Earth Day was Friday, April 22, 2016. And so this past Sunday, we celebrated and honored this beautiful world that God has created in our worship. So this week, I’m posting our worship instead of my sermon. Come and worship with us!
GATHERING IN GOD’S WORD
Letting God In
During this time, we invite you to prepare your heart and your mind for worship. We want you to be able to use this quiet time to settle your thoughts, set aside any distractions that may be troubling you, and focus your whole self on God. Open your heart, your mind, and your spirit, and let God into your life.
Centering Prayer: Creating God, we are earth of your Earth.
As you breathe in, pray, “Creating God.”
As you breathe out, pray, “We are earth of your Earth.”
* Gathering Hymn #467 (PH) – How Great Thou Art (verses 1-2)
* Opening Praise
One: God’s creation, spinning silently through space:
Many: We celebrate your beauty and grace, your special place in the universe.
One: God’s creation, gleaming green and blue:
Many: We rejoice in your ocean currents as they dance and swirl with hope.
One: God’s creation, pulsing with life:
Many: We join in praise with all creation as they sing their songs to God.
One: God’s creation, our precious, fragile home:
ALL: We celebrate with all your children God’s presence in our planet home.
* Opening Hymn #31 (NCH) – All Things Bright and Beautiful
Before the service, I passed out fresh bay leaves to everyone. Very often, when we worship, we use our eyes and our ears, but we don’t get to use our other senses. I wanted people to be able to feel and smell something living and green and earthy as we worshiped.
* Joining in Prayer
Still-creating God, we remember planet Earth with wonder. We remember our excitement when we first recognized the mystery of this living green blue planet, a fragile speck of stardust made into a magnificent home. We remember and rejoice. We thank you for the privilege of seeing Earth anew each and every day. Teach us to empathize with the Earth. Make us sensitive to the cries of creation – cries for justice from the land, the seas, and the skies. Living God, teach us to care. We confess that we have become alienated from the Earth. We view too much as disposable. We view your beautiful creation as a source of endless resources. We have polluted Earth’s waters, turned our greed into global warming, and helped cause arctic regions melt. In focusing so intently on progress, we have forgotten about the importance of preservation. Forgive us. Renew us. And help us to heal your world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
* God’s Promise of Grace: Friends, hear the Good News. In Christ – the living and risen Christ – we are forgiven. We are given grace upon grace, love upon love, and a peace that passes all understanding. Alleluia! Amen. Let us share the peace of Christ with each other.
Passing of the Peace
* Song of Peace: Let There Be Peace on Earth
HEARING GOD’S WORD
Old Testament reading – Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Friends, how many times have we heard these words? Heard this account of how God created the heavens and the earth? Maybe this is the first time … or maybe we’ve heard them so many times we don’t even hear them anymore. This morning, I want to share a different version of this amazing story of creation with you. It’s a poem that was written by James Weldon Johnson, a man who wore many hats including diplomat, educator, lawyer, poet, and early civil rights activist. He lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he wrote this sermon-poem based on the creation stories in Genesis.
“The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson
Hymn #469 (PH) – Morning Has Broken
Psalm reading – Psalm 104:1-13, 31-35
Today, we celebrate and honor the beauty of this earth. We find peace and comfort, joy and inspiration and awe in the world around us, especially a time of year like this when everything seems to be waking up, coming back to life. But as we experience all the wonder that this world has to offer, we also have to acknowledge what we have done to this beautiful Earth. The polar ice caps are melting. Acres of rainforest are being destroyed every minute. The sea level is rising, and the earth is growing warmer by the day. None of this is happening because of the way God created the world. It’s happening because of us. Because of what we are doing to this planet. Because of our abuse, neglect, and misuse. I want to share a story with you – a story about God, and about humanity, and about our true role on this earth.
Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
Hymn #32 (NCH) – God of the Sparrow
New Testament reading – John 1:1-14
This is a crazy world we live in. It’s a world of beauty and strength, a world of ups and downs, a world of joy and intricacy and complexity and challenge. And it is a world of faith. A lot of the time, when we talk about faith, we talk about the doctrine of it: God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the miracles and the teaching of Jesus and what they mean, the resurrection and the life everlasting. I think we often forget that creation is part of our faith. John tells us the Word was the light and all things came into being through the light. Creation is, indeed, at the heart of our faith, and a part of our faith must be nurturing and caring for and being faithful, responsible stewards of that creation. And so, let us affirm our faith together.
Affirmation of Faith (from Seasons of Creation)
Women: We believe that God creates all things,
renews all things and celebrates all things.
Men: We believe Earth is a sanctuary,
a sacred planet filled with God’s presence,
a home for us to share with our kin.
Women: We believe that God became flesh and blood,
became a piece of Earth,
a human being called Jesus Christ,
who lived and breathed and spoke among us,
suffered and died on a cross,
for all human beings and for all creation.
Men: We believe that the risen Jesus
is the Christ at the core of creation,
reconciling all things to God,
renewing all creation and filling the cosmos.
Women: We believe the Spirit renews life in creation,
groans in empathy with a suffering creation,
and waits with us for the rebirth of creation.
ALL: We believe that with Christ, we will rise,
and with Christ, we will celebrate a new creation.
Hymn #8 (NCH) – Praise to the Living God
(Couldn’t find an online version of this hymn)
Prayers of the People
Sharing our lives in prayer
Lord’s Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S WORD
* Hymn of Response #777 (NCH)
* Prayer of Dedication
* Hymn – May There Always Be Sunshine (insert)
This is a folk song from Russia. I have a copy of it on a playlist that my 3-yr-old boys like to listen to. One of the really cool things about this song is that you can use whatever words you want for the verses, so I wrote an Earth Day version that we sang:
May there always be sunshine.
May there always be blue skies.
May there always be mama.
May there always be me.
May there always be rivers.
May there always be trees.
May there always be rainbows.
May there always be peace.
May there always be rainforests.
May there always be clouds.
May there always be flowers.
May there always be hope.
May there always be oceans.
May there always be rain.
May there always be prairies.
May there always be faith.
May there always be wetlands.
May there always be deserts.
May there always be creatures.
May there always be the world.
May there always be sunshine.
May there always be blue skies.
May there always be papa.
May there always be me.
BEING SENT OUT IN GOD’S WORD
Finally, in each bulletin was a 1/4 sheet of paper with a blessing printed on it. But this blessing wasn’t just printed on regular paper. It was printed on seed paper. I invited everyone in the congregation to rise in body or spirit and read the blessing with me so that we could send each other out with words of love and peace and life. And I also invited them to plant the blessing when they got home so that it could grow and be a continuous reminder of God’s beauty and blessing in their lives.
* Charge & Benediction
* Sending Hymn – This Is God’s Sacred World (insert)
* indicates please rise in body or spirit as you are able