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Virtual Worship - 7 November 2021



Welcome to worship this seventh day of November 2021 in Bradford North Circuit. We are meeting at the same time as the COP 26 conference in Glasgow that will decide whether this Earth has a future as a home for human beings. The Earth stands on a tipping point. There could not be a more significant time to pray, to inform ourselves, or to understand the plight of the poorest people on Earth and our dependence on them. Whoever you are, however you are feeling, whatever your sorrows at this time, you are welcome to come with us into the presence of God and listen to his word. Together, we can make this world a better place.

Call to worship:

In this climate crisis we have a Christian obligation to act.
In this climate crisis we promise to use the brains that God has given us
In this climate crisis we imitate Jesus to change our behaviour to protect the poor and weak.

Song:

Our first hymn is No 701 in Singing the Faith: Heaven shall not wait for the poor to lose their patience by Jon Bell and Graham Maule. I

A collect for today:

God of our lives, help us understand that we are appointed stewards of this Earth rather than owners of it, so that we may restrain our greed, abandon our quest for comfort, and dedicate ourselves to the welfare of the poor, of the dispossessed, and of those generations to come. Amen

The Bible

One of the readings appointed for today is from Mark’s gospel, chapter 12 vv 41-44. Jesus, as usual, is telling a story about power and money to help us get our priorities straight.

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

Reflection

We talk to our government to tell them what we want them to do, how we want them to respond to this climate crisis. We do this by voting, by choosing our newspaper, our radio stations, the blogs and tweets that we read, and even by going to the surgeries of our MPs. This is what the Government thinks we are saying, and these words are taken from a letter to our church council at Baildon from our member of parliament, representing the Government. He focusses on the cost of any action to his constituents. Above the slogan “Your interests, not self-interest”, he says:

“nobody has yet been able to explain precisely how much this race to net zero is going to be funded, and how much each of my constituents will be expected to spend to reach this goal. I am not prepared to support any such blank cheque….”

He goes on to talk about China, and how puny any sacrifice that we make would be by comparison. Jesus told the story of a widow who did not stop to think how puny was her offering. She gave all that she had with thankfulness and joy of serving her God. Other people gave more in real terms, her gift is the one that Jesus celebrated. It is time for us to decide whether we are followers of Jesus in this crisis. Should our actions be motivated by our own interests, by self-interest, or should they be motivated by love for this Earth, for our children, for our grandchildren, for the animals on the brink of extinction?

Prayers

Our father, we come to you this morning carrying burdens from last week and anxieties about the week to come. We sometimes despair at our own weakness and inadequacy, yet sometimes marvel at the strength we find in the Holy Spirit. Help us to believe in forgiveness for our own sins and in forgiveness for those who offend us. Help us to rise above our former selves to become the people you want us to be, the people that the Earth needs to ensure its future as a home for humanity. Help us to rejoice in the company of others, to understand their needs and feelings, to work with them to make this world a better place than the one we entered so long ago. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer:

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.

Some thoughts from Christian Climate Action 

Climate change is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.’

Back in April, after a thousand arrests of Extinction Rebellion protesters, our government unanimously declared a climate emergency but, as yet, there is nothing close to the action required nationally or globally to prevent disaster.

Heathrow emits 18 million tons of CO2 a year. Around the world there are 118 countries whose total emissions are less than Heathrow Airport’s. A third runway will produce a further 7.3 million tonnes.

Furthermore, if all carbon emissions were stopped right now across the world, we would still be seeing a temperature increase and its devastating effects for the next 10-15 years. A temperature increase is locked in whatever we do.

Ice reflects sunlight back to space, ice is melting, so the atmosphere and oceans are getting hotter.

An increase in temperature through carbon emissions melts the ice
This results in less ice to reflect back the sunlight
So there is a further increase in temperature
Which in turn melts the ice.

Song:

Our second Hymn celebrates the Christian example of all those whose example we follow, No. 745 in Singing the Faith: For all the saints who from their labours rest.

The Bible

The Gospel of St John, chapter 2 vv13-19

When the Passover Feast, celebrated each spring by the Jews, was about to take place, Jesus travelled up to Jerusalem. He found the Temple teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves. The loan sharks were also there in full strength.

Jesus put together a whip out of strips of leather and chased them out of the Temple, stampeding the sheep and cattle, upending the tables of the loan sharks, spilling coins left and right. He told the dove merchants, “Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”

But the Jews were upset. They asked, “What credentials can you present to justify this?”

Does the state of the world make us angry? How do we express that? Does our devotion to God’s creation burn in us like a fire?

Jesus was driven to rage by the misuse of the Temple. Should we be angry at the misuse of the Earth, in which we are complicit?

So, here’s a question: Are we more like Jesus in this story or like the Jews whose trade was destroyed?

As the new runaway climate destroys human life on this Earth, will it be our children who die? Or our grandchildren? Will any scientific learning survive? Will any literature survive? Will those few remaining, living at the level of hunter gatherers, if they can learn the skills, will they be able to read and write? Will they know anything of the life of Jesus?

Song:

Our third hymn is Number 663 in Singing the Faith: I the lord of sea and sky 

We become our Stories

Our society is based on stories that are widely circulated. These stories are about our history, about heroes, and about the formation of our nation. They are vital in helping us all share ideas. If we are dealing with people who think that the same stories are important, we find cooperation very easy. For instance, in our Christian community, we share the story of Jesus, his ministry to the poor and dispossessed, his parables (mainly about money), his example of humility, his self-sacrifice, his taking away of our sins. This story, which pervades all our Christian communities, leads to an understanding of forgiveness, for us and for our opponents, and a spur to action on behalf of the poor and dispossessed. This shared story is the basis of our desire to lead Jesus-Shaped lives, imitating the love of our Big Brother for the world.

The story of Superman should inspire us too. He was just an ordinary guy who frequently saved the World without taking any credit.

Our national story is the one about the second world war, about standing alone against the foe, about the Island nation that overcame the might of the Axis powers, about the Few. This story doe airbrush the contribution and sacrifices of Commonwealth nations and of the USA and of Russia, and it did lead us eventually to believe that we were better off alone than in partnership with Europe. But during WW2, we made cakes out of root vegetables, we cycled when there was no petrol, we did without sugar, we waved our loved ones goodbye, perhaps never to see them again. When those who survived came home, they determined to make a nation fit for heroes, inequality between rich and poor decreased, wealthy people were taxed at 95p in the £. We honour those who died in the struggle, with pride; and Remembrance Day, in a few days’ time, unites the nation in a way that few other observances do.

Earlier in our history, there was the story of Empire. This is a story about how this plucky island nation conquered the World, exploiting its people and resources in pursuit of our own wealth. This story encourages us to think of foreigners, especially those with skins darker than an outdoor tan, with superiority; and it leads us to ignore indignities and inconveniences that we impose upon them. A Christian spin on this story leads us to think of ourselves as more lucky than plucky, luck that we should be sharing with those whose countries we have previously exploited.

My question to you is this. What national story are we writing today? Faced with the enormity of climate change, what is our reaction? On what story do we base our response? Are we determined to take a lead, whatever the personal cost, whatever sacrifice becomes necessary, to mitigate the climate catastrophe for our grandchildren as we did in WW2? Will we be the widow, giving her all. Will we be the stoics of WW2, bravely muddling through hardship, joyfully making sacrifices so that the next generation inherit a better world? Do we offer ourselves sacrificially to set an example to China? Do we imitate the action of Jesus in the Temple, reported in the second chapter of John’s Gospel, seeing wrong and doing right?

The view of our Government is widely shared, maybe you share it. It differs somewhat from Winston Churchill’s determination to rid the world of Nazi domination, whatever the cost. It differs from the sacrificial example of Jesus. It panders to our desire for comfort at any cost to the Earth.

We must each decide whether we are prepared to sign this blank cheque to preserve this Earth as a habitable planet for our grandchildren. This is what COP 26 is all about. Will our desire for comfort and convenience win over the promise of Blood, Sweat, and Tears?

Song:

Our fourth hymn is number 696 in Singing the Faith, For the healing of the Nations. You will find a lovely setting of this to the tune of Cwm Rhondda.

Prayers

We pray for all those assembled at COP26, and for those World leaders who have stayed away.
We pray for those tasked with steering the meetings to a conclusion and to promises of action that will preserve the ability of this Earth to be a home to human life.
We pray for those whose work is to encourage diversity of life in Yorkshire, in this country and in the wider world.
We pray for those who own and farm land, trying to make it more hospitable to a wide range of animals and plants.
We pray for all those responsible for the security of leaders everywhere.
We pray for those who wish harm to decision-makers by anonymous tweets and other messages, by knife and by gun.
We pray for all those who, until now, have been more concerned for their own comfort than for the future of future generations.
We acknowledge that all these people are children of God, all deserving of love and safety, all with work to do, and we ask that that work be productive and positive and that we may all leave this world a better place, a land fit for heroes.
Amen.

Song:

This little light of mine.

And as we sing it, let us challenge our selves, our lives, and the influence that we have on others, to improve our small patch of Earth and to provide a future for those who come after us.

Parting benediction

Come with us Lord Jesus
Fill us with your Spirit
Shape us to your likeness
Use us to enfold with love our needy world.

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