Category Archives: Preaching Resources

Tom Mundahl

Tom Mundahl has served as pastor of Lutheran Church of the Reformation, St. Louis Park, MN since 2007 (the home of Sen. Al Franken and the Coen brothers). During more than a decade in Dubuque, IA, he helped to develop statewide, ecumenical ‘care of the earth’ seminars, chaired the NE Iowa Synod Care of Creation Work Group, and sat on the Iowa Environmental Council. A graduate of St. Olaf College and Luther Seminary, he holds graduate degrees from the Universities of Iowa and Michigan, and has taught political theory at the University of Iowa and Luther College. He also has served as Director of the Christus Community, Lutheran Campus Ministry, at the University of Iowa. tmundahl@gmail.com.

Living Earth Reflections from the ELCA Advocacy Office

ELCA Advocacy Office Relections

Living Earth Reflections from ELCA Advocacy offers writing from staff and guest writers on a variety of issues. Search on the ELCA Advocacy site to download reflections and use for Adult Forums or Bible Studies or as a preaching resource.

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The Second Sunday in Easter in Year C

A Sermon by Gil Waldkoenig, Professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

Church of the Abiding Presence, April 10, 2013

The Second Sunday in Easter in Year C

John 20: 19-31
Rev 1: 4-8
Acts 5:27-32

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about unbelief.  The kind of unbelief that makes the news quite often has to do with climate change, also called global warming.

Almost half of the American population does not believe that the recent spike in global warming results from human activity, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Some disbelieve very aggressively. They say global warming is a hoax. Some disbelieve more cautiously, saying we need to wait for more information or to see how things turn out. And then some people disbelieve in a way that is just plain lazy: they just hope it will all go away.

The disbelievers either don’t know, or don’t care to know, that the carbon that is clogging our atmosphere has gone up while oxygen has gone down in direct proportion. That indicates burning. And the carbon is a particular kind of carbon: carbon 12. Carbon 12 comes from plants long dead. It is not carbon 13 which could come from recently living plants (because carbon 13 becomes radioactive and dissipates).  Nor is it carbon 11 which comes from the molten geologic core of the earth when it releases through volcanoes. If the carbon is from burning, and it is not from volcanoes and not from recent plants, but is from plants long dead, then it can only be from fossil fuels. Last I checked no monkeys were burning fossil fuels. So I’m going to “believe” it has been some of the 7 billion humans on earth who have put over 380 parts per million of carbon into the atmosphere, which is drastically altering climate.[1]

Then there are some religious people who say, “Well, the planet is going to end anyway, when God blows it up or burns it up”—or whatever apocalyptic narrative you choose. The bad signs, the evidence of global warming and the troubles it will cause are warnings, and we must appease, they indicate, an obviously angry God before it is too late. If it gets to be too late for everyone else, at least a few who are on the right side of God could escape like Lot and Abram running away from Sodom.

So we have a set of disbelievers who don’t like the bad signs and deny them. And then we have another set of people who seem to relish the bad signs as a curse or judgment of doom that can inflame their religion of propitiation or appeasement.

In the closing chapters of the gospel of John, the disciples are being reassembled from here and there, drawn into good news, good signs, that Christ is risen, and that Christ abides with them, and they can respond to God’s world with love.

Thomas missed an earlier meeting where the disciples saw the wounded but resurrected Christ in person. The others are waiting for Thomas to join them, but Thomas is holding out for his own signs. Unless I see and touch to verify, I will not believe, Thomas says.

To me, it is interesting that even though Thomas gets to see and touch, and consequently expresses belief, he also in the same moment says “help my unbelief.” And then Jesus blesses all those who would not get the same signs that Thomas got, and yet would believe. I can’t help but imagine a kind smile on the face of Jesus when he says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

A couple of things are going on in John’s gospel here. It is a message of comfort to all those believers who would encounter Jesus through the written gospel, and the preached gospel and the acted gospel, rather than hearing and seeing Jesus in exactly the same manner as the first disciples did. And it is part of an ending to the gospel that is very consistent with the rest of the book–a book that had so much attention to signs, from water jars at Canaan to post-resurrection appearances. The blessing is for those who will NOT be eye-witnesses to the signs narrated in the gospel of John, but who WILL see and touch other signs in the days and years afterwards. Those signs would include bread and wine, words of good news spoken, baptismal waters splashed, and acts of compassion and justice.

The signs can change. The array of signs in John makes John a great piece of literature: from jars of water to bread and vines and sheep and gates and light and dark and descent and ascension and authority and subversion of authority and more.  The signs are many. But Christ is one, and grace is one.

It is hard to imagine the narrative in John 20 going any other way, but try this as an exercise. Thomas sees Jesus and touches his wounds. Then Thomas says, well, I need a bit more evidence. Please eat a fish right here in front of me.

Eating fish is a different sign, by a campfire, on the lakeshore, in chapter 21. Nobody falls on their knees saying “my Lord and my God” when they see Jesus eating fish—maybe because they were stuffing their faces with fish. But that sign is another physical sign, like touching and seeing for Thomas, that showed Jesus is bodily resurrected and abiding close by within creation.

If Thomas had asked for a fish [comp. Luke 24:41-42], it would have changed his experience but it would not have changed the cross. Not one bit. His belief and yours and mine do not make the cross of Christ more or less of what it is, the once and central triumph of God’s grace over all that would oppress it—and the resurrection is its twin sign of God’s good intent and faithfulness to Christ and to creation forevermore. Thomas and the disciples find that Christ is still one, even after the cross tore him and them apart, and grace is one in the resurrection forevermore. That’s why the blessing of all those who don’t see belongs in the narrative with the really fine Jesus-sighting that Thomas received.

In our time, when the climate is warming, many signs are not good. The bad signs ought to be evidence for us that we must care for our planet and our neighbors in new and better ways. Some of the denial and disbelief ring suspiciously similar to our old human unwillingness to change because it is going to cost something to care for neighbor and planet.

But all who gather around the signs of grace have an orientation and centeredness to face the bad signs in their stark reality, without denial and without avoidance. The church is already learning to change and respond in new ways, because from the source of grace we can respond beyond denial and fear, with love – love just like the gospel of John features from beginning to end! In other words, go ahead and ask for a fish or any other signs—the work of our time still lays before us. The cross and the resurrection are still what they are, and from that orientation, we’re going to be able to move and respond.

When the floods come, and hurricanes and winds and storms—or when the drought cracks the land and the people and animals and plants perish—we humankind will indeed lament our deeds which have brought these conditions upon us and upon our home, planet earth. The disbelief and denial is but the first whimpering before the real wailing (Rev 1:7). But the church of Jesus Christ, abiding in his presence and the cross accomplished, stands with the sign of resurrection at the center of all other signs. The cross flowers into the renewed tree of life on the last page of the Bible (Rev 22::2; cf. Acts 5:30),[2] after apocalyptic waves pass, and wailing gives way to hymns of grace and courage, hope and joy. In the meantime, the church can and will be a community of resilience[3] with open doors to which the flooded and parched alike may come, to hear not a word of curse but a word of redemption and grace. Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

[1] Information in this paragraph is from Earth: The Operator’s Manual DVD by Richard Alley (PBS, 2011)

[2] Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth for attention to the tree on the past page of the Bible, as an object of focus by God. Sermon, Sunday, March 10, 2013, Washington National Cathedral (http://tinyurl.com/cz2w762)

[3] Thanks to Mary Minette, ELCA Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy, for the term “communities of resilience” that she suggested to me in conversation about the widening attention to sustainability/greening in congregations, synods and church wide that is fostered by Lutherans Restoring Creation (lutheransrestoringcreation.org) & GreenFaith (greenfaith.org).

 

Worshiping with Creation

We have traditionally done worship focusing on our human relationship with God and our human relationships with each other. Now we need to fill our worship also with elements of God’s relationship with all of creation and with our human relationship with creation (and with God in creation). Here are some suggestions for how to integrate creation fully into your worship–all worship services. The idea is to include appropriate references to creation at the beginning, middle, and end of each service, along with other references throughout. Incorporate some of these changes on a regular basis, and those who worship will be much more aware of their relationship with God the creator and of their own relationship with nature.
Key moments for every worship service

Invocation/invitation:
Develop standard openings or vary it each week. Include it as a formal or an informal component of worship

Invoke the presence of the God of all creation. “We call upon the God of all creation to be present this day.” “We invoke the presence of God who created . . [ here  you may list diverse domains of creation such as mountains, rivers, sky, forest or you may list specific creatures and places].

Invitation: Invite all creation to worship or invite humans to join the choir of all creation in praise of God. You may be concrete by inviting domains or even the plants and animals on your church grounds or in your geographical region.

Confession:
Include at least one statement of confession that addresses our degradation and misuse of creation.

Introduction to scripture readings and the Psalm:
In the preface to scripture, encourage people to note the elements of the lessons that relate to nature as a whole.

Prayer Introduction:
Indicate in the preface to the prayers that you are including prayers “for all creation.”

Prayers:
Include at least one prayer of Thanksgiving for creation and a petition on behalf of the natural world (recent disaster, endangered species, people at risk from environment). Be specific about land and waterways in your area.

Closing:
Commission people to “Go in peace. Serve the Lord, Remember the poor. Care for creation.” Or “Tend the Earth.”

Other opportunities:
Introduction: If there is an introduction to the focus of the season and the Sunday at the beginning of the service, connect this to creation.
Hymns:
        Keep in mind hymns with reference to the natural world.
Scripture readings:
        Take the opportunity to note references to God the creator and to the presence of the nature in the biblical world.
Psalm:
        Often the psalm is a source of celebration of God the creator and the natural world.
Preaching:
        Proclaim the good news of God’s creation. Give examples and challenges that include our relationship with nature.
Sacraments:
        Make connections for people to the natural elements of grapes, grain, and water bearing the presence of Christ.

Luther College Ministries and Dakota Road Music Offer Liturgy for Earthkeeping

A core mission of Lutheran higher education is the integration of faith and learning in service of the common good. In that spirit a liturgy for the broader church was commissioned in honor of Luther’s sesquicentennial. It is a collaborative project between Dakota Road Music and Luther College Ministries. The Liturgy for Earthkeeping is being offered as a resource for congregations and ministries that worship in outdoor settings to help strengthen connections between sustainability, liturgy, spiritual formation and joyful stewardship.

https://dakotaroad.com/songbooks-liturgies

Season of Creation: Focusing Worship on God as Creator

We offer creation focused commentaries for every week and lectionary cycle, but what about taking a step back and spend a whole season focused on God the Creator? The Season of Creation started in the 1990’s and has multiple expressions.  It is typically celebrated from the beginning of September until October 4th (St. Francis of Assisi Day).  For a specifically Lutheran take, check out this reading .  For a variety of ways to bring this to your church peruse the options below.  If you decide to recognize this season on your ELCA congregation please let us know so we can learn from your experience!
For resources from our ecumenical sister site, LetAllCreationPraise.org :

Ecumenical resources for the Season of Creation – Also Spanish translations!

Find some materials to watch/share with your council to describe the Season of Creation and how it is critical to our faith journey: Explore our YouTube Channel’s (see playlists). 

The Catholic Climate Covenant has a global perspective with inspirational events across the globe:  seasonofcreation.org

The Sound of Scripture: Reading the Bible Aloud (Lutheran University Press, 2013).

This is a brief guide for lay readers who want to become more confident and effective in communicating the meaning of God’s Word listeners. Reading scripture aloud involves knowledge and understanding, faith, respect, “spirit and heart,” vocal skill, and physical control. Barbara Laughlin Adler is professor emerita of Communication Studies at Concordia University-Ann Arbor.

Reflection for Good Friday

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, Jesus said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”  — John 19:28
On Good Friday the youth of United in Christ, Lewisburg, PA, designed a service of darkness focused on the seven last words of Christ. The youth worked in pairs on their sermons which they preached in a dialogical style. This sermon was written by two middle school youth from an ecological perspective, focusing on the need for clean water.

EarthBound video series – Now Available Streaming!

This timeless series, filmed in high definition, takes Martin Luther´s breakthrough understanding of Justification and Vocation and explodes it across God´s magnificent creation. It is a perfect tool to use for Adult Forums or community  conversations in a 6 session format. Intentionally non-partisan and aimed at finding common ground.

EarthBound discussion guide and facilitator notes to download – Click Here

Read More and Learn How to Order

GreenFaith: Mobilizing God’s People to Save the Earth

GreenFaith: Mobilizing God’s People to Save the Earth gives concrete examples and tips that will help people of faith and worshiping communities engage in Earth care—in bold, life-giving ways. Each chapter has questions to guide personal study and group conversation.

Solar on religious facilities. Mass, multi-faith mobilizing. Spirituality that really brings people alive. The religious-environment movement is an awesome story.

Nobody tells it like Fletcher Harper, our Executive Director.

This spring, Abingdon Press released Fletcher’s first book – GreenFaith. Get your copy today and use it in a discussion group in your house of worship.

GreenFaith tells about outdoor spiritual experiences.Eco-teachings from the great religions. Congregations protecting the planet and reinvigorating their faiths. Activism that’s makes a major impact.

And with each chapter – discussion questions for small groups, and ways faith communities can get involved.

This is a great book at a critical time. I hope you’ll get GreenFaith today.

In faith,

Stacey Kennealy
Certification & Shield Director

Leah D. Schade – Speaker, Author, Preacher

Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade first started helping Lutherans Restoring Creation as she joined us in a training at Mar-Lu Ridge camp in Maryland in 2011 and shared her personal experiences being a pastor on the frontline of the fracking issues in Pennsylvania. Then, in 2013, she graciously gave a group of LRC trainers at Gettysburg Seminary a sneak peek of her eco-feminist work as she was in the midst of crafting her doctoral thesis. That work evolved as she pursued her vocation of teaching and published her book, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit.

Most recently she has been sharing her gifts as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Her book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide, explores how clergy and churches can address controversial social issues (including climate change) using nonpartisan, biblically-centered approaches and deliberative dialogue. She also co-edited with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas a timely tool for all of us in this ministry: Rooted & Rising : Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, a collection of 21 essays from a cross section of faith leaders and activists offering their spiritual wisdom and energy for facing the difficult days ahead. Leah has also written a Creation-centered Lenten devotional, For the Beauty of the Earth. She is a sought-after speaker and has keynoted and led workshops across the United States.

Below is a listing of Leah’s various offerings to Lutherans Restoring Creation. We are proud to have her as a part of our church and larger cloud of witnesses.

Read her most recent posts at: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/ecopreacher/

Relevant Publications
“Connections to Creation” reflections for Sundays and Seasons, 2019-2020 and 2020-21.
“Encountering Pharaoh – and Climate Change” in Preaching as Resistance; Phil Snider, editor; St. Louis, MI: Chalice Press, 2018.
“Preaching the Body of God: Sallie McFague and a Homiletics of Creation Care,” The Other Journal; Fall 2018.
“Include Mother Earth in the #MeToo Movement: ‘Don’t Frack Your Mother,’” Mother Pelican: A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability, Luis T. Gutiérrez, editor; Vol. 14, No. 3, March 2018; http://www.pelicanweb.org/solisustv14n03page11.html
“Let’s Make Earth Day about the Earth Martyrs,” The Christian Century, April 18, 2017. https://www.christiancentury.org/blog-post/lets-make-earth-day-about-earth-martyrs
Let All Creation Praise website contributor – http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/about-us

Pastoral positions
2016 – present: Supply preaching
2011 – 2016: Pastor, United in Christ Lutheran Church, West Milton, PA
2009 – 2011: Bridge Pastor, Spirit and Truth Worship Center, Yeadon, PA
2000 – 2009: Associate Pastor, Reformation Lutheran Church, Media, PA

Links
Website for Creation-Crisis Preaching: www.creationcrisispreaching.com

Website for The Purple Zone – Ministry in the Red/Blue Divide: https://thepurplezone.net/

Featured faith leader in documentary In God We Trump by Christopher Maloney, 2017: http://ingodwetrumpfilm.com/

Featured in The Lutheran Magazine, “Restoring Creation with Faith,” April 2015 http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=12519

Featured faith leader in 20-minute short film, Faith Against Fracking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R716qzQU8g

Climate Stew podcast profile and interview: http://climatestew.com/portfolio/rev-dr-leah-d-schade-phd/; http://climatestew.com/podcast/episode-eighteen-whats-faith-got-to-do-with-it/

Honors/Awards:
• Kentucky Council of Churches Award, 2019
• Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania Service Award, 2016
• The Mark McCollough Religious Leadership Award, presented by The Central Susquehanna Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 2013
Environmental and Justice Advocacy and Activism
Member of Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle, a coalition of diverse American faith leaders committed to inspiring others to lead on climate solutions in their congregations, homes, and communities. Blessed Tomorrow is one of the sector programs of ecoAmerica, an organization committed to building institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States.
Trained workshop leader for Lutherans Restoring Creation, training congregations for starting care-of-Creation teams and programs.
Involvement with several different interfaith groups on environmental issues, including Interfaith Power & Light, the Poor People’s Campaign, Pa. MORALtorium on Fracking, etc. Prayer vigils, press conferences, government testimonies and protests.
Founding member of the Isaiah 1:17 Justice Team of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod, 2018 – present.
Sponsor of memorial to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly calling for divestment from fossil fuels. Motion passed by Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly (USS), June 2015.
Sponsor of memorial to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and resolution to the Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly calling for integration of Eco-Reformation into the 500th Anniversary commemoration of the Reformation. Motions passed, June 2015.

Community organizer and spokesperson for the Tire Burner Team, a group of community activists and grassroots citizens who successfully defeated a proposed tire incinerator in White Deer Township, Union County, PA; 2013 – 2014.
Representative for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania (LAMPa) and the ELCA, testifying in favor of the EPA’s Clean Air proposal for coal plants, 2014.
USS Bishop-appointed task group on fracking, 2013 – 2014.
Primary author of three resolutions on slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing for Upper Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA; one calling for formation of synod task force; one calling for ELCA to establish task force; one for the synod to call for a statewide moratorium; all three passed; 2012.
Clean Air Advocacy Conference participant and representative for the National Council of Churches in coalition with the US Climate Action Network; meetings with four congressional representatives in support of the Clean Air Act; Washington, DC, 2011
Over 100 radio, television and newspaper interviews, features, and op-eds covering topics such as local and national environmental issues, religion, and politics

SAMPLE KEYNOTES, WORKSHOPS, RETREATS
“Creation, Climate, and the Church: Healing Our ‘Vitamin C’ Deficiency”
In an increasingly polarized society, how can the church respond to the rising crises of environmental devastation and climate disruption? Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will share her research about pastors, preaching, and environmental issues, and suggest an approach that honestly and creatively names the reality of the “eco-crucifixion,” while proclaiming an “eco-resurrection” through Christ’s redemption of Creation.

“Beyond ‘Creation Care’: Building the Eco-Ethical Ark in the Age of Climate Disruption”
For many years, religious environmental activists used the term “Creation Care” to instill a sense of moral and ethical responsibility around ecological issues. Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will make the case that we need to expand and deepen our understanding of the phrase “Creation Care” so that it conveys the urgency needed to act on what is happening. She will propose adding three other alliterative phrases: Creation Clarity, Creation Compliance, and Creation Compassion, and will explore what they might entail for the church responding to the climate crisis.

Deliberative Dialogue on “Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?”

Climate change is an issue that affects virtually every American, directly or indirectly, often in deeply personal ways. How can the church address this issue given the red-blue polarization of our time? Is there a way to faithfully engage important questions about the climate crisis that moves us beyond the current political debate and frames the conversation within a biblical and theological perspective? Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade will facilitate a nonpartisan deliberative dialogue in which we’ll explore the church’s role in engaging this difficult issue.

“Who Is My Neighbor” Mapping Exercise
Drawing from her book, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015), Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will present practical suggestions and questions for mapping the ecological, social, cultural and political location of a particular congregation to help churches better contextualize their ecology ministry. This workshop will be helpful for pastors looking to “green” their preaching and for church leaders wanting to find ways to create or expand their ecology ministry.

“Council of All Beings”
This workshop invites participants to spend time outside and connect with an aspect of nature that calls to them. Drawing on her book Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis co-edited with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade leads participants through a ritual of deep listening to the natural world in order to foster compassion for all life-forms and heal the splits that separate human beings from God’s Creation.

“Art as a Window into the Intersection of Religion, Gender, and Ecology”
Rev. Dr. Leah Schade shares provocative and moving images from artists depicting humanity’s different conceptions of the environment, religion, and the male/female dichotomy. How do our understandings of gender impact our theology and how we view the natural world? What impacts do these images have on everything from our religious language, to our environmental policies, to our treatment of males, females, transgender, and non-gendered persons? Through discussion, meditation, journaling, and group exercises, participants will be led to deepen their relationship with themselves, the natural world, and the Divine.

For Clergy

Creation-Crisis Preaching: Strategies, Tactics, and Text Studies
Preaching “good news” in the face of environmental devastation, the climate crisis, and extreme energy extraction can feel overwhelming to pastors and congregations alike. Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will introduce a three-fold approach for preaching that addresses environmental justice issues with a particular eye towards congregational context (geography, culture, community, political tensions, economics, etc.). The goal is to help preachers develop an environmentally-literate approach to preaching that honestly and creatively names the reality of our ecologically-violated world, while emphasizing a hope-filled “eco-resurrection” through Christ’s redemption of Creation.

Sermons preached as Earth, Water, or Air
“I Am Ruah: The Holy Spirit Speaks to the Climate Crisis”
“Ruah” is the Hebrew word for the spirit, air and wind that comes from God. How might Ruah, the very breath of God, experience the climate crisis and pollution? What insights can we gain from Jesus’ teaching about blaspheming the Holy Spirit when considering the moral and ethical implications of climate disruption? In this creative and engaging sermon, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade speaks as the character of Ruah and invites listeners to consider how their faith will shape their response to the climate crisis.

“I Am Water, I Am Waiting: John 4:1-42 (The Woman at the Well).
How does Water respond to being called hudor zoe, living water, by Jesus? How does she feel about baptism? About the pollution from fracking? In this dramatic and imaginative sermon, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade preaches as the character of Water telling the story of God’s Creation from the beginning, her relationship with Jesus, and her perspective on the story of the Woman at the Well in John 4:1-42.

Earth Speaks: What’s Next?
In this sermon listeners begin to see how the ideas of Earth-as-body, Earth’s co-creativity with God, the intrinsic value of Earth, and the relationship between Earth, its flora and fauna, human beings, and God are so intimately related. The sermon dramatically portrays what it looks like when the relationships between these entities are violated by human beings. Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade illustrates what it might be like if Earth were to hear and interpret a biblical text and provides insight into humanity’s relationship with God and Creation, as well as God’s in response to suffering, from Earth’s perspective.

Larry Rasmussen’s Lecture for the Bonhoeffer Lectures in Public Ethics at Union Seminary

Voices from science, ethics, and theology on Eco-Reformation.

Veni, Creator Spiritus!
An Ecological Reformation

Veni, Creator Spiritus! Once a World Council of Churches program theme, “Come, Holy Spirit, renew your whole creation!” surfaced again in an ecumenical gathering in Greece in March 2016, this time as a “Manifesto for an Ecological Reformation of Christianity.” The authors note the Reformation Jubilee of 2017 as the opportune moment for the manifesto. The backstory is the urgent call of Christians from areas most vulnerable to the constellations of economic power, whether in the Pacific, Africa, Asia, Latin America, or from minority populations in Europe and North
America. Add the Pope’s ringing encyclical, Laudato Si’ , and Protestant countries in the North keenly aware of the environmental degradation of their consumerist life style, and we have an ecological cry that is as clear, strong and emphatic as
Beethoven’s Ninth. [read more]

 

Rev. H. Paul Santmire writes for the rest of us

Behold the Lilies: Jesus and the Contemplation of Nature:  A Primer  (2017)

Read a chapter: From Lake Wobegon to the Streets of Manhattan: Behold then Follow

Behold the Lilies, by the Rev. H. Paul Santmire, draws from the riches of the author’s long-standing work in the theology of nature and ecological spirituality, especially from his classic historical study, The Travail of Nature (1985), and from his Franciscan exploration in Christian spirituality, Before Nature (2014). In this new volume, Santmire maintains that those who would follow Jesus are mandated not just to care for the earth and all its creatures but also to contemplate the beauties of the whole creation, beginning with “the lilies of the field.” His first-person reflections range from “Scything with God” to “Rediscovering Saint Francis in Stone,” from “Taking a Plunge in the Niagara River” to “Pondering the Darkness of Nature.” Behold  the Lilies offers brief spiritual reflections that can be read in any order, over a period of time. This accessible primer will be welcomed not only by those who have already identified themselves with the way of Jesus but also by others who are searching for a contemplative spirituality attuned to global ecological and justice issues.

Eight Ways Pastors can Give Care for Creation Leadership

The Role of ELCA Pastors in Care of the Earth

Stewardship of the Earth: The people of God are called to the care and redemption of all that God has made. This includes the need to speak on behalf of this earth, its environment and natural resources and its inhabitants. This church expects that its ordained ministers will be exemplary stewards of the earth’s resources, and that they will lead this church in the stewardship of God’s creation.

—From Vision and Expectations for Ordained Clergy of the ELCA.

“Tell the truth about the ecological state of the world

So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth, giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope.”

—From the ELCA Ordination Service. Bishop’s address to the newly ordained.

1. Be informed. Make it part of your continuing education and professional reading to be informed about the ecological state of the world and about theological, ethical, spiritual and practical resources to address caring for creation in your congregation.

2. Be a Spokesperson. As leader of the congregation, you can speak out and create an ethos that caring for creation is an important and integral part of the ministry of the congregation. Through sermons, newsletters, bulletins, and announcements, you can generate interest and awareness.

3. Become a Creation Care congregation. Spearhead and/or support efforts to become a Creation-Care congregation by making care for creation a part of the mission statement and visionary goals of the congregation. Establish an Earth-keeping team/committee. For steps to accomplish this, see the Self Organizing Kit for congregations here.

4. Support your Creation Care team. If a green team already exists, support their efforts and projects. Encourage your staff, the church council, and committee chairs to be aware of the importance of creation care in their work and to respond cooperatively to the work of the Green team. For example, promote efforts to incorporate creation care into the worship planning (see the site we sponsor at http://www.letallcreationpraise.org) or promote efforts to lower energy use and carbon footprint.

5. Be a model. Model creation care in your personal and family life (http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/covenant-with-creation). Green your church office (http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/greening-your-smo-office).

6. Encourage others. Encourage members to live out commitments to care for creation in their homes and work.

7. Witness in church and society. Promote creation care in the life and witness of the synod. Witness to our church’s commitments your local community.

8. Pastoral care. Guard creation care efforts so that they are done out of a rootedness in the gospel of grace and the presence of God’s love in all creation. Support people who are impacted or become disheartened by ecological crises.

Lutherans Restoring Creation has resources for all these actions and initiatives. We stand ready to assist you in any way we can.

Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit

author: Leah D. Schade

Informed by years of experience as an environmental activist and minister, Leah Schade equips preachers to interpret the Bible through a “green” lens, become rooted in environmental theology, and learn how to understand their preaching context in terms of the particular political, cultural, and biotic setting of their congregation. [Read more and buy.]

GreenFaith Fellowship Program

The GreenFaith Fellowship Program is a wonderful, challenging 18-month program that prepares lay and ordained leaders from diverse religious traditions for religiously based environmental leadership. Through this program, GreenFaith offers a unique opportunity for educational, spiritual and vocational growth and skill development in religious environmentalism.

The Fellowship Program consists of three three-day residential sessions in varied settings (one urban, one rural/semi-wild, and one suburban), conference calls, mentoring, an e-mail list serve, a Facebook group, networking both within the program and at each Fellows’ local/regional level and reading/writing assignments before and after each retreat.

The Fellowship curriculum is designed to integrate historical perspectives, scientific information, socio-economic considerations, religious, ethical, spiritual and practical dimensions. It works with an expansive understanding of the “environment” which encompasses suburban, urban and indoor settings as well as wilderness or biodiversity-rich areas that are the focus of much traditional environmental work.

GreenFaith draws Fellows from a national audience of ordained and lay leaders, to be selected through a competitive application process. Each Fellowship class is intended to be diverse in ethnicity, geography, religious tradition, and socio-economic background.  Over 110 Fellows – from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Unitarian Universalist backgrounds have taken part – from over 35 states, 3 Canadian provinces, and from Europe.

For over 6 years, the GreenFaith Fellowship Program has provided cutting-edge training to leaders from diverse religious communities.  We hope you’ll be interested in joining this special community.

For more information visit http://greenfaith.org/programs/fellowship

ELCA calling from “Vision and Expectations”

Stewardship of the Earth

“The people of God are called to the care and redemption of all that God has made. This includes the need to speak on behalf of this earth, its environment and natural resources and its inhabitants. This church expects that its ordained ministers will be exemplary stewards of the earth’s resources, and that they will lead this church in the stewardship of God’s creation.”

—From Vision and Expectations for Ordained Clergy of the ELCA.

Environmental Stewardship

by John Berge
Member of Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church in Racine, WI.

“Tell the truth. Give no false hope

Tell it like it is.

Tell the truth about the ecological state of the world. How easily we can give false hope by our silence or by minimizing the threats to our environment.

If we do not see the size of the problem, we will not see the size of the response required.

Then speak the truth of the Gospel.

The Bishop says, ‘So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth, giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope.'”

—From the ELCA Ordination Service, Bishop’s address to the newly ordained.

Here are the reflections of an ELCA layperson who tells it like it is in an article for his congregational newsletter for January, 2014.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
by John Berge
Member of Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church in Racine, WI.

While Wisconsin and the upper midwest was cooler than normal in 2014, this was an anomaly and the rest of the world appears to be heading to a record high in global temperatures. Unless December is much cooler around the world, 2014 will be the warmest since records have been kept and probably the warmest since the start of the industrial revolution. And as you may have noticed in the news, as predicted in virtually every computer model, storms are getting more severe due to global warming or climate change, whichever term you prefer.

Climate scientists outside the fossil fuel industry are in general agreement that climate change is a direct result of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the increase is caused by humans burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. Reducing our use of fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline, natural gas has been much discussed both here and elsewhere. It is good environmental stewardship to reduce the miles we drive, drive vehicles with better gas mileage, turn down the thermostat, push for and install wind and solar power, etc. It is unfortunate that Wisconsin’s Transportation Department and Public Service Commission both are advocating penalties to those of us who try to be better stewards.

But CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas that is causing climate change; there are other “co-conspirators” in global warming which we as individuals may be able to help reduce. Many are short-lived in the atmosphere, and so will give a quick response.

Methane is 40 times as effective a greenhouse gas than CO2 and comes from a variety of human activity sources. Fracking which has greatly increased the drilling for both oil and natural gas releases (or spills) methane into the atmosphere. Reducing our thirst for fossil fuels will reduce the amount of fracing and the release of greenhouse gases in at least two ways. Other major sources include cows, truly great producers of methane from both ends. Our taste for beef drives this industry. Wastewater treatment plants produce a lot of methane and I have advocated with the Director to capture this byproduct for co-generation which could produce enough electricity and heat to run the plant without further fossil fuel use. Methane from landfills is being used to generate electricity and heat by the power company and local industry.

“Black carbon” is essentially soot from poorly tuned engines (mostly diesel trucks and buses but some cars, too) but also arises from wood burning stoves, bonfires, fireplaces and such. These amenities are things we can control and reduce. Unfortunately, the role of black carbon is not generally agreed upon and its reduction may in some cases hinder rather than help.

Hydrofluorocarbons, frequently and not always accurately referred to by the trademark Freon™, are capable of absorbing as much as 100 times the heat energy as carbon dioxide per molecule. Fortunately, so far there is not a large amount in the atmosphere. Since HFCs are used in a number of household appliances, we can be good stewards by making sure that we have no leaks in this equipment, having them fixed quickly by a competent professional, and disposing of old or defective equipment properly. HFCs are probably the coolant in your refrigerator, freezer, air conditioner and dehumidifier – some households have more than one of some of these. Do you have more than you need? Do you want to dispose of one or more? First of all, they DO NOT GO OUT IN THE TRASH. Anything containing HFCs should be properly drained by a professional who will collect and either reuse or properly dispose of the HFC. There are companies in the Racine area that will do this service, usually for a small fee, but postal regulations prevent me from including their names in this newsletter. If you are replacing a device which uses HFCs, the dealer will often take the old one off your hands and dispose of it properly. As in everything, look to the environmental consequence before you act. Everything we do can make a difference.