deep through every vein and sea,
Jesus drank the very raindrops
Of our wine and in our tea.
Celebrate with all creation;
God has joined the web of life.
Father Fire, our father burning
With the sacred urge to live.
Jesus’ death completes the cycle,
Life anew beyond the grave.
Celebrate with all creation;
God has joined the web of life.
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;
Creator of all, as we remember all the blessings we have received, we ask your blessing on all the gifts that we offer to you and to others this day. Continue to call us to a new awareness of our interconnectedness and help us to live as part of rather than apart from your 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
Amazing Creator, we belong to you as part of your creation. We thank you for our dependence on you, and on the rest of your creation for our life. Open our eyes and hearts so that we might understand and care for earth, sea, and sky. Forgive us for too often exploiting your creation, for failing to treat it with love, respect, and wisdom. Help us heal the damage we have done to your creation so that we may be reconciled to you and to all that is created. Help us to protect the biodiversity of the earth and to enjoy the wonders of your creation, the birds and animals, trees and flowers, the land, the water, and the air. We pray for endangered species here and around the world. We ask that you would help scientists to understand the complex problems that face our environment and be able to take action to save plants and animals in danger and in decline. Help us to live from the fruitfulness of your creation in a way that does not wantonly destroy or harm what is yours. Help us to seek first the good of all creation so that creation will continue to reflect your amazing wonder and glory. Awaken your church to the need to unite in the care of your creation. Never let us forget that like the birds and animals, trees, and flowers, we too are part of your creation.
We know that we have not always acted in ways that reflect our dependence on you and your creation. As so in a world where many carelessly damage your creation, bringing hatred to your people, and violence to your children … help us to stand up against violence, hatred, and abuse. Help us to always to be grateful for the gifts of love and life, and for the glimpses of beauty and unending wonder.
In a world driven by greed and a lust for power; where the material threatens to overwhelm the spiritual; where goodness seems too frail in the face of indifference and evil … help us to never give up on compassion, justice and truth.
Help us to believe that you can use the gifts we offer for the good of all and that we can help to call forth the gifts of others.
In a world where people are broken and abused at the hands of humanity … help us to trust the healing power of your love, placed even now in the hands of those who seek to face down injustice and champion human rights, those who stand in the dark places of our world with your light held high to give hope to others.
In a world where we struggle to understand pain and suffering, illness, and disease, especially in the lives of those we love … Help us to trust in you. We bring before you now those for whom we weep; those we embrace in our hearts, those for whom we reach out in prayer … Silence …
In a world where we can feel so insignificant and helpless … help us to know you have a place for us. Lift our spirits when we don’t feel good enough and help us to find our place in the amazing intricacy of your creation.
In a world where so much is focused on the here and now … help us to remain true to those who have gone before us, to work always for the betterment of your creation here and now, and to look forward with hope to the embrace the glimpses of eternity we see reflected all around us in the wonder of your creation. Amen.
The Gift of Music Song of the Sanctuary ~ Norman Havel 2000
You who watch the highest heavens wondering where God’s mansions are;
You who hope to spot an angel shining like a falling star;
Earth is calling, earth is calling, come back home and rest in me.
You who build exotic buildings taller than the forest tree,
Don’t you know that all foundations deep, deep down reside in me?
Earth is calling, earth is calling, come back home, and live in me.
You who travel Earth as pilgrims, dreaming where you’d rather be;
God’s own glory fills my body, I am God’s own sanctuary.
Earth is calling, earth is calling, come back home to God in me.
You who hope for joys in heaven, do you know the joys of Earth?
Ancient forest filled with singing, seas that shout when whales give birth.
Earth is calling, earth is calling, come back home and sing with me.
You who long for bread-like manna falling from the hand of God;
Know the Earth provides your water, precious breath, and daily food.
Earth is calling, earth is calling, come back home and dine with me.
As we prepare to leave and embrace the challenges of our lives and our world, let us ask for God’s blessing. May God bless us with wisdom to care for the earth. And may the One who established the dance of creation, who marvelled at the lilies of the field, who transforms chaos to order, lead us to transform our lives and our Church to reflect God’s glory in creation. Amen (© Sylvia Walker)
So now, let us go out into the world rejoicing. Let us meet our Creator who awaits us there. Let us delight in the richness and diversity of creation. Let us live in the power of the Creative Spirit that renews all things. Let us walk with respect and in oneness with all that is, trusting that the Divine Love that created and continues to create goes with us. Let us go out from here knowing we are blessed so that we might become a blessing to others in return. Amen.