Tag Archives: Regions/Synods

Make Memorials to Churchwide Assembly ASAP

Our list of synod/church-wide resolutions re: eco-justice are still listed on our “archived” site here.  For the upcoming Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee this August the initiative with the most ground support thus far is detailed below, but if your synod has other ideas please let us know so we can share your goals.

*** UPDATE as of June 4, 2019****

Colleagues, I write to inform you that this past Thursday evening the Upstate New York Synod approved the memorial requesting that the Churchwide Assembly endorse The Earth Charter by a vote of 192-13.  No one spoke in opposition.   So as of now we have four synods that are sending this memorial to Churchwide–New England, Southeast Pennsylvania, Gulf, and Upstate New York.  I think there may be one other synod considering this.

Congratulations on your good work!
Peace,
W. Merle Longwood, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies
Siena College
********************************************

Thanks to a passionate group of Lutherans from across the country there is momentum to request that our ELCA Churchwide Assembly agrees to be an institutional endorser of the Earth Charter.  See note below and follow links to discover how you can bring this to your next Synod Assembly!

From: Merle Longwood

Here is the final version of the resolution submitted to the Reference and Counsel Committee of the Upstate New York Synod, along with the cover letter that I sent accompanying that. It has some editorial corrections that I think may be helpful if others of you are still working on getting something to your own Reference and Counsel Committees.

Let’s hope it really becomes possible for this to come to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly for its endorsement.

To Download a PDF copy Click here: EarthCharterMemorial2019

For a Word document to be sent to you for editing to customize for your synod please write or call Phoebe ASAP at info at lutheransrestoringcreation dot org or call 617-599-2722

The New England Synod also submitted a Memorial to sign the Earth Charter. The HOW – TO submit a Memorial is outlined in this document from Sec. Chris Boerger: Memorial Resolutions Memorandum 2018

Central States Synod Gather Again & Again!

From idea to team to movement: Central States Green Team

Central States Synod voted to become a Lutherans Restoring Creation synod in June 2015 and empowered their LRC Mission Table to begin working on ways to help congregations care for creation through worship, education, buildings and grounds, discipleship and stewardship, and education. February 2016 they hosted a retreat at Camp Tomah Shinga in Junction City, KS for over 20 people excited to help churches in their communities integrate eco-justice in their ministries. Then they organized a follow up event that summer to share what they had learned with fellow ELCA members in other areas of their synod. This Green Team Mission Table just keeps hosting workshops at their assemblies and gatherings all over!

In February of 2018 the group “retreated” again to Tomah Shinga!

Twenty-eight passionate youth and adults from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota gathered at Camp Tomah Shinga (outside Junction City, Kansas) on Saturday, February 17, 2018 to learn more about how to empower their congregations to “green” their worship, education, buildings and grounds, discipleship in daily life, and public life/advocacy efforts. The workshop was presented by members of the Central States Synod LRC Mission Table in partnership with Camp Tomah Shinga. Participants represented Central States Synod congregations from St. Louis, Florissant, Prairie Village, Olathe, Topeka, Waterville, Salina, Manhattan, Lindsborg, and Wichita in the Central States Synod, along with congregations in Lincoln,

Nebraska, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

 

 

 

Hear from two young attendees about their response to being a part of this group.

Upcoming this spring the Central States Synod offer more learning opportunities: Register for their next gathering here!

 

 

 

Eco-Resources for Your Synod Gatherings

What can YOU do to get congregations in your area thinking about Caring for Creation as part of church?

1. Host a Presentation or Workshop:
  • No need to start from scratch – we have many templates that you can use as is or add to. Also plenty of resources are available that connect with a broad range of themes depending on the synod’s theme.  Contact us to have materials sent/attached to you directly: info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org
  • If your gathering is looking for special guests – check our list of speakers and see what other “Green Shepherds” may be in your area. 

2. Care for Creation Worship:
3. Propose resolutions:
4. Host a display table with information:
  • Print out a few sample materials and be sure to have people sign up for more information (you can use this form [Sign-IN-at-Events-sheet.pd]  scan/email it back to us and then we’ll send back a list of everyone in your synod who has interest in this ministry!) Set up a computer(if wi-fi is available) and share some video educational tools.
  • Stories. Showcase examples of what is happening in the congregations of your synod and ask for more stories – from gardening together, to washing dishes rather than throwing them away. Celebrate what everyone has to offer!
5. Use Environmental “best practices” at your synod assembly

California Lutherans Restoring Creation Connect (2016)

In October 2016 representatives from every synod in California came together for a retreat and rejuvenation at Luther Glen Camp in Oak Glen, CA and wrapped up their workshop with a visit to the Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino to discuss the connections between food, water and jobs with creation care work in CA. Since then, their synod green teams have met and shared their experiences, a congregation became certified with GreenFaith, and they have a vibrant Facebook community (be sure to follow if you are on the West Coast!).

 

 

Southeastern Synod’s Green Task Force

The Southeastern Synod decided to enlist a caring for creation “task force” at their 2013 Synod Assembly and since then a small band of powerful people across several states have gained momentum. After meeting as a small group several times to set goals and evaluate personal assets, the team embarked on a two day retreat in March 2014 to brainstorm and educate themselves on the tools and challenges of this ministry.

In 2016 their assembly passed a memorial to go to the Churchwide assembly asking for more investments in cleaner energy.  Reaching out and sharing their resources at the South Carolina Synod Assembly, this team is passionate about sharing significance of the vocation of being a good steward to their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Most recently the team sent fifteen members in February 2018 to LutherRanch in Tallapoosa Georgia as a part of a regional retreat and training session. Since then churches in the synod have signed congregational covenants, stepped up their involvement in the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio and created new green teams.

Contact Mary McCoy, member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marietta GA and chair of the Task Force,  or find someone on the Creation Care Ministries map who is closer to where you are!

 

 

 

Upper Susquehanna (PA) Synod Assembly passes three eco-related Memorials/Resolutions (2015)

At the Upper Susquehanna (PA) Synod June 2015 Assembly three eco-related Memorials/Resolutions were passed. The following is a summary of the voting experience from Pr. Leah Schade. Email Phoebe Morad if you would like to contact her personally for more insight.

Colleagues: The Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly (PA) just voted in favor of the Eco-Reformation Memorial. It appeared that the vote was about 60%-40%. The Assembly also voted in favor of a related Eco-Reformation Resolution. It appeared that the vote was about 80%-20%. The one pastor speaking against the motions stated that they appeared to be “hijacking” the 500 th Anniversary of the Reformation. I spoke in favor of the motions and explained that they were integral to Luther’s thought, Lutheran theology, and in keeping with the ELCA’s previous social statements.

The Assembly also voted in favor of the Memorial for Transition to Clean, Renewable Energy. This vote was close: 79 in favor, 67 against. Those speaking against the memorial said that the motion “went too far,” making demands on those who would not want to divest. “You’re trying to shove this down our throats,” said one pastor. Four people spoke in favor of the memorial (myself included) highlighting that it is a prudent fiduciary measure to divest from fossil fuels, that we need to keep the carbon in the ground in order to avoid further climate disruption, and that the memorial is in keeping with Jesus’ command to care for the “least of these.” I presented a workshop about the motions prior to their coming to the floor (powerpoint available here).

 

 

LRC Seeks Partnerships with Synods of the ELCA

Lutherans Restoring Creation (“LRC”) is a church-wide program involving many partners: congregations, synods, seminaries, outdoor ministries, colleges, and church-wide offices.

LRC is working to establish partnerships with ELCA synods in bringing care for creation into the life of the church. Might your synod be interested?

A partnership between LRC and a synod is a mutual relationship of action and learning. Here are the things LRC may be able to contribute to the life of a synod:

  • Provide an overall structure and program of resources for greening the synod—worship, education, property, personal discipleship, and commitment to public ministry.
  • Offer training workshops in care for creation goals and strategies (for synodical and congregational leaders) and make available programmatic resources to bring care for creation into the life and mission of congregations and institutions in the synod.
  • Provide a network of relationships between and among synods to share ideas and resources through an interactive website and a facebook-type communication site.
  • Recommend video and book resources and to provide access to a speakers bureau.
  • Offer a process and program of registration that would suggest some goals toward which to work and that would provide support over time to bring care for creation into the full identity and mission of the synod.
  • Respond positively to requests for new resources, training, and consultation.

Here are some things ELCA synods can contribute to the partnership:

  • Provide continuing education events for professional leadership in your synod. This may take the form of conferences, lectures, workshops, and retreats.
  • Participate actively in LRC training events by sending representatives for training and agree to hold an eco-faith event in your synod.
  • Bring resources and training in creation-care and environmental-justice ministry to congregations within your synod. This can take a variety of forms: courses, forums, workshops, public lectures.
  • Encourage cooperative creation-care efforts in synodical clusters and local communities—Lutheran, ecumenical, and interfaith.
  • Model creation-care at the synod offices and in synodical events. Promote creation-care among the committees and task forces of the synod.
  • Share the actions, events, projects, and resources in your synod with other synods in the LRC network. Consult the reports of other synods as a way to enhance your ministry.

We invite you to develop some innovative ways to participate in LRC and creative ways to promote it among all segments of the ELCA. Encourage pastors and congregations to adopt Lutherans Restoring Creation. As opportunities arise, promote Lutherans Restoring Creation in the wider church.

29 Lutherans in PA were empowered with creation justice tools! (2013)

Many voices come together to make big reverberations!

Twenty-nine Lutherans from across Pennsylvania and beyond gathered at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, PA, the last weekend in January, 2013 to become LRC trainers.  They were empowered to return to their synods and congregations with the tools, connections and renewed faith to restore creation.

The workshop utilized the action steps outlined in a collaborative LRC Self-Organizing Kit for congregations wishing to integrate Earth care in all their ministries. Many specific teachings which resonate with Lutheran theology are thoughtfully considered in this document by theologian Rev. David Rhoads. The diversity of backgrounds in the interactive workshop brought richness to discussions both during and after official “class” time. Ages ranged from college students to retired laity. Professional backgrounds included teaching, civil engineering, outdoor ministry, laboratory technicians, and of course, clergy from urban to rural communities.

The workshop was fortunate to have several representatives from the “larger” church’s efforts in advocacy including: Rev. Leah Schade, founder of the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition of the Susquehanna Valley (ISEC), Alycia Ashburn, Director of Creation Care Campaign at SojournersRev. Amy E. Reumann and Rev. Paul Lubold from Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa), and Director of the ELCA’s Washington Office, Rev. Andrew Genszler.

The training facilitator, Phoebe Morad, commented: “While many of us feel at times we are just one small voice, this gathering reminds us that we are not alone and that we are called by and supported with our Lutheran faith to carry out this work.”

As a result of this workshop every synod in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware is now equipped with a team of LRC trainers who are available and eager to share the techniques and insight necessary to integrate care for creation in every aspect of our Christian lives. Each LRC trainer left the workshop with a plan to reach out to interested congregations in their synod and will eventually hold a networking event for the region to continue the ripple effect of this awareness.

Congregations or individuals who are eager to have this training in their congregation or synod, please reach out to Lutherans Restoring Creation!

Tales from a Green Shepherd, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg (2013)

Participants under the Witness Tree on the Gettysburg battlefield, site of worship at the LRC Retreat.

The second week in August, 2013, about a dozen and a half Lutherans converged on Singmaster House at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg for a two-day seminar on caring for God’s creation. The training was led by Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) through a grant from the Lutheran Community Foundation (now InFaith Community Foundation).

Participants at the LRC Retreat at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg

We shared hopes and dreams – we talked about worship, education, advocacy, buildings, and grounds – we developed plans, as individuals and within our synods – good Lutherans that we all are, we talked and ate – and we worshiped together: an evening Taizé service in a living room with a slightly out-of-tune piano and candles on a coffee table and an afternoon service under a white oak “witness tree” (one that witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg) that also witnessed the sharing of our visions of creation. We left, hopefully, as seeds, to be planted and to grow.

So, why do Lutherans care for creation? Some excerpts and summaries from LRC information:

  • We affirm God as creator of all and cherish the continuing presence of God in, with, and under all reality.
  • The theology of the cross gives us solidarity with “creation groaning in travail;” our affirmation of resurrection offers hope for new life in this world.
  • We see the material as a vehicle of the divine, seeing Christ present in such ordinary elements as grapes and grain. We worship God with creation.
  • We believe that the church exists for the sake of the world, continually reforming in response to the needs and crises of this life.
  • We have an ethic of action created by faith in love for our neighbor and all of God’s creation.
  • With a heritage back to the Reformation, Lutherans have a history of social ministry to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, of being a voice for the voiceless. This includes those people hurt by environmental exploitation and degradation as well as the damaged creation.

So, how do you care for creation? How should we care for creation? What seeds do you want to plant, and have planted within you?

Louisa Rettew, P.E., LEED-AP+BD&C

 

 

Youth Volunteers Improve Energy Efficiency at Koinonia (2016)

By Maggie Hutchison
Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

How many young people does it take to screw in a light bulb? What sounds like the start to an overused joke was in fact a serious question last weekend when high school youth recruited by our synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee volunteered to help improve energy efficiency at Koinonia. Led by Pastor John Flack of Christ, Floral Park, and Brandon Chenevert, staff member at Koinonia, the team of ten youth spent two days making simple improvements to the camp’s facilities that will save both energy and money in the long term.

The weekend started off with a team-building session filled with games and activities intended to build community and encourage communication among group members from four different congregations. Chenevert, who previously worked for a Minnesota non-profit that improves energy efficiency in private residences, made a presentation on climate change and energy conservation in order to raise the group’s awareness and contextualize the importance of the work they were about to accomplish. The group spent the rest of the weekend working on two main projects: replacing all of the incandescent lightbulbs in the Koinonia dining hall with energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and caulking around windows in three other buildings on site to reduce air flow and heat loss. 

Youth participants and leaders alike were enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn more about energy conservation and to make a difference at Koinonia. Olivia Souza of St. Andrew’s, Smithtown, was excited to improve Koinonia’s energy efficiency because she believes that “humans need to leave different marks on the world that aren’t harmful in order to heal the scars we’ve made so far.” Pr. Flack, a member of the Environmental Stewardship Committee, was pleased that the youth learned so much about conservation because he believes that the greatest challenge facing the church–and the world–is thoughtful environmental stewardship. Jack Shipsky and Paul Ulmer of Christ, Floral Park, were proud that they helped accomplish so much in just one short weekend to help save Koinonia both energy and money.

While most of the youth had never replaced lightbulbs or caulked before, they were impressed by how simple it was to make improvements that can have a big impact in both commercial and residential settings. Olivia commented that caulking “had a bit of a learning curve” but that she hopes to use the skill when she returns home to help make sure her parents’ house is better sealed. Paul said that the projects were easier than he thought they were going to be but took some time and planning to implement. Jack noted that “it was fun, not boring to make the improvements.”

At final tally, replacing the lightbulbs in Koinonia’s dining hall saved a whopping 5640 watts. Though it is harder to calculate the energy-saving impact of caulking around windows, Chenevert emphasized,”it’s a critical part of energy conservation because it saves so many therms…I can’t recommend it enough.” Thanks to the work of youth volunteers from the Environmental Stewardship Commitee, Koinonia will be appreciating the benefits of improved energy efficiency for years to come.

Reprinted by permission of the Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

See the original story and learn more about the Synod’s environmental stewardship work.

 

 

Metro NY Synod Resolution on Energy Stewardship (2010)

A Resolution on Energy Stewardship – Metro NY Synod

Whereas, we in the industrialized world are consuming energy and Earth’s resources in a way that is both unsustainable in the future and unfair to those in the developing world; and there are disturbing scientific reports of environmental degradation, global climate change, a record rate of species extinction, and a depletion of non-renewable resources that should give us pause; and

Whereas, human activity, especially the over-consumption of energy and resources, appears to be a critical driver in these changes in climate and environmental distress, both causing harm to God’s creation and exacerbating already difficult situations for millions living with poverty and hunger, as weather extremes such as flood and drought increase; and

Whereas, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, recognizing the gravity of these threats, has long been committed to addressing environmental issues as part of our call to justice, sustainability, and solidarity with affected communities and, along with our partners in the Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Relief, committed to working to alleviate hunger, poverty, and unsustainable living conditions globally; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the congregations, administrative offices, and outdoor ministry facilities of this synod be encouraged to offer a public witness of energy stewardship by: (1) Measuring the greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., “carbon footprint”) of the facilities they own, to establish a baseline starting point; and (2) With the guidance of the synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee [see Addendum to this resolution], conduct an energy audit to determine what options there are for reducing energy use; and (3) Make a commitment to decrease their carbon footprint by a certain percentage over a specified period of time through energy conservation, efficiency, or clean energy measures; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the congregations, administrative offices, and outdoor ministry facilities of this synod be invited to share this information with the Environmental Stewardship Committee, synod office and, where applicable, on ELCA congregational reporting forms, and subsequently also share what energy-saving steps were taken, and what measurable energy savings have been realized, as evidenced in a lower carbon footprint measurement; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this synod memorialize the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at its 2011 Churchwide Assembly to challenge all expressions of the ELCA to reduce their energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent per year with the ultimate goal of reducing these emissions 25-40 percent by 2020, and to share this commitment and steps taken to achieve it in a public way in official publications and communication channels of this church.

—Submitted by the Environmental Stewardship Committee of the Metro New York Synod

Committee Recommendation: Reference and Counsel recommends adoption of this Resolution.

Approved unanimously May 14, 2010

New England Synod Takes the Challenge (2013)

At the New England 2013 Assembly, June 7-9, voters agreed to urge the restraint of hydraulic fracturing and request an eventual divestment of church funds from fossil fuel companies. LRC Synod Trainer, Nancy Urban, was also there to challenge everyone passing by to see how “cool” their congregation was with a game giving points to those who have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Beyond winning a delicious piece of Fair Trade chocolate as an reward for playing the game, we learned as a community that we are ready to take on the most meaningful challenges of caring for creation. While progress was made on paper and good conversation, it must be seen how the actions of our members and congregations enact the good intentions of these statements.  See full versions of what was voted on here and here.

Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly Lutherans Call for Repeal of “Fracking Loopholes” (2014)

On the recommendation of a bipartisan task group, the Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted on June 20, 2014, to call for all environmental and public health exemptions on shale gas and oil drilling and its related processes, known as the “Halliburton loopholes,” to be repealed and all processes related to shale gas and oil extraction and processing to be subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), the Clean Air Act (1990) and Clean Water Act (1972). Download the press release here.

Caring for Creation: An Environmental Workshop for People of Faith (Erie, PA Synod Workshop 2014)

Lutherans Restoring Creation of the Northwest Pennsylvania Synod held a workshop (Caring for Creation: An Environmental Workshop for People of Faith) on September 13, 2014 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Erie, Pennsylvania. The workshop was advertised for all people of faith.

The workshop was planned and organized by three people (Janet Bischoff, Dennis Groce, and Rev. Kenneth Laber) who had received LRC training in the previous couple of years at Gettysburg Seminary. Since that training, we have had several events at an ELCA camp (Lutherlyn) and two synod assemblies. Attendance at the camp events was limited (perhaps due to travel time / expense), but the attendance at the three 50-minute synod assembly forum events was promising.

Based on the experiences at the synod assembly workshops, we decided to develop an event based in Erie, which has the largest concentration of ELCA members in our synod. The workshop was 3 ½ hours in duration, which we felt was enough to provide an introduction to the topics, but not so long that people would be reluctant to attend. We adapted a sample agenda in the LRC materials.

The response was fairly good. In addition to the three organizers and two invited speakers, we had twenty-two attendees, including twelve from seven ELCA congregations (7 ordained and five lay). The other denominations attending were Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Unitarian. We received organizing support from congregations in each of the three Erie County clusters.

The two invited presentations were great, and the three organizers each led one or more portions of the other presentations. Rev. Amy Reumann (Lutheran Advocacy Ministries of Pennsylvania) spoke about the theology of earthcare and public advocacy. Cricket Hunter (Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light) spoke about opportunities for purchasing clean electricity and other ways of practicing earthcare in life at home and work. The discussions were also good, with some good questions and exchange of information.

One of the non-ELCA participants was an especially good source of information, with his primary message being to make an energy audit one of the first building/grounds earthcare actions. One of the participants said the workshop will lead them to emphasize “educating the congregation and to use products that don’t pollute.” We plan to follow up with the participants the weeks following the workshop, and then in a few months to see what progress they have been able to make.

In addition to the workshop described here, we have previously organized:

  • A showing of the movie, “Chasing Ice” at Lutherlyn Camp, Prospect, PA
  • A discussion and partial viewing of the ELCA “Earthbound” videos at Lutherlyn
  • Two synod assembly forum events (2013 and 2014) that provided a 50-minute overview and discussion of earthcare basics for congregations
  • One synod assembly forum (2013) with an invited speaker specifically addressing climate change and the likely impact on hunger.

For more information, please contact Dennis Groce / 814-725-9115 / d_mgroce@labs.net.

 

 

Ecological Christianity Through The Sacrament of the Altar

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.

Where is this written?

The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and St. Paul write thus:

“In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me. Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

Think! One of the last things Jesus did, before being arrested in a garden and condemned to death, was to share a meal. In various stories, one of the first things Jesus did, after rising from the dead in a garden, was to share meals. What does it mean that Jesus shares this meal with you? How do you feel about Jesus being present in something so common as a bit of bread, of God embodied in the earthly elements of our world?

Act! Visit ELCA World Hunger resources webpage for a toolkit on “Hunger and Climate Change Connections” that has activities and resources for a guided conversation on what climate change means for world hunger. Find this and other ways you can help the ELCA share food and address changing resources by searching www.ELCA.org for “hunger and climate.”

What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

The words “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

Eating and drinking certainly do not do it, but the words that are recorded: “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.” These words, when accompanied by the physical eating and drinking, are the essential thing in the sacrament, and whoever believes these very words has what they declare and state, namely, “forgiveness of sin.”

Think! In regular daily meals, God is present to sustain your life. In communion with so much of creation, with the willingness of sunshine and miracle of photosynthesis, of farmers and pollinators and yeast, by soil and in a vessel God’s salvation is again made present for you. How does their part in bringing you the sacrament bring you to care for them?

Act! The physical eating and drinking is clearly a worthwhile and necessary part of God’s blessing and work. Choose ingredients and bake bread for communion. Visit a winery. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)

Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily?

Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin,” is really worthy and well prepared. However, a person who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, because the words “for you” require truly believing hearts.

Think! In this way of looking at the Small Catechism, or in your life generally, what have been actions and behaviors that have been very important for you in saving the earth? How do you feel about the statement that individual actions are “significant but not sufficient” for the problem at hand? What more needs to be done that you cannot do alone?

Act! Always give thanks to God for this abiding grace in Christ, continuing to give to you and everything else. As Psalm 145:15-16 says, “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living creature.” With this in mind, say a prayer before each meal. Luther suggests, “Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts, which we receive from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

 

 

Ecological Christianity Through The Sacrament of Baptism

I. What is Baptism?

Baptism is not simply plain water. Instead, it is water used according to God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

What then is this word of God? Where our Lord Christ says in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Think! What a great blessing clean “simply plain water” is! God could have chosen any way to act, but makes this promise to you with amazing, abundant water. How would your view of baptism change if the water were polluted and dirty or if there were no water available? How does God’s word with the water remind you of God’s work in the world?

Act! Touch the water in your baptismal font. Make the sign of the cross on yourself and others. If there is no water in the font, ask your pastor if you can add some. And then touch and enjoy its cleanness—God works in things like this!

II. What gifts or benefits does baptism grant?

It brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it, as the words and promises of God declare.

What are these words and promises of God? Where our Lord Christ says in Mark 16: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”

Think! Christians have unfortunately been apt to think of baptism as an insurance policy in case of accidental death. Why, from an ecological perspective especially, might God want to save you for your life now for the sake of this world?

Act! Think of saints you’ve known and celebrate what others have accomplished in their lives. Visit a cemetery or memorial garden and note how it continues to be a place of life. Use it as an occasion to remember that our actions today affect generations yet to come.

III. How can water do such great things?

Clearly the water does not do it, but the word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit,” as St. Paul says to Titus in chapter 3, “through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”

Think! Because we know of this special bath, we can also see God’s grace working through the “plain waters.” What are some of the “great things” plain water does in our world?

Act! We often overlook the value of water. Water Footprints, like the more common Carbon Footprints, are a new way to be attentive to our use and impact on water supplies. Give it a try at http://www.waterfootprint.org/ Visit http://www.elca.org/hunger/water for church resources.

IV. What then is the significance of such a baptism with water?

It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written? St. Paul says in Romans 6, “We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we to might walk in newness of life.”

Think! Again, not waiting for afterlife, here is a daily hope that you may live rightly in God’s world. What are five things you can do for the world today because you have the benefit and grace of life?

Act! Obviously God’s Word is strongest, but notice how this cleansing and purifying of baptism is done with water. Take this opportunity to see what harmful cleaning chemicals you could replace with something better.

 

Ecological Christianity Through The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven.

What is this? With these words God wants to attract us, so that we come to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children, in order that we may ask him boldly and with complete confidence, as loving children ask their loving father.

Think! Calling God a Father “in heaven” was to clarify we weren’t talking to a birth parent. It is not trying to say God is “in some heaven light years away.” How is God even more nurturing and trustworthy like a loving parent if God is “Here in this Place” (ELW Hymn #532), still walking amid the garden (Genesis 3:8)?

Act! Since our minds are on the heavens with this prayer, don’t let it get too ethereal! Go outside and notice the clouds or the stars. Feel the sunlight. Watch the phase of the moon. Pause in this prayer to look up from life’s busy paths.

Hallowed be your name.

What is this? It is true that God’s name is holy in itself, but we ask in this prayer that it may also become holy in and among us.

How does this come about? Whenever the word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as God’s children, also live holy lives according to it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven! However, whoever teaches and lives otherwise than the Word of God teaches, dishonors the name of God among us. Preserve us from this, heavenly Father!

Think! Asking that God make us holy, we often think about it as more pious, more focused on the supernatural. How do you think God would define holy living amid creation? (You might see the prophets for help—Isaiah 5:8, 11:6-9, 24:3-6; Hosea 2:18-19, 4:3; Amos 5:8-12; Micah 4:4, 6:8)

Act! Adopt a new way of holy living by finding at least one new way to be mindful about conserving resources: Shut off lights. Recycle. Use less water. Pay attention to your actions as a spiritual discipline.

Your kingdom come.

What is this? In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.

How does this come about? Whenever our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that through the Holy Spirit’s grace we believe God’s holy word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.

Think! Notice again that the kingdom is not equated to heaven, but comes in how we live here and now. Read Mark 4:30-32, where Jesus compares God’s kingdom to a mustard shrub in which we all rest. Where do you experience the nesting comfort of God’s promise?

Act! Since the parable talks of birds and plants, find and identify one around you. Know this amazing diversity of who your nest-mates are.

Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

What is this? In fact, God’s good and gracious will come about without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come about in and among us.

How does this come about? Whenever God breaks and hinders every evil scheme and will—as are present in the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh—that would not allow us to hallow God’s name and would prevent the coming of his kingdom, and instead whenever God strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his word and in faith until the end of our lives. This is God’s good and gracious will.

Think! The prayer continues reinforcing that this is a matter for this life—for this earth! If flowers bloom to the glory of God, gurgling rapids sing God’s praises, and even rocks do what they’re supposed to do, how can you listen for God’s will for you to love all your creaturely neighbors on earth?

Act! Luther says God breaks us from the world, here not meaning the natural world but the things that get in the way of focusing on what God wants. Make a list of at least 5 ways your actions or lifestyle get in the way of God’s good for the natural world. Then list at least 5 things of this world you’d like to pay better attention to. Finally, list at least 5 things to change for the culture of your church, community, or country.

Give us this day our daily bread.

What is this? In fact, God gives daily bread without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving.

What then does “daily bread” mean? Everything included in the necessity and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Think! Luther here already admits the ecological expanse of our daily sustenance. Where did your last meal come from and what did it take to produce it? How much can you trace about the full origins of your food?

Act! Go one day per week without eating meat. If all Americans did it, it would be the same as taking one of every eight (8 million) cars off the road! Help spread what our resources can sustain.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

What is this? We ask in this prayer that our heavenly Father would not regard our sins nor deny these petitions on their account, for we are worthy of nothing for which we ask, nor have we earned it. Instead we ask that God would give us all things by grace, for we daily sin much and indeed deserve only punishment. So, on the other hand, we, too, truly want to forgive heartily and to do good gladly to those who sin against us.

Think! How do we balance pardoning and holding accountable environmental sins? Will seals forgive us our oil spills? Will ancient redwoods and Amazon rainforests forgive air pollution and deforestation? Will stream life and coral reefs forgive us for mountain top removal and burning coal? Will people of island nations forgive us for the flooding of their homes?

Act! As atonement for our corporate sins, plant a tree, ride a bike or find another way to atone for and mitigate the destruction humans cause. And know that God is eagerly helping you!

Save us from the time of trial. (Lead us not into temptation.)

What is this? It is true that God tempts no one, but we ask in this prayer that God would preserve and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, and that, although we may be attacked by them, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.

Think! An average child watches 20,000 commercials on TV each year. This corporate consumer myth of brand identity and purchasing ease and inexpensive happiness is much of what got us into our current ecological crisis. How can you help a child to enjoy life in a natural state?

Act! Don’t forget to get outside yourself! Shut off the TV or computer at some point this week and go for a walk, or sit and enjoy.

And deliver us from evil. (For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.)

What is this? We ask in this prayer, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven may deliver us from all kinds of evil—affecting body or soul, property or reputation—and at last, when our final hour comes, may grant us a blessed end and take us by grace from this valley of tears to himself in heaven.

Think! In Luther’s summary, this perhaps also points to the close of the prayer—and the start—that we are in God’s care forever and ever. Even in this time of trial where we may fear irreversible harm, God is with us. “Yes, it is going to come about just like this!” How does God’s ongoing work for good in this world empower you and give you hope?

Act! Pray for God’s work to save the whole earth. And pray that you also will love what God loves and save what God saves. Yes it shall be so!

 

 

Ecological Christianity Through The Creed

The 1st Article, on Creation

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

What is this? I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property—along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Think! In the Creed, Luther frames his thoughts as “me” so that I can know how good God is in my life. We can easily also hear that promise for all of creation. Read Job 38-41, where God the Father speaks of delighting in all of God’s children—including those of no use to humans or even seen by humans as dangerous. What are ways God the Father might be working to “preserve” and “protect” other creatures in this world?

Act! Listen as rivers clap their hands (Psalm 98:8) and trees sing for joy (1 Chronicles 16:33) at God’s goodness and steadfast love! Sing with St. Francis in his Canticle of the Sun (ELW Hymn #835, LBW #527), joining with all our sisters and brothers in praise of God.

The 2nd Article, on Redemption

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father; and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

What is this? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also a true human, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.

Think! Read Romans 8:18-23. What are ways around us where you think the whole creation has been groaning until now because of our sin, waiting for us to live righteously?

Act! Next time in worship at Confession and Forgiveness, confess your complicity in humanity’s greatest sin of catastrophic planet-wide destruction. Then hear the word of forgiveness in Jesus’ name as your vocational call to go and live rightly amid creation, serving Christ by loving others.

The 3rd Article, on Sanctification

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

What is this? I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

Think! Read Genesis 1:1-5. The Spirit that moved over the waters is the Spirit who breathes new life into you, making you a new creation. What can you celebrate as resurrection moments in your life and in this world? When has the Spirit enlivened you, inspired you or those around you to live in new ways amid creation?

Act! Watch the wind blow waves across a lake or find some water to blow on with your own breath. This is the source of life, and God says it is good!

 

 

Ecological Christianity Through The Ten Commandments

The 1st Commandment: You shall have no other gods.

What is this? We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.

Think! Read Matthew 5:45. Jesus makes a promise of sun and rain, that this is always around us—good or bad, human or not. How does this promise of needs of life help you love and trust God? What leads you away from the promise, leading you to place trust in other things?

Act! Give thanks for 100 things you encounter in creation today as a way to remember that God is source of everything, working forever to bless us all with what we need to live.

The 2nd Commandment: You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use that very name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.

Think! 2 billion people (1/3 of the planet) are Christian. What a huge difference our prayers could make in this place! Still, we often think “heaven is my home,” as if we don’t have a part of this world. How does that view take God’s name in vain for this life?

Act! Say a prayer, calling on God presence to be with you today. Ask this same thing for five kinds of other creatures around you.

The 3rd Commandment: Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s Word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.

Think! Read Leviticus 25:1-12. Not only humans need sabbath. Why does God want soils also to rest and “all inhabitants” of a place to have the chance to return?

Act! Learn about or visit a place that has been used and had a chance to rest – a vacant lot, a Superfund site (http://www.epa.gov/superfund) or Conservation Reserve Program farmland (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CRP/)

The 4th Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.

Think! It doesn’t just take two parents, or even a village. Our lives are birthed and nurtured by this whole world. How would we treat Earth differently if we really honored her as our Mother?

Act! Water a plant, bow to the soil, or delight in a weather forecast today. Serve, love, and respect the planet!

The 5th Commandment: You shall not murder.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all life’s needs.

Think! Climate change is already causing what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction, greater than what killed the dinosaurs. Why might our destruction of biodiversity—of God’s great variety of creatures, from polar bears and coral reefs to dwarf crocodiles and others we haven’t even discovered—why might that be of concern?

Act! The impacts of burning fossil fuels are also hurting our poorest human neighbors worst. Go to http://www.lwr.org and search “climate” for stories of how Lutheran World Relief is working to help communities around the world mitigate and adapt amid changing weather patterns.

The 6th Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we lead pure and decent lives in words and deed, and each of us loves and honors his or her spouse.

Think! From the last commandment about not harming a creature, this extends to not harming its closest relationships. We could think of it as a ripple effect through the ecosystem. Many orchids, for example, evolved to be pollinated by a single species of insect or bird. How might our world be different without bees to enable plants to reproduce?

Act! Author Michael Pollan says humans have historically eaten 80,000 species but today products of four (corn, soybeans, wheat, rice) amount to 2/3 of our calories. Spread the love—and the genes! Buy food or plant a garden with something you wouldn’t normally—especially an heirloom variety.

The 7th Commandment: You shall not steal.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.

Think! If all 7.3 billion people of the planet consumed like Americans, we would need the resources of more than four planets to sustain us. Using or abusing in this way, how are we stealing the planet’s resources—and from whom?

Act! Do an online search for “environmental refugees” and learn about how climate change will cause millions of people to be without food, water, or homes.

The 8th Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

Think! In a harsh climate, it can be hard to speak kindly, with self-righteous tree-huggers versus global warming deniers. What way today can you gently but firmly encourage care for creation?

Act! Become a defender of wildlife and an advocate for justice. Lobby your government officials to speak out against threats and speak up on behalf of creation, from children to polar bears to clean air. Or contact the media and ask that climate change be presented not with skeptics’ perspectives but according to the overwhelming scientific consensus.

The 9th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors our of their inheritance or property or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it and the like, but instead be of help and be of service to them in keeping what is theirs.

Think! This one we could take pretty directly. According to the US Census, the average house was 1660 square feet in 1973 and 2519 square feet in 2008, more than 50% bigger. Why have we become accustomed to feeling we need so much and aren’t satisfied without more?

Act! Find ways to make your home simpler and less cluttered. Give something you don’t need to a secondhand store or put it on Craig’s List. Make your home better with an energy audit or Energy Star appliances and Water Sense products when needed.

The 10th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not entice, force, or steal away from our neighbors their spouses, household workers, or livestock, but instead urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to our neighbors.

Think! Let’s think of habitats others need to survive: For most of 4 billion years, other creatures didn’t need to compete with us wanting what they’ve got. Now, whether urban sprawl or using resources, we are changing habitats in our world. Agricultural land is drifting toward higher latitudes because of warming. Desertification affects over 2 billion people. A swath of plastics twice the side of Texas floats in the North Pacific Gyre. What is the problem with treating this whole planet as if it is here only for us?

Act! Fight deforestation by using shade-grown coffees (and eco-palms!). Look for the Forest Stewardship Council label for sustainably harvested papers (www.fscus.org/). Plant trees from the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org/).

What then does God say about all these commandments?

God says the following: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those that reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

What is this? God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore we are to fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments. However, God promises grace and every good thing to all those who keep these commandments. Therefore we are also to love and trust him and gladly act according to his command.

Think! Even if we stopped adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and oceans immediately, today’s CO2 would still be affecting the climate for a hundred years. How does it feel that God would leave us to suffer at least that long, and perhaps irreparably, the devastating consequences of our actions?

Act! Find a way to talk to somebody about how relevant (or how unimportant) you feel your behavior amid creation is for your faith.