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Virtual Worship - 3 October 2021

 


Welcome

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it; the world and all who live in it;
For he has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1)

It’s autumn – the season of falling leaves, of plants dying back to nourish the earth again; fruits and vegetables are being harvested, squirrels hiding their stores for the winter to come – it’s part of what has seemed an ongoing, unchanging pattern of the seasons. But the seasons are changing.

And we are asking, what are we doing to the earth? How are we misusing God’s good gifts to us? What do we need to hear and do?

Song

First of all, all the earth is God’s, and all creation offers its praise. We hear this in the hymn of St Francis of Assisi, no.99 in Singing the Faith and sung by the Chet Valley Churches:


Prayers of Adoration & Confession

(written and led by Jackie Marshall)

Lord God,
Creator, Deliverer, Redeemer,
Provider, Healer.

All these wonderful, strong words,
yet no words can fully describe all that you are.
Lord, we want to praise and worship you now.

Forgive us when we forget your wonder and majesty,
when we lose our sense of awe and try to make you in our image,
limiting you with our human imagination.

Forgive us for the many times when we think we know best
and ignore your way of love, hurting others and ourselves
with our words, our deeds or our lack of care.

Forgive us when we selfishly squander and spoil the gifts you provide
so that, despite your generosity, many people go without
and the whole planet suffers the consequences of our greed.

Silence

Thank you, Father, that because of Jesus we can know that we are forgiven our mistakes and that you will never, ever stop loving us.

We offer everything said and done, the songs we sing, the prayers we pray and the silences we share in this act of worship to your glory and in Jesus’ precious name,

Amen

Reading:

Psalm 104:1-4, 10-24 (read by the Schofield family from Wilsden)

Hymn

StF 670 We have nothing to give that didn’t first come from your hand (this is accompanied in the YouTube version of the service by a beautiful video of trees made by Chris Marshall).

Reading: 

Matthew 16:1-4 (read by Nigel from Saltaire)

You have all heard the old joke about the missionary who only agrees to serve God abroad if God promises to keep him safe. So off he goes to serve, and one day there is a great flood in that area.
Soldiers come in a jeep and ask him to get in and go with them before the flood hits.
“No,” he says, “I’ll stay here. God has promised to save me.”
The floodwaters arrive, the road becomes a river, and soon he is confined to the top floor of the house, and a boat comes along. “Get in,” the people call. “No,” he replies, “I’ll stay here. God has promised to save me.”
The waters rise and soon he is clinging to the roof of the house. A helicopter comes low and puts down a ladder, but again he shouts up, “I’ll stay here. God has promised to save me.”
And so the missionary drowns and comes before God’s throne, where he asks, “God, why didn’t you save me?”
And God says, “I sent a jeep, a boat and a helicopter, what more do you want?”
I have heard – and read – the opinion of some Christians that we don’t need to do anything about climate change because God is in control. I can imagine God saying, “I’ve given you eyes to see what is going on, a brain to think up ideas, and hands to get them done – what more do you want?”

We see the signs, the temperatures rising, the wildfires, the floods, the storms. We read about how many species of trees are being wiped out; how many animals are endangered; how much of the natural world is being damaged – and the public response is “let that be a wake-up call”. But how many wake-up calls do we need before we take action?

As Christians we believe the story of salvation is not just about us. In Romans 8 we are reminded that creation itself will be set free from decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

So we look to Jesus, the one who has worked our freedom, and we work with him in the world and in the work he is doing.

Hymn 

The earth is the Lord’s


This photo by Unknown Author is licensed
by 

Easter Island is the home of huge stone carvings and no trees. It had been assumed that the Polynesian islanders cut down all the trees, not foreseeing the consequences, or there was a sudden event that killed them all, but it may not have happened that way, or that suddenly.

Anthropologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo from the University of Hawaii, tell a different version: that when the Polynesian inhabitants arrived in around 1200, they soon established a thriving culture, from which we see the over 800 stone carvings of chieftains. They may well have cut down trees to help move these statues on log rollers into position, but they also introduced rats to the island, who stowed away in the canoes that the Polynesians used to get there in the first place. With plentiful food and no predators, there was a population explosion. As the mature date palm trees were cut down, new ones may have been planted, but the rats enjoyed nibbling on the roots and shoots, ensuring that no new trees grew up to take the place of the ones cut down. The people could no longer go fishing because they had no tree trunks to make new canoes, so they ate – rats – and they created rock gardens to grow basic vegetables. And when Europeans came to the islands in 1722, the Polynesians didn’t ask for food, they asked for hats.

Humans adapt, and adjust to what we have to deal with, and think up clever ideas to get us through. When things get worse, we adapt, we live with less. We forget what things used to be like and adapt to the new normal. We live with the less than perfect situation. We accept that things are not as good as they could be.

And yet, we know. We know that pollution takes people’s lives – according to the World Health Organisation air pollution contributes to seven million deaths worldwide each year. We know that it got less during the first lockdown, when we were not driving cars, taking plane rides, when many factories were closed.

We know that our oceans are filling with plastic – pieces that are large enough to get round the necks of seals, or block the stomachs of fish – and pieces that are microscopic, fibres from our clothes that get into the food chain and into our own bodies.

Like the Easter Islanders, we adapt – we invent and perfect inhalers, for example, we use our technology to work out ways of recycling plastic – but we also accept and ignore the facts and think we can carry on.

So what can we do, to stop this adapting to how things are, and learn to change our habits to stop them getting any worse?

I remember someone coming to the door and wanting me to sign up to a charity. He used a good psychological technique by telling me that some of my neighbours had signed up to give a monthly donation. It’s been proven that we are more likely to do something good or bad when we believe or see others are doing it too. So, can we take that technique and practice it in our spheres of influence, to get people thinking? How about wondering aloud with a friend about reducing your meat and dairy intake, and wondering how that might look? How about letting drop that you’re not going abroad because you think it’s a good idea to stay more local for holidays? How about wondering aloud about not getting a new smartphone because of the rare metals in them and your worry about the effect on the environment? And how about singing the praises of the natural world and the thrill of seeing dolphins, or beautiful views, and talking about how that makes you want to take care of the beauty we have, because God has given us all we need, and we want to look after it all?

Of course, that’s not enough. We need to take more action. Whatever you may think about Extinction Rebellion, they’ve brought to our attention in recent weeks that we are way behind on insulating our homes to help them retain heat or stay cool. We may not all feel we can stand on the M25, but we can all change to green energy, lobby our MPs, or write to the supermarkets we use. Don’t know what to write? How about, I’ve never written to an MP or supermarket before and I’m not sure what to say, but I need to let you know of my concern for the planet and for the people affected by climate change. You need to know that I don’t want to see my standard of living go up if it costs someone else their life. I am willing to pay more or make do with less if it means that other people will have enough, that animals will be able to roam, that trees will be saved, that the sea will not be further filled with our rubbish. And I will vote for your party/shop in your store if you work to ensure those things, but if you keep focusing on the wealth of the few, I will take my vote/business elsewhere.

You see the wristbands with WWJD on them – What would Jesus do? What would he do on climate change? What is he doing, and asking us to join him?

Hymn

The Isle of Man Methodist Church lead us in a thoughtful hymn:
Hymn StF 727 God in his love for us lent us this planet


Prayers of Intercession 

(again, written and read by Jackie Marshall)

Heavenly Father,

Trusting in your faithful, unfailing love we bring to you now
the people and situations that lie heavy on our hearts.

We pray for your world,
that justice, fairness and peace will prevail
where there is exploitation, poverty and violence.

At this time we pray particularly for the world leaders
coming together at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference.
Inspire and strengthen them, give them compassion, empathy and integrity
as they seek global solutions to tackle climate change.

We pray for your worldwide Church,
that wisdom, infectious joy and loving kindness will prevail
where there is division, disillusionment or persecution.

We pray for our own churches and our Methodist Circuit,
as we earnestly seek the strength and guidance of your Spirit
through these times of change.

We pray for people of different faiths,
that whatever name or names they call you by, they perceive that you are love
so that knowledge can guide them and shield them from extremism.

And in a few moments of quiet we bring before you those known to each of us who are in special need of your presence and peace.

Silence

Lastly, we pray for ourselves.
You know all our strengths and hopes,
our fears and flaws.
We place ourselves in your loving arms
and offer ourselves to be your workers and witnesses.

We offer these and all our prayers in Jesus’ name
as we pray together the prayer he teaches his friends:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen

Hymn

For our final hymn we join with Stuart Townend in singing:
Who paints the skies into glorious day?

Blessing

May the God who shaped the earth and who declared it all “very good” bless us and walk with us as we go to work for God in God’s world.

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