Tag Archives: worship

Lenten Resource: Carbon Fast Calendar

This year, the Central  States Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Mission Table encourages you to skip the fasting from chocolate or soda, and instead, give up one thing every day that contributes to unnecessary waste and pollution in our environment. Thanks to the creativity of Pastor Christyn Koschmann*, we have a “Carbon Fast Calendar,” with ideas for each day of Lent.

Download the Calendar (click here) and reproduce to share within your congregations and/or synod!

In addition, creative posts for social media are available on the shared Google Drive (below) to help keep members of your congregation engaged each day:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BSTpY5qTz6xsb3Ncj0G9nwG-8fCkDszo

As we recall Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert, may this “Carbon Fast” not only strengthen our faith, but also prove that taking little steps toward environmental stewardship can have a big impact. You can get started now by calculating your carbon footprint at https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx and then calculate your energy savings throughout the season of Lent. Share your results with other members of your congregation (and share on a report to Lutherans Restoring Creation!) to see how, together as a community of faith and action, we are caring for God’s Creation in measurable ways.

*

Thanks to Christyn for all her creative and spiritual talents – the Central States Synod office is lucky to have her and we appreciate them sharing her talents with other Lutherans Restoring Creation across the country!

Take the LRC Reformation Day Preaching Challenge

Preach the Good News for all Creation on Reformation Sunday
“When anyone is in Christ, creation is new. The old has passed away. Behold! Everything is new!” II Corinthians 5:17

Why an eco-reformation?

There are voices across the ELCA calling for a reformation of the church to encompass care for all of God’s good creation.

We have spent centuries rightly nurturing our relationship with God (Love God) and one another (Love your neighbor). However, we have neglected God’s relationship with creation, our relationship with the rest of creation, and God’s relationship with us through the rest of creation (love creation). Now it is time to turn to this task with our full resources.

God’s Earth is in great trouble—pollution of air, land, and waters, ozone depletion, loss of forests and loss of farmable land to desert, proliferation of waste, global climate change, and much more. These changes are wreaking unjust havoc upon Earth, especially the poorest and most vulnerable humans, and on innumerable other creatures and plants of the entire natural world.

The overwhelming majority of scientists believe that these conditions are due in large part to the accumulative impact of human activity since the industrial revolution. To stop the destructive activity and to embrace practices that restore Earth, we will need sweeping changes in our society and our world.

Let’s begin with ourselves as a church. This will involve more than modest reforms such as adding a few hymns or using green cleaning products. This issue is not an add-on or simply a cause for those so interested. It involves all of us together. We need a transformation in our life and mission as a church, individually and together. We need to reform our worship, our theology, our ethics, our practices, and our spiritual disciplines.

As a church, we have always chosen to focus on care for the most vulnerable. We have rightly chosen as a church to emphasize feeding the hungry. Can we now broaden our commitment to the most vulnerable so as to care also for vulnerable earth and to address the connection between hunger and our ailing planet.

Our church needs a New Reformation as radical and transformative as the first one in the sixteenth century. We need to address the signal issue of our time (the restoration of Earth), as the sixteenth century reformation addressed their signal issue of that time (the salvation of the individual). We need to shift from being human-centered in our understanding of salvation to being Earth-centered in a way that seeks the well-being of all Earth Community.

We are approaching the observance of the five hundredth anniversary of the Sixteenth Century Reformation in 2017. As preparation for this event, Lutherans Restoring Creation urges us to consider embracing a New Reformation, an Eco-Reformation, as our means to rise to the greatest challenge of our time.

The Preaching Challenge: LRC invites you to take the occasion of Reformation Sunday to preach to your congregation the good news of God for all creation and to challenge your parish to respond to the love of God for creation and the grace of God in all creation so as to commit ourselves “to the care and redemption of all that God has made.”

We invite you to look at the resources available here as well as other resources you may wish to consult as preparation for preaching on Reformation Sunday on the church’s need to address the crises of creation.
We also invite you to submit your sermon to us sometime during the week after Reformation Sunday so that we can post it for others to see.

Here are some resources for you to consult in giving thought to this invitation:

  • For the ELCA Social statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Justice, Hope” and the study guide, click here.

Johan Bergh: Luther as Environmentalist

Download, read, and share widely this brief reflection from active disciple, Dr. Johan Bergh.  In his piece, published in the Trinity Review (2013), Bergh relates the framework of grace and neighbor love with how we are to understand the role of public action in our church.  Read more recent reflections on his blog: www.greengracepostings.blogspot.com

“God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Download the six-page excerpt from Trinity Seminary Review here: Johan-Bergh-Published-Journal-Article-Luther-as-Environmentalist.pdf

Dr. Johan Bergh, ACC

Johan serves as Pastor for St. Philip Lutheran Church, Mt. Dora, FL., and is an International Coach Federation ACC Coach, ELCA Coach and Coach Mentor and ELCA Licensed Coach Trainer. He volunteers his service by coaching ELCA leaders and mentoring ELCA Coach-In-Training rostered leaders. He currently serves as Coaching Ministry Coordinator for the Florida-Bahamas  Synod and serves on the ELCA Churchwide Coaching Ministry Team as well as a level II Natural Church Development Coach. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 2006 with a concentration in Discipleship and Leadership (M.Div., Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH 1981). His Bachelor of Science, Natural Resources, Environmental Interpretation (The Ohio State University) degree provides an environmental studies background for his current work as a Green Faith Fellow (www.Greenfaith.org)

He and his wife Janet have been married 39 years and have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.  He enjoys golf, running, hiking, fitness exercise, reading, biking, spinning, and good friends!

-Life and Missional Coach: http://www.beinganddoingmatters.com

-Coaching Ministry Coordinator, Florida-Bahamas Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: http://www.fbsynod.com

Microscopic – Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise

Micro-Creation Service Bulletin – Click here – free to share! (wonderful readings, music, etc.)

Homily by Pastor Susan Henry, House of Prayer Lutheran Church – Hingham MA

Pentecost 13 B Creation  – –  August 19, 2018

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise

Because I was appalled at the prospect of dissecting a frog, I never took biology. My study of living organisms hasn’t been academic, but it has led me to love life, to stand in awe of God’s creative impulses and energy, and, lately, to feel more and more connected not just with human life, but with all of life.

I wasn’t in a biology lab, but I learned about dinosaurs, insects, and sea creatures because I was teaching four-year-olds about them. I know chicken anatomy because whole chickens are cheaper than chicken parts, so I long ago learned how to cut them up. I’ve milked goats and stirred a microbe-rich culture into that milk to make yogurt, and I’ve watched and smelled yeast at work in fragrant, rising bread dough. Most of what I know about plants comes either from gardening, being in the woods, or drawing what I see around me. Really, what I know about biology is more like having a pocketful of seeds, twigs, and shells than knowing where everything fits in a grand scheme. But, as a hymn puts it, I’m “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

This is the third of three summer worship services that have been turning our hearts and minds to God the Creator “of all that is, seen and unseen” – the God of galaxies so vast and so distant it’s hard to wrap our minds around them, the God of forests that breathe in the carbon dioxide we have exhaled and then breathe out the oxygen we will inhale, the God of a fungal network so infinitesimal that 800 miles of it runs through the soil beneath just one footstep that we take. Really, the mind boggles!

The biblical writers knew nothing of micro-organisms, of course, but they too were lost in wonder, love and praise: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” Both worship and study can draw our attention to what we might often take for granted about God’s awe-inspiring, gracious, creative work made known in human and other-than-human life.

At Bible study Thursday morning, we read today’s verses from scripture, and then we sat in awe of how our bodies are able to heal when we get a cut or break a bone. We laughed in amazement at the number of cherry tomatoes a mere three plants can produce from three tiny seeds. We pondered what we can see through a telescope and what is far beyond our seeing. We caught a glimpse of how everything is connected, how everything belongs. We were lost in wonder, love, and praise.

It’s good for us to intentionally focus on the marvels of creation and on the Creator of all that exists. It’s good for us to contemplate how interrelated all of life is, so that we can honor, respect, and protect what God has made and continues to create. It’s good for us to acknowledge how the Earth suffers when we fail to care for God’s creation, so that we can confess “what we have done and left undone” and so that we can change our ways.

Our reflection today about “the zoo in you” comes from Larry Rasmussen, a Lutheran ethicist who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He too is lost in wonder, love and praise when he considers the sacredness of the web of life of which we are a part. But out of a passion for the well-being of that whole web of life, he is calling us to a life of faith that honors not only human life, but the life of the Earth itself. We’ve not been very good at that. We humans most often see our planet through the lens of how it can be useful to us, and we’ve gotten quite adept at consuming Earth’s resources – often without considering the consequences of what we do. Never before in Earth’s history have human actions been able to have such a massive impact on the web of life on Earth. That is no small thing.

People of faith bring a perspective to this situation that is grounded in knowing and loving God who creates, redeems and sustains us. And although we do think of God as the creator of all life, we probably haven’t thought much about God’s redeeming and sustaining work for the sake of all of life, for the sake of the web of life itself. Even less have we considered what it might ask of us to honor God’s desires for the well-being of all life.

Well-being, wholeness, fullness of life, flourishing, completeness, harmony, peace – this is the future God is drawing us toward. Scripture uses the word “shalom” to speak of this kind of life. We can also recall Jesus’ many parables about the kingdom of God. People kept asking Jesus, “What is the kingdom of God like? What is life like where what God desires is how life actually is?”

One time, Jesus said, “[The kingdom of God] is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Now, you may find that as enigmatic a response as the Bible study group did, but that’s the nature of parables. Jesus didn’t hand out easy answers but instead left his hearers puzzling over his words, taking them back home with them, pondering what yeast is and what someone did and what the result was – and what all that has to do with wholeness and well-being and flourishing.
Among other things, perhaps Jesus was calling his followers to be leaven in the loaf of their society, to help create something life-sustaining and God-honoring. People of faith like us today can be the leaven mixed into critical discussions and decisions about the well-being of the Earth and about the flourishing of all life – the leaven, the soil, the wheat, the baker, and those who share the bread. In living out such an Earth-honoring faith, we may discover that the kingdom of God has come near.

Amen

Creation of the Cosmos: “Of All that is Seen and Unseen”

Creation of Cosmos Service – Feel free to download and share this bulletin.  Please don’t forget acknowledgements.

Creation: The Universe  – – June 17, 2018
Homily by Pastor Susan Henry, House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Hingham MA

Of All That Is, Seen and Unseen

In the summer, it would be hard not to notice the goodness of God’s creation. Long days and starry nights; fruitful gardens and gorgeous flowers visited by bees and hummingbirds; picnics and cookouts; backyard sprinklers and ocean waves; time outdoors with families, friends and pets; vacation plans or memories – such things immerse us in the created world around us. On one Sunday in each of the summer months, we’ll turn our hearts and minds in worship to God whom we know not only as our Creator, but as the Creator of the vast, expanding universe, of the human and other-than-human life that’s all around us, and of the vital microbial life far too small for us to see.

We Lutherans are occasionally criticized for “an idolatry of the Second Person of the Trinity” – in other words, for so much emphasis on Jesus that we don’t pay enough attention to the Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s a critique worth considering. So, today, let’s affirm our belief “in one God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”
I am thankful for all that God has made, but I too often take God’s ongoing creative work for granted. I water the herbs on my deck and Rae tends to the vegetables in his garden, but we know we ourselves don’t make them grow. In gardens and farms and vineyards everywhere, God keeps creating. Episcopal priest and chef Robert Farrar Capon once remarked on how next year’s wine depends on God saying, “Mmmm. That was good. Let’s do it again.”
The sun continues to rise and set, rain falls, the moon waxes and wanes, and I do nothing but stand in wonder now and then. Maybe you do, too. Poets, like the writers of Proverbs, Psalms, Isaiah 40, and the prologue to John’s gospel, all give voice to my wonder and yours. Together in worship today, we get to delight in Wisdom’s companionship with God. We get to imagine how the sun, the moon and the stars themselves praise their Creator. Seen from God’s perspective, we who look like grasshoppers have to wonder how it is that the God who called light and life and all creation into being cares about us churchgoers in a little town on the South Shore in Massachusetts. It’s stunning, really.

The ancient worldview seems quaint in relation to our knowledge about the universe today. Only relatively recently have we been able to see our own planet from beyond it. You’ve probably seen the iconic photograph of Earth, the “Blue Marble,” that was taken by astronauts on their way to the moon. Like the biblical writers, scientists too stand in awe and resort to poetic language to describe what the Apollo 17 astronauts saw: “Earth is revealed as both a vast planet home to billions of creatures and a beautiful orb capable of fitting into the pocket of the universe.”

It’s hard to get my head around what that lovely image describes – our planet spinning in a spur near the edge of our galaxy where a look at the night sky gives us a tiny, fuller glimpse of God’s ongoing creation. Out there, stars are born and die. Galaxies collide and trigger starbursts. Bright and dark nebulae, supernovas and black holes reflect the creative energy of the “maker of all that is, seen and unseen.”

I can barely get the vocabulary right, let alone comprehend the expanding universe that reflects our worldview. I’m happy to live with some mystery as I contemplate God’s creative energy and God’s astounding creation. This is more frenetic than poetic, but it might be a theme you recognize:

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait. . .
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery,
That all started with the big bang!

Awesome work, God. Now, one of the things I love about being the Lutheran kind of Christian is that we read the Bible as a book of faith. We don’t turn to it as a science book, and we recognize that the history it tells is told by people of faith for the sake of faith. We can still join our voices with people who held an ancient worldview that knew nothing of Earth’s place in the Virgo Supercluster. We can join our voices with all creation – sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies – in praise of our Creator. And since we ourselves are literally made of stardust, we can truly “join in the hymn of all creation.”
As astrophysicist Karel Schrijver and professor of pathology Iris Schrijver put it, “Our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. All the material in our bodies originates with that residual stardust, and it finds its way into plants, and from there into the nutrients that we need for everything we do – think, move, grow. And every few years, the bulk of our bodies are newly created.” In more than one way, God is always creating, renewing, feeding, and transforming us.

When we consider God’s heavens, the work of God’s hands, the galaxies that God has created, who are we that God is mindful of us, that God is concerned about us? The mind boggles. And yet – the witness of scripture is that God does indeed care about us and for us, that God cares so much that God came to live among us in Jesus, stardust himself, like us. So intimate was Jesus’ relationship with the Creator of the whole universe that Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, Daddy. . . .” We who know Jesus as our brother may also pray, “Abba, Father, Daddy. . . .” And perhaps, as we stand awestruck by God’s creative power and saving love, we can pray a simple prayer. German mystic Meister Eckhart famously said that if the only prayer we ever prayed was “Thank you,” it would be enough.

So, let us pray. Creator of the universe . . . maker of all that is, seen and unseen . . . Abba, Father, Daddy . . . thank you. Amen.

Where are We? From the Microscopic to the Cosmos: Services and Sermons

Over the summer of 2018 Pastor Susan Henry at House of Prayer Lutheran Church in Hingham Massachusetts decided to try something a little different.  After reading several books about the human relationship with creation over the years she wanted share some of these perspectives that may not come up in the typical lectionary cycle. The following are three services and sermons that she has graciously shared with our Lutherans Restoring Creation community. Feel free to use the material, but kindly be sure to credit the original authors as she has done.

Photo Credit - UnSplash - David Sandvik

Fourth Sunday of Easter in Year C (Susan Henry)

Revelation's Easter Message Readings for Series C (2016, 2019, 2022) Revelation 7:9-17 **Acts 9:36-43 **John 10:22-30 Sermon from Pastor Susan ...
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God in Forests: Who is Jesus for Chipmunks?

God in Forests: Who is Jesus for Chipmunks?

A Service In and For the Forests - Feel free to share this worship service or get ideas - we ...
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Microscopic - Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise

Microscopic – Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise

Micro-Creation Service Bulletin - Click here - free to share! (wonderful readings, music, etc.) Homily by Pastor Susan Henry, House ...
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Creation of the Cosmos: "Of All that is Seen and Unseen"

Creation of the Cosmos: “Of All that is Seen and Unseen”

Creation of Cosmos Service - Feel free to download and share this bulletin.  Please don't forget acknowledgements. Creation: The Universe  ...
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Prayers for Leadership on Climate Change

Representative, Ruth Ivory-Moore (Advocacy Energy & Environment) from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joined the COP24 (the 24th Conference of the Parties) in Katowice, Poland. 

Light For Katowice 2018 >> Click here to download an easy-to-use copy of the prayer booklet.

Thanks to Lisa Brenskelle from the Christ the King Church in Houston Texas for assembling this resource!

A Theology of Liturgy in a New Key: Worshiping With Creation

Thanks to David Rhoads,  Paul Santmire, and Norman Habel who share here their Chapter 2 of “The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary” (Fortress Press 2011). Please download and share the excerpt here- then buy the whole book!

This resource is a timeless guide for anyone curious about integrating caring for the earth and its creatures as a part of worship to God.  It recommended for anyone who wants a solid theological foundation to build upon and enact their passion for creation care.

Find  the Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (here) at Fortress Press. 

 

 

Litany for our Personal Covenant with Creation

L: For the marvelous grace of your Creation, we pour out our thanks to You, our God.

C: We praise you, O Lord
for plants growing in earth and water,
for life inhabiting lakes and seas,
for life creeping in soils and land,
for creatures living in wetlands and waters,
for life flying above earth and sea,
for animals dwelling in woods and fields.

L: How many and wonderful are your works, our God! In wisdom you have made them all!

C: But we confess, dear Lord,
As creatures privileged with care and keeping of Your Creation that we have abused Your Creation gifts through arrogance, ignorance, and greed.
We confess, Lord, that we often are unaware of how deeply we have hurt Your good earth and its marvelous gifts.
We confess that we are often unaware of how our abuse of creation has also been an abuse of ourselves.
For our wrongs, Lord, we ask forgiveness. We offer our repentance. We promise to reverence Your Creation as a gracious gift entrusted to us by You, our God. We promise anew to be stewards and not pillagers of what You have entrusted to us. We offer our covenant with creation to pledge our commitment to care for Your good Earth.

L: Creator God,
You have given us every reason to learn and promote this wisdom of lives lived in harmony with Creation. May You daily be present with us, gracing our service, our loving, our striving, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

C: Amen

 

 

The Second Sunday after Epiphany (January 14-20) in Year A (Schade)

Droplets of Paradox: The Ripples of Our Baptismal Calling  –  Leah Schade reflects on the “foolishness” of creation care ministry.

Care for Creation Commentary on the Common Lectionary
(originally written by Leah Schade in 2017)

Readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year A (2017, 2020, 2023)

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

The texts assigned for this Sunday originate from different times, different authors and out of the midst of different communities.  Imagine them as droplets falling into the still baptismal font on Sunday morning.  The ripples of each drop merge with the others, creating movement across the surface, stirring the waters of our faith.

The tension in Isaiah 49:1-7 is palpable.  The speaker is held taut between his call to prophetic ministry and feelings of frustration in seeing nothing come from his work.   For those answering the call to Creation-care ministry, this text speaks to the kind of tension we experience as well, caught between two poles of paradox.  At one end is the undeniable call to preach to every nation from coast to coast, calling for people to heed God’s message of justice, reconciliation, and restoration for our planet.  At the other is the undeniable experience of utter despondency because either not enough people are heeding the call, or the response is happening too slowly.  Especially for those of us who have felt “deeply despised” for attending to this call, the announcement that “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you” (v. 7) seems like a pipe dream at best, and a cruel lie at worst.

Charles Campbell and Johan Cilliers talk a great deal about paradox in their book Preaching Fools:  The Gospel as a Rhetoric of Folly (Baylor University Press; Waco, TX, 2012).  “Paradox could be described as holding together irreconcilable opposites in order to create and sustain liminality,” they explain (185).  Liminality is “the experience of being and moving in between spaces and times,” (39), and, for preachers, involves actually creating that in-between time and space so that people can come to experience the transformative work of God.  They note that is exactly when the church’s existence seems ludicrous that the foolish message of the preacher is needed.  Especially “during periods when the church has power and accommodates to the political and social structures,” preaching fools are necessary. They are needed to “interrupt the status quo by unmasking and deconstructing the structures of the day,” (154).

Campbell’s and Cilliers’ words resonate strongly given the way in which many church leaders have either acquiesced or actually thrown their support behind the incoming president who has threatened to derail much of the progress that has been made toward protecting God’s Creation.  From appointing pro-fossil-fuels leaders to the highest positions, to vowing to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement to curb carbon emissions, to calling climate change a “hoax,” it can feel as if all our work on environmental issues is being derailed, undermined, and erased.

It is into this kind of fraught time that Jesus came a-wadin’ into the baptismal waters to be baptized by John.  The Baptist was one of those prophets who drew the ire of the political leaders.  He was not afraid to use his powerful proclamation to create a liminal space, critiquing the abuse of power, and calling people to repent of their selfish habits.  He must have known his ministry was bound to meet a violent end.  So to see the One who was at once timeless and “right on time” stepping into the waters of the Jordan must have been an answer to fervent prayer.  The ripple effect of that baptism would indeed reach the furthest coasts, “to the end of the earth,” (Isaiah 49:6).

Campbell and Cilliers remind us that we stand in a long line of “preaching fools” from St. Francis of Assisi to Desmond Tutu, who have “emerged in times when the church (or significant parts of it) has settled comfortably into the status quo and adorned itself with power.  The church, in fact, cannot do without the curious character called a fool, who prospers in times of liminality, as well as in times of stagnation and accommodation,” (155).  So as much as you may feel caught in that tension of paradox, or unsure whether to preach in a way that creates liminality, I would encourage you to hold steady and watch for what God is doing.

You may try asking of Jesus the same question posed by the two disciples who began following him, “Where are you staying?”  In other words, where can we find you, Jesus?  Where have you located yourself?  And then we must keep our eyes and ears tuned to the answer: “Come and see.”  Because it is likely that we will find the Lamb of God in the most unlikely, but nevertheless, life-giving places.

For example, the Preaching Fools authors relate a story told by Barbara Lundblad who described visiting a neighborhood in the South Bronx, New York: a neighborhood marked by poverty and violence, with numerous ‘shrines’ painted on the sides of buildings in remembrance of young people gunned down on the streets. ‘Picture after picture after picture, until we could not bear another,’ Lundblad comments after viewing a slideshow of these shrines.  But in the midst of this neighborhood, Lundblad is shown some brightly colored church doors: ‘The doors, once covered with graffiti, had been transformed into gospel doors by youth of the parish.  Almost every week, teenage artists paint a new scene, their interpretation of God’s good news for their community.  I wish you could have seen the painting on those doors!  On the left-hand door, a young boy had opened up a fire hydrant – a New York City ritual on stifling summer days.  Water was gushing out in a cooling stream that flowed in a wide arc from one door to the other.  When it reached the right side, the water splashed into the baptismal font, making one continuous stream from the font to the street and back again.  Beneath the flowing water, a table was set: a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, along with a whole roasted chicken and a quart of milk – sacraments of life in the midst of the city.  I knew we were in the South Bronx.  The sign on the corner said Prospect Avenue and 156th Street, but we had come to Galilee.  Jesus was there in the doorway, very much alive.  As usual, he had gotten there ahead of us.’ [187, quoting Barbara K. Lundblad, Transforming the Stone:  Preaching Through Resistance to change (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001) 27].

Where are the droplets of baptism falling around you?  What are the signs that justice is still stirring the waters in the midst of political upheaval? That grace is flowing even over seemingly impenetrable stones of hatred, poverty, xenophobia, misogyny, white privilege, and environmental destruction?

As Campbell and Cilliers remind us, “God’s weak power humanizes, gives back, and enhances life.  Christ, the powerless One, gives life in abundance.  In God’s compassion lies God’s power – the foolish power of God’s compassionate weakness,” (58).  Claim that power, and proclaim that abundance.  Let your own droplets fall into that font and stir the waters!

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship
Lexington Theological Seminary, Lexington, KY
Author, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2016)

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.

 

 

Ecological Christianity through Luther’s Small Catechism

We marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with the occasion of Martin Luther writing his 95 Theses. For those of us living with the Reformation heritage, however, another of his writings has likely been more influential in shaping our identity: his Small Catechism of 1528. The occasion for this handbook was that Luther discovered the need to teach the basics of the faith after visiting the evangelical or protestant congregations a decade in to the Reformation.

This exercise takes Luther’s back-to-basics approach, and also sets it in a broader ecological perspective.  As a church that is “always reforming,” we know that the good news of God continues to encounter us in our life.  Just as the papacy and indulgences (the focus of the 95 Theses) are not our central concern, so we also attend to contemporary threats and current events, recognizing the need in our times for Eco-Reformation.

Here, each piece of Luther’s Small Catechism is followed by a learning question, then by a suggested participatory action.  You may use this personally, or print one section each week in your bulletin, or adapt it for confirmation classes.  This is only one way to try seeing the entirety of our faith as permeated with creation care.

The 10 Commandments

The Creed

The Lord’s Prayer

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

The Sacrament of the Altar

 

 

Sample resolutions to edit and submit at your next synod assembly

Sample Transition to Clean, Renewable Energy Resolution

Sample Fossil Fuels Divestment Resolution

Sample Synod Resolution on Eco-Reformation

Sample Resolution Regarding Inclusion of Stewardship of Creation in Worship

Sample Resolution to Become a Lutherans Restoring Creation Synod

 

 

Blessing of All the Animals: A Sermon

By David Rhoads

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the sea, and let birds multiply on the earth. . . . And God said, “Let the earth bring forth creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1: 20-25).

And Jesus said to them,“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15 from the longer ending).

. . . . through him [Jesus] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:20)

First, I want to address you varieties of dogs and cats and other creatures who are here today. And I want to speak with you fish and ferrets and hamsters and parakeets and snakes brought here today by your human companions. You are here for your own sake, and you also represent all those who are not here today, animals of every kind—cattle and goats and horses and elephants and bees and cougars and crocodiles and puffer fish and eels and insects—so many we cannot name them all.

I want to announce the good news to all you creatures. I want you to know that God loves you. God loves you for your own sake—and not because of what you can do for humans.

You are good in yourselves. The good book tells us that when God created you—fish of the sea and birds of the air and creatures of the land—God looked at all God had created, and God saw that “indeed, it was very good!” (Gen. 1:12, 18, 21, 25, 31)

When God created you, God blessed you. God told you to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”(Gen. 1:28). God created you in huge swarms and in great diversity. God wants all of you to survive and to thrive on Earth.

God created the world for you, so that you have what you need to live. The psalmist tells us that God made the rain to water the trees, the trees for you birds to nest, the grass for you cattle to graze, and the crags as a refuge for you mountain goats (Ps. 104:14-24). God wants you to receive your “food in due season” and to be“filled with good things” (Ps. 104: 27-28).

The Bible tells us that when the flood came, God rescued each of your species through Noah in the ark. And God made a covenant with you fish of the sea and birds of the air and domestic animals and all animals on Earth to protect you for the future (Gen. 9:8-17). God made the first “endangered species act.”

Just like us, you are called to worship God. The hills are to clap their hands. The fields are to exalt (Ps. 148). You cattle and dogs and cats are to praise God by being who you are and exalting in it. John the seer had a vision in which he heard the entire creation—everything in heaven, on the earth, under the earth and in the sea—cry out in praise: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to our God and to the lamb forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).

We human animals need to confess to you that we have systematically mistreated you, depleted your numbers, destroyed you, slaughtered you, crowded you out, neglected you, dealt with you as commodities in our quest for comfort and ease. We have not seen you as God’s creatures. We have not shown proper reverence or respect. Against God’s will, we have not set limits upon ourselves so that you might live and thrive. What we have done! We are sorry!

You who are here today are so fortunate because you have human companions who care for you. But so many of your cousins are threatened with extinction—snow leopards and timber wolves and green sea turtles and condors and paddlefish and fin whales among so many others. We humans may so crowd out or deplete these kin of yours that not a single one of them will ever again exist on Earth.

When we destroy you and diminish you in these ways, we not only compromise your ability to survive, we also stifle your capacity to praise God. Along with all creation, you are groaning in labor pains, waiting for the revelation of children of God who will care for creation and make provisions for you to thrive (Rom. 8:19-23).

Now I want to address you human creaturesI want to announce the good news to you also. God loves you. God loves you for your own sake and wants you to thrive. When God made you; God saw that this too was good.

God said also to you: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth” (Gen. 1:28) Yet we have already done this! So we need to find ways to limit the impact of our species, because God did not mean for us to crowd out the rights of other creatures to be fruitful and multiply also. In developed countries, we have become like an infestation—taking over land and destroying habitats and devouring species and infiltrating homes and migratory routes of so many other animals—and we need to learn our limits and exercise restraint.

God even created us humans with a special responsibility—to exercise dominion (Gen. 1:28). This does not mean that we are to exercise domination over other creatures or to exploit them for human mis-use. Rather, we are to delight in other creatures, as God does, and respect and care for them. Our love for creation is the only basis for our right use of creation. We are to exercise dominion as servants of creation. As Jesus has said, we are not to lord over anyone, but be as slaves to all (Mark 10:42-45). We are to take responsibility for all creatures, to serve their needs, and to work to preserve them (Gen. 2:15).

And we are to do this not with a sense of superiority but in solidarity with all other creatures. We were created to be together, to be companions to one another, to thrive all together. All animals are our cousins, our kin. And God made a covenant with us and with all other animals together. Admit it, we humans are also animals, primate mammals.

And Jesus was a mammal. Jesus was born and lived in solidarity with all of life. Jesus lived to care about all who were oppressed and made vulnerable and marginalized by society; and right now that includes most creatures, not just humans. Jesus died in order that God might reconcile to God’s self all things in creation (Col. 1:20).

In response to God’s love, we are freed to behave in ways that enable all of life to thrive together. You do not need to prove anything. You can set limits on yourselves. You can simplify your lifestyle so that others may survive and thrive. You can become aware the effects of your actions on other creatures and curtail your activity. You can act to establish and restore safe homes and habitats for those animals that are endangered.

Now I want to address all of you creatures together. I had this vision in a dream during sleep at night. I was in the front row of a cathedral looking at the scene before me during a service of communion. I saw the priest passing bread to the first person kneeling at the communion railing. As I looked, the next figure at the railing was a snake! It was curled at the bottom with its back arching up over the rail and with head straining forward to receive the grace of Christ. The next figure was another person. Next was a raccoon with paws up on the communion rail leaning forward to receive the grace of Christ. Then I saw a bird perched on the corner of the railing eating bread crumbs.

As I finished surveying this scene in my dream, suddenly the side walls of the cathedral fell away and outside was thick foliage of forest and jungle on each side with all manner of wild animals roaming around. In this moment, it seemed as if walls of separation had been removed and there was a seamless web of all creation praising God and exalting in the grace of Christ.

From the time I awoke from that dream until this day, I have never been able to think of worship in the same way again. I now see all of Earth as the sanctuary in which we worship, and I see myself invoking and confessing and giving thanks and praising God and offering myself in solidarity with all of life. May that vision also be your vision.

You who are here today are very fortunate because you and have a relationship of love and care and loyalty between yourself and your human or your pet companion. You model how all relationships between humans and other animals should be. We wish to project this relationship as the model for our human relationship with all animals. May we care about all animals as we care for our companions at home.

I invite you all to come forward for a blessing. Sometimes when we have a service for the Blessing of the Animals, we bless only the non-human animals, as if we ourselves are not also animals. Therefore, as an expression of solidarity with each other, I invite all of you—non-human animals and human animals alike—to come for a blessing together. We bless you as companions together and we bless your relationship:

“May God bless each of you with health and safety and well-being and long life. And may God bless your relationship together so that it may be filled with love and joy.”

 

 

Creation Care Congregation: Worship Ideas

Transformation through Worship: “Let all creation praise God”
(all resources found if searched on LetAllCreationPraise.org)

All Worship: Render every service as creation-care worship: call to worship, confessions, prayers, and blessing/commission, plus scriptures, hymns, and sermons.

Season of Creation. Observe a four-week optional season to celebrate creation as part of the church year, with liturgies, sermons, and alternative scripture lessons, etc.

Special Worship Services. Observe a special day, such as Earth Sunday in April www.creationjustice.org, Rogation Sunday, or a “Greening of the Cross” service in the Easter Season.

Blessing of the Animals. Hold a service near the time of St. Francis Day (in October) or any time in the church year.

Appoint the sanctuary. With creation-care banners, greenery, art.

Green your worship practices: energy-saving lights and heat; altar plants, local wine, green cleaning products, eliminate/recycle/reuse paper, intinction.

Other: For example, develop your own worship resources and occasions for celebration.

For more information about Becoming a Caring-for-Creation Congregation, visit this page.

 

Sing Out! Celebrating with Creation: Songs in Support of Ongoing Earth-Care 

Sing Out! Songs written to known melodies, for use in association with the Eco-Reformation, the Season of Creation, or occasions for celebration with creation. Click here to download “Celebrating with Creation: Songs in Support of the Eco-Reformation in 2017 & Ongoing Earth-Care” by Norman C. Habel.