North Congregational Church
New Hartford, Connecticut
-WORSHIP ON THE SEVENTH SUNDAY THAT WE ARE NOT GATHERING IN OUR SANCTUARY OUT OF CONCERN FOR PERSONAL SAFETY AND PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY -WE WISH TO DO OUR PART TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS THAT IS TRAVELING AROUND THE GLOBE.
FOR YOUR MEDITATION
It is necessary and urgent that, following the example of [St. Francis], one decides to abandon inconsiderate forms of domination, capture and custody with respect to all creatures.
-Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), head of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005
…ecology is the science of the body of Christ through which we of the earth community learn our sacred connectedness.
-The Very Rev. James Morton (January 7, 1930 – January 4, 2020), Episcopal priest and Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City
THE PEACE OF CHRIST
It is normally our custom when we gather to extend the Peace of Christ to one another. Even though we are physically apart at this time, may you know that peace.
INVITATION TO WORSHIP
Let us come into the presence of God, lover of our world and all that dwells within it. On this day in which we honor the earth, may we seek to follow in the way of Jesus Christ, who expressed his power in respectfulness and his lordship in gentleness. Let us acknowledge the folly of the greed and carelessness which damages the soil, water and air. May we be enabled to walk with a new awareness of everything in creation, avoiding violence, healing injury and living in harmony with our fellow creatures and everything on the beautiful blue planet we call home.
For the Beauty of the Earth arr. by John Rutter
SCRIPTURE: GENESIS 1: 1 – 2:4
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
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. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living 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.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
This is My Father’s World TERRA BEATA
Reverence, Relationship, and Responsibility
The Rev. Marcia Lynn Cox
A little girl who attended Sunday School at her church was excited to tell her parents that she had just learned the Lords Prayer. Pleased, they asked her to lead them in saying it. So she began, “Our Father, who does art in heaven, Harold is his name.”
This morning we gather to celebrate the stunningly beautiful and awesome planet that we call home and share. This time of the year, when the flowering trees and bulbs are blooming, it is especially easy to appreciate the beauty all around us, so April was a good choice of a month for Earth Day, especially for those of us in the Northeast. Whether we think that a man in the sky with a long white beard gave us this planet in eight days, or it came from a nameless Big Bang, or evolved over time, we have to admit that the force behind it was both intelligent and artistic.
Our scripture reading from the Book of Genesis was likely written in the 6th century BC, long before we had knowledge about the fact that the earth is round, long before we knew that it rotates around the sun and that gravity prevents us from falling off.
We might laugh at its simplicity and naivety, but even though the writer thought that the earth was flat, he provides us with an enormous amount of spiritual wisdom by reminding us to have reverence, see ourselves as being in relationship with the whole of creation, and to take responsibility in caring for it.
So these are the three things that I would ask us to be reminded about today.
FIRST, HAVING REVERENCE:
I don’t know about you all, but I, far too often, am inclined to get involved in the trivialities and tasks that my life presents that I don’t appreciate…no…and am certainly not AWED BY our natural world and the endless and interesting variety of things in it.
So, I know that I miss so much when I fail to look up at the sky, at the trees and the flowers, the rolling landscapes of the countryside, or walk the beach and watch the waves of the sea.
Rather than complain about the heat or the cold, I should celebrate each season of the year, whether there is rain, sunshine or snow.
And because in all of creation, there is an endless variety of glorious vistas and colors and shapes….and in the world of animals, remarkable skills and behaviors. I owe it to myself to learn as much about them as I can. (Thank goodness for Public Television!)
There are not many sayings in the New Testament from Jesus about beauty. However, both the New Testament gospel writers, Matthew and Like, attribute this observation to him:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27 Matthew 6: 28)
So even he might have been amused by the little girl who misheard the words to his prayer, by addressing her Father in heaven as One who does Art.
It’s true that we don’t necessarily think of Jesus as a radical environmentalist. In his day and time, he likely didn’t need to be…but I would venture to say that he would surely be one now. If he didn’t speak directly about the environment, he did speak about our relationships with one another.
So this is the second thing that I would ask us to be reminded of, to:
SEE OURSELVES AS INTERCONNECTED:
We need to remember our context in creation and that we can only fully understand ourselves as we relate to the entire planet. If I do not locate myself within the created order, I will only be able to live my life in reference to myself as if I truly am the centre of the Universe. If I don’t locate myself in relationship with everything else that is created, my ego will become inflated and I will think that every decision I make, every action I perform should revolve around me. And furthermore, I will expect the people around me to treat me as if I am the centre of the Universe. But I am not the centre of the Universe. We well know that Jesus called his disciples, and calls us as his followers to be in mutually caring relationships with one another. Only in relationship to God, one another and all of creation will we find our true meaning and true purpose.
It’s good to be reminded that each one of us, no matter how successful or wealthy, is just one small part of an extraordinary network that incorporates galaxies near and far, billions of people, and the history of a cosmos that stretches back to the dawn of time. If we’re not awed by creation, we should be awed by this fact.
THIRD: WE ARE CALLED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE FOR THE EARTH
Note, that in our scripture lesson this morning, God called creation GOOD and VERY GOOD. So this is the third thing that I would ask us to be reminded of today: that we have been given a sacred responsibility to care for the world and all that is in it.
Yes, in our scripture lesson, God gave humans DOMINION over the earth. But dominion is not the same thing as domination.
We do not have license to rape the resources of the planet, or pollute the air and drinking water, for outrageous profit or individual luxury.
We do not have license to bring harm and suffering to the oceans and marine animals by using endless numbers plastic containers and carelessly tossing them away. The statistics and data are almost incomprehensible. 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, which is the equivalent of emptying a fully loaded rubbish truck of plastic into the ocean every single minute of the year. It is estimated that there is more microplastic in the oceans than there are stars in the Milky Way. 1 in 3 species of marine mammals have been found entangled in marine litter and 80% of marine litter is plastic.
Our over-use of plastic is just one of many ways that we are hurting our world.
We can help by reducing our use of it, but for better or worse, we rely on our leaders and our laws to protect us. Understandably they are concerned about the economic well-being of the country but we need to be asking if it can be supported at the expense of the environment.
“Since taking office, [President] Trump has aggressively sought to roll back environmental regulations, particularly those seen as an obstacle to business. According to an analysis by The New York Times that was updated [in December 2019], the administration has revised or eliminated more than 90 environmental rules in the past three years, although several were reinstated following legal challenges and several others are still in the courts.”
(Scott Neuman and Colin Dwyer, “Trump Administration Cuts Back Federal Protections For Streams And Wetlands,” January 23, 2020, website of NPR)
For example, late in 2019, the EPA proposed increasing the allowable levels of the herbicide Atrazine, which is used commercially to kill weeds on crops and lawns. It said the proposal is one of several that would “ensure a strong and vibrant agricultural market.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the chemical does not break down if it is washed into groundwater or nearby streams, and that it has been linked to reproductive abnormalities including premature birth.
(“EPA Takes Steps to Provide Needed Clarity and Certainty for U.S. Agriculture,” December 19, 2019, website of the Environmental Protection Agency)
To be fair, we should note a couple of environmental wins that have occurred under Trump’s watch:
- In March of 2019, the president signed the largest public-lands bill in a decade, creating five new national monuments and expanding several national parks. The bill combined more than 100 separate bills and had bipartisan support in Congress.
- Trump signed a bill in October 12, 2018 reauthorizing a program to clean up marine debris from the world’s oceans.
- As citizens, it is our responsibility to do what we can personally to care for our beautiful blue planet.
But at the same time, we must study the philosophies and views of potential political candidates and elect the ones who do wish to care for our planet.
As we mark Earth Day this year, and, it should be noted, on its 50th Anniversary, may we reflect on our relationship with God and creation, affirming:
-That it is an marvelous, stunning, dazzling gift for us to enjoy,
-That it is not for us alone, but to be shared
-and that it is a gift that needs to be respected and protected. AMEN.
Although we are not gathering in the sanctuary for worship on Sundays for the time being, the church continues to have expenses. So it would be most appreciated if pledges and offerings could be mailed to the church at P.O. Box 307, New Hartford, CT 06057. Thank you for your generosity.
All Creatures of Our God and King LASST UNS ERFREUEN
Most imaginative and awesome God, the glory of creation stretches all around the globe and we give thanks for the joy that it brings. Open our eyes and ears to its beauty and diversity. Make us aware of the ways in which we all share the responsibility to tread lightly and care for it. Give us the energy and courage to act and speak for conservation and against cruelty to animals so that all may exist in joy and harmony and flourish.
We give thanks for the many good things in our lives despite the fact that so much has changed because of the coronavirus that is now traveling around the globe bringing illness and sometimes death to so many.
We all so hope for a cure for it and other heretofore incurable illnesses and diseases. Remind us be vigilant about taking the required restrictive but necessary safety precautions to prevent the spread of this especially contagious coronavirus in our communities, nation and world. During this time of inconvenience, uncertainty and suffering, we are especially grateful for all those people who serve us, in hospitals, in our neighborhoods, and in places of business that enable us to obtain the basic necessities of life.
Our hearts go out to everyone suffering from diseases of the body, mind and spirit, the dying and those who care for them, those who have died and loved ones mourning their loss. Despite our current forced isolation, enable us to reach out into the world in new ways as instruments of your peace and healing. Where there is poverty and racial and economic injustice, may there be abundance and justice. Where there is hatred may it be replaced with love. Where there is loneliness and despair, may it be turned into fellowship and hope.
In our own lives, we bring to you now our joys and concerns….
All these things we offer, using the words of the prayer that Jesus taught us,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Heaven and Earth and Sea and Air GOTT SEI DANK
OUR COMMON COMMISSION
Let us now forth into the world in peace.
Being of good courage.
Holding fast to that which is good.
Rendering to no one evil for evil.
Strengthening the fainthearted.
Supporting the weak.
Helping the afflicted.
Honoring all persons.
Loving and serving the Lord,
And rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
May the blessing of God,
Creator of heaven and earth,
rest upon you and upon all that God has made;
May the Risen Christ Jesus
transform your life and your vision,
so that you may live in reconciliation
with all things; and
May the power of God’s Holy Spirit
move over this whole earth,
like the breath of spring,
to renew the earth and all its people,
so that all creation may join together in praise
to God’s holy name! AMEN.
(from New Heaven, New Earth: Earth Day Worship Resources 2014, published by Canadian Foodgrains Bank)