Season of Creation 2B (12-09-2021) – Humanity

The following service was streamed live via Zoom on September 12th at 10:30am.

The entire text for the service is printed below for home use by those who are not ready to return to public gatherings or who are otherwise not able to be at church on the day.   Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

-oOo-

We didn’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our children.

CALL TO CELEBRATION

L: Fountain of life, Pulse of life, Breath of life,

R: Earth is filled with the presentness of God.

L: A planet filled with the presence of God

R: a living green blue planet, peoples from every corner of creation, the vast reaches of space above us, and the rocks and hills and wonders of the wild.

L: Together this day, let us sense the face of God in all creativity.

OPENING SENTENCES

L: Peoples from every corner of creation,

R: Celebrate with all creatures on Earth!

L: Young and old across the planet, 

R: Rejoice in the day that God has made!

L: Indigenous peoples of every land,

R: Help us sense the spirit deep in each land!

L: Black and white and brown and grey, 

R: Celebrate with us the colours of creation! 

L: humanity on Planet Earth, 

R: Praise God for our planet home.

L: Sing, peoples, sing

R: Sing, creation, sing!

PRAYER OF AWARENESS 

Creating God, whose renewing breath fills our planet, may we discern your vibrant, creative presence among us. And may our spirits be lifted as we celebrate the kinship between humanity and the rest of creation this day. Amen. 

HYMN 137 – “For the Beauty of the Earth”(click here to listen)

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

Recall a memory of moving into a new neighbourhood and making new friends. 

L: We remember the challenges of moving to new places and meeting new people – of all ethnic origins. We celebrate our kinship one with another and with the whole of creation. 

R: We remember and rejoice.

L: Now away from the busyness of life and in the silence of this time, let us now give thanks for the gift of one another! 

            (a time of silence of at least 30 seconds)

A TIME WITH THE YOUNGER MEMBERS

Have you ever seen a whale?  There are pictures of some of the different kinds of whales on the wall, but they are all big.  What does a whale do?  (Who can show me what a whale does in the water? Show me!)

What do you call what a whale does in the water?  Is it swimming?  Is it dancing?  Or is it like playing with someone? .

A long long time ago when God was first creating everything, God was a little bored. ‘It’s time I had some fun’, said God. I want someone to play with.  The birds are playing in the trees.  The mice are playing in the grass. The dolphins are playing in the water.  I’d like to play with someone.  So what do you think God did?

First he asked some kangaroos.  ‘Would you like to play with me?’ said God.  But the kangaroos got such a big fright they jumped away through the trees.

Then God asked some big hippos, but they just ignored God and lay sleeping in the mud.

Finally God asked some kookaburras.  “Would you like to play with me? said God. Do you know what the kookaburras did?  Yes, they laughed and laughed and laughed.

So God said, ‘That’s it!  I will have to create something special to will play with me.  That someone special needs to be big and wild and wonderful.  That animal must be as graceful as a dolphin in the water. And that animal has to be clever enough to play with me,  as clever as birds that travel right across the ocean when they migrate.

Do you know what God created?  A big big animal that lives in the sea.  Do you know which one?   Yes, a whale!  A monster whale!

God had so much fun playing with the whales in the water.  God would sweep down from the sky and the whale would flash its tail in the air to try and hit God.  Then God would rise up from the ocean deep below but the compass in the whale’s head would feel God coming and roll over and spin God around in the water.

God has so much fun when he first created whales.  He even gave the first whale a name, a big name:  Leviathan!  Say it!  Leviathan!

But then God became sad when human beings started killing whales, God’s very special creatures.  Very sad.

Whales are special friends for God and us.  We should not kill them.

And if you ever go to watch whales when they come up from the distant ocean close to your shore, watch them closely.  Wonder at how they swirl and swim and roll their bodies and flash their tails.

Yes, God made them that way for God to enjoy and for us to enjoy. So you should enjoy whales – the way God does.  They are special gifts.

CONFESSION with ‘The Voices of the Whale’

V1: I am the voice of whales long ago. Ancient whales, humpback whales and the whale that swallowed Jonah.  I am a whale. (Applause)

V2: I am the voice of whales today, whales that circle your continent and dance with delight near your shores.  I am a whale.  (Applause)

R: Welcome, whales, welcome to our worship. 

V1: I am a large creature but I’m not a monster. I am sensitive to the sounds deep in the ocean below and the cries of my calf in a storm.  I am something like the soul that feels the mood of the sea.

V2: I am a special species and not for sport. I have an amazing radar, a compass that guides me across thousands of miles through rough waters back to my home base to give birth.

R: Welcome, whales, welcome to our shores.

V1: Not so long ago, humans hunted us whales and slaughtered us by the thousands.   They came in ships and cried aloud:

V1&2:  ‘We rule the waves!  We rule the whales’

V1: Humans thought they ruled everything.  They did not care. They left blood all over the ocean, along the shores and deep in our memories.  And they cried aloud:

V1&2:‘We rule the waves!  We rule the whales’! 

R: We are sorry, whales, we are sorry!

V2: In recent years something has happened.  Humans have become more sensitive, more ready to celebrate life with us along the shore, more ready to save our species.  I hear them cry:

V1&2:‘Whales help us wonder!  Worship and wonder!

V2: In recent years the tide had turned.  But many creatures of the sea are still slaughtered senselessly. Thousands and thousands of baby harp seals are clubbed or shot to death in the Arctic North. Some are even skinned alive.  Blood stains the snow, the ice and the memories of their kin.  Now I hear some humans cry:

R: ’Whales help us wonder!  Confess and wonder!

V1&2:Will you join with us as we remember the past and promise to care for the wonders of creations.

R: We are sorry.
As humans, we have slaughtered species without concern.
As humans, we have sought to dominate nature.
As humans, we have been cruel to our kin.
We are sorry. We are sorry. 

L: We are sorry.

R: We are sorry. We are sorry.

THE ASSURANCE

L: I speak for Christ:
I forgive your sins of destructive domination.
I forgive your lack of concern for creation.
I invite you now to celebrate your humanity
both as servants of Christ and servants of Earth.

R: Shalom! Shalom! Let the whales come home!

FROM THE PSALMS – Ps.8

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth,
Who have set your glory above the heavens!

Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants you have ordained strength,
Because of your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained,
What is man that you are mindful of him, mere mortal that you visit him?

For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honour.

 You have made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.

 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – Genesis 1:26-30

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

FROM THE GOSPELS – Mark 10:42-45

42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognise as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

HYMN 155 – “How Great Thou Art” (click here to listen)

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS  – “Little Less than Angels’

     Part 1

“For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honour.” (Ps.8:5)

The words of the psalmist reflect with  the place of humanity as it was created to be.  The reading from Genesis rates human beings as the very image of the Creator, with dominion over the whole creation. Yet more often the Bible reminds us how far short we have fallen, and Paul sums up the current situation in Romans 8:19-22.

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration… in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 

I.e., Paul is saying the whole of creation is waiting in pain while waiting for us to get our act together, grow up and properly exercise our birthright as children – agents – of God.

I doubt if the biblical writers could known the extent of how right they were.  Today, human beings have indeed evolved into an image, albeit flawed, of the Creator, for we have mastered the creation to the extent that we are now its creators with the ability, not only to wipe out entire species, but to manipulate genes and DNA to the extent that we can create new species.  Evolution, which had been the lone engine of creation on Earth for almost 14 billion years, now must share the stage us. 

So far it could be argued our creativity has done as much harm as good.  It is analogous to giving a magic wand to a child.  The child is able to make full use of it, but does not have the ethical maturity to use it wisely, and so is a danger to all, including itself.  Creation is groaning ever more loudly, as it waits for us to reach maturity.

But…we are here today because of one person who did mature into his God-given humanity:

“He comes as yet unknown into a hamlet of Lower Galilee. He is watched by the cold, hard eyes of peasants, living long enough at subsistence level to know exactly where the line is drawn between poverty and destitution… He speaks about the rule of God, and they listen, as much from curiosity as anything else.” (John D Crossan)

John Dominic Crossan, the author of those descriptive words about the one called Jesus, is an Irishman, a retired professor of biblical studies, and a leader in the contemporary understanding of Christian thought.

     Part 2

I, like all of you I’m sure, have my own picture of Jesus, one of those rare human beings who exhibited the God in whose image we all were created. My picture is shaped by the stories in the gospels and the thinking of a number of theologians. It is a constructed picture – more as a painting than a photograph – and I admit I have ignored those things I find questionable as does any biblical student or Bible interpretation. We get little help from Jesus, for apart from John’s gospel, written perhaps 100 years after he lived, the Jesus of the Bible does not initiate a dialogue with his own identity as the focus.

In my image of Jesus, I see a middle-aged man of no particular note, going into the wilderness to be baptised by John; a man probably like the others who went to John, seeking cleansing from his sins. There he had a life-changing religious experience, which he had to struggle to make sense of.

The next thing that strikes a vibrant chord in me is the story of the so-called ‘calling’ of his intimates. He chose, as those who would be close to him, humble folk, fisherfolk, labourers.

Then I am touched by his love of, and compassion for, people. Around him thronged sick people, hopeless people, common people. He gave a special place to those who society condemned: scoundrels, harlots, widows, mentally ill; the lost sheep rather than the flock that was safely in the fold.

My picture of Jesus is of one who invites all to become people of ’S-I-Z-E’: to enlarge our picture of God to include humanity, self to include neighbour and to discover the sacred in ordinary life.

My picture of Jesus is also of one who taught ‘good common sense humanism’: turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, give to others more than they ask, love enemies, show endless patience. It is in the ‘humanistic’ side of Jesus we find all are members of one common natural family, no matter what their other pretensions may be.

It is into this image we are here to grow – he illustrates what it means to be human – and all of creation is waiting for us to do it, and do it before it is too late. Jesus showed the way.  It’s not, as they say, ‘rocket science,’ but it is hard; certainly too hard to do alone, which is why we gather for mutual support.

But becoming fully human is too hard for most, even those in the church. So we settle for half measures, many of which, such as our materialism and our fear, exact a terrible toll on the rest of creation.

We each have important choices to make; everyday choices that will have a bearing on the ultimate destiny of God’s creation on Earth.  ‘Who me?’ you ask. Yes, all who consume, all who live in houses, drive cars, all who vote. We are human, God’s ultimate creation, only a little less lower than angels….and God’s ultimate risk.

A CELEBRATION OF FAITH

L: Our land is alive with the glory of God:

R: desert sands hum and gum trees dance,

L: brown grasses sing

R: and mountains breathe their stillness. 

L:  All created things add their rhythm of delight

R: and even the stones rap out their praise.

L:  Let our voices mingle with the song of the earth.

R: May our hearts join the beat of her joy.

L:  For our triune God is with us:

R: our creator surrounds and upholds us. Christ Jesus walks beside and before us. The Spirit moves within and between us. Blessed be God, our wonder and our delight.

HYMN 187 – “Let All Creation Dance” (click here to listen)

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE   

Good Caring Presence within us, around us, and above us;
Hold us in a sense of mystery and wonder.
Let the fullness of your goodness be within us and around us.
Let all the world know your ways of caring and generosity.
May we find we have all we need to meet each day without undue anxiety.

Overlook our many stupidities, and help us to release everyone from their stupidities. May we know we are accepted. Strength us that we will reach out to the best, always with the faith to rise above the ugly realities of our existence.

And we celebrate the gifts you have given us: the rich kingdom of life’s possibilities, the power to do good and the triumphs of good, and the moments when we have seen the glory and wonder of everything. You are life’s richness. You are life’s power. You are life’s ultimate meaning. Always. And for everyone. And for ever more. Amen. 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN 606 – “Son of God, Eternal Saviour” (click here to listen)

WORD OF MISSION

L: Will you care for Planet Earth?

R: We will remember our planet home!  We will act graciously to all humanity! We will celebrate life!

BENEDICTION

Fall in love with living, wrestling with the chaos and the pain within ourself and within the world;  join the celebration of life, dancing with the angels and the clowns; and may the God of peace and joy, who is continually making all things new, embrace you as a partner in the divine creating.

An open, virtual door to the world